What’s That Ticking Sound in My Engine?

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R. Scott King, BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::

As consumers of automotive repair services, we know that from time to time a mechanic might not always fix it right the first time. Whether it’s an annoying dashboard squeak or the mysterious “Check Engine” light that shyly disappears on our way to the service shop, mechanics sometimes need a second shot at an effective repair. However, what about a third or fourth attempt, or even more? How patient is too patient and what recourse is available upon reaching patience’s limit? Most people likely do not yet know the answers to these questions and with luck never will, but some unfortunates do, having found their answers through their own experiences. The following is what happened to a recent client.
Initially happy with her auction lot purchase, the new owner took her vehicle to a local dealer for routine maintenance and a “once-over” to ensure the vehicle was safe and reliable. Additionally, she asked the mechanic to investigate a minor “ticking” sound coming from the engine. At the dealer’s suggestion, the car owner purchased a one-year used-car warranty to insure against major repair costs. All routine maintenance and inspection services were performed to her satisfaction; however, the mechanic did not attempt to repair the “ticking” sound. Rather, referencing a manufacturer’s Technical Service Bulletin written to assist diagnosis of similar customer complaints, he suggested the noise was normal and likely related to the fuel injectors. Although a plausible explanation, the noise persisted and worsened. Over the course of the eighteen months, she returned to the dealer five times for routine service each time complaining about the ever-louder “ticking” noise. Finally, and only when her vehicle would no longer run requiring a tow-truck’s help getting to the dealer, did the mechanic there report the unwelcomed although predictable news; she needed a new engine.
It turned out that the “ticking” noise wasn’t a noisy fuel injector after all and was by no means normal, but by this time the used-car warranty had expired. Insisting no fault of their own, the dealer denied any good-will assistance thus forcing the owner to pay for the repairs. The owner did pay for the repairs, when she went elsewhere to have her car fixed. However, she sued the dealer. With her attorney and expert’s help, she was able to convince the dealer to pay for the engine repairs, re-purchase the vehicle, and offer a discount on a new replacement vehicle. The owner continues to keep her vehicle well-maintained; by taking it elsewhere to be serviced.
R. Scott King, BSME is an Automotive / Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

 

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