A burned-out clutch and a broken down case

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The line between “right” and “wrong” is clear on many of the cases I cover on this site.

But not this time.

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This complaint has prompted a lot of soul-searching. It may be one of those times where my involvement in a dispute affected the outcome in a way it shouldn’t have. Even so, I’m not sure I would have done anything differently.

And I don’t mean that in a defiant way. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have chosen otherwise.

The case came to me by way of Kendall Downs, whose wife, Kathleen, rented an Opel Insignia in Ireland through Sixt.

“She drove the car to her hotel and later drove into Dublin,” he said. All told, she had driven her rental 15 miles before the clutch failed, stranding Downs and her 85-year-old mother in the middle of an intersection.

“She called Sixt and was told that someone would be out to assist her within an hour. Two and a half hours later, a tow truck arrived, drove her back to her hotel, and took the car back to the airport,” he says.

Sixt immediately blamed Downs for the clutch failure, telling her husband, “This happens all the time with American drivers,” he says.

He added: “They did not apologize for leaving her by the side of the road for 2 1/2 hours.”

There’s just one problem: Kathleen Downs has been driving manual transmission cars for 40 years. Even so, It is very unlikely that even a novice could burn out a clutch in 25 kilometers,” says her husband, Kendall Downs.

As is my usual practice when I mediate a case, I ask both the consumer and the company for their version of events before rendering any kind of judgment. (Don’t confuse this with my Monday column, “Can This Trip Be Saved,” in which I take a completely unvetted case and ask readers if I should get involved.)

Here’s what the paperwork showed: A 2,585 euro bill, which Downs disputed. And Sixt’s explanation:

We are disappointed to hear you have experienced trouble during the course of your rental.

In regards to the damage to the rental vehicle, all of our vehicles go through a series of roadworthy tests before releasing to our valued customers.

In the case of manual shift vehicles we ensure that the clutch function is operating perfectly.

This is done in a 2-stage process.

✓ The clutch pedal is depressed and a pressure observation is made. This is to ensure that the clutch pressure plate mechanism is operating at full strength.

✓ The clutch is then subject to a dynamic friction test under full engine load to check if pressure plate and clutch disc suffer any loss of purchase.

If a vehicle does not comply with these rigorous tests to full manufacturers specifications, it is immediately taken out of service for repairs.

We are certain that the clutch mechanism on the vehicle provided to customers are in perfect order at commencement of rental. If during the course of the rental the clutch suffers a failure, then it is due to driver error unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer.

In this case this damage was down to driver error.

In other words, the clutch worked because Sixt says it worked. Of course, there’s no way of testing a clutch before you drive a car, so it’s Downs’ word against Sixt’s.

But there were several problems with Sixt’s narrative. It claimed Downs had driven the car 60 miles. It also had told her before sending her a bill that it knew she’d damaged the clutch, because she was an American.

I found that problematic. So I asked Sixt if it could review its records. After several weeks, it sent me the following email:

We investigated this case carefully and would like to comment as follows on the customer’s questions.

Ms. Kathleen Downs broke down in the said Opel Insignia and had to be towed. While the vehicle was being returned, our staff at Dublin Airport noticed a burning smell typical of very recent clutch damage.

The vehicle was brought to a garage where the clutch was inspected carefully, and damage caused by incorrect use was ascertained.

The independent organisation Glassmatix also produced a report, likewise declaring clutch damage.

During a test drive, Ms. Downs had considerable difficulties with the manual clutch, but declined to pay the extra cost of an automatic vehicle; there was one available, which was
offered to her for the usual additional fee.

All Sixt vehicles are checked thoroughly before they are given to customers to ensure that they work properly. In this instance, Sixt Ireland staff did not notice any existing problems and the clutch was working perfectly before the vehicle was rented out.

This means that the clutch was damaged while Ms. Downs was renting it.

Mechanical components like clutches are not covered by available insurance policies. This is the norm in the industry, and is stated in Sixt Ireland’s general terms and conditions of business, and in the rental information printed on the rental agreement. Ms. Downs accepted these terms and conditions of business as part of the rental agreement.

Sixt therefore acted correctly on the basis of both contractual regulations and independent
assessment.

However, our company regrets the inconvenience caused to Ms. Downs as a result of the breakdown, especially the long time she had to wait before being towed by the Automobile Association, which performs assistance services for Sixt in Ireland.

Customer satisfaction is top priority at Sixt. In order to persuade the customers of the quality of the service it offers, the company will, in this particular instance and as a goodwill gesture, release Mr. and Ms. Downs from all of the costs incurred through the breakdown.

That’s a great resolution for Downs. But it means Sixt has to pay for a new clutch, which is less than ideal. And what does it mean for me? Did I somehow prompt Sixt to overlook a valid claim?

I hope not. I’m comforted by Sixt’s own words, that they did this in the interests of customer service, and not because the claim was invalid.

But could I have handled this differently? Should I have better qualified my contact with Sixt, when I asked it to review Downs’ case? If it had said “no,” would that have been a fairer outcome?

Should Sixt have dropped this claim?

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142 thoughts on “A burned-out clutch and a broken down case

  1. Occasionally I’ll smoke my clutch on a particularly difficult incline to avoid backsliding too much, but even that can be done hundreds of times over the useful life of a clutch, and most of the wear leading to needed replacement comes from normal shifting. Just smelling a little bit of clutch burning is hardly a sign that one particular renter destroyed it.

    Now one thing that is likely to cause an intense amount of clutch burning is a worn throwout bearing. That damage is cumulative from drivers holding down the clutch too long – typically at red lights or stopped in stop and go traffic. However, the coup de grâce where it finally manifests can often be like the straw that broke the camel’s back. And possibly convenient to pin it on one renter.

    However, knowing how rental car agencies try to pin repairs for cumulative wear issues as catastrophic failures attributed to single renters, I would never rent a car with a manual transmission. Sounds to me as if they were just trying to get someone to pay for what’s essentially routine maintenance.

    1. In Ireland you don’t have much of a choice – most of the rentals ARE manual. I hadn’t driven a manual transmission in 20 years when I rented a car in Galway and managed to drive that car for a week while only popping the clutch once.

      Plus it takes much more than 60 miles to ruin a clutch even if you ride it the whole way.

          1. Not irrelevant. Someone else said she didn’t have a choice. She most certainly DID have a choice. She chose to drive the manual to save a few dollars.

          2. That has nothing to do with the fact that others destroyed the clutch and they tried to pin it on the last person renting the car, which was her. Clutches don’t fail in 15 miles.

          3. It’s true that clutches don’t fail in 15 miles. But what if it was worn clutch that could have lasted for 1,000 more miles and she basically put 1,000 miles of wear on it in 15 miles? That IS definitely possible. I’m not saying that makes her liable — it’s a really hard question. But that’s the point: it’s not an easy question as you make it out to be.

