Blocks of ice

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What happens then when a car engine freezes up and who should be held accountable for any consequences?

Author: Philip Strickland
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This article is 3 years old.

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We are in the midst of a typical winter, with ambient temperatures drifting from “ mild” to “bitter”, like a drunk unwilling to sober up.

It is the time when black ice and frozen engines cause havoc on our roads.

What happens then when a car engine freezes up and who should be held accountable for any consequences?

The law requires that goods and services must be supplied to a proper standard of both quality of materials and reasonable care and skill of undertaking (Consumer Rights Act 2015 s49).

Where a car is recently purchased or recently serviced at this time of year (or at any time when the air temperature is likely to be close to freezing), it is likely to be the responsibility of the servicing or supplying garage to make sure the correct coolant mixture is installed. The owner of a car that freezes only a few days after being serviced is likely to be able to point the finger at the servicing garage. The symptoms of a freeze up include steam emanating from under the bonnet, loss of power, loss of interior heating in the cabin. All of this can spell disaster for it often entails damage to the cylinder head gasket, burst hoses, a split radiator or heater matrix or a combination of all of these. Rectifying such damage can prove expensive.

No matter how modest the job may be, where a garage is asked to attend to a customer’s car, a simple, quick and easy check can be made on the specific gravity of the coolant. Even a colour check might be adequate. Ten seconds spent doing this could spare all from huge cost and much heartache when the car owner later complains his car has failed spectacularly after leaving the garage. Checking the coolant level, as well as the state of the tyres and screen wash bottle at this time of year, even when not asked, is a service that works for both garage and customer. While caring for the customer, the servicing garage is in fact also looking after its own interests. It might even avoid being given the cold shoulder!

Lawgistics Members can get advice on consumer related issues by contacting the legal team.

Philip Strickland

Legal Advisor

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