Self-employed ground worker Andrew Shilling says he was taken for a ride and scammed out of £2,460 by an online reconditioned engine firm.
Andrew asked Exchange Engines Ltd of Slough for a quote to rebuild his 10-year-old Volkswagen 1.6 FSI Golf engine after it developed a major fault.
Being totally reliant on his car to get him from job to job, he cadged lifts from workmates during the six weeks it took to complete the repairs.
But after collecting the car and driving it for less than 10 miles, the engine conked out, and Exchange Engines virtually told him to get on his bike.
He asked them to take the engine back, but that was the last he heard from them despite claiming he had a 50,000-mile guarantee.
Andrew said: ‘I wouldn’t want anyone to go through my experience and just hope you can warn people about rogue reconditioned engine scams.’
‘In my case the car started making a racket soon after I drove off but they denied it could be the engine making the noise and was still leaking oil and water.
‘When I first complained I was sworn at and intimidated, then they put the phone down on me.
They didn’t respond, return calls, or reply to my emails. To say I was furious is an under statement when I realised I’d been badly scammed.
‘I had no choice other than have a local garage repair my car, which cost me £1,400, so I sent them the bill with a demand to pay up.
‘The garage examination revealed the engine had simply been degreased and hosed down, and no repairs had been done.
‘It had been refilled with the wrong heavy oil and thick gooey additives so that any noise was disguised for just long enough to make it appear okay.’
The 36-year old Milton father-of-two decided he wasn’t prepared to be taken to the cleaners and issued a county court summons for £3,110 but it went unpaid.
When he asked Streetwise for help, our investigation soon discovered why his chance of ever recovering any money was absolute zero.
Exchange Engines Ltd was one of a trio of contemptible companies preying on customers, ripping them off for thousands of pounds, and generating over 350 complaints.
An application to shut them down had been submitted to the High Court by the Insolvency Service. Subsequently they were liquidated with no recorded assets and put out of business.
This followed the compulsory closure in 2014 of a previous Slough-based bent company run by the same director – First Choice Engines Ltd.
The court was told customers were driven to despair when they discovered work was completed to an unsatisfactory standard, or no work had been done at all.
Their cars were retained for prolonged periods of time, but when they complained they were either ignored or allegedly assaulted by company employees.
A minor foray into the murky world of reconditioned engines will be enough to convince even the most cynical that it’s a licence to con thousands of pounds out of the unwary motorist.
Most people think a reconditioned engine is one that has been stripped down completely, rebuilt and tested to the manufacturer’s original specification – essentially a new engine in all but name.
But surprisingly there’s no legal definition of a reconditioned engine. Consequently buyers can easily end up with an engine described as reconditioned, when in reality it’s just been lifted out of a wreck.
Other dodgy dealers specialise in selling shonky engines where only the failed components have been replaced, risking stressing other worn parts of the engine.
A spokesperson for the RAC told Streetwise Andrew’s story was not unfamiliar. There were few safeguards for the unwary buyer.
He said: ‘Assuming you’re unlucky enough to have an engine fail, it’s not covered by a warranty, and you’re not rich enough just to throw the car away, there are questions to be asked if you’re not to be conned when forking out for a replacement.
‘Essentially, why did the engine fail in the first place? If you don’t sort out the problem before fitting a replacement it’ll probably end up going the same way as the old one.
‘When there’s nothing for it but to buy a new engine, don’t just get on the internet. Do your homework, research where it’s coming from and insist on a written guarantee. As with second-hand cars, the used engine market is a lottery, peopled by both good and bad guys.
‘Make sure whoever you buy from is a member of the Federation of Engine Remanufacturers because it has an effective complaints procedure.’
Our research into the dodgy reconditioned engine car market concluded it was a minefield, and regulation to clamp down on rogue companies was behind the curve.
But Insolvency Service investigator David Hill said: ‘These companies operated in a way to draw in and then rip off customers.
‘There should be no doubt that the Insolvency Service will continue to take robust action whenever serious company failings are discovered and in particular against companies, preying on their customers.’
Streetwise urges anyone who has been the victim of reconditioned engine fraud or misconduct to help flush out the rogues and report traders who flout the law to Trading Standards via their local Citizens’ Advice service.