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Breakdown assistance gone wrong.

Discussion in 'off topic' started by divedeepdog, Jun 28, 2022.

  1. divedeepdog

    divedeepdog pfm Member

    As this is ongoing, I'll have to keep details sparse, but the short version is alternator belt snapped on my partners cars, she pulled over as soon as was safe and called breakdown cover.

    He pulled under tray off, found the belt wrapped around the pulley. Removed a little debris, and told her to start it. No surprise it didn't go. He pulled more belt out and said try again. Clunk, and the heads shot, valves bent-buggered.

    Initial claim rejected, I'm stuck with what to do. My garage is old school and ready to retire.

    Do I suck it up (£3k damage) or are there people who'll help with the claim? I don't really know if I'm looking for an expert witness or solicitor?

    I'm in Nottingham if it makes any difference.
  2. Thorn

    Thorn pfm Member

    Get a written report from a motor engineer. If he concludes that the breakdown service fellow was negligent then they'll probably pay up. If not take it to the Small Claims Track of the County Court.
    You should be able to find a suitable motor engineer in your area via your good friend, Google.
    But don't forget that on occasion things can go wrong without anyone being negligent. If your expert doesn't believe that there was negligence in this case, you'll have to bear the cost of his report and suck it up.
    divedeepdog likes this.
  3. sq225917

    sq225917 Bit of this, bit of that

    Alternator belt doesn't drive the cams, that's the timing belt. A recovery guy should no the difference, on no account should you ever turn over the engine if the timing belt is goosed.
    Enfield boy, Mike P and Linds like this.
  4. Cav

    Cav pfm Member

    When you say she pulled over because the alternator belt had broken, how did she know? It is not something that would immediately affect the driving experience and require an immediate stop. If the timing belt snapped whilst the car was in motion and in gear then the valves would already be bent well before the car stopped. I don't know if an engineer would be able to say when the damage occurred unless the ecu could give some clue.
    Suffolk Tony and Vinny like this.
  5. divedeepdog

    divedeepdog pfm Member

    Loud noise and smell of burning rubber alerted her to stop and pull over asap. Subsequently learnt it was alternator belt.

    This is the point, she stopped the car. In our view damage was caused by trying to start it without removing debris.

    The issue I’ve is finding someone credible to stand up and say that.
  6. Cav

    Cav pfm Member

    You need an automotive engineer to examine the vehicle and make a report. I hope you recovered it with all the belts in whatever state they were in.

    Could try here: About (
    Thorn likes this.
  7. mikeyb

    mikeyb pfm Member

    Was the belt still under the replacement mileage because that's maybe going to be a big factor in your claim.

    They need replacing at mileage specified by manufacturer.

    It might even be a chain which don't tend need replacing but if those snap then it's an engine rebuild job. Just ask my daughter with her used van that she owned for 5 weeks before the chain snapped and then cost her £1500 to put right.
  8. Vinny

    Vinny pfm Member

    If the engine is an interference fit head-valves, the valves would normally have bent within less than a second of the belt snapping - the chances of not are slight.

    The OPs description is not correct.

    I strongly suspect that there is no claim on the recovery driver/mechanic.
    narabdela and Suffolk Tony like this.
  9. canonman

    canonman pfm Member

    If it was a timing belt, the damage was already done before the repair guy asked you to start it. I would expect him to know the difference though.
    Been there with an Audi A4 under 2 years old and mileage well under the replacement requirement. I was very lucky though, family member sorted it...
  10. Vinny

    Vinny pfm Member

    If the comment about driving after the "bang" is correct, it MAY be that the fan belt broke and ripped out the timing belt on the roadside? The timing belt would probably have to have been ropey though.

    The description does not add-up - a broken fan belt does not stop an engine starting/running unless the battery is close to 100% flat as a consequence.
  11. Sue Pertwee-Tyr

    Sue Pertwee-Tyr neither here nor there

    I’m afraid I agree with Vinny. I can’t see that a broken alternator belt would damage the engine, so unless there’s a way that the belt debris could get in and foul the cambelt, it doesn’t feel likely that what happened at the roadside did the damage.

    It feels more likely perhaps that it’s the other way round, that the cambelt failed and debris from that got into the alternator belt. Normally alternator belt failure is drama-free, the charge light comes on, maybe other dash warnings too but otherwise things proceed normally for a while.
  12. Pete MB&D

    Pete MB&D Pete Maddex, the one and only!

    Sounds like the alternator belt got trapped with the timing belt, and threw off the timing belt during the second start after the mechanic pulled some not all of it out.
    He shouldnt have told her to try and start it unless he was sure it was safe to do so, ie all the debris had been removed.

    My verdict guilty.

    divedeepdog likes this.
  13. lordsummit

    lordsummit Moderator

    It’s a classic way for some engines to die, alternator belt dies takes out timing belt. The Volvo D5 engine was very susceptible to it.
  14. divedeepdog

    divedeepdog pfm Member

    Pete has it, alternator belt failed and caused 1st incident, the important bit is car was stopped /switched off as soon as was safe. Patrol came along, saw belt debris around bottom pulley, removed a bit and proceeded to start, twice.

    It’s this attempted start which we believe drew the debris under and around the timing belt.Timing belt hadn’t snapped, but debris was enough with this interference fit engine to cause damage.

    Belt changed at 112k miles, scheduled at every 60k. We’re at 130k
  15. Cav

    Cav pfm Member

    My last word: get an independent report and, if it validates your version of events consider Small Claims if the company dispute it.
    divedeepdog likes this.
  16. bor

    bor queue jumper

    I think you will struggle to prove your version of events deepdog.

    You will be presenting an investigator with a pile of crinkly bits of belt, and you won't really be able to demonstrate the sequence of events.

    From the info you have provided, it sounds implausible that the fan belt only damaged the timing belt after the bits had been removed.

    It may have somehow happened how you described, but I am afraid that in this case, an independent witness will probably not side with you.

  17. Rcook

    Rcook pfm Member

    Presumably there will be remnants of alternator belt trapped in and around the timing belt? This would prove your case - the breakdown patrol should have seen it.

    Good luck
  18. Ian G

    Ian G pfm Member

    If it makes you feel any better, I needed a £5.75 k recon engine after the garage started my mot. No possible comeback, but I go out of my way to rubbish them at any and every opportunity.
  19. Bob McC

    Bob McC Living the life of Riley

    But not on this occasion…
  20. Mongeddavid

    Mongeddavid pfm Member

    Very much doubt you will be able to prove this one way or the other and it will be throwing good money after bad. Try to negotiate a compromise with the breakdown company and see if that gets anywhere otherwise its suck it up and get on with your life.

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