HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Topics specific to owners of the series 2 Exige
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HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by dicko_4 »

Hi everyone. I am in a really difficult situation and would like some advice please. I bought my 2010 exige s brand new in September 2010 so it's about 3.5 years old. I has done just under 16,000 miles, always serviced and we'll looked after and warmed up etc. it has never been tracked. I have never had a single problem with the car in my whole ownership.

I recently took my car for a service at Christopher Neil's. I took the car in on a Thursday morning and due to me going to Cheltenham races for the gold cup the following day I had to pick up either the same day or over the weekend. I ended up picking the car up on the Sunday. Exactly one week later and circa 150 miles I turned my car on only to hear the most horrendous knocking and squeaking sound coming from the engine. I immediately turned it off. I rang Paul from services at Christopher Neil's the following day and told him I suspected something had gone wrong at the service and it needed to be looked at. Two days later they came and collected the car. After hearing absolutely nothing I rang Paul up 36 hours after they collected it to see what was going on. He mentioned they hadn't looked at it properly but said it was coming from inside the engine so would have to take the head off. He then said the oil levels were perfect which was a complete lie as my mechanic brother in law checked the oil levels before they took the car back and said it was 3 quarters full which he said was strange considering they supposedly did a full oil change 7 days prior. He said the oil should have been full. This lie made me even more suspicious. I told Paul this and said again I suspected some thing had gone wrong at the service to damage the car in which he denied all responsibility. In my opinion a service is to keep the car in good health so for it to break a week later seemed odd especially with the lower oil level and the fact it is a very low mileage car.

He asked did I want them to take the head off to inspect further but I said let me think about it as I heard of some mechanic friends that if they do that then I will definitely be liable for the charges. The day after he rang up and seemed very keen for them to take the head off which makes me think that any evidence (if any) that could blame them had been removed as he had it for 36 and didn't seem too bothered about taking the head off as he hadn't even contacted me and now all of a sudden he was very keen to do it. He also kept up with his story of the oil levels being perfect which I know is a lie. They obviously have probably topped it up by then or got rid of any evidence of their wrong doing.

I decided to ring and email lotus customer service and a few days later (last Monday) I got a phone call from a guy there. I told him how upset I was and that I was suspicious that Paul had been trying to cover his tracks by lying to me. He mentioned that they are a good garage and they would hand on heart admit if it was their fault and pay for the damage. I then said I was sceptical as what is stopping them from denying all knowledge and hiding any evidence. I then asked him outright to describe a scenario in which either lotus or Christopher Neil's would pay for the damage and he couldn't answer me. I then said that my car was perfect before the service so either something went wrong at the service or that lotus (who he was representing) has sold me a faulty engine so therefore one of them Should pay for the damage. I know it's out of warranty but it's not that old of a car and it's done less than 16,000 miles. I don't think anyone would be happy paying circa £40 k for a car for the engine to go 16,000 miles later. He said he would speak to his boss and see what he can sort. Nearly a week later and I have not heard anything.

May I also add that when I rang up on the day of my service about 2:30pm to see if the car was ready the guy said it wasn't ready and he would ring me when it was. I then said I would have to pick it up at the weekend. I never received such phone call saying the service was complete and it was me who phoned on the Saturday asking if I could pick it up on the Sunday. Could it be that they never finished the service knowing I wasn't collecting the same day?

What should I do guys. I am terribly upset by it all. I could get and external body to inspect the car when they take the head off like the AA but they have probably already got rid of any evidence by now or before anyone else can be there to inspect it. I have probably missed some info out but that's the general gist of it. All feedback would be very much appreciated. Thanks. John

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by JDS »

Hi John

Feel for you on this, but going to reply as best I can. Firstly bear in mind that I am more the other side of the fence here, so there may be a little bit of bias, but bear with me. For the record I have no connection with CN, and wouldn't know anyone from there if they were in the same room as me.

In terms of the engine being at 3/4 on the dipstick, its not the end of the world. All modern engines are quite happy from a little over, to quite a lot below the marks on the dipstick, to allow for customers who don't check too often or clumsy on the filler. The only time they don't like it is diesels over the max or if you are going on track with level too low. I'm guessing neither of these apply!!! So can all be down to interpretation, you expect it to bang on the max mark, they say 3/4 is perfect - same answer. Level can also vary depending on temps, level of car on ground, etc, there is a bit of variation. I wouldn't be too concerned about this. Fill a few engines I know of to the max mark cold, and you are likely to get an overfull warning on the dash when it's hot.

