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Used Car Failed After 8 Weeks

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iloveglee | 13:56 Wed 17th Jul 2013 | Motoring
40 Answers
I would be interested to hear comments about our situation with a used car we bought 8 weeks ago. we bought it from a small car trader and he specifically wrote on the invoice bought with no warranty. we actually did not expect a warranty from a small company selling high mileage cars. during the 8 weeks we had it, it was parked for 10 days with no use while we were away. it did 1000 miles in the time we did use it. on a motorway run, suddenly out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever, the power went, lots of black smoke and had to be recovered by our breakdown company. the garage says the head gasket has gone and the engine is not repairable, it needs a new one. he doesnt know why this happened, may have been an underlying problem but cant now say what. the trader said on the phone because there was no warranty he is not responsible. i know the sale of goods act says what you buy has to be fit for purpose for a reasonable length of time. the car is a turbo diesel zafira with 107,000 miles on the clock. has anyone out there met with a similar situation and how far did they get with it. we suspect, although we dont know for sure that the owner of this company works for a larger car dealers and has set up a company to sell off cars that come in as part exchanges instead of sending them to auction. we dont believe the larger company he works for is aware of this although, again we dont know for sure. what we do know is that the hpi check was done by the larger company. we could use the option of the small claims court but are we likely to be successful.


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am grateful for all the insights. i do think a lot will hang on exactly how much it will cost to get us a functioning car, and how much this dealer expects us to pay. it may be that in the end we can come to some compromise agreement which may not suit us both but one we find we have to live with. i would just say though, it may well be very naive to assume a dealer has made sure the cars he sells are, as far as he can tell, fit for purpose. even so, if a dealer is selling cars that he has simply taken in, and then passed on, without even checking them for problems, there may be occasions when these cars were due to break down soon, and if they do the buyer does not have to take the hit. i realise that it appears to be unfair for the dealer to have to suffer a loss, but if they put cars into sale without checking them over they are gambling that they will last at least long enough for the buyer to have no comeback. if these cars break down quickly then the dealer has lost the gamble and should just suck it up. one would think that the dealer would want to make sure that what they are selling is good, for their own protection as well. what business wants to be taken to court, or have trading standards on their back. as far as this problem goes, it may well be the head gasket was already faulty and was due to fail or there was an underlying problem that caused it to fail, but how on earth is a person who knows nothing about car engines supposed to know that, when nothing appears to be wrong with the car. it runs ok, no onboard warning lights come on, no signs of imminent failure to see. this is presumably why the law is as it is, to protect the public from unscrupulous traders. it is not just cars although it is known for being an area where there are maybe more unscrupulous traders around. i do take on board though that it is a good idea to take someone along who does know about engines, if possible. we have in the past had a rac examination done but it is very expensive and if the car turns out to be no good then it may be money well spent to avoid further loss, but doing that too many times you can end up spending as much as a used car costs. frankly, if we could do without a car we would they are usually more trouble than they are worth. public transport being what it is especially in the country, what else can you do but have a car.
Let us know how you get on with the dealer. I agree with all you say about the sale of goods act but that is mainly about new items. A car with over 100,000 miles on the would not be expected to come anywhere near the standard of a new car. As you say at first it seemed fine, no warning lights and it ran well. Did you at least check the oil & water before you bought it? From what you say the dealer is not just refusing to do anything about it so give him a chance. I still think this looks like one of the cases where it was a sudden problem that had not shown up before hand. If it any comfort I know a case where a brand new car blew the engine up 35 miles from the showroom door an hour after the owner had paid for it. Then another time a friend bought a brand new car , drove out of the show room and stopped at the traffic lights 50 yds down the road, the car behind ran straight into the back of him and wrote the car off.
Maybe I can help explain what the head gasket is and what it does that might help a bit.

The engine is made in two parts and they are bolted together. The Top part is called the 'head' and the bottom part the 'block'

To keep a good seal between the two parts there is a thin layer called the 'head gasket'

like this:

The engine has coolant (water) and oil running through it and so the head gasket needs holes so the coolant and oil can get past it into the top of the engine.

