/ Advice on broken & recently serviced car

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Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
Appealing to the collective wisdom of UKC. Please excuse the long post:

I recently had my car serviced, and it subsequently overheated on its second journey / 500 miles post-service (two long motorway runs). First sign was the engine temp light flickering briefly on and off - there's no temp gauge on this car. I slowed down and nursed the car as it wasn't safe to stop at the time; the light stayed off. I hit some congestion about 15min further down the road and the light came on again despite heater being on full; I exited the motorway more or less straight away (a services was about half a mile away), checked the system and found a *lot* of coolant in the expansion tank. Top hose was empty, bottom hose red hot. I let the car cool, topped the system up with water and nursed it home carefully with very gentle throttle.

I took it straight back to the garage. They advised me they hadn't changed the coolant at the service as it has a 10-year life (I didn't know that, but I think it was last changed with them around three years ago). But the stuff in the expansion tank was filthy and very rusty-looking. I'd requested a comprehensive service, including valve clearances, new spark plugs, and 'all fluids'.

This is the first time the car has had an overheating problem. Subsequent investigations by them (basically taking the car out and driving it normally and hard) show that it's likely to be a head gasket failure.

Would I have a chance of getting the work required done for free, or of being reimbursed, or am I on my own? I get on with the people at the garage, and don't want any animosity; nonetheless I want to know where I stand from a legal / consumer rights point of view, before I start requesting things. What does UKC think?

Thanks in advance.
wilkie14c - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

what car is it? i'm just curious after reading that you asked for valve clearances to be checked.
it's sounds like coincidence to me, i guess the onus will be on you to demonstrate how a service can knacker the head gasket. the only possible way i can imagine is a coolant change and leaving an air lock in the engine, thus causing over heating but even then, they said they didn't touch the coolant.
jkarran - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

Why would they fix it for free? If it ran for 500mi before overheating it probably wasn't airlocked or low on coolant and the pumps and fans must have been running and circulating coolant. Hard to see what you think the garage did wrong really, sometimes machines do just fail.

What is it? I can't think of anything but a few BMW M cars with solid lifters.
Post edited at 10:52
Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to jkarran and wilkie 14c:
Thanks for the replies.

> If it ran for 500mi before overheating it probably wasn't airlocked or low on coolant and the pumps and fans must have been running and circulating coolant.

I hadn't considered that. However it's possible that it was overheating on the first leg: I had been using my phone as a sat-nav on the dash which may have obstructed the warning light. Stupid, I know.

> Why would they fix it for free?

As per OP: I'm not sure where I stand, hence asking. It feels to me that after requesting a full and comprehensive service, to leave such rusty and poor coolant in the system without further investigation is a bit negligent. I'm completely prepared to concede I'm wrong on that if people with expertise can explain why.

Edited to add: it's a Suzuki Ignis Sport. It's much-loved, and I don't want to see it go. Nonetheless the cost of a head gasket repair immediately following lots spent on such a major service, renders it pretty unviable to keep.
Post edited at 11:07
jkarran - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

> it's a Suzuki Ignis Sport. It's much-loved, and I don't want to see it go. Nonetheless the cost of a head gasket repair immediately following lots spent on such a major service, renders it pretty unviable to keep.

Well if you're attached to it but it's the combination of the two costs you don't like look at it this way, you'd be throwing away the cost of the service if you didn't get it repaired. Sorry, I appreciate it's frustrating
jk
La benya - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

I cant believe you just admitted to owning that. Is it yellow?
daWalt on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

> First sign was the engine temp light flickering briefly on and off - there's no temp gauge on this car.
do you mean coolant level gauge? - this just tells you to top the system up.

checked the system and found a *lot* of coolant in the expansion tank. Top hose was empty, bottom hose red hot.
it'll be hot, and it expands when hot so can look like more than normal, top hose is an overflow so should be dry.

