Thursday, 2 June 2011

Thieves at Vauxhall

Our family car is a Vauxhall Corsa EcoFlex 1.3l diesel. We purchased it new in February 2010. Originally I found the gears "sticky" and the clutch to have a lower-than-I-would-like biting point. Friends I complained to told me that it would take a bit of time to bed in. In February 2011 I took the car in for it's first service. I was rather pleased I was able to take it in and sit in the waiting room while it was worked on. A little over an hour later it was ready to go having had no amendments. I raised my concerns about the clutch and was told there were no problems with it.

So I was pretty stunned on Sunday to make the journey to Edinburgh only to break down on the A1 30 miles short of my destination. Someone (who shall remain nameless!) decided I should be towed to Edinburgh rather than London (and it is partly my fault for not having charged my phone properly before setting out on a long journey and being able to get my point across). The man who towed me was very friendly and said he thought it was the clutch. He took me to the nearest Vauxhall franchise: Peter Vardy.

On Monday it was an English bank holiday, not so in Scotland. Vauxhall said they could book us in for Thursday. Not so great because I had to return to work Tuesday, well at the latest Thursday. But we didn't have much choice.

An Edinburgh friend of ours tried to get one of her friends to help us in case he could do the work sooner. He could. He went away and tried to find out what I would be likely to pay him to get the work done. He reckoned that the duel max had burned out the clutch in several cars he had seen and given the youth of our car I should do everything possible to get the work done under warranty.

My mum was helpful: she had a similar problem with a car she had bought secondhand, the clutch burned out after six weeks. She contacted the manufacturer who agreed it should not have worn out so soon. She told me not to give up.

Peter Vardy rang to say it would cost £306 to strip the car to diagnose the problem. They would see if they could waive the fee if it was a warranty job but it looked like wear and tear. Given that they had not been able to look, I did not believe they could offer such a judgement. They did promise to take pictures or keep the components.

Our usual mechanic in London called me and reckoned there was nothing wrong with the clutch on old car (which we had to get rid of at 5 years old due to other problems). He gave me some advice on checking out prices with Evans Halshaw where we bought the car.

Evans Halshaw told me how much a clutch would cost but would not tell me how much labour would cost.

After realising the bill was going to be pretty steep and that my pleas about being an advanced driver were not going to cut the mustard my husband and I decided to come back to London. It removed the vibes of urgency Peter Vardy were getting from me because I am stuck in London without a car regardless of whether they fix it today, tomorrow or next week.

They rang today stating that the manufacturer cite "driver abuse" or "pilot error" - a stock answer I am sure to prevent me from trying to get the work done under warranty. Apparently our duel max has nothing wrong with it. Warranty on the clutch for our car specifically only lasts for 18,500 miles and by some strange coincidence that happens to be roughly the number of miles on my clock (thanks work for adding an extra 150-200 miles per month to my clock). I have checked with Vauxhall Customer Services and apparently the information given to me by Peter Vardy is correct. But then why would Vauxhall admit fault when they would have to stump up over £900?

As some sort of mitigating statement the man I have been speaking to about all this told me that clutches just aren't made the way they used to be. Not particularly comforting. He also cannot guarantee that another clutch would even last 15 months.

I have also been in touch with my driving instructor who is not of the impression I am rough with the gearbox. I do a very similar job I did when we had our previous car. My husband doesn't use the car nearly as much as me so it shouldn't be his fault.

Tomorrow I am going to try Vauxhall Head Office and try making a complaint. Beyond this I am not entirely sure what to try. Answers on a postcard please!

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