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    Default Engine Damage After Mechanic Ignored a Diagnostic Code

    My question involves a consumer law issue in the State of: Washington.

    I took my car to the same mechanic on several occasions, every time the same check engine codes were coming up. On the last time, he told me that he could not find the problem, that he would do some research and get back to me the next week. He said that the car was ok to drive, and sent me home with the car. He said if the codes come back up to call him. This is an independent shop, not a dealership. The car is used, a 2002 car, I was the fourth owner of the car.

    I drove the car home, did not drive it the next day. The day after that, when I started the car in the driveway the engine seized up - and was ruined. The mechanic told me that the engine was ruined due to a service that had not been done on the car. Volkswagen had published a Technical Service Bulletin on that particular car to do a specific task, a drain plug that needed to be removed so that water would not pool up underneath the windshield area. That was never done on my car. There was a class action lawsuit against VW of America, but I found that in all of the cars included in the lawsuit they only covered water damage to the interior of the car. So I questioned why my car had engine damage, and no interior water damage. Here is the TSB, https://wateringresssettlement.com/L...id=149&mid=669 It states that water can get into brake booster, but in none of VW's testing did the water get from the brake booster to the engine (as did in my car).

    It turns out my mechanic had ignored a check engine code on my car the last two times he saw the car, for a mechanical failure of the brake booster system. All of the other cars in the lawsuit had water levels higher than my car, and the water just leaked into the interior of the car, carpets needed to be replaced. Those cars also had water in or near the brake booster system, but since their brake boosters were not malfunctioning the water was not allowed to get to the engine. My car, the brake booster was malfunctioning, as indicated by the engine code/engine light showing a "brake booster mechanical failure" this allowed the water to go from the brake booster into the engine, and thus my engine hydro locked and bent a piston. The mechanic said it was ok to drive with a bent piston, less than 30 miles later that piston blew through the engine wall and then the engine was just totaled and could not be rebuilt either.

    I took the mechanic to small claims court, and I got upset in court and focused on the wrong details. The judge gave a decision stating that I had not given enough evidence to show why my engine was damaged. In court, and out of court, the only thing that the mechanic and I agree upon is how the engine got ruined - so to hear the judge say this I knew I went wrong somewhere.

    Now, in order to appeal there is a bit more cost involved, so I want to make sure I can win if I am going to file. We all agree that the engine was ruined from the water getting into the brake booster and consequently into the engine. My question is, is this mechanic liable for ignoring the brake booster code, sending me back on the road with the car, and then the engine getting ruined due to the failing brake booster system allowing water to get into the pistons of the engine and ruin the engine.

    The mechanic says he should not be responsible because the problem is a manufacturer's defect in the car. I say he should have replaced the brake booster, which is not a mnfg. defect, then I would have had water on my carpets (maybe 200$ in damages) vs. a ruined engine at 9000$.

    Can I win, can I win an appeal, or should I refile the case in small claims court and request the judge to reconsider the facts. Is there any legal precedent that I can use to quote to the judge? I did notice that the judge did not take into consideration my initial statement filed with the case, and some other facts she did not understand. It is quite complicated, and the mechanic spent a lot of time arguing details that didn't matter, things like statements I made that offended him, personal things to make me upset vs. the facts of the case - which lead to me being upset and not focusing on the details that mattered.

    I ended up just signing the car over to my new mechanic, and getting a new car. It was explained to me by several mechanics that the engine could have been the least of my worries with other parts probably being ruined as well, making the repairs extensive and cost prohibitive. The car wasn't worth 9k and the 9k was just for the engine, add on some other repairs and the amount of repairs needed would be close to 1.5 times what the car is worth. The mechanic that I have now told me that the drain plug problem with the ruined car, is a very common problem and with that make and model he checks this on every one he has into his shop. He said that he has never ever seen the problem ruin an engine, and agreed that the brake booster malfunctioning was the problem.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    your brake issue has nothing what so ever to do with your motor seizing up, its a totally separate system same with your windshield, what it sounds like happened from the limited info regarding your brake system is that the ABS brake system tossed out a code, when this happens the computer will bypass the ABS making it still safe to drive, but you will not have the ABS anymore, if it was your brake booster, this would only cause you to have no power brakes, it would not affect your motor in anyway unless the vacuum hose came off or the diagram had a major rip, but you motor would probably not even run and if it did and it would have no real power and shake so bad you would not even attempt to drive it. but again it would not seize your engine.



    any number of other things could have cause the motor to lock up, but not the brake system or the windshield. I do understand where your coming from though, when I was a mechanic years ago it happened a few times people brought their cars in to fix something and the next day something else brakes and I would get the call from a very unhappy person claiming it was my fault, when it was not, it happens,, its pretty common in the industry at that.