They advised me they hadn't changed the coolant at the service as it has a 10-year life (I didn't know that, but I think it was last changed with them around three years ago). But the stuff in the expansion tank was filthy and very rusty-looking. I'd requested a comprehensive service, including valve clearances, new spark plugs, and 'all fluids'.
"all fluids" - check, top up, replace... that's three different things, make sure you know what you're getting.
the water will get a bit filthily over the years. the major warning is if you're getting oil mixed in. that could happen with a broken gasket (no necessarily the head gasket, there are others)

Subsequent investigations by them (basically taking the car out and driving it normally and hard) show that it's likely to be a head gasket failure.
that's some diagnosis just from driving around; the usual sign of a broken engine gasket is mayonnaise like gunk under the oil cap (boiled-off coolant); or oil in the coolant (i.e. the two are mixing).
It's unusual to be able to say which gasket is bust without taking the unit apart.

if there is a bust head gasket then it'll be burning up coolant much quicker than normal. but that's the symptom not the cause.

I'm not a mech, but this has happened to a couple of my cars over the years - that's what you get if you drive a banger like you think you're the Stig



Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to La benya:

No comment ;)
Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to daWalt:

> that's some diagnosis just from driving around; the usual sign of a broken engine gasket is mayonnaise like gunk under the oil cap (boiled-off coolant); or oil in the coolant (i.e. the two are mixing).

Which is part of my concern. There's no mayo either on the cap or the dipstick. I couldn't definitively say there's no oil in the coolant, but there was no sheen on the surface of the liquid in the expansion tank. To be fair to the garage, they're saying it 'looks like' the HG.

> It's unusual to be able to say which gasket is bust without taking the unit apart.

I requested a compression and leak-down test but this has not been done (yet).
jkarran - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

What state is your radiator in? It's coming up to summer and if it's full of dead flies, feathers and half the fins are rotted out that may be all that's up with it if it's not actually boiled up and ground to a smelly steaming halt. Worth a look.

You can test for combustion byproducts in the coolant, common with head gasket failure even when the oil and water haven't mixed.
jk
Timmd on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

Some good (seeming) advice I read about cars was about knowing the history of a car you've had a long time, compared to buying another car second hand and potentially having to pay unexpected repair costs. It could be worth thinking about?
Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to jkarran:

> What state is your radiator in? It's coming up to summer and if it's full of dead flies, feathers and half the fins are rotted out that may be all that's up with it if it's not actually boiled up and ground to a smelly steaming halt. Worth a look.

Superficially it looks ok structurally, but yes it has a bit of debris over it. The state of the coolant could be indicating it's pretty mucky inside though. So could a crappy rad alone be responsible for the coolant pushing out into the tank? The engines are known for being pretty solid and I'm hoping for a more positive outcome than HG repair.

> You can test for combustion byproducts in the coolant, common with head gasket failure even when the oil and water haven't mixed.

Ok, I'll ask for that test, thank you.
timjones - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

> Which is part of my concern. There's no mayo either on the cap or the dipstick. I couldn't definitively say there's no oil in the coolant, but there was no sheen on the surface of the liquid in the expansion tank. To be fair to the garage, they're saying it 'looks like' the HG.I requested a compression and leak-down test but this has not been done (yet).

You don't always get oil in the coolant. IME it is far more common for the gasket to go between a waterway and one of the cylinders.

If this is the case it can sometimes be diagnosed by water blowing through the exhaust or even the plume of steam trailing behind the car.
jim182 - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:
Top hose cold, bottom hose hot. Sounds like the coolants not circulating.
Have they checked the water pump and thermostat?
Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Timmd:
Yes this is true, and it is otherwise a very good car despite the disparaging looks (and comments) it generates! I've serviced it with no expense spared over its life with me, so I'm hearing you on this. If I can mitigate the costs then maybe I can keep it, but to a large degree this will depend on what agreement I can reach with the garage.
Post edited at 13:18
Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to timjones:
> You don't always get oil in the coolant. IME it is far more common for the gasket to go between a waterway and one of the cylinders. If this is the case it can sometimes be diagnosed by water blowing through the exhaust or even the plume of steam trailing behind the car.

