Richard Lovett was left fuming when the engine in the car he had bought just a few hours before from a dealer died of oil starvation as he drove it home to Waterlooville.
Distraught Richard is locked in a battle with Berkshire-based Trade Motors Ltd to refund the £3,800 he paid for an eight-year-old Skoda Octavia.
‘My first reaction was horror,’ said Richard.
‘I was absolutely gutted and started to panic, furious about all the money I’d spent on a car I’d only driven for less than 50 miles.’
The 36-year-old assistant Waterlooville shop manager parted with the cash to the firm’s salesman only three hours earlier, after accepting an unwritten promise of a three-month guarantee.
But after stopping off to show his new car to friends and on resuming the short drive home, Richard told Streetwise the engine warning light came on and went out again.
Concerned, he headed for a nearby Halfords, just yards away, to check the oil level.
To his astonishment he found it dangerously low and had to buy two litres of oil to top it up to the correct level.
After switching on the ignition he was relieved when on driving away the warning light went out. But within a minute or so it reappeared, the engine suddenly lost power, and the car spluttered to a halt.
Richard immediately rang Trade Motors of Newell Green, Bracknell, to tell them what happened. They claimed he must have overfilled the car with oil, and advised him to have it transported to a garage for inspection.
Richard then shelled out a further £100 to have the car taken to a Havant garage.
The initial verdict confirmed the engine had expired, but it had nothing to do with the oil level which was fine.
When he called the dealership back all they wanted to know was where the car had been taken.
On calling again to find out what was happening he was unable to get through.
But the following day he was furious when he discovered Trade Motors was trying to wriggle out of any responsibility.
It had recovered the car and claimed he wasn’t entitled to a refund or a free engine replacement because the damage was all down to him continuing to drive when the warning light came on.
Trading Standards advised him to reject the car.
When his letter went unanswered Richard contacted The News’ Streetwise desk for help and advice.
We e-mailed Trade Motors pointing out he hadn’t had the car for long enough to resist his claim for breach of contract.
We said the engine oil was more than 40 per cent down on the level recommended by Skoda.
Richard had acted immediately and appropriately to protect his investment when the warning light came on.
We also agreed he was on the receiving end of a raw deal after examining copies of the car’s incomplete service history given to him at the time of sale.
The last recorded oil change was two years ago in September 2012.
Crucially, there wasn’t a shred of evidence the car had ever been fully serviced since then, or before sale, which Richard was entitled to expect for a vehicle costing the best part of £4,000.
We asked Trade Motors to comment, but received a reply from Lawgstics, one of a number of legal firms specialising in fending off complaints against the motor trade.
Its solicitor insisted Richard was responsible for the engine damage, and made an offer on behalf of their client to replace it if he agreed to pay.
They refused to comment about his complaint without oversight of the Streetwise page in advance – a condition we declined to accept.
A gutted Richard said: ‘I’m now stuck without a car, no money to buy a new one, and owing my family £3,800.
‘It’ll probably take me a couple of years to recover.
‘As well as working in Waterlooville, I’m a carer for Portsmouth City Council and look after someone full time.
‘I’m really stuck without a car as he needs lifts from place to place.’
Streetwise will assist Richard to prepare a County Court money claim if Trade Motors continues to resist refunding him.