          4. How is it possible to do that?

            She knows how to drive a stick shift [40 years experience]. Do you REALLY THINK she slipped the clutch to burn it out? While it’s POSSIBLE, would you BET YOUR LIFE ON THAT “POSSIBLE”?

            I’d lean toward the opposite conclusion – the clutch was almost Tango Uniform when she got the car, and they are trying to stick it to the latest American who rented it. THIS hypothesis appears to be more likely, doanchoo think?

          5. I flip it on you… Someone with 40 years of experience didn’t realize that the clutch was ready to fail as soon as she started driving the car?
            It works both ways…

          6. How is it possible to do that?
            –If you’ve ever taught a teenager how to drive a stick, you’ve seen thousands of miles of clutch life killed in just a few hours. The short answer is not using the clutch when you change gears.

            She knows how to drive a stick shift [40 years experience]. Do you REALLY THINK she slipped the clutch to burn it out? While it’s POSSIBLE, would you BET YOUR LIFE ON THAT “POSSIBLE”?

            –huh? I think it’s obvious I wouldn’t bet my life on that “possible.” As you clearly understand, I think it’s “possible” that she was a bad stick driver where the stick is on the wrong side. That’s very different from: “I’m 100% sure that that is what happened” which would be my “bet your life” requirement. I would think that this was obvious, but apparently not to you.

            I’d lean toward the opposite conclusion – the clutch was almost Tango Uniform when she got the car, and they are trying to stick it to the latest American who rented it. THIS hypothesis appears to be more likely, doanchoo think?

            –yes, I definitely think that this is more likely, But it’s not the only possible conclusion. And it lends itself to the questions I’ve asked elsewhere here, which amounts to these:

            1. For wear & tear type damage, how much beyond ordinary does the renter have to go before they should be charged (e.g., if you kill 50% of the clutch in one rental, shouldn’t you bear some of the cost of replacement, vs. if you used a normal percentage)?

            2. How do you hold the beyond-ordinary-wear-and-tear user responsible when they aren’t the driver when the wear and tear part needs replacement?

            3. Alternatively, should we all just bear a share of the cost of damage to all wear-and-tear parts, even if one person, through bad driving, causes a grossly disproportionate share of the damage? If not, how do we divvy it up?

          7. you can’t, but sticking to the last driver who didn’t do ANYTHING to destroy it is not equitable.

          8. I agree, it’s not. But what about sticking it to the last driver if they did 50% of the damage? (Not saying that’s the situation in this case, but it must be in some cases.) To me, it doesn’t seem unreasonable in that case to charge the driver. True, the person who causes 50% of the damage but was the first person to drive the car will escape payment. But it’s still fairer to the overwhelming majority of us who driver properly, since we won’t be stuck with the bill as often as we otherwise might.

          9. I’ll drive a car for a week like a maniac. When it’s about to blow up, I’ll return it. YOU can rent it and drive it for 15 miles when the clutch blows, and YOU can pay. How’s that sound?

          10. Not good at all. And if you’d made the least bit of effort to understand what I already wrote, you’d know that I don’t think that’s a good outcome.

          11. What you wrote is illogical because there is NO WAY to ascertain who did what % of the damage. I’d wager that you don’t have experience in the automotive industry.

          12. Maybe not in this example, but maybe there would be in other situations. In any event, I’m not saying you look at an exact number. But sometimes you know what a driver has done with a car and it would create excessive wear and tear. (That’s why off-roading is banned in rental cars.)

            This raises a different point: if there really was a test drive and the driver was having such a problem, the company should have refused to rent her a stick.

          13. She says she had the 40 years experience. Not sure if she provided proof (a VIN of a manual clutch car would suffice.) In addition, the claim that she had a problem on the test drive by the vendor may not be the whole truth either.

          14. Proof that she has 40 years’ experience driving stick shifts? Kinda absurd. Aren’t we picking at nits, when the reality is that they gave her a car with a clutch that was on its last legs? Then they tried to stick HER with the repair bill. They said that Americans don’t know how to drive stick shifts. Hmmmmm. Are all the Irish alcoholics? Nice blanket statements?

          15. I didn’t want to make such an obnoxious comparison myself and it is highly disprespectful for them to put their claim like that.

            It would have just been useful for her to provide such proof up front to lend credibility to her claims.

          16. The fact of the matter is that, even if the car isn’t driven very well, a clutch should last longer than the period that a rental company keeps a car in its fleet. If it’s true that there was only 1,000 miles of life left in the clutch, a 1-2 year-old car with less than 50k miles on it shouldn’t have that little life left in the clutch, and her 15 miles of driving shouldn’t have been able to kill it. It seems likely that other renters abused the clutch, and she was the unlucky renter who had the car when it finally failed. Also, a quick but of googling shows that Opel Insignias seem to have more clutch problems than usual, and these problems happen to owners, who likely bought a manual because they know how to drive one.

          17. Great point. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Generally, rental companies don’t keep cars long enough that clutch should go.

          18. Clutches can fail in 100 yards. It depends on how fast you heat the disc material up to the point that it burns, not how much distance you travel. Up to a certain temperature it will glaze, but keep revving the engine with the clutch slipping and you can make charcoal powder out of the clutch disc. Also, if the clutch had been damaged previously, then the clutch would slip when you accelerate, and possibly the clutch pedal would feel lighter due to the springs on the pressure plate overheating.

          19. “if the clutch had been damaged previously”

            and so, ergo, whose fault is the failure? DUH?

          20. Actually sounds like she choose to drive a manual because she was used to driving a manual, not to save a few dollars. It always annoys me to have to get used to driving an automatic every time I rent a car on a vacation.

          1. Sigh. Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?

            Sixt has:

            -Investigated the clutch upon return of the vehicle by the towing company.

            -Produced a third party report saying the clutch failure was due to user error.

            -Stated that the OP expressed reluctance with driving a manual car during the test drive, yet chose to drive it anyway to save money.

            The OP has:

            -Said she didn’t do it.

            -Has produced an expert, unbiased opinion by none other than her husband saying clutches can’t fail that quickly.

            I realize that many people here truly believe all damage claims are scams. To these people, they will dismiss anything the rental company produces as a lie.

          2. Yeah, look at the evidence:

            Clutches do NOT burn out in 15 miles.
            Not “ALL AMERICANS” don’t know how to drive a standard shift.

            Trying to blame someone for a clutch burn-out after 15 miles is a scam. That’s my considered PROFESSIONAL opinion.

          3. 1] This is a month old
            2] Unless you are a mind reader, your brain has no concept of what idea I have.
            3] Did you read my last sentence? I believe that YOU have no idea.

      1. I have had no problem renting automatics in Ireland – you just need to pay the cost difference.

        It is impossible to wear out a clutch in such a few miles. They absolutely should have not charged her.

      2. Why would you comment on something you obviously have no knowledge about? You can burn a clutch up in a matter of minutes.

