Car Dealer Club

Ask Lucy: Sales of Goods Act – Clutches

Time 4:30 am, March 10, 2011



Can you outline the issues regarding clutch replacements under the Sale of Goods Act? We have a customer we sold a car to less than six months ago which

is still under manufacturer’s warranty. Within a month she burned out the first clutch so we replaced it. Then three months later she burned out another. We have checked the vehicle over and there is no other apparent fault causing this. It seems she probably drives around resting her foot on the pedal.

AJ, Devizes


Clutch failures are a particular problem for dealers as we all know that a determined driver can burn one out on a single journey. Furthermore every driver who ever burned one out had seemingly driven their previous car for at least 400,000 miles without it ever needing a clutch change.

I think if a clutch fails on a new car the manufacturer would be inclined to fix it not under warranty but on a goodwill basis (with no admission of liability). If the clutch then failed again before its time they would be likely to put it down to driver fault and the court would be likely to support them. On any vehicle within manufacturer warranty then provided the mileage is not very high I would also expect the manufacturer would probably fix on a goodwill basis but the above rule would apply for a second failure.

For second-hand cars out of manufacturer warranty it is possible to make a case that the fault was pre-existing and that the repair should be undertaken under the Sale of Goods Act. Much will depend on how soon the failure happens after the sale. I don’t think the normal six-month ‘presumption’ would be certain to apply and faced with a resilient defendant, commoditised services such as Mr Clutch might prove both a cheaper and quicker option than seeking a repair from the dealer.

Really, it’s a case of taking each claim on its merits. Car Dealer Club members can contact me for advice on individual cases.

Who is Lucy Bonham Carter?


She is a leading commercial lawyer specialising in automotive. She heads the legal team at autoLaw, a multi-disciplinary insurance and legal practice which specialises in providing legal assistance on motor trade-related legal issues and she provides advice to Car Dealer Club members.

To get advice like this (worth £199) join Car Dealer Club for just £25 per year. Sign up at

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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