Would a leak-down or compression test definitively reveal HG failure (or its absence)?

In reply to jim182:

> Top hose cold, bottom hose hot. Sounds like the coolants not circulating. Have they checked the water pump and thermostat?

Not known, Apparently it has had more investigation than just driving it, and 'nothing out of the norm' was found.
Post edited at 13:17
Timmd on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:
> Yes this is true, and it is otherwise a very good car despite the disparaging looks (and comments) it generates! I've serviced it with no expense spared over its life with me, so I'm hearing you on this. If I can mitigate the costs then maybe I can keep it, but to a large degree this will depend on what agreement I can reach with the garage.

I find self deception can be handy when it comes to large(r) costs. 'I'm only going to spend it once', or ' Spread out over the next year or two - it's not very much'. ;-)

It only works if I actually do reduce spending over however long I project forward for...
Post edited at 13:38
timjones - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

> Would a leak-down or compression test definitively reveal HG failure (or its absence)?

I probably wouldn't bother with compression testing as compression problems can be due to a range of other issues too.

I would pressure test the cooling system both when the engine is cold and not running to see if there are any leaks and whilst the engine is running for excessive pressure or the flickering needle that is often a sign of a headgasket failure.

A good pressure tester will also have the facility to test for exhaust gases in the cooling system.
Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to timjones:

Thank you. I will request this too, if I go down the repair route.

In reply to all:

Thanks to all for the replies, even the disparaging ones ;)

I'm still not sure where I stand from a consumer rights point of view. As I said above to JKarran, it feels to me that after requesting a full and comprehensive service, to leave such rusty and poor coolant in the system without further investigation is a little negligent.

Is this simply wrong, and am I on my own here in bearing the full costs of repair? I'd appreciate some guidance on this consumer aspect before I get it investigated, repaired or scrapped; can anyone shed any light?
Toerag - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

If the engine isn't circulating coolant you'd have killed it well before 500 miles. When my boat engine's cooling system got airlocked the alarm went off as soon as I got out the harbour at pootling speed.
It sounds like you know more than they do about engines which is concerning.....
Climbing Pieman on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:
Your rights are to a reasonable standard of work done with reasonable skill and care appropriate to what you asked and paid for. A main Suzuki dealer service and expectations will most likely be different to a general high street garage for example.

Did you get what you asked for, being in mind a full and comprehensive service means different things to the different garages. Most should service to a manufacturer's schedule, unless you specifically requested and they agreed to do the additional work and you paid for it, is what you need to ask yourself?

My thoughts are with coolant replaced three years ago, no garage would replace so soon (but service would mean check level, concentration, and top up if necessary) unless you requested it as an additional job. It is certainly possible that it was ok (level, concentration, etc) at service, but after 500 miles something went wrong (old car more expected that other things will break, or go wrong due to age).

If you think that the coolant problem is related to the work the garage did or should have done, unless they accept it was their fault, then you will need to essentially prove that so you could ask for an independent inspection to back you up before you "blame" the garage. Otherwise, it is most likely that it's a coincidence and you'll need to pay for the repairs.
Post edited at 17:58
Murderous_Crow - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Toerag:

> If the engine isn't circulating coolant you'd have killed it well before 500 miles.

I understand that it is only lifting water when driven hard. At 'normal' throttle openings it is apparently fine, and coolant levels stay in limits. I'm told this is indicative of a HG failure.

In reply to Climbing Pieman:

Thanks, that sounds like what I'm after. Your assessment sounds reasonable.

For what it's worth I'm genuinely not trying to get what I can from these guys. I've got a good relationship with them, having used them for years and spent a great deal of money with them upgrading and developing my higher-performance cars for track.

