What Happened Here?

Recently, we have been investigating an incident that took place almost one year prior to our involvement. A two vehicle accident occurred in which one of the vehicles involved was a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt. The vehicle was subsequently repaired at a local body shop and returned to the owner. Approximately three to four days later, the engine overheated. According to the owner, the vehicle was returned to the shop where it was determined that the shop’s mechanic had forgotten to add coolant to the radiator before returning the vehicle to the owner. Once the coolant issue had been resolved and the vehicle returned to the owner, the owner began hearing a rumbling noise that turned out to be a damaged catalytic converter. A large crack developed in the expansion joint just below the flange that connects the converter to the exhaust manifold. It was also discovered that the exhaust manifold had cracked in four places (see attached photographs).

DSC09580 what happened 1 what happened 2

Based upon the owner’s description of the vehicle’s performance after the vehicle was initially returned, the rumbling noise was not present and did not occur until after coolant was added and the vehicle was returned for the second time.  It appeard that the damage to the catalytic converter and the exhaust manifold was caused when the engine overheated.

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Getting Bad Gas?

We’ve been working on an assignment where two vehicles equipped with diesel engines were allegedly damaged by bad diesel fuel. We were asked to determine if the gas station where the fuel was purchased was acutally selling contaminated diesel fuel. Unfortunately, the vehicles were already repaired and any diesel fuel had already been discarded by the time we began our investigation. We have been able to determine that at the time the purchases were made, the water level in the diesel tank was above the state mandated maximum level of 2 inches. As a result, there was a possibility that a combination of diesel and water could have been pumped into each customer’s vehicle when the purchases were made. Once the purchases were completed, the water level could have dropped enough so that the next customers would not have purchased water contaminated fuel. It is also possible that while the diesel tank monitoring instrumentation measure water depth inside the tank, the diesel might be contaminated with something else. Something that would ignite in a diesel engine but at the same time, could cause damage to the engine – like gasoline. Diesel samples were obtained and sent to a lab for analysis. The result of that analysis revealed that the samples did not contain any water but instead contained traces of gasoline. Specifically, levels of toluene and xylene were higher than normal.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, regardless of having purchased diesel or gasoline, it is imperative that you don’t lose your purchase receipt. Your receipt will become invaluable regardless of whether you paid cash or used a credit card. Next, get your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible after you suspect engine trouble. Second, advise you mechanic that if the fuel tank or lines have to be drained, not to discard anything that comes out of the lines or tank. Third, collect all contents in a clean, dry, container and label the container with the cutomer’s name and date that the contents were taken. Also save all parts. If possible, photograph the contents and all parts that have to be replaced. If the engine has to be replaced, photograph the engine and record the engine identification number. The mechanic should be able to assist in obtaining the number if necessary. Fourth, if the fuel appears to be contaminated, advise your insurance carrier and then the station owner where the fuel was purchased. Once the initial notifications have begun, each party should begin it’s investigation. The more information is obtained when the discovery is made, the easier it will be to prove the claim or discredit the fraud.

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