A man whose Maserati shook, shuddered and sounded like a "tractor" when it broke down has failed to force the car's seller to refund the purchase price after wrong oil was put in it.

Auckland company C&P Beauty Services bought the Maserati Ghibli for $87,400 in April 2017 with fewer than 9000km on the clock.

But 10 months later, it broke down and now requires an engine overhaul, expected to cost "many thousands of dollars".

Company director Jiawen Tang then lodged a case with the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal, seeking to have the $87,400 purchase price refunded.

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He claimed seller Penrose-based NZ Motor Sport Imports sold him a car of an unacceptable quality.

According to the tribunal's December 19 decision, Tang said his problems started in about May 2017 when the car started to smoke after it was serviced by a company called Winger Maserati.

But when returned to Winger Maserati on two separate occasions, the mechanics could find no fault with the car.

Tang next had the car serviced in January last year by Newmarket mechanics GT Auto Source, who put Fuchs 5W/30 oil.

But the next month, Tang's fellow C&P Beauty Services director Xi Zhou drove the Maserati down the motorway "when it began shaking, with a rattling noise coming from its engine".

Zhou claimed the car sounded like a tractor and that when he pulled over and turned it off, it would not start back up again.

When towed to GT Auto Source, mechanics "found various fault codes stored in the vehicle's computer, but it could not diagnose the fault", disputes tribunal adjudicator Brian Carter wrote.

Winger Maserati later stripped the car's engine down and found its pistons had overheated because of "insufficient lubrication".

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It concluded this was due to the use of Fuchs 5W/30 oil, when the car should instead only be filled with fully synthetic 5W/40 oil.

An assessor for the tribunal said that "although the evidence shows that the damage is not so serious that the engine needs to be replaced, the engine will require significant overhaul, costing many thousands of dollars".

Peter McPhail from NZ Motor Sport Imports said there had been no issues with the car when it was sold.

He said it travelled 16,000km (10,000 miles) without incident after its purchase and only broke down shortly after it was serviced by GT Auto Force with the wrong oil.

He also said C&P Beauty Services had violated the manufacturer's warranty by not using an authorised Maserati agent to service the car.

Kevin Jin, a director of GT Auto Force, told the tribunal he had put Fuchs 5W/30 oil based on Fuchs' recommendation.

Tang said the car's manual also recommended the use of Fuchs 5W/30 oil and that he had received an email from Fuchs Lubricants New Zealand also stating the oil met the requirements for the car.

However, tribunal adjudicator Carter said the car's owner's manual had been superseded by a bulletin issued by Maserati in May 2017 recommending that only 5W/40 oil be used.

"Unfortunately for C&P Beauty Services, neither GT Auto Source or Fuchs NZ seems to have been aware of this change in oil specification. This is a significant shortcoming," he said.

"I consider that servicing agents and suppliers of engine oil should ensure that the oil used, or recommended for use, complies with the current manufacturer's specification."

Carter consequently did not order NZ Motor Sports Imports to refund the car's almost $90,000 purchase price to C&P Beauty Services.

"C&P Beauty Services will undoubtedly feel aggrieved at this outcome," he said.

"However, although C&P Beauty Services cannot be criticised for relying on the expertise of GT Auto Source and Fuchs NZ in choosing what oil to use in the vehicle, it must nonetheless take responsibility for the actions of its agents."

He said it was not this tribunal's job to determine "what, if any, responsibility GT Auto Source and/or Fuchs NZ" should have for the damage to the engine.

That instead was a matter "C&P Beauty Services may choose to explore separately", Carter said.