A STUDENT almost paid out hundreds of pounds when a garage said her car’s air conditioning unit had broken – then she found out the vehicle did not have one.

Stevie Stowell was told by technicians at Kwik Fit Plus in Lewes Road, Brighton, that she would have to shell out £685 to fix her compressor after a warning light flashed up on her dashboard.

But when her father asked another garage for a second opinion, he found out the Citroën C1 his daughter was driving did not even have a unit fitted.

Miss Stowell, 19, who lives in Bonchurch Road, Brighton, said: “The stop light on my dashboard was telling me something was wrong, so I took it to the nearest garage to get it checked.

“I have no knowledge of cars, so I just trusted that they’d got it right when they said I needed to pay to get the air conditioning fixed.

“I was so upset when I heard. I don’t have that kind of money. I’m a student with a part-time job at Topshop.

“I felt helpless. I was wiping the tears off my face.

“That car is my lifeline.”

Miss Stowell’s father suggested she take the car to the Autovets garage in Falmer Road for a second opinion.

Its inspection revealed the bearing on the internal water pump had worn out – and there was no air conditioning installed.

The total bill to run the test, service the car and fix the damage to the pump came to £450.

“I was so relieved,” Miss Stowell said. “If it had happened during my mid-term exams, I don’t even know what effect it would have had on me.”

Father Dean Stowell, 45, a taxi driver, said: “When she was told how much she would have to pay she burst into tears. I tried to console her.

“I was at Piccadilly Circus at the time, but I took the rest of the day off to come and pick her up because she was in a right state.

“She thought her car was kaput.”

Kwik Fit has now reimbursed Miss Stowell the £50 fee it charged her for the diagnostics test.

Mr Stowell said the branch manager had apologised to him for the error.

A Kwik Fit spokesman said: “This was a genuine mistake for which we fully apologise. We made a misdiagnosis which led to incorrect information and a wrong quote being given to Mr Stowell.

“Unfortunately it was not picked up when we got a price for the part from our supplier – it would usually be flagged if a particular vehicle doesn’t require the part in question.

“Clearly if we had started the work we would have quickly seen that it was not an air conditioning issue and would have provided the right advice.

“However, we understand that this is of little comfort after the event, which is why we apologise to Miss Stowell and have refunded the cost of the diagnostic test.”

Have you had a bad experience with Kwik Fit? Contact news@theargus.co.uk.