Liam Brennan was fuming when a new clutch fitted by national replacement specialists Mr Clutch packed up only a few miles after it was driven from the garage.
He’d booked his Vauxhall Zafira into the Portsmouth branch when it broke down. The clutch needed replacing.
Mr Clutch was the only garage who could do the job promptly and quoted him more than £500 to fix it.
Between jobs and with another addition to the family on the way the 33-year-old called on his dad to help him out with the cost of the unexpected repair.
But Liam was furious when he took an emergency call from his 62-year-old disabled dad Patrick to say he was stranded on the A3 Leigh Park slip road.
The car’s clutch pedal suddenly hit the floor, and it had broken down again.
He promptly phoned Mr Clutch to tell them what had happened.
He said that to his astonishment they refused to admit they were at fault and wouldn’t take responsibility.
They insisted he arrange to have the car towed back to them at his expense so they could have another look at it.
The following day the garage phoned Liam to say the pipe from the master cylinder to the clutch slave cylinder had detached.
Another row broke out when Liam said they persisted in claiming they weren’t liable for the fault, despite the fact it wouldn’t have been possible to replace the clutch without first removing it from the gearbox.
He said they adamantly refused to do any further work unless he paid another £149 for a replacement pipe. He’d just have to get on and fix it himself.
An angry Liam believed they were treating him like an idiot.
‘I phoned the Vauxhall dealership and found out Mr Clutch without my knowledge had already ordered the part. I’d lost all confidence after they’d bodged the job and refused to fix my car, so I bought the part from Vauxhall for £46 and fixed it myself in 10 minutes.’
But Liam’s residual anger turned to rage only days later.
The clutch started slipping when he changed gear. In exasperation Liam asked Streetwise to take the driving seat in the seriously escalating war of words with Mr Clutch Autocentres.
We soon discovered he was not alone having problems with the Kent-based franchise.
They claim to provide unbeatable friendly and professional garage services, but the internet is awash with complaints from angry customers who’ve had a similar experience to Liam.
Ironically, one that ended up on the RAC’s website email threads was a carbon copy of Liam’s detached pipework experience.
Although they were an approved RAC garage and had signed up to a voluntary trading standards code of practice, Liam felt the firm had let him down badly.
They hadn’t performed the service with the degree of competence Liam had contracted for or supplied the correct clutch.
He believes his statutory rights had blatantly been infringed and ignored.
We suggested he took his car to an independent garage to be checked over to find out what was wrong with it and a report obtained.
A test drive confirmed the clutch was defective.
It would need a complete strip down and examination.
A replacement would cost around £600, possibly more if the flywheel had been damaged.
At our instigation Liam forwarded a copy of the report to Mr Clutch.
At first they tried to prevaricate, then admitted they’d fitted the wrong clutch assembly to his car.
Liam promptly refused to let them touch his car again and asked them either to pay for the car to be fixed properly or a refund.
Mr Clutch insisted all they would do is replace it with the correct one.
They weren’t prepared to refund his out-of-pocket towing costs, or guarantee to compensate him for any consequential damage to the car’s flywheel as a result of their mistake.
Streetwise contacted the firm’s top management team and put Liam’s concerns about the way the Portsmouth garage had treated him.
We believed he was absolutely right not to let them touch his car again, and they should stop the quibbling and refund him.
This was not the way to treat a very unhappy customer.
As Liam’s dad had paid Mr Clutch by credit card, we advised him how to go about making a charge-back claim for breach of contract under the 1974 Consumer Credit Act.
Streetwise rarely gets a point-blank refusal to a request for the trader’s side of the story but no-one from the firm, either at head office or in Portsmouth was prepared to comment.
A frustrated Liam said: ‘For a company that’s supposed to have 30 years’ experience and a good reputation I consider the way I’ve been treated atrocious.
‘I feel cheated and I’d never again take my car to Mr Clutch.’