    2. To me, there’s vital information missing – nationality of immediately previous renter, how many days and miles that renter had the car. To me that info is critical. How much damage did the previous renter do? Or is Sixt choosing to go after “the American with deep pockets”?

  2. I don’t buy Sixt’s version of events for one minute. First, a test drive? How many times does that happen in a rental? Second, regardless of if she broke the clutch or not, the garage is going to see the damage they describe. Third, I don’t believe every vehicle is checked out as thourghly as they claim. The folks that check these cars probably skip steps a lot of the time. Nope, this is a classic case of going after the American based on a stereotype.

    1. I found the American stereotype offensive especially as Sixt continually repeated it. OK, Europeans tend to drive stick more than Americans. Fine. But the question is whether this particular driver had an issue and they appeared to try to rationalize the stereotype (she had a bad test drive) rather than just talk about the test drive outright.

      When called out by a consumer advocate, they perhaps worried because if it got press in the states, the pesky Americans (and perhaps even Europeans) might think twice before renting with them.

  3. The narrative from the rental company is very convincing, did they send you the lab reports from Glassmatix and their own reports? Does the LW have any documentation to support her 40 years of manual driving experience? Does the LW have any video of anything that happened?

    Unless the rental company has an engineering bay in the back of their shop, and the documentation to support all the tests they claim, I don’t buy it, then again if they did have all the documentation, I’d call it a setup. You don’t do that kind of work, unless your looking for a scapegoat/patsy.

    All that said the the LW is at fault, why because without anything but her word, we are left with the rental agreement and with no insurance the contract which she accepted makes her responsible. In which case it was a good set up, and without a consumer advocate, they likely would have been successful.

    1. No it doesn’t. The rental agreement does not make her responsible for past damage and as pointed out by numerous people, their story doesn’t ring true and it takes longer than 60 miles to burn out a clutch.

      1. You can burn out a clutch in 60 miles if you don’t know what you’re doing and the rental agreement does hold the renter responsible for transmission damage (although I’m not really comfortable with that).

        1. I could intentionally destroy a clutch in two miles by intentionally riding it up a hill. However, that would have to be intentional.

    2. Your first para is off the mark, IMHO.

      Your 2nd is more like it.
      para 3 – not true. Clutches don’t burn out in 15 miles, no matter what their agreement says.

  4. I have driven many a manual in my years of driving, and sometimes, the clutch just lets go with no significant warning, leading to the smell of a burnt up clutch.

    It can go from working fine to dead in no time flat, especially if another part fails (like the throwout bearing)

    I have also rented in Europe and had a clutch failure in a Skoda I was driving with almost 80,000 KM on the odometer. When they sent someone to bring me and it back to the rental facility, they started to give me some trouble about paying for any “damages” until I offered to drive one of them (in a new rental, same make and model, 22K on the odometer) to the local cafe for the mid-morning coffee run. He observed my driving and reported back to the manager on duty that I was not to blame since I drove better than he did. The issue was solved with about a $30 coffee and pastry run.

  5. A friend of mine drove on a trip to Ireland and the car rental company wanted to make sure that she was comfortable with a stick shift in a car with driver on the right. So they had her do a test drive for some weird reason or another. So that part is not hard to believe. Wonder what the LW had to say regarding the test drive?

  6. After spending 20 years in the US, I would agree with SIXT that *generally* Americans just do not know how to handle a manual transmission, which is so popular in most other parts of the world.

    As an automotive components manufacturer I can say that clutches progressively wear out and do not burn out in a very short distance. If the clutch was so close to wear out, the checks at Sixt would have showed the problem, and for certain drivability would be bad, something Ms. Downs would have noticed immediately if she has been driving stick-shifts for 40 years.

    1. And actually, it sounds like that’s what happened. She had “trouble” with the test drive. She probably figured it was just a whacked out clutch and would learn to deal with it, when in reality, it was just bad already.

  7. I don’t believe a word they say. No rental car company I’ve ever seen (and I’ve rented many, many cars) “tests” the clutch like that before every rental. It sounds like a load of corporate hogwash. The only time they’d test the clutch is moving it from one parking space to another or filling it up. Beyond that, there’s no “test” performed nor are their employees trained to do such a “test”. They’re rental car employees, not mechanics.

    Nor do I believe that a rental car employee – who is not a mechanic – would know what a burning clutch smells like.

    Finally, if the AA towed the car as they state, when did their employee notice the burning smell? 60 miles after being towed (according to them) and at least 3 hours after the breakdown? That smell isn’t hanging around that long.

    In short, their story doesn’t hold water and these guys sound like a bunch of liars.

    1. I’m no more than a basic home mechanic, but I’d be able to tell if a clutch is burning. The smell is pretty easy to tell.

      I’m not buying that this one renter destroyed the clutch. They’re just trying to pin it on her for cumulative wear.

    2. About six years ago, I was driving on the I-5 freeway in Orange County, CA. I heard a noise from the left side and saw a car that was going perpendicular across the lanes (it is my guess that it got hit in the rear). I slammed on my brakes to slow down and I was lucky to avoid hitting this car. That was probably 9:00 PM and the brakes on the rental car was warm the following morning.

      1. Please look up the thermal properties of break pads and rotors – they cool very quickly. If that were not the case, then you’d burn the breaks out in city driving every single day.

        In short, your breaks weren’t “hot the following morning” due to breaking the day before.

        1. I edited the adjective of hot to warm. I was there…I remember pulling into the hotel parking lot about 30 minutes later and I could feel the heat coming from the brakes. Also, I remember putting my hand by the tires the next morning and it was warm (over 100 degrees…I would probably have burn my hand if I touched the rotor…you should never touch a rotor even if it is cold because of the oil from your fingershands can cause issues)…it wasn’t cold…by mid morning, it was finally cool.

          For normal driving of passengers in normal traffic, brakes usually cool down in 20 minutes or less. However, the calipers can hold heat for some time…longer than the rotors and pads. Also, brake fluid can hold heat and can even boil if the temperature is hot enough. The seals in the braking system can melt if the temperature which is very rate for normal traffic but common at race tracks.

          However, this was severe braking that one might have encountered in racing (stock, motorcycle, off-road, etc.). I was going over 75 and I stopped my vehicle in under 150 ft (it seems shorter than that). The vehicle that was going across the lanes went in front of me. I saw at least three cars hitting this car to my right. It was a new vehicle that had under 500 miles on it.

          In racing situations, brakes get extremely hot and it is common for failures. The brakes on a Formula One car can get up to 2, 000 to 3,000 degrees…that is why there are six brake pads (another reason is the speed) and why there are special brakes for F1 cars. It is common to ‘boil’ brakes in stock car racing at your local track.

          Brakes on semis can get extremely hot and fail…it is nearly impossible to put out a brake fire on a semi with fire extinguishers…they don’t recommend using fire extinguishers.

    3. When I worked in the industry, we had airport service centers with mechanics on site. Most rental companies located at major airports have such service centers. But please, don’t let facts stop you from ranting and calling a rental agency a liar without any actual basis for it.

