/ Motoring

A Mini adventure, at maximum cost

After having to repair worn out parts on a car that’s only 3 years-old, it seems looking for cars that have been designed to be fixed easily is worthwile. Especially once you’ve counted in the cost of labour…

The price you pay for your car is only half the story; the devil is in what you’ll have to fork out to maintain and repair it afterwards. Some cars are low-maintenance, well-designed workhorses, while others can end up costing their own purchase price in repair bills.

I write this fresh from a spat with Mini about an astronomical bill I received for a new clutch and flywheel for my three-year-old (out-of-warranty) Countryman after 50,000 miles. Not only do I consider that a pathetically short life for a clutch and flywheel compared with those in previous cars I’ve owned, I also consider £2,500 an absurdly large amount to charge to replace them.

Mini argues, of course, that the failures are due to ‘wear and tear’. And it asserts that an upgrade it made to the clutch in Countryman models in the US in 2012 is irrelevant outside that region.

Whatever the cause of the problem, why does it cost £2,500 to replace two car parts unless they’re made of solid gold? The answer lies partly in the labour charge, which was more than £1,000.

Under the bonnet

Some cars are designed to be fixed easily, and some aren’t. In 2013, the Which? cars team uncovered one of the worst examples of bad design: the Renault Modus, which ran up a bill of £150 if you wanted to change a headlight bulb because that entailed removing the entire front bumper.

The Which? Car Survey will tell you that the average annual repair cost for a Mini over three years old is £148 for a diesel and £154 for a petrol version. For a Honda Jazz it is a tiny £16. And for a Land Rover Discovery 3, it’s £570.

These figures are drawn directly from the experiences of the 49,000 car owners who filled in our survey last year. We’ve just closed the 2015 survey, and we expect it to keep its crown as the biggest in the UK when we publish the results later this year.

Have you had a larger than expected car repair bill? Have you ever thought about the design of a car and the potential repair bills before buying?

Comments
Guest
William Rafferty says:
5 April 2015

Had the same clutch and flywheel problem on a Mazda 6. They failed at 44000 miles. Mazda customer service was of no help, blaming it on wear and tear and my driving style despite the fact I had a Volkswagen Passat in the drive with 129000 miles on the original clutch.
The solution in the end was simple. Mazda lost a customer. A fact they didn’t seem too worried about.
In my experience the only way “the car in front is a Mazda” is if you are in the car following the tow truck taking it to the garage. Cost of repair? £1800. Wouldnt take one as a gift now.

Guest

William You had a Mazda 6 2-litre diesel car? They are fiotted with Dual-mass Flywheels and they are seriously bad. The DMF is fitted to many cars, not just the Citroen/Peugot/Mazda group. I know that VAG, Jaguar, Ford and others also use them. They all have the same problem with early failure of the DMF.

The dealers try to blame the drivers for ‘riding the clutch’ causing the clutch plate glue to overheat, but expert examination usually finds that the bolts holding the two halves of the DMF together are weak and start to stretch. Eventually they become so stretched that they start to touch the bell housing making a racket and the starter motor has difficulty engaging the flywheel making starting difficult. Often this starts to show as early as 30,000 miles.

This is probably too late, but you should have had an expert independent engineer inspect the components to prove that the failure was the DMF, not the clutch. You were robbed by crooks of the motor trade.

Guest

I should have mentioned that you should search Google for ‘dual-mass flywheel failure’ for more enlightening information.

Guest

I wonder if some of the failures reflect the aggressive driving style of many motorists. In London in particular most drivers seem to alternate between brake and accelerator. It seems obvious to me that this is will be detrimental to the clutch, DMF and other components of the drive train. I doubt that it helps to get anyone to their destination any faster.

Guest

I found an interesting article on the HonestJohn website discussing the problems with Dual Mass Flywheels that includes a list of vehicles with reported known problems. There’s also a link to a LandRover owner who had the failure and tried to elicit some information (without success) from the German manufacturer of the DMF. It definitely looks like it is the DMF and has nothing to do with driving style.

http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/dual-mass-flywheels/

Guest

I’m not so sure. Near the start of the article: “What seems to happen is excess temperature from drivers riding their clutches affects the compound.”

Guest

Yes, but it is a case of ‘seems’ rather than did ride the clutch.

There are plenty of other reports on the Internet. One interesting one because the guy had a failure on one car at 36,000 miles and he had a second car (his primary car) from new sitting on the drive with 130,000 miles on the clock. That suggests that he wasn’t guilty of riding his clutch.

It still suggests a poorly designed or poorly manufactured component.

Guest

An independent inspection would probably establish the reason for the failure. If a design fault can be established, that could help other owners.

My father taught me not to ride the clutch and gave me other useful advice on how to minimise wear and stress on the mechanical components. For most of his driving career he had no clutch problems.
In the last couple of years that he drove, he started to abuse the clutch, despite my warnings. It was no surprise that clutch had to be replaced after a much lower mileage than his previous cars had covered without problem.

So far I have followed my father’s teaching and have not had clutch or DMF problems. Only yesterday did I discover that my present car has a DMF and so did its predecessor, which I had for ten years. If I start to abuse the clutch, that will be the time to get an automatic or give up driving.

I have watched drivers slipping the clutch when crawling up hills in traffic. Sometimes you can smell the clutch overheating.

It would be very easy for a manufacturer to include a tell-tale to show the extent to which a clutch has been overheated, perhaps by incorporating pellets of alloys that melt at different temperatures. Alternatively, an over-temperature warning light could warn the driver that they are abusing the clutch.

Guest