When he head gasket fails coolant and/or oil gets into the combustion chambers.

This happens when the car gets old and worn and not refreshing the coolant or just using water rather than proper coolant mix can make this happen sooner.

The failure can show itself in a number of ways - normally it shows overheating as the coolant gets into the cylinders, maybe white smoke as steam gets created.

In your case (I'm guessing here) an oil pathway rather than coolant may have been breached. This would account for black smoke and if it caused the engine to be starved of oil that could be why the engine is scrap.

There are fluids that you can add to coolant that attempt to fix head gaskets when they start to go stuff like this;ff14=66&ff19=0

My guess is it started to go on this car someone used something like this and quickly sold it on - it lasted a thousand miles or so then blew catastrophically.

In any case the good news is that second hand engines are fairly readilly available there's one on e-bay right now

Look again at that trading standards link I posted - maybe talk to trading standards at your own council. A trader does have a responsibility and
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thank you for this. yes, after contacting citizens advice bureau she explained that the sale of goods act applies to both new and second hand goods and during the first six months it is assumed the fault was there when the goods were purchased, even though the seller might not have known, he/she still has a responsibility under the law. the expectations are, of course, lower when it is second hand, but 7 weeks and 1000 miles is still not a reasonable length of time for it to last. she told us it is up to the trader to give the car a good check over before selling it, otherwise he/she is taking the risk it could break down very quickly and then be liable. thanks for the explanation about head gaskets, they say you learn something every day and that was my learning opportunity for today!! from the explanation of how the car was afterwards, it does seem as though it is the oil that was lost but why the head gasket went so suddenly, without any warning of any kind even the mechanic doesnt know. no doubt if he took the engine to pieces he might have a clue but thats not going to happen. i am in no doubt we are going have to agree to a repair as this is the only thing the dealer suggested after some argument. what he was not prepared to say was how much he was prepared to stand of this repair and how much he expected us to. we are currently awaiting his response to the letter we have sent him and we will see what that says before proceeding. i am pretty sure we are going to be out of pocket here, but that will teach us a very expensive lesson, dont buy a used car without taking someone along who knows what they are looking at, or take it somewhere immediately after purchase and then reject it if it is seriously faulty. maybe the person who traded it in did it genuinely because they wanted a better car, the dealer then just shipped it out unseen via their offshot company. thinking about it, we really should have known better, but being an idiot is not against the law as far as i know, selling rubbish goods is. will continue this thread when we know what is happening
Ok don't listen to tora, fair enough, you are going round in circles with shoulds and shouldn't and legal this and that. All irrelevant. Tell you what if you get a refund or an anexhcnage out of this I'll eat my own car. The best you'll get is am attempted repair if the engine is not completely cooked. Come back and tel me what you got please I'll be most interested.
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the engine IS completely cooked. so far the dealer has offered a repair, which consists of replacement engine (not new or reconditioned of course) and wants us to contribute to the cost, but has not said how much. he does recognise he has a legal liability otherwise he would have simply told us to take a hike. you cannot be a bit responsible, either you are or you are not. if you are responsible then you are legally obliged to put the person you sold the item to in the position they were in when they bought it. i.e. a car with 106.k miles on it, presumably working. take off a little for the fact we had used it for 39 days of driving and 1000 miles. tora tora tora appears to believe that if the dealer refuses to do anything or makes a ridiculous offer then end of story. it is not. if a buyer is financially significantly worse off due to the seller not being able to show he has sold something which was fit for purpose (which he cannot), the the buyer has recourse to law. there is a cost to this so the loss needs to be significant to be worth it. if everybody took the view that, well theres nothing i can do, unscrupulous sellers would get away with it more than they do at the moment. usually advice from the citizens advice bureau is reliable and in this case they believe there is case. i am sure the dealer will not be reasonable (I hope to be mistaken), if he is not then he will be taken to court. cant see why any, so called, reputable company wants to get taken through the court with all the attendant publicity, for the sale of maybe £1k or so. if he does want it, then he's the idiot.
Good luck, get it fixed then. And then get rid.
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absolutely tonyav this is most definitely the best thing to do. hopefully we can the dealer to get hold of an engine, if he is prepared to do the repair we are willing to contribute to the cost of the engine. we never expected to get a refund, we have had the car a little too long to reject it, and if we did we would have to show that it was faulty. if we accept it and be prepared to accept a replacement (even one worth a little less that the one we bought), or a repair that would be much better than having the aggro of court. even so, if he does not come up with something reasonable, we will take him to court. if more people knew their rights, and were prepared to stand by them then traders would take more care to ensure what they are selling is good. this will run and run i have no doubt but will, eventually, post the outcome for the benefit of anyone else who is in a similar situation
When discussing the contribution with the dealer I would stick to my guns in that it is his responsibility to fix this - you're not saying it's his fault and you're assuming that he was taken in too. But the law says it's still his responsibility.