  8. Boy am I conflicted on this case…. I voted NO based on the evidence but the answer is that is SIXT choice to make.

    First, I think this is the classic example of Chris’s involvement in a case leading to a conclusion that has little to do with the facts of the case. SIXT seems to have all of the evidence to support that the LW burned out the clutch. Ultimately they dropped the case because the bad publicity would cost them more than the claim they had.

    Second, I think that as long as they have the paperwork to support their written statements, its a pretty air tight case. According to SIXT, they test clutches prior to releasing them to customers and then had the clutch tested after it came off the vehicle. If they didn’t do this, half the people on here would be screaming that they didn’t do enough. Since they did it, now they must be scamming everyone. Talk about a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation.

    Finally, I’ve never really been comfortable with the whole clutch failure being the renters issue. Yes, you can cause a clutch to fail due to abuse / poor driving. Clutches also fail due to cumulative wear. Just because my poor driving claimed the last 10% of the clutch, should I be responsible for the entire repair? Much like brakes, if they start squealing while I’m driving, should I have to pay for the brake job? The flip side is that a really poor driver can burn up a clutch incredibly quickly through their own actions. Should a rental car company have to pay for a new clutch because you don’t know how to drive a manual and are too cheap to rent an automatic.

    Just reinforces why even after having manuals for my first two cars, I always rent a automatic in the UK and ROI.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I have a friend whose daughter burned through two clutches in a few minutes each. But it could have just as easily gone out due to cumulative wear. Also, I have heard of them doing test drives on RHD vehicles, and they offered to switch her to a auto. Also, not all vehicles shift the same way. I had a hard time going from a sports car to a pickup. Even if the OP drove stick for many years, she may not have been used to the clutch in the vehicle she rented.

    2. Excuse me, but they claimed they had the paperwork and a set of tests. That is not the same as actually having the paperwork and producing it as evidence. In fact, when Christ asked for the paperwork the company immediately backed down. That is the most telling evidence to me. If they truly had the documentation they would have shown it. While Sixt could prove there was damage, they never offered any evidence that Ms Downs was the one that caused it.

  9. I am not a mechanic but what could she have done to the clutch in 15 miles? Provided that it was in good condition to start and she did not go out of her way to cause damage.

    If all you did was ask the company to review its records then IMHO you really did not affect the outcome.

    1. If someone mistakenly tries to start a stick-shift in 3rd gear instead of first, the clutch can become toast instantly, especially if it’s in its last 10-25% of remaining life. Jack-rabbit starts and accelerating quickly while going uphill are also good ways to kill clutches.

  10. OFF TOPIC:

    I got ripped off at a gas station yesterday. Sign said $2.54/gal but when I pumped $30 and it was only 8 gallons, I got suspicious. Tried to print a receipt, of course it wouldn’t print. The display on the pumps wasn’t working, either.

    I went inside and had to play the “no English” game with the clerk who eventually managed to print a receipt.

    I was charged $3.45/gal!!! When I asked why, she said “You pay credit.” Uh, where is that on your sign or your pumps. Again, she forgot her English.

    So, I’m gonna dispute this with my CC.

      1. We have a law here that the price must be the same for cash, check, debit, cc, any form of payment. Some merchants give you a discount if you pay cash, but (as far as I know) nobody increases the price if you pay in a less profitable way.

        1. I live near Traverse City, MI and cash and credit are the same price. But in metro Detroit, credit is usually $0.10 more per gallon.

        2. When we traveled to CA we saw that almost all stations have two prices one cash one credit. It shocked me because I had thought that was illegal. Also many stations did not take credit cards at all, debit cards or cash.

          1. It’s not illegal but rather sometimes against the credit card arrangements with the vendor where they agree to not give a discount to cash payers. So maybe it’s not “illegal” but perhaps a violation of the card merchant agreement and a dispute may resolve that.

            One way the agreement is entered upon is for a discount at the merchant side. They usually pay a 25 cents transaction fee and something like 1.5% or so of the transaction fee. So to get a discount to 1 percent, they have to sign the agreement but some vendors may decide that cash business is more lucrative and considering the way I see people wait at COSTCO for 2 hours to gas up their cars, perhaps it is. If gas at that station is 5 cents less per gallon and they have a line of customers, then paying the higher credit card fee is acceptable.

            It appears that the vendor in this case probably pulled a bait and switch: They charged a buck more per gallon which is ridiculous without posting it. Hopefully, he took pictures of the signs around the station to back this claim up lest the manager put them up after the fact when fighting the dispute.

    1. Hmmm…maybe worth a letter to your attorney general, especially if the pump doesn’t inform you of a difference in price if you pay with cash or credit.

    2. That’s too bad, but are you sure you looked carefully at the sign. Everywhere I go that has different cash and credit prices has it marked clearly enough that anybody looking for it will see it. Some have it marked so well you don’t have to be looking for it.

      I’m not saying that IS what happened in your case, but it could be.

        1. Well, if there’s actually nothing posted, clearly they’ve done the same thing to others. You aren’t the first person to pay with a credit card.

    3. If this is in the US (I think that you are from the Houston, TX area), report the gas station to the state’s Weight & Measurement department. Take pictures of the $ 2.54 sign and no signs on the pump or elsewhere about a higher price for credit cards.

  11. How old was this Opel Insignia?

    If it was a brand new car, LW must be a very, very bad driver to be able to destroy a clutch in less than 100km. If it was a well used & worn car, she was very unlucky and/or she also could be a bad manual driver.

    Unrelated question: Chris, why the new website icon is an “F”?!?

    1. I kind of buried the lede on that one, sorry. I’m switching to a new, faster theme. If you clear your cache, you should see a favicon that matches this site. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how to improve the layout and design. We wanted something really fast that made it easy to access the content. I hope we’re getting there.

      1. Stuck with the “F” — cleared cache and used two different browsers on two different computers. Oh well, the rest of the site works fine.

      2. I cleared my cache and still see the F. Also the page is constantly re-loading and runs much slower now 🙁

        The landing page also doesn’t scroll smoothly.

  12. “I’m a terrible driver who burned out the clutch on a rental car. I was too cheap to buy CDW, but I do not wish to pay for the damage. Please publicly shame this company until I get my way.”

    1. CDW does not cover the clutch as stated by Sixt. And we don’t know what insurance was bought because it was not mentioned.

  13. So totally agree that Sixt is at fault… and were speaking in forked tongue. Their rationale/argument doesn’t even warrant a giggle. So surprised that they’d even try this. Guess I won’t be using Sixt next time in Europe.

  14. The only thing that is certain is that the clutch failed when the LW was driving the car.

    We cannot know if it was the LW who tore it up or it was just a vehicle that was about ready to fail anyway due to high mileage or previous renters who cumulatively wore the clutch out.

    The statement that she had difficulty in the driving test before rental may only mean the clutch was already showing signs of going out which caused the difficulties.

