Renault Espace air-conditioning problem

* Air-conditioning stops working, costs £1000 to repair * Repair not covered by comprehensive extended warranty * Helpdesk persuades Warranty Direct to reconsider...

Renault Espace air-conditioning problem

After taking the precaution of investing in an extended warranty for his 56-plate Renault Espace, Andrew Rourke thought he was protected against most faults the car could throw at him.

Crunch time came when, at six-and-a-half years old, the car’s air-conditioning wheezed to a halt. Andrew’s dealer, Toomey Renault Southend, diagnosed the problem as a seized expansion valve, causing damage to the air-conditioning pipe. It would cost more than £1000 to repair so a claim was submitted to Warranty Direct.

Andrew was dismayed when the news came back that the bulk of his claim had been rejected. Warranty Direct would pay the £123 cost of replacing the faulty valve, but Andrew would have to foot the rest of the bill himself. The reason? Although the valve was covered by Andrew’s Extra Care, the pipe was not.

‘Over the past two years, I’ve paid out over £1400 in premiums for cover that’s marketed as comprehensive, but, as I’ve found out, is not,’ he complained when he contacted Helpdesk. ‘Warranty Direct’s policy document states Extra Care is "one of our most comprehensive levels of cover" and I paid the extra premium for that policy because it includes air-con cover.’

We examined Andrew’s policy schedule and confirmed the expansion valve is covered, while the pipe is not. However, although the policy clearly states Warranty Direct will pay for repairs to covered parts even if they’re damaged by a part that isn’t covered, there’s no mention of what happens when a covered part damages one that isn’t.

This seemed strange to us, so we challenged Warranty Direct’s decision. The company agreed that if the dealer resubmitted Andrew’s claim, it would be reviewed, so Toomey Renault sent off the paperwork the same day. Warranty Direct wasted no time authorising the full claim, save a small excess of £126. Andrew was thrilled.

His relief was short-lived because the air-conditioning still refused to work. Toomey re-examined the unit and identified a faulty compressor.

It advised Warranty Direct that the fault was present at the time of original diagnosis; it had just escaped attention.

However, by this time, Andrew’s warranty policy had lapsed and on this basis this second claim was rejected. He was facing a new bill of £700.

We appealed to Warranty Direct.

A spokesman said: ‘This is, essentially, a continuation of the previous claim, which was reported while on cover. The initial mis-diagnosis has caused some issues in that the actual fault has been reported outside of the policy coverage period, so I can understand [how] the claims department rejected this. Even so, we will cover the air-conditioning compressor element of Mr Rourke’s claim.'

What if this happens to you?

  • Before you invest in a warranty, read the policy schedule in full to understand which parts are insured and under what circumstances.
  • Make sure you understand the company’s policy on diagnosis fees and any excess fees that may apply.

    If you’re unsure about any element of a policy, ask the company to answer your questions in writing before you buy.

We've prepared lots of useful advice, including a full guide on warranties that could help you with either a new or used car.

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