Auto repairs can be complicated and costly. Sometimes it is hard to tell what work has been done. A few tips might help make your next auto repair experience a little easier.
If you can, get your vehicle serviced at the same shop each time you get the oil changed or other maintenance work done. That way, you can get to know how the business handles your work, and the mechanic can get to know your car. A good mechanic may be able to warn you of problems while they are small and easier and cheaper to fix. A mechanic can also recommend preventative maintenance you can do to reduce the need for costly repairs.
Choosing a Mechanic
If you are a regular customer, the mechanic will want to keep you as a happy customer so when major repairs are needed, you will feel more comfortable dealing with someone you know.
If you don’t have a regular mechanic, ask around to see if one is recommended. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against the mechanic. The Attorney General’s Consumer Division also keeps track of consumer complaints against businesses.
Request an estimate on any work you have done and keep all the receipts if you have work done so you can remember what was fixed.
Before the mechanic can do any work on a vehicle, he must have your permission for the work you want done. Be specific on what you give permission for. If you do not understand what needs to be done, ask for an explanation. Don’t just say “Do whatever needs to be done.” You might end up with a rebuilt engine when all you wanted was a new fuel pump.
Ask to see what needs to be fixed and ask for an explanation of what will be done to your car. Don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t understand. Even if you don’t understand cars very well, you have a right to be told what work is being done to your car and what you will be paying for.
Ask to see the parts that were replaced. Ask what the garage does with the parts they remove from cars. Ask the mechanic if the shop gives a credit for parts that can be sold or can be rebuilt into other vehicles.
Ask for an estimate on any major repairs and find out if you can make payments while you use the car. Usually, you have to be a regular customer of the mechanic before he will extend credit on his work. Otherwise, you may have to make payments while the car sits at the garage.
If You Don’t Pay
If you cannot pay for the repairs, the garage can put a "mechanic's lien” on your car. This can be done in 2 ways:
- By refusing to give the car back to you until the repairs are paid for.
- By filing certain documents with the county recorder within 60 days afer the work is done.
Either way, the garage may be allowed to sell your car and use sale proceeds to pay the mechanic’s bill.
It is important to settle payment disputes before the garage puts a mechanic’s lien on your vehicle. If you cannot settle the dispute, and a mechanic's lien is put on your vehicle (or is threatened), you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
Other legal remedies
You may also have legal remedies against the garage or mechanic if they:
- Falsely tell you repairs are needed;
- Charge you more than 10% over the estimate without your permission (for repairs that cost more than $750);
- Make repairs you did not agree to have made;
- Get rid of repaired or replaced parts without giving you 3 day’s notice ; or
- make other false claims as to quality, price, warranty, or time of completion.
If the garage does one of these things, it might be a deceptive practice under the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. You may be able to sue the garage and get money damages and attorney fees from the garage. The Attorney General’s office could also sue the garage to keep them from doing the deceptive practices again.
Test drive the vehicle to make sure the repair is what you wanted and that the car is working properly before you pay for the repair. If it is not, return it immediately to the shop and request that the shop fix the repair.
What if something goes wrong
If you feel you have been unfairly treated in an auto repair situation and you cannot settle the matter on your own, you can contact the Better Business Bureau, the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office, or an attorney. You can reach the Attorney General’s office, Consumer Protection Division
LSC Special Code 1030301
Last revised 11-02