    It seems that European car rental companies look for Americans to give their higher mileage cars to hoping that something will fail so they can charge for the repair under the claim that it was the stupid American who doesn’t know how to drive this type of vehicle wore it out. Since it costs around 400 euro at most shops elsewhere in Europe to get the clutch replaced in this type of car, not sure why the bill was for so much.

    Looking at the Sixt website, I can understand why someone would rent from them – their cars are extra low priced. They offer cars at the Dublin airport for as little as $2.00 a day. But at that price, I don’t see how they can maintain their vehicles as they claim without billing extreme repair bills like this one.

    Glad they “reconsidered” on this one.

    1. You would also have to know if/when the clutch and/or transmission were replaced for that info to mean anything at all.

    2. I agree…the clutch on my wife’s car was replaced at 140,000 miles…we probably could have went another 5,000 to 10,000 miles but didn’t want to chance it.

  15. All this just shows me why we cannot rent manual transmission in the States anymore. Unless you are willing to pay for “Exotic Selection” and get a Porsche or Corvette MT for only $350/day, of course.

    That said, the fault is 100%, undoubtedly so, on Sixt. Exactly as it is on rental companies operating in US which out of sheer laziness do not want to “deal with” renting a manual transmission.

    Want an MT? Good, there’s a $5/day surcharge when compared to AT towards clutch/transmission insurance. Done. Rent them all you want, all day long. But no, that would mess up paperwork, I guess. Besides, it is way too complicated. Right?

    I’m aggravated because I, personally, would forego “upgrade” to an unwieldy, fat, ginormous whale of a vehicle to pay for smaller one with MT every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But I can’t. This article and most of the comments here show me why. And now I’m even more aggravated because it would be so simple …

    1. The reason US car rental agencies don’t rent manuals anymore is that there is almost zero market for manual rentals (other than, as you point out, “exotic” rentals). There is barely even a market for the purchase of manual transmissions anymore outside of performance cars, and a huge percentage of manual car owners (like me) don’t really care about that for a car we’re renting for a few days.

      You’re suggesting that the car rental agencies add cars that will likely sit unrented a lot of the time and add procedures and policies that cost money to create an implement. All in exchange for… absolutely nothing. There’s no extra profit in this because nobody is forgoing renting a car because of the lack of a manual transmission.

      1. Well, this idiot would jump on a car with manual transmission immediately. I just happen to know more than few other idiots who would do the same. But I frequent weird crowd. Most of them pay to go on a weekend activity actively trying to kill themselves like driving their own (and often quite expensive car) around a racetrack … weird crowd indeed.

        Best part of renting in Europe 3 times a year? No need to say anything, MT is default.

        Your argument

        “There’s no extra profit in this because nobody is forgoing renting a car because of the lack of a manual transmission.”

        is very similar to one like “We only buy white vehicles in our rental fleet. We can prove that nobody forgoes renting a car just because it is painted white. Therefore, people have proven they do not like any other color and providing that choice would cost us significantly.”

        Yeah, basically, it is the old who’s first – chicken or egg game. How comes you CAN get an automatic in Europe together with a manual? Why isn’t there automatic as only “choice”? You know, people do not need training to drive an automatic while they do to drive a manual transmission. So, why not all cars are automatic, then?

        I say, you provide a choice and they will come. What happened to consumer in this country I truly do not know nor can I understand. Seems to me that any appeal on giving CHOICES to customers is always met with “NO CAN DO” and very long logical explanation as to why. Now, I could perfectly understand the business saying that and posting that publicly, but those are so obviously from CONSUMERS. Or are they …?

        1. You say: Well, this idiot would jump on a car with manual transmission immediately.

          I say: I don’t doubt it. Lots of people would probably rent sticks if they were available. It’s just that these people aren’t NOT renting a car because they’d have to rent an automatic.

          You say: Your argument .. is very similar to one like “We only buy white vehicles in our rental fleet. We can prove that nobody forgoes renting a car just because it is painted white. Therefore, people have proven they do not like any other color and providing that choice would cost us significantly.”

          I say: First of all, it’s pretty clear to me that if car rental companies only offered white cars, it is in fact true that this would not harm their rental sales at all. Because people don’t make rental car decisions based on the color of the car. However, the second part of your comparison is wrong. Lots of people can’t rent a stick because they don’t drive stick. Other people can drive stick, but they don’t care for rentals. For car colors, on the contrary, pretty much nobody cares enough about car color to not rent a car just because only white is offered. (I acknowledge that surely there is somebody somewhere who refuses to rent a car because he will only drive a stick. Maybe even like 20 people. But not enough to move a market. Similarly, there is somebody somewhere who wouldn’t rent a car if he could only rent a white car, but nowhere near enough people to affect the market.)

          You say: you provide a choice and they will come.

          I say: Again, I don’t doubt that’s true. If you offer stick shift cars, some people will rent them. But probably not enough to prevent it from being a money-losing proposition due to non-use and the cost of setting up and operating the stick rental system. And surely not enough people who wouldn’t otherwise rent cars to make it a money-making proposition.

          Now, maybe if one agency offered stick shifts, it could capture some of the business from other companies that don’t. But doubtful enough to make it worthwhile. That’s clearly what the companies think, or somebody would be offering Honda civic stick shifts, or whatever.

          You say: Seems to me that any appeal on giving CHOICES to customers is always met with “NO CAN DO” and very long logical explanation as to why.

          I say: okay, but that’s not what I’m saying. Car rental companies clearly COULD offer sticks. It’s just that it’s against their financial interests, so why would they do it?

          1. Look, it has been 7 years now that I read and argue on various blogs how the main and the biggest reason for people not buying diesels is that there are no diesels to buy. 90+% of the posters are arguing your line: why offer it if they cannot make money and they can’t make money if nobody buys diesel. Right? I call it perfectly circular argument, but it seems to hold for a LOT of people out there.

            What do you know? Government gets the itch and decides to legislate around just to show who’s the boss, right? Well, since then, diesels are being picked off the lots like candy. Mind you, they are not cheaper for buyers, buyers get no incentive from big bad Government to buy them … it’s just that Government forced manufacturers to offer them. Impossible just happened! People are buying diesels when given enough choices on body style, size and transmission. Whodda thunk, huh?

            So, I will repeat, if Government for whatever whimsical reason forced rental companies to provide MT, all of a sudden, when given the choice of MT across all sizes, styles and engines … a lot of customers would pick that!

          2. Again, you are totally missing the point. I have NO DOUBT that if stick shifts were available, some people would rent them.

            For that matter, let’s assume that every person who rents a car will rent a stick if given the option. (That is obviously not true, but it casts your argument in the most favorable light possible.) Even that is not enough for the car rental companies to change their stock. They would have to make MORE money by switching to sticks to make it worthwhile. So, if you wan’t to establish that it’s worth it for rental companies to carry manual transmission cars, you have to show that more people would rent cars if they could rent a stick. I don’t think there’s any chance that that is true. With very limited exceptions (high-end joyride rentals, where sticks are already available), people rent cars because they need rental cars, not because they want some specific type of car.

