Clutch Broke With Only 11k Miles, Dealer Blamed Me.

The clutch on my brand new Dodge Dart went with only 11k miles on it. I've owned plenty of manual transmission vehicles and I don't abuse them. But the dealer said that I have to pay for the replacement. What should I do?

This question was submitted to Car Buying and I gave the answer below. Read on and see what happened . . .

From dealing with similar problems for countless clients over 23 years of doing lemon law cases in Michigan, I can tell you some basics. "Wear items" (clutches, brakes etc) are always going to raise a red flag on warranty claims. The best bet is for the customer to present his case as calmly as possible and, when he can, point out that he knows how to drive a clutch. IF his claim is denied (and it might not be) he then needs to elevate the claim CALMLY. With Chrysler, the next step is the Zone Rep, the mysterious factory/Chrysler rep who acts as liaison between the manufacturer and the dealer (remember: the dealer sold the car and could do the repairs - Chrysler is who we hope will pay for them

The Zone Rep has the power to override any claim denial and sometimes will even do it just for the sake of good will (meaning he might still think you smoked the clutch doing burnouts in front of the local junior high but chooses to disregard it). The dealers will not normally give this person's contact info out but they CAN tell you when s/he will be there next (they usually visit each dealer periodically) and can set you up with an appointment.

If you get that appointment, be polite, dress nice and present your case as calmly as possible. Explain that you know how to drive a clutch. The ZR might approve the repair. He might not. But he might also approve some sort of split. They provide parts, you pay for labor. Something like that. If s/he makes that offer then you have to weigh:

1) Value of goodwill repair discount versus

2) Value of suing for breach of warranty and the odds of winning, cost of waiting for an outcome etc etc.

You'd be surprised. Acting calmly and professionally goes a long way. Keep in mind that the dealer WANTS to repair it under warranty (Chrysler pays them). It's just that Chrysler will ask them for the pertinent info such as mileage at the time of failure. If you are nice at all levels, then it is more likely that the dealer will help you pitch the case to the ZR.

Good luck.

. . .

I received a note about this last night. Following my advice, the car buyer got 2/3 of the bill paid for him as "goodwill" and only had to pay 1/3 of the bill from his own pocket.

And notice: No one was sued in the making of this story.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Steve Lehto has been practicing consumer protection and lemon law for 23 years in Michigan. He taught Consumer Protection at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law for ten years and wrote The Lemon Law Bible. He also wrote Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation and The Great American Jet Pack: The Quest for the Ultimate Individual Lift Device both published by Chicago Review Press. Follow him on Twitter while Twitter is still a thing. Twitter: @stevelehto