It is often put to us that timing belts are wear and tear items that the seller can’t be held responsible for should one snap after purchase.
However, a stark warning to the contrary was delivered in a recent case. Dealer R sold a car to customer K. There was no evidence to suggest that the timing belt had been changed after the manufacturer’s recommended mileage to change it had passed. Moreover, there was no evidence that there was actually a problem with it. For the purchaser, as a precaution, took the car elsewhere to have the belt replaced and sued our client for the cost of replacement and connected labour charges.
On this point the Court quite boldly found in favour of K and awarded full cost of repairs to be met by R. The warning was stark, if there is the suggestion that the timing belt has not been replaced in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations then the court will find that the seller was in breach of contract and will be held liable for all damage caused by the result of any subsequent failure of that timing belt.
The Judge’s rationale was simple. Due to the comparative ease of replacement compared with the devastating damage that can result from a timing belt break the onus will be on the garage to replace it pre-sale unless there is considerable mileage still left in the belt before the manufacturer suggests a replacement.
This is an important decision and one that should not be forgotten. If in doubt ‘replace it’ and keep the evidence to show the belt has been replaced. Ignore this ruling from the court at one’s peril!