            The point is: car rental companies (at least in the aggregate) do not stand to make any more money by offering sticks because the car rental market is already completely saturated. People already rent 100% of the cars that they are willing/need to rent. Offering sticks just moves the rentals from manuals to sticks. So how would the companies make more money offering sticks?

            Frankly, I’m shocked that this topic is what brought you out of a 7-year internet comment hibernation.

          3. I guess you are correct. Back to my second post of this thread … why are YOU, a consumer, so adamantly defending MO of the companies that removes choices for consumers? That’s what floors me every time.

            If they place, as I said, $5 surcharge towards clutch/transmission insurance, they might even make money. But even if it ends up even, as long as there is no money loss, what is exactly wrong with giving choices to customers?

            That’s my point, in case you missed it – and I think you did. Completely.

          4. I’m not sure if you really don’t get my point or if you’re being intentionally obtuse.

            To be clear: I have no dog in this hunt. I care not whether rental car companies provide stick shifts. Nor am I defending their practices; I’m explaining them.

            My point, which you do seem to have missed, is that unless there is a financial incentive for the rental car companies to offer stick shifts, they aren’t going to do it. I haven’t seen any compelling argument that there is a financial incentive. I’m certain that $5/stick rental would not come close to paying for the many days/year of unused stick shifts they’d experience, plus the other admin costs and repair costs. Clearly, the rental companies have this view, or they would offer sticks.

            So, there’s nothing “wrong” with giving choice to consumers. But if there is no financial incentive to do it, they won’t do it.

      2. I went to several car dealerships for over a year trying to find a specific car in a manual transmission. They never once had a used one, almost never even had a new one. I spoke to several GMs who said they will order 1 manual for every ~40 automatics, and it’s still hard to sell the manuals in the US, but they get some just in case. I also learned that the people who buy them never trade them in. He said the best way to get one is to order it and have it custom built. I then learned that the manufacturer as a whole stopped offering manual transmissions altogether on their newer cars built for the US market.

        1. I had a similar experience when I bought my car in 2009. In all the dealers in the SF bay area, there was one stick shift in the car I wanted. The other car I was looking at, they would have had to bring the stick in from another part of the state.

        2. It is actually better for the manufacturer to have automatics. The newer computer controlled automatic transmissions get better mileage than the manuals. That makes it easier for the manufacturers to make their fleet mileage requirements for EPA standards.

          1. It reduces pollution and also reduces maintenance needs on the auto.
            The number of people requesting manual transmissions is dropping yearly. There comes a point where it is no longer cost effective to sell that option.

  16. I have found that other “wear and tear” items are likewise not covered by insurance. Things like tired and windshield wipers! If you damage a tire outside of an accident…like in driving over a nail, no insurance will cover that damage. It is coming out of your pocket. Same with windshield wipers. If the rubber peal off of a windshield wiper and the wiper scratches the windshield, insurance will not cover that either!

  17. Kairi below says it:
    it takes much more than 60 miles to ruin a clutch

    Other people ruined it. It failed on this lady, and they tried to pin it on her.

    I would likely have noticed that the clutch was flaky, having had some experience in this field. But, maybe not. Who would look for that? Well, if I go to Eire, I now WILL!

  18. I have returned vehicles on two occasions because there has been something wrong with the clutch or the engine. I think there was something wrong with the clutch to start with and they were just trying to pull a fast one. And what was this ‘test drive’ BS? I have rented cars hundreds of times and have never been asked if I wanted to test drive the vehicle. Ever. And why would they suddenly cover the cost if they honestly believed this lady had caused the damage? Avoid Sixt in Ireland!

    1. You have rented cars hundreds of times from Sixt in Ireland or other European countries where the steering wheel is on the right and the transmission is manual?

      1. I have never rented a car in Ireland, I am British by birth, I left in ’94 and I have been back twice a year for 21yrs, I recently starting going four times a year as I have a mother there with dementia and I have no problem driving a manual car. Anything else?

        ‘Hundreds of times’ is a stretch but you know what i mean.

        1. Have you rented from Sixt in the UK? If not, maybe the other rental car companies in UK may not require a driving test. If yes, Sixt may not require a driving a test in the UK but require one in Ireland. It is common for companies to have different SOPs for different countries.

          Or they might require a driving test for foreigners but not locals, nationals or ex-pats. You might have an English accent (my father had an employee that was British…married an American GI during WW2 and lived in the US for nearly 30 years before coming to my father’s business in the late 70’s and she still had her British accent) and/or have a British passport; therefore, they don’t make you take a test.

          Other readers have commented that they were required to take a stick-shift test in Ireland. Maybe it is an Ireland thing…too many foreigners (i.e. a lot of Americans) who have ‘destroyed’ cars or have problems driving a stick shift over the years; therefore, to avoid potential problems, Sixt started to give road tests before renting.

          When weI traveled international (Europe or Asia), weI take public transportation (i.e. taxis, buses, trains, subways. etc.). In London, we stay at the Hilton London Paddington since it is so close to the train station if we want to go out to the ‘country’. Except for Canada, I won’t rent a car in most of the countries that we have travel to…I might rent a car in Australia.

          I don’t know your travel historystatusetc; therefore, I don’t know if ‘hundreds of times’ was factual or a stretch. I keep a spreadsheet of my travels (i.e. hotels, flights, car rentals) since I travel for work and I do weekly or monthly expense reports…so when I make a comment on this blog of “I have stayed 65 nights at Best Western Hotels”…it comes from my spreadsheet.

          1. Quite why you find it necessary to be so pedantic is beyond me. I explained the situation, I do rent a lot of cars, I do travel internationally very frequently and I don’t keep a flipping spreadsheet!

      2. I also should have said that I travel to London so yes, the steering wheel is on the right and the cars are manual transmission.

  19. I would ask to see the paperwork proving that Sixt actually tested the clutch before the last 5 drivers. Also it is important how old the car was and/or how many miles it was previously driven. We also don’t know if Sixt could have provided another manual car for the renter if she declined this one because of the burning clutch smell and how much extra she would have been charged for a different car (manual or automatic). In other words, whether it would have been essentially a bait and switch.

  20. It sounds like Sixt was looking for an easy fix. They accused the American but, when she objected, they gave in very easily. I think if they really had a claim, they would have stuck to their guns.

  21. I’ve been licensed for 42 years and have never owned an automatic. What I do know is that unless you are driving up very steep roads and/or accelerating strongly in the wrong gear, and/or simultaneously riding the clutch and then letting it out too abruptly (i.e. depressing the pedal needlessly and then releasing it suddenly while stepping on the gas), there is no way you can burn it out like this. Especially in only a few miles of urban driving — I doubt Downs encountered mountains between the airport and central Dublin, or laid down rubber with her mother in the car.

