PMM reviews some of the most common disputes investigated by The Motor Ombudsman, as part of its work to help drive even higher standards of work and service, and give consumers added protection, peace of mind and trust during the repair process.
Case 2: Gearbox oil leak dispute
What was the issue raised by the customer?
Mr J took his car into a garage for a major service. A few hours after dropping off the vehicle, the business called the customer and explained that they had found a gearbox oil leak which would cost around £4,000 to look into the problem. Mr J declined the work and took the car to a second garage. They subsequently investigated the leak and found that the gearbox oil sump plug was loose and that there was a minor oil leak from the main oil seal. They tightened the plug and advised Mr J to drive a further 1,000 miles before going back to them with the car. Mr J did just this, and upon his return, there was only a slight oil leak from the main seal. Mr J was concerned that the first garage had either left the oil sump plug loose, or had deliberately released it in an attempt to create work. The business, however, said that there would have been little point in loosening the plug as the only job it would have created is tightening it again. Additionally, the service didn’t involve removing the gearbox oil sump plug so they couldn’t have done anything accidentally.
How was the problem overcome?
The servicing garage offered to strip and show Mr J the leak free of charge. However, he declined and asked for the dispute to be referred to The Motor Ombudsman.
After investigating the case, and watching the video health check completed by the first garage, it was clear that the oil leak had been there for some time. If the repairer had deliberately loosened the sump plug that day, the volume of oil would have been very small considering the evidence showed that the plug was only a little loose. Furthermore, as the service did not include a gearbox oil change, there was nothing to suggest that they had accidentally left the plug loose. All of the evidence pointed to the plug being unfastened before it came to the garage. It was also noted that they had only undertaken a visual check, and not a diagnosis, meaning that the price quoted could have changed if an investigation had been authorised. Additionally, both garages who inspected the car agreed there was an oil leak from the main seal.
Overall, there was no evidence presented to The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator to suggest that the Code of Practice for Service and Repair had been breached, and no award could therefore be made in the consumer’s favour.
How can a situation like this be avoided in the future?
The garage demonstrated their commitment to the Service and Repair Code by ensuring that they obtained authority before carrying out any work, and gave Mr J the ability to decline repairs, and the opportunity to resolve the issue amicably. Additionally, the video health check proved very useful in trying to ascertain what had happened. However, the garage could have explained that the price quoted for investigation was the worst case scenario based on a preliminary visual check to reassure Mr J that their initial findings were not set in stone.