    I don't see the mechanic in this case doing anything wrong from what you have said. sorry about your engine, if I was able to look at it, I might be able to tell you what happened to it,, but this cant be done over a forum on the internet.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    Quote Quoting tonynewman
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    your brake issue has nothing what so ever to do with your motor seizing up, its a totally separate system same with your windshield, what it sounds like happened from the limited info regarding your brake system is that the ABS brake system tossed out a code, when this happens the computer will bypass the ABS making it still safe to drive, but you will not have the ABS anymore, if it was your brake booster, this would only cause you to have no power brakes, it would not affect your motor in anyway unless the vacuum hose came off or the diagram had a major rip, but you motor would probably not even run and if it did and it would have no real power and shake so bad you would not even attempt to drive it. but again it would not seize your engine.
    The failure of the brake booster can indeed cause the hydro lock in one of the cylinders due to the water issue. That is what hydro lock is, water getting into a cylinder. The engine did not seize up.

    The brake booster operates on vacuum from the intake manifold. If water gets into the booster it can drain or be drawn into the engine. A piston then can not complete its stroke because you can't compress water and the connecting rod gets bent. When that rod broke, it was driven through the engine block.

    OP, you only have 30 days to file a notice of appeal and it would heard on the record of the small claims court. You would not be able to introduce new evidence or testimony without permission of the appeals court. I don't think an appeal is worth the expense or effort in this case since a judge has already ruled that the mechanic was not liable and you already have disposed of the car.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    The failure of the brake booster can indeed cause the hydro lock in one of the cylinders due to the water issue. That is what hydro lock is, water getting into a cylinder. The engine did not seize up.

    The brake booster operates on vacuum from the intake manifold. If water gets into the booster it can drain or be drawn into the engine. A piston then can not complete its stroke because you can't compress water and the connecting rod gets bent. When that rod broke, it was driven through the engine block.

    OP, you only have 30 days to file a notice of appeal and it would heard on the record of the small claims court. You would not be able to introduce new evidence or testimony without permission of the appeals court. I don't think an appeal is worth the expense or effort in this case since a judge has already ruled that the mechanic was not liable and you already have disposed of the car.
    Thank you for the response. The problem is that the Judge did not read some of the most important evidence that I provided, and I truly believe that this information will make the difference. The Judge thought the mechanic gave me back the car and over a week later the engine hydrolocked, and it was only overnight that I had the car and the next time I started the car it hydrolocked. She said in her decision that there was no way to tell what happened to the car in the week that I drove it after the mechanic had last looked at it, and she said that she wasn't sure of what happened to the car, when both the mechanic and I agree what happened and gave statements of such. I also have statements from the mechanic who took the car from me as to what happened - the car is still sitting in his lot, so it is not gone - and he is willing to give me any info necessary about what happened and has provided me with a statement. There was also an insurance investigation into the car that determined exactly how the damage occurred, water got into the brake booster, and since the brake booster was damaged and/or was failing, the water got into the engine and caused a hydrolock. This model/year car, I was told by the dealership based on my vin#, would only allow water into the engine IF the brake booster was failing - which the mechanic knew about and ignored (brake booster mechanical failure code). This is also evidenced by the TSB put out on this problem, hundreds of cars had water damage in the carpet instead of a ruined engine, and their water level was higher than the level in my car because of the fact that the water must be higher to get into the cab. Also if he would have done the work to change the brake booster, he would have found the water, drain plug and other problems. I believe the mechanic had an obligation to do this, instead he said I could drive the car while he researched the problem. My biggest issue, because my mechanic and I both agree what happened, is that the Judge did not understand the facts of the case - and I am 100% sure of that. So I don't need to introduce any new facts, I just need to make the Judge understand the facts.

    It boils down to - did the mechanic have an obligation to tell me about the check engine code telling him that my brake booster had a mechanical failure? He did not even tell me about the code, reset it, and said it's ok drive your car until the following week. I am surprised any mechanic would clear a code like that and have a client go back out on the road knowing the brake booster is failing, which could also cause an accident. He did not even explain to me what the code(s) meant, because there were several other check engine codes, and he just said it's ok to drive the car. It seems so wrong to me that a mechanic can look at a car one day, tell me that it's ok to drive, and the following day the engine hydrolocked. It seems to me that this mechanic was reckless and negligent, and maybe even a little lazy (not wanting to find the problem).

