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The fine print on car warranties....what is actually covered?


#1

I need to seriously vent after my dealings with my local VW dealership. I have a 2yo Polo…which has done just over 20,000kms, and I paid for an extended warranty…five years in total (they give the extended warranties away for free now!).
Refuelling the car today and the fuel filler flap came off in my hand. It’s a thin plastic join onto a plastic arm and that had sheared off. Should be covered by warranty I thought…
Rang the dealership…had to speak with 3 people…I need to book it in and they need it for whole afternoon to “assess” it.
I was driving by, so called in…3 people looked at it and their opinion was it probably wouldn’t be covered under warranty…they couldn’t see any stress fractures, therefore not a manufacturing fault. Hello…it probably broke along the “stress fracture”. They still need it for formal assessment though.
What annoys me more, is if I have to pay for a replacement, it will probably cost me $200-$300. Super glue is looking very good at this stage.
I’d like to see the Community’s opinion…should this be a warranty issue? Am I fighting a losing battle?
Note: there are no visible signs that anyone has tampered with the fuel area, all the paintwork is in immaculate condition in that vicinity and I’m the only one who drives it and uses it.


Edit: My son is a mechanical engineer and I think he has summed this up quite well…“you can’t really tell anything regarding manufacturing defects from that but neither can they… If it did have defects it would break more easily and likely leave less fractures or evidence as there’s less stress involved”


#2

It depends.

If the fuel cover fell off because of a manufacturing fault, then yes. It may be worth searching the internet to see if it has been a problem with other VW Polo vehicles. If it has been, then one could argue that your car has succumb to the same problem and should be repaired under warranty.

Now the no, if the cover fell off because it has been mishandled in the past (this could be someone being a little rough when refueling the vehicle, bumping it accidentally when it was open or say it being bumped hard by someone at a shopping centre), then it would potentially fall under misuse under the Australian Consumer Law and excluded from a warranty.

If the cover is very flimsy and fell off under normal operating use, one could also argue that the cover is not fit for purpose. As such, it would be covered by the ACL and therefore should be replaced under warranty.

The challenge will be that if it is not a common problem with the vehicle, it may he difficult to prove whether it is a vehicle defect through manufacturing or from potential accident or (ab)use when using it. The only potential way to prove it was a defect in the plastic is to have a specific materials expert look at it and provide advice either way. This will come at a cost and potentially more than the cost to replace the cover.


#3

Just thinking…another option…

If, for example, you believe that it could have been damaged at some time which resulted in it falling off, check with your insurer (if the car is insured), to see if it is covered by insurance.

This may only be a possible option if any excess is less than the cost to replace the cover. Also, making a claim against one’s insurer may mean that future insurance premiums are higher as a result of any claim.

If you do plan to glue it back on…don’t use superglue but speak to someone who knows how to bond plastics either using heat or a product specific to that type of plastic. It may also be worthwhile reinforcing the area to prevent future breaks/failures.


#4

I agree with @phb that it would be perhaps a difficult case to argue. But there is no harm in writing to VW Australia stating your case as to why you feel it should be covered. This should include the opinion from your son in his capacity as a Mech Engineer. You may also find others who have had similar problems online

I note from the photos you provided that the plastic lid where it attached to the “arm” was extremely thin plastic. The lid has very important warnings on it as regards RON rating ie minimum 95 Premium (not 10% ethanol) and also has tyre type and pressure settings. In this regard you would think it is an important piece of the fitment of the car and would be manufactured in a substantial way so that it had the ability to withstand normal wear & tear. I would certainly raise this as a reason I would feel the manufacture was not appropriate (fit for purpose) if it was mine. In our cars (not VWs) the tyre pressure and type are on stickers on a side door panels in an area unlikely to be subject to normal damage from everyday use, it would in fact take some severe damage to destroy/damage them.

I also found a YouTube Video about how to remove the cap cover yourself and it appears very easy to do yourself. If you are unsuccessful in getting a remedy from VW you may find this the cheaper way of replacing the cap than going through a dealer or other repairer. If you can’t find a replacement at a wreckers yard you will still have to probably buy the part through a dealer or repairer.


#5

I’ve often thought that in any product range where ‘spare parts’ are orderable, companies should have to routinely report on the sales numbers for said parts. Similarly companies should have to routinely report warranty repair numbers and the reason for the repair.

I’m sure vast numbers of issues fly under the radar due to corporate obfuscation …


#6

Some good advice there…especially with mention of the important car info. I’ll certainly follow through with VW Australia, if the local people are no help. Never hurts to present your case!


