Engine failure left VW owners picking up a surprise £6,700 bill | Money

A couple from Durham were left with a £6,650 bill after the engine on their VW Polo catastrophically failed three months after the car’s warranty expired – in a problem that appears to affect many car owners with TSI engines but which VW ignores once a warranty is no longer valid.

Paul Bennett and Andrew Tibbs were on holiday in Dorset when their three-year-old Polo, with just 22,000 miles on the clock, ground to a halt.

The car was towed to the local VW dealer who diagnosed that the timing belt had snapped, causing fatal damage to the engine.

The couple say they were astonished when Lookers VW in Newcastle – the dealer who sold the car and had always serviced it, and had changed the failed timing belt three months earlier – denied liability and said they were responsible for the entire bill.

Bennett and Tibbs are the latest owners of a VW Polo to be left with a wrecked petrol TSI engine and a large bill after a cambelt, chain or tensioner pulley failed.

The TSI (turbocharged straight injection) engines are also fitted in Skoda, Audi and Seat models and have sold in large numbers, but some have been problematic for owners – even after significant changes in design.

Paul Bennett - Andrew Tibbs



Paul Bennett and Andrew Tibbs Photograph: Paul Bennett and Andrew Tibbs

Four months after the most recent service, the pair were on the last day of their holiday – it was Friday 13th – and on a busy main road when the car stopped. They managed to pull into a farm track and the vehicle was recovered to the local VW dealer in Dorchester. After that, they claim, VW and the dealer fobbed them off.

“Although the Dorchester VW garage have said it is most likely the engine timing was out, Newcastle VW are refusing to help,” says Bennett.

“Lookers’ assessment (from a distance of 375 miles) was that the camshaft adjuster pulley broke, starting the chain of events that led to the failure.”

He says that when he investigated further, it emerged that failing pulleys are a known problem with the 1.2 TSI engine. VW has recalled similar cars in Australia and some UK dealers had been changing the pulleys to prevent similar engine failures, he says.

The Consumer Rights Act gives owners recourse against the supplying dealer up to six years after purchase, but car dealers will often claim their liability ends with the warranty. In 2016 Money reported how a Skoda Yeti 1.2 TSI failed after 43,000 miles as a result of a stretched timing chain. In spite of it having a full Skoda service history and it being a known problem, the owner was initially told they would have to pay £4,800.

Last year Money also featured the case of a reader whose Skoda Octavia vRS, with a similar 2.0 litre VW engine, failed at six years old, costing the owner £8,250.

After the Guardian’s intervention in Bennett’s case, VW said it would cover 60% of the bill, and later offered to pay 80%. Lookers has offered £500 and to have the car returned to Newcastle, and to supply a courtesy car.

It says: “Volkswagen is pleased to support Mr Bennett despite his car’s out-of-warranty status, and of course takes customer care matters extremely seriously. We hope the support being offered ensures Mr Bennett remains satisfied with his vehicle.”

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