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    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    I suspect if the booster got enough water in it somehow it could cause a hydro lock (not a seized engine), it would take a good amount of water though,, was it pouring down rain for days or something?

    as for your code, if a brake booster code came up it does not mean that its automatically the issue, it would more likely be cross checked with a pedal issue (like traveling to the floor/more effort used to apply the brakes, etc) and yes clearing the codes could be considered part of the trouble shooting process, were you also having brake/stopping issues at the time besides the code?

    I would not send a person back out if they were having issues with the brakes needing more force to stop, even if it was at the end of the day I would likely have you leave the car there.

    regarding your lawsuit you would need to prove your reckless and negligent claims and that could be hard to do in court, the mechanic did not cause the damage in this case exactly. maybe give one of those expert automotive witnesses a call over the phone and see what they can tell you.

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    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    The brake booster operates on vacuum from the intake manifold. If water gets into the booster it can drain or be drawn into the engine. A piston then can not complete its stroke because you can't compress water and the connecting rod gets bent. When that rod broke, it was driven through the engine block.
    there are two sides to a vacuum booster. One side is effectively open to atmospheric pressure. The other is exposed to engine vacuum. If the water is entering the atmospheric side it will not end up in the engine unless the diaphragm has ruptured. Along with that, if the diaphragm has ruptured, there will be no power brakes and the engine will not run well, if at all, if the leak is severe.


    so, did you have power brakes during this entire time?


    It turns out my mechanic had ignored a check engine code on my car the last two times he saw the car, for a mechanical failure of the brake booster system. All of the other cars in the lawsuit had water levels higher than my car, and the water just leaked into the interior of the car, carpets needed to be replaced. Those cars also had water in or near the brake booster system, but since their brake boosters were not malfunctioning the water was not allowed to get to the engine. My car, the brake booster was malfunctioning, as indicated by the engine code/engine light showing a "brake booster mechanical failure" this allowed the water to go from the brake booster into the engine, and thus my engine hydro locked and bent a piston.
    you don't get to just suggest this. You must prove it was what happened.

    what was the trouble code you were getting?



    He said that he has never ever seen the problem ruin an engine, and agreed that the brake booster malfunctioning was the problem.
    so yours is a one in a million car? That makes you winning a LOT harder.

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    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    I never seen a booster get enough water inside them to cause an engine to hydro lock, not saying it cant happen,, but it would be rare, I have seen water inside the boosters before though,, older ones but they never cause a motor to hydro lock.

    I would also be curious about the damage that happened, 9grand quote seems a bit strange to me,, i have seen a few hydro locks on V8's before, some had bent rods, others had a valve issues and some had no noticeable internal damage done what so ever.

    im not familiar with VW's but its hard to believe that the engine has 9grand worth of damage, and something seems off here with this engine diagnosis all together. i would get a second opinion on this engine before going ahead with a suit again,, just so you can get some facts on paper, i would also have a VW dealership look at it to be honest.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    When the engine hydrolocked it died. I did not try to restart the car, I called the mechanic because I had literally just brought the car home from his place the day previous. Mechanic came over and didn't even try to diagnose what happened, jump started it and revved the engine, very loud noises. At this time he said the engine was ruined - but gave no explanation as to the cause. He left and I had the car towed to his shop. The day after this he brought the car back to me and told me what he had found, the cowl well water problem but did not say anything about the brake booster - just said the water got into the engine from the cowl well. He then said, "Volkswagens are tougher than I give them credit for, drive it as much as you can to dry it out" 30 miles later a piston blew through the engine wall.

    After the fact, he insists that the water getting into the brake booster is what ruined the engine. He later said that "it had to have gotten in through the atmospheric release". Keep in mind he keeps changing the details to try and get out of any responsibility and I have had to spend hours finding as much information as I can on this. I was told by the lawsuit settlement administrator and VW of America that they have no reported cases of this happening to another car and they were only covering interior water damage such as carpets.