    The fact the rental folks could smell burning says nothing about why the clutch burned out. Doh!

    My hunch is that Opels have underbuilt clutches. That’s why I’ve owned four Subarus over the past 16 years, for seven months/year of snowy, icy driving on the mountainside where I live here in Alaska. None have had to have clutch rebuilds over this time.

    1. I’ve had a Subaru clutch replaced on my WRX. It wasn’t so much that I absolutely needed a new one, but I had a freak breakage of the reverse idler gear and the guy fixing it said he might as well replace it since the transmission was already out to rebuild it. I would say it did shift better with a new clutch. However, I use my car for mostly urban driving, so the throwout bearing probably got a decent amount of wear.

      As for the gear – the mechanic said he’d never seen that before in more than 15 years of repairing Subarus. I just stalled when I forgot to put it in idle (from reverse while parked) and it started making this clicking noise immediately. This mechanic said that straight gears just shouldn’t break.

  22. Experience driving with a clutch does not mean you do it well. Just ask my husband about my driving with a clutch—which I have done off and on for over 40 years. Not a factor I think with this problem but experience does not always mean we do something well.

  23. It is very unlikely that even a novice could burn out a clutch in 25 kilometers

    I disagree. I have friend whose daughter burned out her clutch the first time she drove the car they bough her. He then took her to a parking lot to try to retain her on the brand new clutch, 6 minutes later clutch number 2 was burned out. And the smell is very distinct and lingers.

    1. With a lifetime of experience driving a manual transmission in the US I would still be a bit queasy (and likely miss a few times) driving with the wheel on the right and having the shifter operated by the left hand instead.

  24. It’s a tough one Chris. Having worked for many years contracting with hundreds of car rental companies around the world in a previous job, I have seen and mediated more customer service issues with car rental companies than I care to remember. Burned out clutches are very common in Europe as a result of US renters who simply don’t know how to drive them, or perhaps did 40 years ago but haven’t done so for decades. I can’t ever remember a European, Australian or South African client being charged for a clutch but saw plenty of US drivers have them fail whilst they had the rental car over the years (sorry folks, it’s true from my experience).

    Despite the objections in a number of the comments, it is possible that a client could destroy a clutch between Dublin Airport and downtown, it is mostly highway and it could happen if they stayed in first or second gear which I have seen happen. It is also possible however that previous renters set this in motion causing previous damage due to a lack of manual/stick driving experience.

    The main piece of information missing is how many miles/km were on the car at the start of the rental? If it was 80K, then Sixt should not have charged the customer regardless of their driving ability. If it was 10K, well that’s a different story. As Devesh mentioned in an earlier comment, if the clutch was about to give, it would have been very noticeable to the customer the moment they tried to drive. I drive a stick shift and have done for 25 years, a clutch in my experience will always slip and feel ‘spongy’ before it fails completely. It’s very noticeable that something is not right.

    It’s true with a lot of companies in Europe that they will ask foreign drivers (not just Americans) to take a quick spin around the car park to make sure that they know how to drive the vehicle they have rented. It doesn’t say if the customer agrees with Sixt’s version of events in this regard but it sounds plausible to me.

    Either way Chris, don’t beat yourself up. You asked for both sides of the story. You went back to Sixt for further clarification, they should never have even insinuated that the clutch was destroyed because of the customers nationality even if it is more than often the case in reality. Would this customer have had the case dismissed if you had not intervened? Not a chance.

    As I said at the start, it’s a tough one to call. The customer will say they didn’t do it and the rental company will say that they did. Mileage would have been a good indicator as to which way to lean but you did the right thing by the consumer who came to you. At the end of it all, it was Sixts decision to drop the claim.

  25. I have mixed feelings about this case.

    It would be quite extreme to burn out a clutch in 15 miles. Even if you are forcing the car into gear without using the clutch, a new clutch wouldn’t go out completely in that scenario. So, at most, she’s responsible for pushing it over the edge.

    However, what do we make of it if she did more than she should have to push it over the edge? I think that’s likely in this scenario. The rental agency said she had trouble with the transmission. I’m a lifelong stick driver, but I think I’d probably struggle with the stick on the “wrong” side. I’d probably put more than typical wear on the clutch and the transmission.

    But what if she’d been the FIRST person to rent the car? She’d have put the same, extra, wear on the clutch and transmission, but it wouldn’t have gone out and she would never have been blamed when the clutch finally had to be replaced tens or hundreds of thousands of miles later.

    I guess the question is: what happens when a customer does more than normal wear and tear and it results in repairs, but the exact same usage wouldn’t result in repairs to a newer vehicle? I don’t have the answer to that question.

    1. Forcing it into gear without using the clutch would probably break gear teeth. That’s generally not cumulative, although mild gear clash can build up over time to the point where the teeth are weakened enough that one breaks off when there’s mild gear clash.

  26. Moral of the story: NEVER rent a manual transmission vehicle. Anywhere. It’s a no-win situation. If you are an experienced stick-shift driver, you could get stuck with a huge bill due to previous clutch damage caused by inexperienced stick-shift drivers. If you are an inexperienced stick-shift driver yourself, you could inadvertently burn out the clutch and get stuck with a huge bill.

    Pay the extra money for the automatic.

    As for what really happened here, like so many others have said in the comments, there’s really no way to know. Personally I find the LW’s story to be far more believable than SIXT, but that’s only because I’ve seen way too many instances of rental companies blatantly lying for profit. Car rental companies do not, as a whole, demonstrate high ethical standards. And the story about the pre-rental testing…nope, not buying it.

    But I also know that customers will lie to avoid a bill when it is their fault, so it’s entirely possible (although IMO unlikely) she did drive it recklessly and burn it out.

    Either way, renting a manual transmission vehicle is simply too great a risk. I will never do it.

    1. In a lot of these countries, the mix of manual vs. automatic could mean having to wait hours or even days to get a slushbox. I was at an overseas off-airport rental place and there were about half a dozen renters (probably with confirmed reservations) waiting for the next automagic to come in. But there was no wait at all for the multiple stick-shifts still on the lot and we had a ball with it too.

      1. Yeah, that’s unfortunately. I know it happens. It just really sucks for us consumers, because clearly renting a manual transmission vehicle puts us at far greater risk of getting soaked for damage that isn’t our fault. It’s a no-win situation.

        I can’t even think of how to guard against this. I mean, with bogus exterior damage claims, you can at least be proactive by taking pre-rental photos, significantly reducing the possibility of getting scammed by an unscrupulous rental agency. But what can you do about bogus clutch damage claims? It’s not like we can climb under the car and document the condition of the clutch when we rent it! If it burns out on our watch, we’re just plain screwed.