This car is not high-value (although I like it a lot); my concern is that the situation feels wrong. I asked for a full service, including for any advisory items to be noted. They picked up a few things, but not the state of the coolant. I'd verbally specified an oil change and 'all fluids'. Would it not be reasonable in such a major service / inspection to at least pull and inspect some of the coolant, and investigate any adverse appearance?
timjones - on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

When did you last do a check on the coolant level?

If it looked OK last time you checked then it is unlikely there was anything for the garage to spot.

Something as simple as a water pump failure and the subsequent hot running can turn the coolant rusty in a very short time.

I would be strongly inclined to suspect that it is just a coincidence that this happened so soon after a service. About the only thing that a mechanic could have done to cause coolant loss and overheating is leave the filler cap off or loose. The fact that there was high pressure in the system most likely rules this out.
Climbing Pieman on 17 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:
> This car is not high-value (although I like it a lot); my concern is that the situation feels wrong. I asked for a full service, including for any advisory items to be noted. They picked up a few things, but not the state of the coolant. I'd verbally specified an oil change and 'all fluids'. Would it not be reasonable in such a major service / inspection to at least pull and inspect some of the coolant, and investigate any adverse appearance?

All garages I've dealt with have a laid down list of what a major service entails. This does vary between garages. That's the work they do unless specific additional work is requested and agreed.

I hear what your saying though, but it really depends on what they normally do, what you normally get them to do, and based on that what they interpreted what you were asking for. Verbal all fluids to them probably does not normally include three year old coolant, and so I would have expected to stress to them that that you wanted it changed. If they always changed the coolant on a "not high value" car I suspect that they would get endlist complaints!

All fluids is too loose a statement and I would expect to be interpreted as all appropriate fluids. Did they actually change the windscreen washing fluid, gearbox oil, differential oil, etc, etc? If not then did you expect them to? If they did but not the coolant, maybe you have a case to negotiate with them. Anyway, you should have got a detailed invoice and so it should have been obvious that the coolant was not changed.

As I said I would expect coolant to be checked, but not replaced unless you specifically asked for it to be. It is quite feasible they checked it and that there was no apparent problem at service, then 0 to 500 miles post service something went wrong.

I think you either need to discuss it further with them, probably once it is known what actually went wrong, and take it from there, or go for an independent inspection to "arbitrate". The later though could upset your relationship with them if it seems you are trying to blame them before all the facts are known.

Only you really know how clear you were to them on what you asked. As it's verbal, it's your word against theirs and will essentially default to what would an resasonable garage do it you asked for an all fluid service. Sorry, but IMO that would not be to change the coolant.
Murderous_Crow - on 18 May 2017
In reply to timjones and Climbing Pieman:

Thanks, appreciate your replies. I feel a bit more informed, and think I understand my position better. Will have a chat with the garage and see what comes up.

Luke
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Ben Sharp - on 18 May 2017
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

It's always difficult knowing whether or not to trust a garage or not and even when you know them you never know whose doing the work or to what standard. That being said the only case I can see that you could have against them would be that they didn't check the coolant at all during the service and therefore missed signs of HG failure, which seems unlikely and certainly unprovable. There'd be no reason to change the coolant after 3 years and I can quite well imagine a different customer complaining if they saw coolant on their service bill when it was so far outside the service schedule. As another poster said, only you know what was discussed. Either way if your head gasket was on the way out then apart from not noticing, it doesn't sound like they've done anything wrong and there's no way you could prove or disprove whether there was evidence of it at the time of service.

When you say it's dirty have you drained some off to look at it? Sometimes it looks brown in the header tank then when you drain a little off it's still in good condition. I think you can send samples away to be tested for HG failure, or maybe buy the kits yourself. Perhaps that would be an option if you don't want them to pressure test it but don't know how good they are.

Hope you manage to get if fixed.

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