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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2015

    Default Is Mechanic Shop Responsible for Fixing Damages That Occurred While in Their Shop

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

    After taking my car (2002 volkswagon golf -diesel) to this shop to see what maintenance was needed, I agreed to have brakes, struts, and rotars put on my car. They told me the transmission seals needed replaced also. I said to do it all. They put the brakes, struts, and rotars on my car and proceeded to try to get the axle off in order to replace transmission seals. They called me, irate because they could not remove axle. I said not to worry about it, we could fix that another time.

    They put the car down and it would not start (I drove it to shop with no glitches in engine operation). They told me they would look into the problem. They called me with opinions of what happened a few times. After taking off the oil pan and taking the transmission out of the car they told me the timing belt slipped, it just happened to be in their hands and I owe them for the parts and labor they did and they were not responsible for the engine being blown.

    In talking to other mechanics and people interested in buying the broken car I learned they may be responsible for its demise. They got creative trying to get the axle off and took an air gun to the tire to try and loosen the bolt at the end of the axle arm. According to a few people I've talked to they think that the shop actually stripped the belt by doing this and caused its engine failure. I looked into fixing the car and realized it was not worth it for me but for a mechanic who could do the work themselves it was worth something.

    I put the car on craigslist and got many replies. Three people were very direct in saying they wanted to meet, had cash on site, and were bringing a trailer to tow it. Upon seeing the car the first buyer was upset at the state the shop left the car in and the parts that were removed unnecessarily removed and left inside the vehicle. I asked the shop to put the parts back in they removed to diagnose problem. They told me they already lost to much money in free labor (diagnosing why the engine blew up in their care)and they would not put the parts back.

    The next buyer was discouraged by the state the car was left in also. He told me it would have been better if they never touched it after it stopped working. He didn't mind rebuilding an engine but the state they left the car in was too messy and he was unsure what damage was caused in the process. When the third buyer showed up we went into the shop so he could ask questions and determine if he wanted the car. The co-owner started yelling at me immediately about the bill and when the potential buyer started asking questions he started yelling at him as well. We tried to be rational but he was not calming down. We left and after the experience the buyer was quite shaken and unsure because he couldn't understand why they removed all the parts they did.

    As it stands I have a bill for the parts and labor of $750. The co-owner told me if I don't pay him in a week he will put a lien on the car. Am I responsible for the bill? Are they responsible to repair my car to the state that I brought it to them in?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Is Mechanic Shop Responsible for Fixing Damages That Occurred While in Their Shop

    You ordered services. You received the services. You have not indicated that you were misled about what services would be performed or their cost. You have indicated that you ordered services to be stopped because you didn't want to pay for additional repairs. So from what you've told us so far, they have every right to demand that you pay your bill.

    The mere fact that a car is damaged due to an underlying mechanical problem when it is in the shop does not mean that the shop is liable. If you believe you can prove that the damage was caused by the shop, not merely coincidental, you can consider suing the shop in small claims court. You will need competent evidence -- not just speculation -- as to causation. Odds are that will mean hiring an expert mechanic to inspect the car and testify to the court that the auto shop caused the engine to fail, assuming you can find such an expert.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2015

    Default Re: Is Mechanic Shop Responsible for Fixing Damages That Occurred While in Their Shop

    If you can PROVE that the mechanic damaged your car (and the only way you can do that is to have another competent mechanic testify on your behalf in small claims court), you could potentially hold them responsible. From what I read in your post, I don't see anything. And it is common practice to use an "air gun" also known as an impact wrench to loosen an axle nut, as they are typically torqued to well over 200 ft lbs. I've replaced numerous axle seals and have had to remove solid axles and always use air tools. By the way, according to the FSM (Factory Service Manual) for your make and model, the axle nuts have a torque spec of 221 ft. lbs. which is quite tight. You'd need one hell of a breaker bar to get that off using hand tools. I don't see anything wrong with them using an impact wrench for that nut.

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