#7

I’ll certainly do some more research and see what others have come up with.


#8

It may be worth considering whether the flap has had an excessive load of force applied, a force sufficient to tear the moulded joint, there would be some evidence of an impact or applied force on the cap body.

It looks pristine in the views you have shared.
If there is a lack of evidence of any misadventure or deliberate applied excessive force, then a manufacturing defect is more likely.

An ancient engineer’s eyes might also suggest there is something odd with the appearance of the failure. Perhaps your son can ask around his network while VW considers your request.

It goes without saying, once you surrender the cap flap to VW they hold all the evidence. If you have not already done so consider taking as many shots of the flap from as many angles as you can.


#9

We have German friends who service a decade old Kombi van and have had to replace many external plastic fittings as they have deteriorated and become brittle from the Australian weather. They joke that the plastics are made for northern Europe where the sun hardly shines They buy their parts in Germany, send them to a local address and then forward it on to Australia. I understand that VW Germany won’t ship internationally…possibly because their spare parts are significantly cheaper than other parts of the world.

Maybe if you have a friend in Germany and want a OEM part, you could get them to order the cover and send it to you when received locally in Germany.

Otherwise, there are spares online which one could fit oneself relatively easily. As @grahroll indicated, this will be cheaper than having the dealer do it.


#10

If it gets to that I highly recommend JB Weld, but be careful applying it as any overspread WILL NOT come off. It will probably also terminate any interaction with VW.

If that is the case I would consider it unfit for purpose and should be covered under the ACL and not misused unless it can be convincingly shown to have been abused per @mark_m’s comment. A petrol cap should be quite resilient!

Absolutely. If they don’t respond favorably I suggest you have nothing to lose by sending the dealership principle a formal letter of complaint per the ACL citing what broke, why you believe it broke, how a petrol cap should last and be sturdy (citing other makes and models for evidence of best practice could help) and exactly what you want them to do and by when. Good luck getting their attention. Them playing games over such a small part is probably to avoid setting a precedent as much as nailing the T&C to the wall and reciting it to you, as they see it, which is not always how the ACCC will see it.


#11

Thanks for your input…much appreciated. I will ensure I have taken lots of photos!


#12

Thanks for your input…I’ll be carefully drafting a letter if my warranty claim is unsuccessful. And I will look into that JB Weld…thanks for that tip! Googling shows that a new flap through VW, all fitted, is $400-$500 :scream::scream::scream:
Interactions with these car dealerships I find so frustrating. If you are purchasing, they can’t do enough for you, then they charge you a fortune for servicing and don’t want to know you if you have any issues. I struggle with their hypocrisy.


#13

@phb
Good to know about buying the parts in Germany. I do have a German neighbour with family still over there!


#14

Sounds much like:

(Monty python)


#15

This is so reminiscent of my conversation today with VW! Love it!!
Not loving VW at the moment though :frowning:


#16

Update: I played their game and booked the car in for its 3 hour assessment. Not covered under warranty as they say it is not a manufacturing defect and $492.45 to replace…which is about 3% of the purchase price.
This was assessed by their warranty claims person and other staff at Robina VW…saying it came off due to force.
I’ll be following it up with a letter to VW Australia. When I initially called in with the vehicle, I could tell then they had already made up their mind they would not cover it, so twice as annoying to have to leave it with them for the afternoon for the “formal” assessment.
Also VERY annoying was the way they treat you…as if you stood in the garage and pulled this fuel flap off yourself and are now asking them to fix it. Not very impressed with the customer service. I did get a free car wash though :slight_smile:


#17

Or fell off in your hand?

Do you by any chance star in a Marvel Comic? :wink:There is a different sort of comic to this, more so on the side of VW perhaps? :disappointed_relieved:

Did they demonstrate where there is any evidence on the cap of brute force being applied? It is reasonable for them to say so if there was any such evidence. Assuming they did not point to any other signs of impact or damage, it may be one clear point to consider when writing. Assuming it’s not already on your list.

Good luck.

P.S.
Our prior experience with expensive car spares and repairs mimics the advice from others here. Wreckers or finding a way to direct import the $10 part may be the least stressful, but less principled solution when all else fails.


#18

My first first reaction was “fit for purpose”. Something expected to last a lifetime of opening and closing in mostly extreme weather would be quite rugged one feels. I wonder if consumer law may help?


#19

Maybe you should show it to VW?
Or maybe not. They might think it’s a training film for their staff. Or a documentary.


#20

I was very tempted to attach Monty Python to my official VW letter…