What is it that you think went wrong at the service? To be fair its pretty simple stuff. Drain oil, change filter, fill with oil, run, check level and for no leaks. If there was no oil in it, filter loose, drain plug missing then fair enough. But for you to be able to drive home and then further miles suggests that nothing as simple as this.

It's no surprise that Lotus wouldn't respond to your question, as they cannot reply on behalf of CN, and anything they said on Lotus' behalf, could be taken as an admission of liability, intended or not. I'll be honest here and you aren't going to like this, but you do seem to come across quite aggressive and accusing in your conversations with CN and Lotus, so they are probably treating you very carefully and warily.

Really you only have a couple of options. One is to let CN's take it apart and see what is wrong. The other is to let someone else to take it apart and see what is wrong. It may be something they did, it may be just an unlucky coincidence. Digging your heels in and saying that either Lotus or CN's should pay is not the best way to start the conversation in my opinion.

Always bear in mind that there are 2 guarantees with cars and driving. At one point you will be involved in a crash. At one point you will have an engine fail. There isn't a manufacturer in the world that has a 100% record with the second bit sadly.

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by Scosh »

epic post from JSR.

Although you had a service and 150miles later the engine died it doesn;t necessarily mean CNs have broken your car. If i was in your position i'd want to identify the problem then determine the cause and solution and after that decide what to do. You just need to decide whether you want CNs to do it or find someone else, they have a good rep and the car is already there so personally i'd get them to do the work.

I'd be surprised if the engine blew because of a bad service tbf

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by dicko_4 »

Thanks for your replies. To be honest and I mean this with all due respect I am very upset that my £40 k car with a supposedly reliable Toyota engine has gone bang after 16,000 miles with a potential massive bill. Tell me someone who wouldn't be? So maybe this is why i may seem aggressive. I'm sure no one would be over the moon with this. My point on the oil situation was that with it being filled 7 days prior then it should be full as I paid for a full oil change. The oil was checked with a cold engine. I do understand the oil at that level wouldn't cause damage in itself it was just the fact I don't see why it would be low at all and for them in my opinion to lie to me or maybe the service wasn't completed? I know a few people that work at main dealers inc ford and jaguar and they have told me horror stories of botched jobs and mistreatment of cars inc letting apprentices work on cars and make mistakes and them trying to wriggle out of accepting claims in situations such as these. They told me to show that I am annoyed and this is the reason why I may seem to dig me heels in is to show I will not be just brushed aside. I am not a mechanic but all I know is that an engine of an expensive car should not be going like that after so few miles. I know how much I have taken car of that car so therefore I feel lotus have sold me a faulty engine or something could have gone wrong at the service. I know it could just be a coincidence but I must be sceptical as all I know is that I had a perfect car before and a blown up engine not long after.

As with regards to letting them look at it my mechanic friends said that as soon as they take the head off the car they will just hide any evidence if there is any and charge me regardless. On the other side though if I get someone else to look at the car and they find something wrong then Christopher Neil's will just pass the blame saying that the other garage could have caused the damage or made it up if you know what I mean. I'm just stumped on what to do :/

Apologies for people thinking I am being aggressive but as previously stated I'm sure anyone else in my situation would be very upset too. I am usually a very happy, easy going and laid back person. Apologies again :) and thanks for your replies JDS and scosh

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by jfk »

My 2p ....
in my experience CN's and in particular Paul are very good and reputable to deal with.
It's horrible that you have this problem but I'd try and move on , perhaps just fit a low mileage celica engine and hipe for a goodwill gesture from CN.
I'd say DON'T split the head from the motor cos it'll never be the same...
just agree to disagree , draw a line and enjoy the car again.
Burstner/Ducato Motorhome

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by Mr Pesky »

You've obviously decided that you don't want CN to do any further work on the car (a big mistake imho) so your only option is to take it elsewhere eg your "mechanic friends" & let them carry out any necessary work. Don't expect to get any recompense from either CN or Lotus though without a full blown legal shootout.

In other words, I agree wholeheartedly with what JDS says.

Best of luck, & genuinely sorry to hear of your woes.