It's not unreasonable for him to ask for a contribution if it's a case of 'betterment' in other words if he can only get an engine with 30,000 miles on it you're ending up with a car much better than the one you paid for and it's fair then that you should contribute.

What you're not doing is 'splitting the difference'

You see from that ebay item that a replacement's not all that expensive it's the labour to fit it that costs money - a friend of mine recently had an engine swap on a mazda which was about £600.

Obviously though if he's running a workshop or the larger organisation is that cost to them is a lot less.

He might be trying to get an engine cheap - say that one on ebay for £150 paying £400 for a fitting and then telling you the lot cost £1,000 and saying that you'll have to pay half.

Ask for the paperwork on the replacement engine - you want to know its mileage and evidence it cost what he says.

Note the cambelt on Zafira is 100,000 miles

If the replacement engine hasn't had that replaced and it's that sort of mileage you want that replaced before it goes in the car ! much easier then.

Failed cambelts kill engines too!
I should explain - as we're learning about engines :c)

The cambelt (also known as timing belt) makes sure that the piston compressing the diesel doesn't hit the valves letting it in and out.

These belts need replacing at certain intervals - your's is a long interval - but it needs doing after about 100,000 miles.

If the belt snaps the pistons hit the valves and it's very very expensive.

Replacing the cam belt costs a few hundred quid and if you don't know the history of the engine, its mileage, age etc you have no way of knowing when it needs doing - it's also easier if the engine's out of the car.

If you've agreed to contribute to the cost tell them you expect a new cambelt fitted - looks like the belt and kit costs about £75-100 in itself.

A new oil filter and oil change might be in order too!
I don't know about car mechanics, but there is no way 7 weeks use is reasonable for £2900. That car has cost you £410 per week, roughly. I can't see anyone deliberately.. agreeing to that deal for a high-mileage second-hand car
Question Author
thank you jake-the-peg for your lessons on the internal combustion engine. i know about 10 times more about them than i did before. this car has actually, believe it or not, got what looks like a full service history with receipts and it has actually had new timing belts at the appropriate time. timing belts i actually know about, although dont know quite what they do and what lack of them causes, i had an old car years ago and we always took it to a trusted garage locally. i remember having had to have these replaced and him checking the make and model of car to find out what was recommended. so no problem with those. i suspect there was, as our local garage mechanic has told us, that there was some kind of problem with this car, maybe minor, but has caused a larger problem which has then caused the head gasket to go. like most modern cars, it has an engine management system which showed nothing amiss. i am grateful for others views of what would be considered reasonable, and what would also be considered reasonable in terms of what is offered to compensate us. we have agreed we will get the car back to them so that they can repair it, but there is no way we are going to do anything without we have everything in writing as to what they are going to do, how much it is going to cost etc. i personally feel that it is not right we should have to suffer any loss from this, but i am sure he knows that it would not be worth pursuing this through court for a few hundred pounds. i dont know what his response is going to be but i have a feeling he is going to ask us for a sum, by way of contribution which is an amount not worth pursuing him for. i would like to be wrong but i got this feeling when i spoke to him that he is not simply going to throw his hands in the air and say yes we are responsible and we will deal with it.
"tora tora tora appears to believe that if the dealer refuses to do anything or makes a ridiculous offer then end of story. it is not. "

