Independent dealer Dorset Sports Cars’ advertisement for a three-year-old BMW 335d M Sport caught Alex’s eye. With 49,000 miles on the clock, a fresh MoT certificate and a great part-ex price, it was a deal sweet enough to persuade him to make the 134-mile round trip from Surrey to Wimborne to hand over his cash.
His bargain buy seemed rather less appealing five days later, after the rear off-side tyre developed a puncture. Stripped bare, the alloy made grim viewing. It was badly cracked. Nor was the worst of the damage new. There was evidence of previous weld repairs.
Alex immediately contacted Dorset Sports Cars, where the sympathetic sales manager agreed in writing to source a replacement wheel – an offer later retracted by the company’s bosses, who wanted to inspect the damage themselves.
Alex wasn’t happy about returning the wheel, and sent Helpdesk photographs of the offending alloy. These showed deep fissures along the rim and what looked like extremely badly executed weld repairs.
He also approached VOSA, which re-inspected the car with Dorset’s MoT tester present, and certified both the cracked alloy and punctured tyre dangerous.
Dorset claimed Alex must have caused the damage by hitting a pothole and recklessly carrying on driving. ‘The wheel is in an unroadworthy condition,’ the company told Helpdesk, ‘but this isn’t the condition it was in at point of sale. It’s as a result of abuse by driving on an under-inflated tyre.’
‘I didn’t hit any potholes,’ insisted Alex. ‘The cracks are through the welds, and I didn’t weld the wheel, so there was already a weakness.’
Dorset added: ‘Weld repairs to a road wheel are not a "reason for rejection" as far as the MoT inspection manual dictates. Therefore, the vehicle at time of test was in a roadworthy condition and fit for purpose.’
We thought this was rather missing the point. While weld repairs in themselves might not constitute an MoT test failure, that doesn’t make them safe. Welding can compromise an alloy wheel’s structural integrity.
BMW said it wouldn’t endorse such a sale, adding, ‘We wouldn’t recommend any sales operation, BMW or otherwise, to knowingly sell a vehicle to a customer with a wheel repaired in this manner.’
Other experts we contacted agreed, including The Welding Institute, which said, ‘Weld repair on a cast aluminium road wheel is potentially lethal and could fail catastrophically without warning.’
Dorset still refused to budge. However, Alex’s home insurance covered legal expenses, so he took Dorset to the small claims court – and won £1160 in damages.
‘I feel a lot of people would have just accepted the situation,’ he said. ‘Standing up for my rights was a lot of work, but ultimately worth it.’
What if this happens to you?
- Inform the seller in writing as soon as you find a defect, take pictures of the damage and get all responses in writing.
- Check your car and home insurance policies for legal expenses cover. This can be up to £100,000 - enough to pay for legal representation in a case such as this.
- Ask experts and professional bodies to assess the damage. Organisations such as DEKRA also provide inspection and expert witness services.
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