    The 9 grand is from the VW dealership for a "new" engine & brake booster. Another mechanic gave me a quote of 6.5k for a low mileage engine and related parts/brake booster/timing belt/water pump. I chose to give the car to a vw specialist and he traded me for going through my new car to find any problems, so I recovered a tiny amount of money from the car. I put a down payment on a newer car, so this guy still has the car sitting in his lot. He did say that the previous mechanic left the car torn apart in such a way that there was no real way to determine what had happened (the original mechanic started to take the engine apart and I told him I wanted the car back, when I had the car towed back to my home he had opened up the engine and started to look at the damage, but provided no documentation as to what he had done).

    The date that this happened I was backing out of my driveway, the brakes went out, I pulled the emergency brake to get the car to stop - and then the car made a loud noise and died. I assume this is when the engine hydrolocked (in first paragraph). I did not notice the brakes being spongy or acting strange prior to this, but I was so worried about the misfires in the engine that I wasn't specifically listening for hissing in the brakes and they did not seem to be bad. The mechanic told me about the brake booster code P1479 when it first came up in July, he said he tested and cleared in July and everything checked out ok. Then it came up again in Sept and in Oct, not only did he did not tell me about the code coming up again, he cleared the code from the computer. He had my car from July to October and cleared the codes four times and had the car for a full day on three separate occasions - every time the same engine codes, every time he sent me back on the road and said it would be fine they were intermittent codes, he would do more research and get back to me.

    If the mechanic had only seen the car once I know without a doubt that I would not have a case, but he saw the car three times, with the same symptoms/codes every time, and every time he cleared the codes and said the car was ok to drive. The Judge thought he only saw the car once, she did not read my original statement, I did not figure this out until she was telling us her decision. I assumed (ass-umed) that the Judge had read the statement that I included when I filed the case, but it was clear that she had not. By the time she was reading her decision it was too late to do anything about it, she was done. I contacted her to find out why she didn't read my original statement, but I have no response.

    I have been trying to find an attorney to go over the documents from the case, I am willing to pay several hours to have an attorney go over this so I am not wasting my time appealing, but at this point I still have not found an attorney who will do this. I am happy to get all the documents and transcripts organized and ready to go over, I have to have everything organized and ready to go if I file an appeal any way. I have cash to pay the bill so am not expecting an hand out. So far no attorneys have said yes, but the last one I contacted has not got back to me yet. The original small claims case was just last week so I have a little bit of time before I have to decide upon filing an appeal.

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    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    Quote Quoting Daniellemarie73
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    The 9 grand is from the VW dealership for a "new" engine & brake booster. Another mechanic gave me a quote of 6.5k for a low mileage engine and related parts/brake booster/timing belt/water pump. I chose to give the car to a vw specialist and he traded me for going through my new car to find any problems, so I recovered a tiny amount of money from the car. I put a down payment on a newer car, so this guy still has the car sitting in his lot. He did say that the previous mechanic left the car torn apart in such a way that there was no real way to determine what had happened (the original mechanic started to take the engine apart and I told him I wanted the car back, when I had the car towed back to my home he had opened up the engine and started to look at the damage, but provided no documentation as to what he had done).
    If you did go back to court and the judge sided with you, you would only get a used engine and labor to install that engine out of the deal. And the used engine would have around the same number of miles as the ruined engine.

    You aren't entitled to a brand new engine from a VW dealer, you're not entitled to a brand new brake booster, your other one was no good to begin with, and you're not entitled to a timing belt, water pump and related parts. Just a used engine within the same mileage and labor for install.
    I'm not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.......

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    Default Re: Auto Damage - is My Mechanic Liable

    heres a hypothetical as that's the only thing anyone can give without looking at the engine, and its far from proof of anything,

    I bet you had a hairline cracked head or block,, and that coolant not water was found in the cylinders, your guy blew out the coolant in the cylinders thinking it was water for some unknown reason, took it back to you, probably a short drive and it ran fine,, you got in it and drove it for an even longer time and harder heating it up more and opening that crack wider and the coolant flowed back in there and cause the catastrophic damage.

    you see if it was rain water getting in the motor, you would not have had the issues again until it in fact rained. understand

    but with coolant it would have reoccurred on a nice sunny day.

    why he thought it was water not coolant, I don't know
    what were his testing procedures after blowing out the water or coolant, I don't know
    what made him draw his conclusions I don't know

    I cant comment on how to sue him and win, only on your engine issues, but it seems to me even if this guy is a bad mechanic you will need to prove lots of things here, and I suspect you would need some type of engine autopsy if you will, like I said maybe one of those expert automotive witnesses might be able to offer some legal insight into this situation.

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