A Car Repair Dispute Is No Time For Inaction

June 3, 2010

You thought you had found the perfect mechanic. To this point he had taken care of your 2008 Pontiac G6 like it was his own. All your dealings had met your expectations; the shop had completed everything as promised, on time and for the quoted price. But now there’s a problem, this is the third time you have returned with the same complaint.

How do you handle this car repair dispute? The first thing is to attempt to determine if your problem is the result of incompetence, fraud or a lack of communication. Start with the communication, car repair unfortunately has a language of its own, full of acronyms and industry specific terms that can be a minefield to the layman. Go over things with the repair facility from the beginning and emphasize how your expectations have not been met. For example, if your symptom involved a noise or sensation while driving, insist on someone taking a road test with you as you point out the problem. Give the service facility every opportunity to correct the problem on its own terms exclusive of spending any more money.

If the problem persists assume that the facility is not able to help you and offer to take the vehicle to another shop for an opinion with the understanding that the cost would be the shop’s responsibility. If this is not acceptable negotiate a settlement with the shop for the work already performed with the understanding that the shop is entitled to at least a fee for diagnostic time. Any conscientious shop involved in a good faith effort to resolve a dispute should be motivated to preserve its reputation by reaching some middle ground. If you don’t sense that you’re getting anywhere assume the worst and take the disagreement to the next level.

If the shop is affiliated with a trade association, AAA or the Better Business Bureau file a complaint or seek arbitration. Check with the consumer protection department of your state’s Attorneys General’s office many of which have a section devoted to auto repair fraud. Find out what your rights are and if any statutes have been broken. For example, if you were entitled to a written estimate and it was not offered your bargaining position would be greatly enhanced.

If the shop does not sign on to the decision of the arbitrator or ignores the complaint, you have no choice but to file suit. Depending on the amount of the loss, small claims court may be the venue or you may have to consult an attorney.

An important element in this whole process is your ability to keep all interactions business like. Try not to make things personal and attempt to acknowledge a sincere effort to resolve your problem as you find your way to an equitable settlement.

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