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Nissian 350Z Roadster - Midlife Crisis Car gone afoul

Hi there,

I am a 54 yr old lady who went looking on line for a gently used SUV or other sensible auto. I have a 99 Toyota Sienna that I have had since 2001 and really wanted a newer car.

Test drove a few things for sale per owners and at dealers. Then I test drove one at the local Infinity dealership.

Didn’t like what I went there for but drove a Nissan 350Z convertible that had a lot of bells and whistles. I have driven stick shifts in the early years of my life and was not intimidated by the 6 speed manual clutch. My engineer husband also thought we might really enjoy it as the extra fun car for the weekends and we made an offer.

It is what our friends call a Mid-Life Crisis Car. Ha.

They said they got it on trade and wanted 19K but got it for 17K with 55,000 miles.

Due to buying an older car and all the extras on it, we bought the extended 2 yr warranty for 2k. We were told that it covered everything from the factory for 2 years

On Sunday , we noticed it was hard to shift and had an awful smell. We were about 30 mile from home and slowly and carefully drove it home. I called the dealership on Monday and took it in.

I got a call from the service department and was told the clutch was totally burned out and it would cost 2K for repairs. They said that the warranty company might reject it and say that it would be our cost. She said that they might consider it wear and tear but the dealership would get all the paperwork sent in today.

I am waiting today for word on the final decision but do not feel in any way that in the aprox 600-700 miles we have driven, that we shifted in a wrong manner or went above or below the recommended shifting guidelines in the owners manual.

My husband is an engineer and we took out and read most of the owners manual the night we got it.

Back to the odor. I noticed the faint odor the first day that the salesman drove the car , then I did. It was 95-100 degrees outside and we had the top down. The salesman said that it was probably the stuff they use to clean the engine off and nothing to worry about. Again the next day, I mentioned the odd odor and was told it would wear off and it didn’t seem to be getting worse, so we just enjoyed taking leisurely drives with the top down the next couple weekends.

So, the questions I have are in regards to a clutch burning out, the odor, and if this all was starting before I bought the car.

We feel so dumb and wonder if we got taken? And what would you advise doing?

Rhonda & Andy Edwards - The Mid Life Crisis couple in a Big Crisis

Well, I make it pretty much a policy never to trust the salesman when he says "oh, that thing that shouldn’t be happening is perfectly OK because. . . "

I make 'em show me where it’s happening and why.

Otherwise, if they can’t, then I get them to put in writing that if the problem turns out to be something other than what the salesman claimed, they pay for 100% of the repair. If they won’t do that, hey, there are lots of cars out there. I’ll buy a different one. From a different dealer.

Yeah, I think you got taken. The clutch was getting ready to die. You smelled the burned friction material. A clutch with only 55k on it that needs replacement already means the car was driven very hard, which is to be expected with a 350z. Fortunately, whatever else broke should be covered under the warranty, and I would probably be willing to take them to small claims court for the clutch, since even with flagrant abuse it’s pretty hard to kill a clutch in less than 1,000 miles.

The 350Z is a high performance car, and people who buy them often drive them in ways you might not.

I suspect the clutch lived a hard life with a previous owner. Nothing you can do about that now.

I’d be very surprised if the warranty you purchased covers the clutch. Clutches are wear items, and their life depends almost entirely on how the vehicle is driven. You don’t know how it was driven before you bought it.

You’ll have to read the warranty very carefully. DO NOT take the salesperson’s word for what is covered. Most of these aftermarket warranties are carefully worded to avoid paying for anything that’s likely to wear out.

The odor you noticed may or may not be related to the clutch. Slipping clutches do emit an odor, but so, in some circumstances, do freshly cleaned engines, and since we can’t experience the odor we can’t say what you were smelling.

Don’t beat yourselves up. Replace the clutch and enjoy your new convertible.

Work with the dealer and get some kind of money off the installation of a new clutch. In the miles you drove the clutch was a “pre-existing” condition. It was worn out when you bought the car. If you split the cost with the dealer 50/50 then for $1,000 you have a new clutch.

This is a high performance car and large motors put an extra burden on the clutch. If the car was driven in a “sporty” manner by the previous owner that would wear out a clutch in 55K miles. If the clutch is worn, it is likely the brakes were used heavily too by the previous driver. It is easy to check and replace brake pads, checking a clutch is visually impossible. The previous owner may have known the clutch was shot when he traded in the car. The dealer should have picked up that the clutch was worn but apparently missed it in their inspection of the car and prepping it for resale.

Once all is fixed this will be a great car. Did you get taken? That depends on how well the dealer stands behind the car they sold you. If they stick you with the entire bill, then you got taken.

Obviously the prior owner whaled on the clutch a bit and I wouldn’t necessarily claim the salesman was lying about the cause. Most salesmen know very little about mechanicals and odds are he doesn’t know what a burning clutch smells like. At that point you should have backed away from the car.

Warranties, no matter if they’re factory or extended, do not cover maintenance or wear and tear items. This includes fluids, filters, belts, brakes, etc.; and clutches. Unless you were given a separate and specific warranty outside of the extended warranty then you’re out of luck.
If you signed as “AS IS” disclaimer you should have a copy. If you have a copy then there’s nothing you can do and this is a good reason to have a car thoroughly inspected before buying it. Inspections do not guarantee a problem free car but it swings the odds more in your favor.

As already stated, never believe the salesman. Ever. Especially when the statement is as nebulous as “it’ll go away”.

If you’d have had the vehicle checked by your own mechanic, he surely would have recognized the smell of a toasted clutch. Youuo should always get a used car checked out before signing any peperwork. I’m surprised your hubby the engineer didn;t recognize the smell.

Sadly, clutches are considered “normal wear” items and not generally covered by warranty.

This is not a major crisis. It’s only a burned out clutch.

Sincere best with the warranty, but even if that doesn’t cover the clutch consider it the cost of an education. You’ve learned what a burned clutch smells like, you’ve learned to get a used car checked out before purchase, and you’ve learned that these extended warrantys can be limited in their coverage.

You don’t say what the warranty cost you, but I’d bet that if you’d have put the money in the bank instead of sending it to the warranty company it would have more than paid for your clutch. Extended warrantys are a bad deal. Except in very rare cases you’re much better off to bank the money.

Get the clutch replaced and enjoy the 350Z. They’re one of my favorite cars.

How many days have you owned it? Was there any guarantee from the dealer, such as a 30 or 60 day guarantee or return policy?

If not, you got the $19,000 sticker priced car for $19,000 now.

Calmly and politely ask them to cover the cost of a new clutch (assuming the warranty underwriters send [the paperwork] back to them with the reject stamp). DO NOT raise hell with them. At this point, all they can say is no.

In the future instead of plunking down the $ for an extended warranty, put the $ in a separate bank account and use that money for repairs and mishaps in the future. Also have a mechanic that YOU choose inspect a used car before you buy it. A pro may have been able to detect the marginal clutch.

Sorry to hear about this and good luck with the repairs, those are really nice cars!