UK 61 plate, Ford Diesel Mondeo Estate, Econetic: clutch replaced at 31,800 miles; failure caused by 'driver style'
I use my car daily for commuting and for business. It's supplied to me as a company car under contract from a leasing company. I’ve had it from new and there are no other drivers. The car has been serviced at the correct intervals and at Ford garages. I haven’t had any issue with it to date.
Two weeks ago my gearbox (manual) failed completely and without warning. I pulled up to the queue at a roundabout. When the queue started to move I could not engage any gears. There were no warning lights. Once at the side of the road I found I could engage gears with the engine off, but if I started it (clutch depressed) I couldn’t then change from the gear I was in. The car was immobile. I called my recovery.
The mechanic arrived and looked under the bonnet. The clutch slave cylinder was leaking fluid badly. He told me that’s why the gearbox didn’t work – it’s what I’d kind of expected as the gearbox wouldn’t work when the engine was running because there was something wrong with the hydraulics. The following day I took the car into a Ford garage. After two days work, the car was returned with slave cylinder fixed and new clutch fitted since the old was 'badly worn'. The work was carried out completely without permission from me - the garage just did it. It’s now being claimed by the leasing company that the fault is entirely down to ‘driver style’. That the cause of the slave cylinder failure was through an overheated clutch. And the evidence on which I am supposed to accept this is a single photo of a clutch plate. This means it’s out of warranty and I’ve a £790 bill staring at me personally.
The garage just went ahead and did the work. In calls with them as the job was progressing they told me they'd got permission from the leasing company to go ahead - that was at the stage of removing the gearbox. I don't know what happened after that. What I do know is the business I work for was approached after I had picked the car, asking for permission to go ahead with the work - because it was clutch wear caused by 'driver style' - and that we'd be liable for the bill.
I'm not one to duck responsibility so if I'm responsible then fair enough. Problem is in 35 years of driving I’ve never worn out a clutch. I don’t ride my clutch or slip it at lights or on hills and I don’t drive with my foot on the clutch – anything like that. And I’d not experienced any issues with slipping, jumping out of gear, or changes in engine revs when I engage or disengage the clutch before this happened - it just came out of the blue. I can’t understand how I’ve caused it to happen. So you can understand my confusion at the accusation.
Can anyone help me understand this better?
I understand replacing the slave itself requires the gearbox is removed to gain access. Is it Ford practice, since the bulk of the work has already been done to replace a clutch, to always do so at opportunities like this? And would it be that the clutch would be replaced whether worn or not?
Could an overheated clutch have caused the slave cylinder to fail? Or would it have been the other way round that a malfunctioning slave could have caused excessive wear on the clutch?
I drive the car using the speed limiter a lot – it’s a great means of keeping me from speeding. But is there anything about the way in which the speed limiter operates that could have led to excessive clutch wear?
I also use the auto-start feature. Could that have promoted excessive wear?
But most of all I feel outraged that I'm being held hostage. It's their word against mine. How can I prove it wasn't me that wore out the clutch other than say emphatically I've never done so before and doubt I would now? Is this just a garage seeing some easy money (the nature of the problem and the stage we are now at - the work is complete - means its nigh impossible to identify who or what is at fault) from a punter who doesn't usually use them (I normally use one very close to where I work - so they don't really care whether they piss me off). The whole thing stinks!
I am at a loss over this. Any insight would be really helpful. Especially mechanical insights on the problem and whether its possible this was a poor clutch from the word go.