/ Motoring

Big problems with car warranty small print

Reading a tiny book

Surely if your car’s under warranty you shouldn’t have to pay for any repairs? You’d think so, but this isn’t always the case – dealers are increasingly relying on the small print to wriggle out of warranty claims.

While researching the Which? Car feature on new car warranties, I was contacted by a Kia Cee’d owner whose warranty claim had been turned down by his local dealer – he thought unfairly.

After 9,000 miles and at just under a year old, the car’s clutch burnt out. When the owner took it to the dealer he was told he’d have to pay for a replacement as it would be considered fair wear and tear.

We agreed with the owner that a clutch should be expected to last for longer than a year, so contacted Kia on his behalf. Its head office inspected the car, and subsequently fitted a new gearbox and refunded the money paid for the replacement clutch.

Stop hiding behind the small print

This is just one of many examples we hear of people who’ve had to pay for repairs that should have been done under warranty. While Kia behaved well in the end, I believe the dealer shouldn’t have tried to get out of the warranty claim in the first place.

And there are other ways dealers can wriggle out of accepting warranty claims, thanks to the small print in their warranty terms and conditions.

Vauxhall, for example, insists owners take their cars for an annual inspection (within a two-week window) in order to maintain the lifetime warranty. And two thirds of the manufacturers we looked at will only pay out for rust if the car has been inspected at regular intervals.

While there’s no problem with carmakers stipulating that vehicles should be regularly checked, surely they should be up-front and make sure owners don’t find this out too late?

In general, I believe that if a car has a manufacturing fault, car companies and their dealers should simply own up and pay for it to be fixed, rather than hiding behind the small print.

Roker says:
5 February 2011

Some people have a habit of riding the clutch in traffic, this causes excessive wear. The maker cannot be responsible if this was the case

Maggie Wilson says:
28 August 2011

We had a similar problem with our VW Golf Estate, bought new 15 months and about 9000 miles before the clutch went. This is our fourth Golf in twenty years, driven by the same two drivers. We previously only had to replace a clutch after seven years. The garage showed us the damage- a distinctive ‘blueing’ – and attribured this to the way we drive. This is hardly logical, given our previous track record. If this problem was a result of a poor driving style, it should have shown up in the previous cars.
We were advided to take up the matter with VW Custometr Services. They dealt with the matter with speed and coutesy, but negatively. They stood by the line of undue wear and tear, placing the matter outside of the warranty. Despite our demonstrated loyalty to the company, they did not even make a goodwill concession. The possibility that the part was faulty was not considered by the garage or VW.
Has anyone else had this problem with VW or can advise?

A slipping clutch will create heat and cause the blueing that you describe, so the appearance could be due to the fault or riding the clutch. Common faults with cars can be found on websites including: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk

When my father taught me to drive he warned me about the dangers of wearing out clutches and I have never had a failure. As he got older, he started to ride the clutch and it had to be replaced.

Now that the clutch has been replaced it will probably not be possible to establish if there was a problem with the automatic adjustment mechanism, but if you can find evidence of a common fault then it might be worth going back to VW. Best of luck.

Marina Davis says:
17 June 2013

We are currently having issues with a warranty we were forced to buy when purchasing a second hand car on finance. The warranty we had to purchase was for 3 years to cover all mechanical failure and engine parts. We have a BMW 1 series which has just had complete engine failure without any warning. The car has been regularly serviced and maintained but the warranty people – Auto Protect are refusing to pay out trying to say that it is due to wear and tear and lack of oil. This is total rubbish as the oil level has been on maximum since its last service and has only done 68000 miles. I would expect a BMW engine to last longer than that. We have previously had Fords or Vauxhall’s that have traveled more than double the mileage without engine problems. The mechanic dealing with the car is at a loss to the Assessors report and we now have to find our own assessor if we want to dispute it. It makes you wonder why these companies even bother providing a warranty if they are going to make excuses to not pay out whenever anyone tries to make a claim. I am now trying to find an appropriate assessor to re-evaluate the car.

i have a 2013 citroen berlingo multispace with a faulty drivers seat and i am been told by the garage that if they repair it citroen might not pay them as they repaired it once so i spoke to citroen and was told car seats are not covered on the warranty i like the car and i have had very good service from the dealer with my old berlingo car that,s way i bought my new one from them so i can not recommend anyone to buy a citroen as soon you need warranty work citroen are not intrested has anyone else had this problem with citroen seats

LiquidMixUK says:
14 August 2015

I’ve just had the frame of my driver seat break, and like you am being told it’s not under warranty… a year old grand picasso c4. What exactly was the issue with your seat and was it resolved?

Mr Am Jones says:
30 January 2015

dear sir
my problem is the same as the Kia ceed clutch I also have a Kia ceed vr7, LS61TGJ thee years old
2011 and sixteen thousand on the clock. I had a years sevice in dec 2014 with worn clutch
and was told , I would be billed for £600 as Iam not covered on the warranty, I have payed the bill, but feel cheated I have had a second hand reps car KIA 58 reg Twentythousand on the clock before that for three years and had no problem what so ever with the clutch
I have been a good customer of WLMG Ruislip since 2007 can you please help me

The life of a clutch is very dependent on how it is used. Some people ride the clutch and wear the plate much more than other drivers would. That’s why clutches tend to be excluded from warranties.

