Watchdog: Clutch failure after four months

Hyundai i20 clutch failure
8 Aug, 2012 12:15pm Richard Yarrow

What good is Hyundai’s five-year warranty if owners have to pay for a replacement clutch after just 3,500 miles?

New car warranties don’t cover wear and tear components. Parts such as wiper blades, brake pads and tyres are classed as consumables and the owner has to pay when they need replacing. But what is ‘fair’ wear and tear?

Cathy Brown, from Helston, Cornwall, certainly didn’t think it was fair that Hyundai wouldn’t cover a fix on her i20 under warranty. The replacement part wasn’t anything so minor as wiper blades – it was the clutch. And the car was only four months old, with 3,500 miles on the clock.

“I’ve driven for over 40 years and never had clutch problems before,” Cathy said. “The one on my previous car lasted 11 years!”

A clutch is a wear and tear item – and it would be unfair to expect companies to replace them when they wear out on older vehicles.

But surely no company would consider it ‘fair’ for a customer to foot the bill for a replacement clutch on a four-month-old vehicle? Hyundai did. Its customer service centre manager wrote to Cathy saying that it agreed with the result of an investigation carried out by her dealer.

“There was no evidence to suggest any manufacturing defect,” wrote the customer service manager. “The cause of the concern with the clutch was down to wear and therefore is not covered under the terms of the warranty.” The manager added insult to injury by suggesting that the clutch failure may have been down to Cathy’s driving style.

Funnily enough, the technician who carried out an independent inspection on Cathy’s car came to a different conclusion. He said it looked like the i20 had done 100,000 miles, not 3,500. “With no disrespect,” he added, “even a bad driver would not have worn a clutch to this extent in that short time.” He concluded by saying the clutch was not of sufficient quality for the vehicle.

We confronted Hyundai with these findings, and asked it to reconsider Cathy’s warranty claim. It agreed to send its own engineer to inspect the part. “Once we’ve received the findings of this report, we will come to a final conclusion,” a spokesman said.

Cathy's case: At a glance

The problem
A clutch can last the lifetime of the car, but the one on Cathy Brown’s Hyundai i20 went after only four months. She was reluctant to pay for another.

Hyundai's response
Hyundai refused to replace the clutch under warranty. It said it is “fair wear and tear”, and suggested the problem could be down to her driving style.

Legal advice
You’re within your rights to get a second opinion. Ensure the dealer keeps all the parts it has removed, then have a qualified vehicle inspector examine them to see if they agree with the initial verdict.

Our verdict
A worn-out clutch on a four-month-old car should have set alarm bells ringing at Hyundai. And it should not have taken our intervention to finally get the company to agree to inspect it.

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