Ford Mustang owner's nine-month repair nightmare

Five failed attempts to repair Ford Mustang steering system have left owner without his car for months...

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Car enthusiast Ben Tatman bought his dream car – a 2017 Ford Mustang V8 – last year, but since a crash in October, owning it has been a nightmare.

After the accident, Ben's insurer Admiral arranged for the Mustang to be taken to an independent repair specialist to be fixed. As part of the repairs, it needed a new steering rack, but the one fitted by the garage was deemed to be faulty.

In November, the car was transferred to Allen Ford Nuneaton to have a second steering system fitted under warranty. That's when Ben’s nine-month repair ordeal began.

There were delays in finding a second steering rack and Ben had great difficulty getting any meaningful updates from Admiral. He did receive confirmation on 22 December that the car was with the Ford dealership, who weren’t able to calibrate the steering rack and were looking into it.

A master technician came to check the car over and there were discussions with Ford in America, but the steering system had still not been repaired by January this year. 

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It wasn’t until February that Ben was told that a new steering rack module and rack had been ordered to try to fix the car, but it didn’t resolve the problem, and in early March Ben was told a fourth set of replacement parts had been ordered. 

When the fourth steering system arrived, Allen Ford sent a master technician to upload the software to the car prior fitting it. However, Ben was told on 11 March that that attempt had been unsuccessful too, and the Ford Allen technician was waiting to be told how to proceed by Ford engineers with experience of working on Mustangs.

New software was uploaded to the system in late March and early April, but neither attempt was successful. 

Ben made a formal complaint to Admiral in late 2020 because the car was not being fixed and he felt he was getting a very poor level of customer service from the insurer due to lack of communication about progress with the repair work. He was told in April 2021 that the complaint had not been upheld because in the insurer’s opinion the car couldn’t be written off as the cost of repairs did not exceed its value. 

At that point, Ben contacted What Car? and we asked Ford to look into what could be done to either fix his car or concede that it couldn’t be repaired so it could be written off. Ford advised us in June that a fifth steering system would be fitted. However, that attempt failed because it wasn’t possible to calibrate the steering module with the rack.

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We contacted Ford again to ask if they would now confirm that the car should be written off and help Ben find a replacement vehicle. We believed he had been extremely patient with the situation, agreeing to multiple repair attempts over several months while he was driving a number of small courtesy cars, including a Hyundai i10 and a Vauxhall Corsa.  

However, we were told that Ford believed they had now worked out why the previous repairs had not been successful and had ordered a sixth steering system, and proposed to fit that when it arrived in the UK. There were no details on what would make the system function properly, so we contacted the Motor Ombudsman to see if it had any guidelines for car makers unable to repair vehicles within a set timeframe. 

We were told that it would only deal with complaints where the customer had paid for the repairs. A Motor Ombudsman spokesperson said that if the work was being financed via a claim on the customer’s insurance, “the onus is on the insurer to have the rectification work carried out within a reasonable timeframe, and to determine whether the car can be considered a total loss". The spokesperson added: "If this doesn’t happen, the consumer can log a complaint against the insurer and pursue their dispute through the Financial Ombudsman.”  

Ben had already contacted the Financial Ombudsman earlier in 2021 and his case hadn’t been taken further by them because it appeared that the car would be fixed. Ben contacted them again with the information from the Motor Ombudsman and a new investigation has now been opened. At present, he is still driving a 1.0-litre city car and has no idea if or when the situation with his Mustang will be resolved.

Ben said: “I believe other Mustang owners and people looking to buy this car should be made aware that there appears to be a major issue with the steering rack. And, as for the fact that I’ve been kept waiting for nine months, I believe the customer service policies of both Admiral and Ford are totally wrong; they just simply have no care in the world for their customers.”

While Ford and its engineers have spent a lot of time trying to properly repair the car, and spent many thousands of pounds in the process, it does now seem only fair that they admit defeat, rather than leave Ben without his original car for an unspecified amount of time. 

We also believe that Admiral ought to abide by a time limit on the length of time it takes for vehicles to be repaired, instead of making customers wait indefinitely.

We asked Ford to comment on the case but did not receive a reply, and we attempted to contact Admiral, but were not able to speak to any relevant member of staff to discuss the case or get a comment.

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