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by Top cat »

You must feel sick, i would be gutted as well, no question. You have to try and look at the situation from the outside ( not easily done ) without the emotion clouding the judgement. JDS above made lots of excellent points all very valid.
It would be pretty hard to cause catastrophic damage to your engine whilst only doing a service. Even if they were rushed off their feet or the new apprentice had completed the service, not impossible but highly unlikely i would say. You then need to add to the equation would CN's cover up the damage if they know they caused it. Again not impossible but highly unlikely as they have a top reputation to risk losing, and getting involved in a cover up could and most certainly would mean people losing their jobs. Logic tells me being employees rather than owners they would just say "we fooked up" and the company would take the hit on engine repair. I took my car to CN's a few times for warranty work and its first couple of services and i cant fault them, they fixed things on my car free of charge on more than one occasion as well. In all, my opinion would be that it is highly unlikely that CN's have damaged your car but of course still very possible.
In regards to Toyota engines Lotus should be able to give you figures on engine failure rates and probability but again, they appear pretty bullet proof to me from being around Lotus forums for the last few years.
My guess would be one of two causes. Firstly, you were just very unlucky and the engine just let go due to engine manufacturer issues. Or secondly, the engine was buzzed sometime around this service or during it. This is easily done on spirited drives perhaps if the driver is unfamiliar with that particular cars gear selection quirks or if the driver hasn't driven it over the winter and is out of practise on the best place to find your chosen gears. Have you missed a gear recently and more importantly selected a wrong one or perhaps the guy who serviced your car did this on his drive around the block after the service. If you haven't accidentally buzzed the engine i would be asking the garage whom you choose to investigate this incident to take an ECU dump which will tell you where, when and IF it has indeed been buzzed.
Obviously all of my opinion above could be complete codswallop but i am just trying to base my thoughts on possibilities and percentages. and i fully appreciate you have a very different perspective on this situation at this time.

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by Muu »

it's very hard to comment until you know what the issue is; my first stop there would be to send the new oil away from analysis and they'll give you a pointer.

I can understand your frustration that you'd want the car to be minty fresh post service, yet what you've got is a potentially big problem.

As for the oil 3/4 thing, lets not forget that the car isn't 3/4 full, rather that the last ~1L is 3/4 there, so overall you'll have something like 5.75L (don;t know yota fills) and if a garage filled it with the recommended amount, you could have a load sat in the lines to the coolers up front.

Unfortunately, engines do fail. Now you could push for a goodwill gesture from Lotus, however I'd suggest this is best achieved with the garage on side.

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by JDS »

Don't get me wrong, if any of us were in your shoes, I think we would all be pretty pissed off.

However getting on the phone and immeadiately saying my engine has failed, you just serviced it, therefore its your fault is going to do nothing but wind up anyone. Put the shoe on the other foot and compare it to what you do for a living. Would your reaction be the same if someone rang you out of the blue to say 'you have ballsed up, xyz has broken and I want you to fix it at your cost' or 'there's a problem with my xyz, I want to get it sorted, but it may be related to the work you have just done, if so we need to have a chat about that' The most hated 5 words in the service department of any garage is 'since you serviced my car' and it sets alarm bells ringing. You would not believe some of the things get added after those 5 words.

Chasing Lotus to say that the problem is a faulty engine I suspect will end in more pain. For a faulty engine to do 16k is unlikely, but possible. Proving it will be your issue. As I said, engines fail, and far more expensive and reliable ones than Toyota. Why do you think that so many people change their cars after the warranty runs out?

Give up on the oil level being slightly low. Its making you some like a pedant who is clutching at straws to avoid a big bill. Sorry if that's a bit blunt. The difference between 3/4 full and full is less than 200 ml. If the oil change was done when the engine was hot, as it should be, then checked after running to check for leaks, it probably was showing full at that point, due to different temps, air in oil in sump, etc.

One thing I gaurante has been done is the ecu has printed out the nice little piece of paper and has shared its info with the dealer. From memory, and its been a while, it says % of time at various revs, counts standing starts, v max, max engine revs and counts - plus logs temps and time of when this happens - and loads more. As Lotus are involved, they probably also have a copy of it. There's a possibility that the factory can get more info than the dealer can from the ecu. You wouldn't drive your car much if you could see what some of the Bosch ecu's record in modern cars - big brother is definitely watching!!

If you are stuck not trusting CN's to fix it without there being a whitewash you can either get your mates to fix it, or call Lotus, calmly explain the issue and ask if they will take the car to the factory to investigate. But don't jump up and down and insist its either CN's or Lotus fault, and I'm not paying a penny. If it go's to Lotus expect them to have a deep and meaningful conversation with the ecu, to check usage, from day 1.

At the end of the day it's your car, it could potentially be your bill to settle.

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Re: HELP - suspected engine damage done at service

Post by tim_marra »

Sorry to hear all this, it must be very distressing.

There is always the possibility (not mentioned so far?) that someone started or even moved the car with the oil drained but not refilled, causing extensive wear?

FWIW i'd let CN's do the investigation and get the ECU readings and go from there.

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