Buying a secondhand car is a gamble unless it’s a family member and you have seen how they drive. A rep’s car might have been used on longer journeys so the clutch could be in better condition than a lower mileage car that has been used mainly round town.

Wear is only one problem that can cause a clutch to fail, so faults that cannot be attributed to misuse should really be covered by warranties. My favourite garage makes a point of showing me parts that he has replaced and explaining why they have failed.

It’s unfortunate that you have had to pay for a new clutch but for some cars the price would be a lot more than you have been charged.

Mr AJones says:
31 January 2015

dear sir/Madam
to reply to your Advice about my worn clutch on my Kia, I understand that , the secondhand
reps car 58 reg made longer trips therefore the clutch lasted,but I drove that car for three
more years locally and there was no problem with the clutch when I took it to kia Wlmg
to part exchange it for my then new 2011 Kia as I said just over three years later
the clutch is worn. Iam 71 a good driver and I have been a good customer with WLMG KIA since 2007
and this is how im treated and thats all I wanted to say

Regards A Jones

I do feel sorry for you Mr Jones. I am no expert but have read that it is extremely common for companies to refuse warranty claims on clutches. If you do a quick search with Google you will find plenty of examples. Here is one case where the owner of a Hyundai was refused a repair after only four months and 3500 miles: http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/hyundai/i20/59625/watchdog-clutch-failure-after-four-months

The legal advice given was:
“You’re within your rights to get a second opinion. Ensure the dealer keeps all the parts it has removed, then have a qualified vehicle inspector examine them to see if they agree with the initial verdict.”

This advice is obviously no help if the car has been repaired and the old parts thrown in the scrap bin. With hindsight, it would have probably been best to speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau before letting the garage do the repair.

If the garage had done the work without you giving them permission, I understand you could ‘pay under protest’ so that the company knows that you may take legal action.

I hope you don’t have problems in future. Which? has a legal advice service and will provide advice for an annual subscription: http://legalservice.which.co.uk

Beware of additional cover warranties for your used car as well. I went with EPG Warranty assist and specified additional cover to insure against my DPF filter. Sure enough it gave out 5 months after purchase and at first EPG tried to claim it wasn’t under warranty, then when they realized that it was they tried weaselling out of paying my claim by referring to the fine print and claiming it was not a sudden or unexpected part failure. Nevermind that it was. Of course your appeals and complaints all go through EPG Warranty assist and won’t be listened to at all. Complete waste of money!

Used warranty assist had water pump and head gasket go witch are both covered under there warranty but would not pay out not easy to deal with cost me £72 to have a diagnostics check should be around £30 most garages towed the car ten miles to there garage of choice only for them to worm there way out of it do not go with this warranty what should have been peace of mind is just an head ache even when it’s covered on policy in black and white

Do not go with warranty assist. There sales team promise you the world but when it comes down to it the appeal team are not helpful. A waste of time and money. Keep away. Be warned

[Thanks for your comment Raza, we’ve made a small edit to ensure it aligns with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, Mods]

lorraine says:
16 October 2016

i bought a vauxhall zafira 02 plate love the car. when bought had 3 month warranty from car dealer , brokedown rac gave me diagnostic took back to garage owned by seller does not want to fix the car . can be fixed easily .wants to give me my money back.but i want to keep the car .how do i stand leagaly.

S Singh says:
28 October 2016

Beware Of Warranty Assist
I got warranty with my Car, had problem, the parts needed were clearly in the list of covered parts, they refused the claim, very poor customer service. Stay well away, I will never ever use them again.

Total Waste…. will be taking them to FCA though….

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

I bought a brand new Kia Cee’d 1.6 CRDi 2012 model, mainly because of the 7 year warranty. After 70 000 miles the clutch has started slipping and the dealer claims it is “fair wear and tear” and refuses a warranty claim. They want over £700 to fix it, against just over £500 quoted by my local garage. I am not heavy on clutches; I have had over 250 000 miles without problems from the clutch in a previous car, over 150 000 in two others, so I don’t think 70 000 is “fair wear and tear” at all. From other internet sites it is clear that Kia have a clutch problem and they should honour the warranty and solve their own problem, not dump the cost onto the car owners.

Here is what the warranty says:

Maintenance items
Maintenance items (#) are covered for defects in material or workmanship for 24 months from the date of first registration regardless of mileage. (#-Spark plugs, auxiliary drive belts, brake pads and linings, wiper blades, clutch linings, lamp bulbs or other consumable items).

Offering 24 months is, I believe, generous compared with some manufacturers and the company has no idea of how you have driven the car. If you can collect information about similar failures you might persuade the dealer to offer a goodwill gesture such as a discount in the price for replacement of the clutch.

I strongly believe that where a frequent problem is found with a product, customers should have redress but it’s very difficult to know how a clutch as been used.

Some clutch faults do not relate to wear and I believe that in this case they should not be excluded.

Best of luck.

As wavechange says, items like brakes and clutches are subject to wear and tear – like tyres. Kia will have no idea how well or badly people drive their cars, particularly the way they use their brakes and clutches. So I think you might need to accept that after 5-6 years use and 70k your clutch could need replacing.

However, my advice would be to have an independent garage change it and examine it just in case they can find anything unusual that might have contributed to its failure.


There are many factors that can affect the life of a clutch. Living or regular driving in hilly areas must be a factor.

One of my friends drives my car occasionally and I think she slips the clutch more than necessary. Maybe not because her car has done nearly 100k miles so far.