Who has What Car? helped this month – February 2017
Readers contact our Helpdesk every day with questions and appeals for help with car-related problems. Here are their stories...
## MX-5 suffers sticky gearbox
What Car? reader Roger Adam had to put up with a sticky gearbox on his MX-5 for nearly a year before it was replaced by Mazda
Roger Adam owned a Mk3 Mazda MX-5 for six years and then changed it for a Mk4 2.0-litre Sport Nav back in January 2016.
Right from the start, he noticed that when the engine was cold it was difficult – often impossible – to select second gear. He contacted the dealer, Masters of Elmers End, and someone from the dealership drove the car, but said they were unable to replicate the problem. Initial discussions with the dealer resulted in Mr Adam agreeing to persevere with the car for a few thousand miles to see if it improved.
However, it did not, and Mr Adam raised his concerns about the gearbox a number of times. The gearbox oil was changed in July, but this didn’t fix the problem. In fact, by the summer of 2016, the gearbox was becoming very notchy in first, second and third gears when cold.
Mr Adam continued to complain to the dealership, but felt he was getting nowhere by October, so contacted What Car?. We reported the problem to Mazda and asked them to investigate. A customer services consultant spoke to Mr Adam and it was agreed that a head office technician would inspect the MX-5 in November.
In the meantime, Masters of Elmers End loaned Mr Adam a new MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav while their service manager drove his car. Mr Adam noted that the new car’s gearbox was easier to operate when cold and that its clutch was lighter; the service manager confirmed the notchiness of first, second and third gears in Mr Adam’s car.
After the car was test driven by the head office technician, it was decided with Mr Adam that the gearbox would be replaced with a unit from a stock vehicle. The car’s clutch would also be replaced.
A week later, he collected the MX-5 and reported that the clutch was considerably lighter and the gearbox, although not perfect, was far better than the original one.
However, Mr Adam has since discovered that Mazda USA has modified the gearbox for newer cars “to increase its rigidity” and issued a notice to dealers to replace sticky gearboxes in older cars with the modified unit. He believes this should also be done for UK owners.
ECU failure after software update
The Volkswagen Group’s dieselgate controversy caused an unexpected problem for Seat Leon owner Matthew Dickson
After receiving a recall notice to have his car’s emissions software updated in line with the ongoing Volkswagen Group emissions cheating scandal, Mr Dickson took his 2011 Leon to Horton Seat dealership in Lincoln.
Instead of getting back a ‘greener’ car, Mr Dickson got a call to say that his car’s ECU was broken and would need to be replaced at a cost of almost £1200.
Understandably angry, he commented: “It is ridiculous – I took them a serviceable car and they expect me to pay for the privilege of getting it back into the condition it should have been in to start with.”
He contacted us and we got in touch with Seat’s head office to see if they could offer him some assistance with his car. One week later, we received the good news that Seat would pay for the replacement ECU. A Seat spokesperson stated: “Mr Dickson’s retailer has confirmed that the ECU currently in Mr Dickson’s vehicle is neither the original nor the correct ECU. It would appear that, at some time, his vehicle’s ECU was replaced with a unit that was originally matched to a different Seat Leon vehicle.
“In our view, that is the reason his vehicle’s ECU failed. We do not consider that the failure of the vehicle’s ECU is related to the NOx emissions software update in any way. “We understand that Mr Dickson purchased his vehicle from an independent dealership and that he was not previously aware that his vehicle’s ECU had been replaced. Given these circumstances, we will support the retailer in replacing the ECU in Mr Dickson’s vehicle free of charge.”
Mr Dickson’s Seat was back on the road shortly afterwards without him having to pay any hefty repair bills.
Honda engine misfire problem
What Car? gets goodwill payment for Honda Insight with a faulty engine
Michael Coy has been a loyal Honda owner for many years, owning a number of the brand’s cars. He bought an Insight hybrid new around four years ago and had covered only 50,000 miles in it when he noticed the engine misfiring late last year.
He took it to his local dealership, Hepworth Honda in Halifax, where it had been serviced from new. It was given a diagnostics check and topped up with oil, and Mr Coy was told it should be fine. Five days later it started to misfire again and Mr Coy noticed a lack of power, so he took it back to the dealer.
This time the news wasn’t so good. He was told the engine was faulty and needed to be replaced – and because the car was out of warranty, he’d have to foot the entire bill himself.
Mr Coy contacted us and we spoke to Honda UK. They suggested Mr Coy could pay to have the engine stripped down to find out what caused it to fail. If they found a manufacturing defect, Honda would contribute to the cost of repairs as a gesture of goodwill.
A spokesperson stated: “We are aware that Mr Coy is a loyal customer and has had his car serviced every year at the dealership – and we will be taking this into consideration when assessing our contribution.”
Unfortunately, Mr Coy wasn’t able to leave his car off the road for long, so he had already given the dealership the go-ahead to fit a reconditioned engine into his car before we went back to him with Honda’s suggestion.
On relaying this information to Honda, we were told that although they could not contribute to the cost of the replacement engine without knowing if the original unit had suffered a manufacturing defect, they would still like to offer Mr Coy a goodwill gesture of a £200 dealership credit to be used for parts, accessories or servicing at any Honda approved dealership.
In light of the experience, Mr Coy eventually decided to replace the Insight. However, he has remained loyal to the brand, trading in his Insight for a 2013 CR-V 2.2-litre diesel.