Of course I don't but I convincing a judge of negligence is very difficult especially when it's not easy to show liability. Yes the car should have lasted longer, yes they are liable to repair it and they have offerred to. I dont think you are going to get anything more out of them.
Question Author
oh dear, i am not sure tora etc is reading these posts adequately. should this go to court and we really hope it wont have to, we dont have to prove anything to a judge - i think i said this already. we dont have to prove that the car was faulty, the seller of the car has to prove that it wasnt. different burden of proof if the buyer has accepted the goods and is not asking for a refund. this is why we have been advised NOT to go for rejection of the goods. because we are asking for replacement or repair, i.e. we have not rejected the goods, i.e. car, the dealer has to prove to a judge that it was not faulty. how is he going to do this? by providing a document from a mechanic that says it has been examined and found to be fault free. no such document exists, or has ever existed. we are not saying we are rejecting the sellers offer of repair, he has said we have to contribute towards the cost, but has not said how much, or what percentage of the total repair cost. he has not yet even agreed in writing that he will repair, this was just a telephone call. i dont know why tora etc is so very adamant that this claim will go nowhere, he sounds very bitter and perhaps has had a bad experience himself. i never intended for this to turn into some kind of slanging match, all i wanted initially was to hear from anyone who had had a similar experience, what they did about it and what the outcome was. oh, and whether they thought we were being reasonable in expecting the trader to stand up to his responsibilities. was that a reasonable question to be asking without being pulled apart at every turn?
Just come back and tell us how this ends.
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i intend to post how this ends, should i still be alive at that point. which, currently i am beginning to doubt
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Just an update on this thread. the dealer, on receiving the car back said that there was a fault and had the owners taken notice of the warning lights the failure of the car would not have happened. (this is his defence in the pending small claim court case). there were no warning lights which begs the question as to whether the onboard computer was faulty as well. the dealer has admitted, in writing (in a letter), that no proper check was done on this vehicle prior to its sale, contrary to consumer protection regulations. one has to ask, if these warning lights had come on, so soon after purchase, the buyer would have gone straight back to the dealer to complain about that situation. none of this happened but this is the dealers defence. this will hopefully go to arbitation so we'll see what he comes up with if he agrees to do this. if not, court it is.
Question Author
well finally this was sorted, more or less. the dealer requested the car to be returned, which it was. then they declined to take any responsibility at all, their view was that this had been caused by some minor problem which would have been picked up at servicing??? the service was booked in for a week or so after the date due on the paperwork. should say that it had done considerably fewer miles than recommended in the year. basically, it was all the fault of us, not them. there was no way of proving, one way or another whether this so called minor fault would have been picked up at service or not, just their mechanic's say so. no doubt their mechanic would say what he was told to say. so we decided to take this to the small claims court. the dealer then offered to repair it but wanted more money which we declined and proceeded. the court offered mediation which was accepted. mediation took place, the dealer offered £1500 to settle. we decided to accept because the paperwork from the dealer was full of lies which, unfortunately could not be proved to be lies, at least possibly not to a court's satisfaction. it really came down to - one word against another - who would the court believe. no doubt the dealer would have some legal person acting for them. in the end, although it was not particularly satisfactory, we did get a reasonable sum of money back. and a valuable lesson learned. never buy from an unknown dealer without making some enquiries first. never buy a car in a hurry. try to take someone with you who has an idea about cars. never, ever, buy a car that you suspect has come via an auction. these dealers pick them up, don't even do a proper check of them, and put them out for sale again.
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