  27. I learned how to drive a stick when I was a teenager and drove vehicles with manual transmissions for years. I feel supremely confident driving one even now. However, I never rent a vehicle with a manual transmission. There are way too many variables involved and it seems like a huge added risk. With my own vehicles and experience, I know that my cars are well taken care of, but with someone else’s, nevermind a rental car company, how do I know the vehicle is well maintained? Most people are pretty hard on their own cars and downright abusive with rentals, why risk getting burned by someone else if the scenario can be avoided?

  28. “I’m comforted by Sixt’s own words, that they did this in the interests
    of customer service, and not because the claim was invalid.”

    Chris, come on do you really think that they are going to admit that the claim was false, invalid, etc? They said that to make them look good in this situation. Does every OP tell the whole truth? Or do they tell only the parts that makes them look good?

  29. I have driven a number of cars with manual transmissions, over a number of years, and I have never seen a situation where a clutch can fail in just 15 miles. One important missing piece of information was the mileage on the car. A clutch that fails in less than 60,000 miles (unless you do a lot of driving on hills or mountains) is very unusual.

    Also, I don’t know if they do this in Ireland, but in the US I know of many people who teach their kids to drive a manual transmission by using a rental car (so they don’t trash their own car). Clutches fail over time, usually because the clutch pads wear out. With normal use, it’s a wear and tear item. For a rental company, its a cost of doing business, because it is a cumulative failure. It’s like brake wear, if the brakes wear out after someone rents the car and drives100 miles, was it that person, or the previous 50,000 miles leading up to it?

    Because its hard to clearly assess blame, I think Chris did the right thing by taking the case, and Sixt, by dropping the claim.

  30. I’m having trouble with two conflicting comments:
    She has been driving standard vehicles for 40 years
    She had considerable difficult with the clutch during the test drive.

    I’m not sure what the real story is here. A clutch shouldn’t break immediately but at the same time, someone with “considerable difficulty” should not even be allowed to rent a car with a manual transmission.

    The cost of the transmission replacement seems excessive also.
    Just my two cents worth.

  31. What a bunch of BS. We’re expected to believe that they do a full test on the trans before every rental? Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

  32. The description of the failure and the smell indicates the renter was driving with her foot resting on the clutch pedal. Doing so will cause a smell long before the clutch gives up. This can happen in a matter of miles. She has ignored the warning signs and kept driving. That is negligent.

    Obviously staff members would have driven the vehicle to prepare it for rent and place it on their parking rank. Any issue would have been noticed there and then. Clutches do not fail without cause.

    But not everyone is a mechanic so it’s understandable the renter doesn’t believe she did wrong. Car broke down, company must be at fault.

    I think Sixth have been very generous in not upholding the claim. Standby for the usual calls of it being a scam…..

    1. The smell would be more like the result of a final, catastrophic failure of the throwout bearing.

      Seems to me like everyone else suspects that the Sixt knew it was on the way out and was just looking for a mark to pay for it. There’s also no way any clutch repair should cost that much except for an exotic. The materials cost should be less than 200 Euros, although the labor could be several times that much.

        1. That is one possibility and one I’ve encountered on occasion.

          However, the characteristic smell of a burning clutch can also come from catastrophic failure of a throwout bearing. And from the telling that she “had difficulty” with the clutch gave a lot of hints that the throwout bearing was about to fail.

  33. I haven’t driven a manual tranny in years, and even if I drove one for 6 weeks BADLY, the clutch wouldn’t burn out. This problem is the result of bad driving and poor maintenance over a long period … and maybe a car that was due for a new clutch so they awarded it to an American driver. This is good work, Chris, protecting us from those blasted car rental companies!

  34. It’s a tough one Chris. Having worked for many years contracting with hundreds of car rental companies around the world in a previous job, I have seen and mediated more customer service issues with car rental companies than I care to remember. Burned out clutches are very common in Europe as a result of US renters who simply don’t know how to drive them, or perhaps did 40 years ago but haven’t done so for decades. I can’t ever remember a European, Australian or South African client being charged for a clutch but saw plenty of US drivers have them fail whilst they had the rental car over the years (sorry folks, it’s true from my experience).

    Despite the objections in a number of the comments, it is possible that a client could destroy a clutch between Dublin Airport and downtown, it is mostly highway and it could happen if they stayed in first or second gear which I have seen happen. It is also possible however that previous renters set this in motion causing previous damage due to a lack of manual/stick driving experience.

    The main piece of information missing is how many miles/km were on the car at the start of the rental? If it was 80K, then Sixt should not have charged the customer regardless of their driving ability. If it was 10K, well that’s a different story. As Devesh mentioned in an earlier comment, if the clutch was about to give, it would have been very noticeable to the customer the moment they tried to drive. I drive a stick shift and have done for 25 years, a clutch in my experience will always slip and feel ‘spongy’ before it fails completely. It’s very noticeable that something is not right.

    It’s true with a lot of companies in Europe that they will ask foreign drivers (not just Americans) to take a quick spin around the car park to make sure that they know how to drive the vehicle they have rented. It doesn’t say if the customer agrees with Sixt’s version of events in this regard but it sounds plausible to me.

    Either way Chris, don’t beat yourself up. You asked for both sides of the story. You went back to Sixt for further clarification, they should never have even insinuated that the clutch was destroyed because of the customers nationality even if it is more than often the case in reality. Would this customer have had the case dismissed if you had not intervened? Not a chance.

    As I said at the start, it’s a tough one to call. The customer will say they didn’t do it and the rental company will say that they did. Mileage would have been a good indicator as to which way to lean but you did the right thing by the consumer who came to you. At the end of it all, it was Sixts decision to drop the claim.

  35. Anyone who has driven a manual car for a substantial amount of time should know that this was clearly a broken down clutch when she got the car. In fact, I bet her “trouble” on that test drive was due to the clutch being a mess. To burn out a clutch that fast would be a feat, indeed. Even if the clutch was damaged enough that it did happen because of something she did while driving it, it wasn’t actually her fault, most likely. If others are responsible for 98% of the damage, the last person to use to the car shouldn’t be the one stuck paying for the entire cost of a new clutch. And btw, that is a crazy expensive clutch, it seems to me.

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    a friend of mine introduce me to the Dr Harrison by giving me his email, i never believed until
    I contact him and explain my problem to him and he cast a spell for me and assure me of 3 days that my ex will return
    to me and to my greatest surprise the third day my ex came knocking on my door and beg for forgiveness. for more information contact me on [email protected] I am so happy that my love is back again and not only that,we got MARRIED.all thanks to Dr Harrison. (seeing is believing) just put him to test and see his mighty power. If you have a similar problem please contact him on [email protected].

  37. This kind of just happened to me, bought a car and 2 hours later off the lot the clutch is out! They’re trying to blame my lack of experiance in driving a clutch the reason why it went out. I can do perfectly fine going into 1st 2nd and 3rd. Yes I may not be very experianced, however I find it hard to believe just driving for 2 hours could cause the clutch to go out. My opinion is that it was on its way, and they sold me a car with a clutch close to going out.

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