Monday, July 15, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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When having a vehicle repaired problems sometimes occur. When they do, the difference in an excellent and a less than excellent company are quite apparent. The way in which a client voices their complaint may also have a great influence on the outcome.


When dealing with a legitimate shop, problems are normally quite simply. If the business is intentionally dishonest, the matter is normally not going to be resolved without legal involvement (please see the final segment.) To prevent such problems please read our Detailed Topic, Finding a Great Shop In Your Area.

Most problems can be avoided by proper communication, before the work is authorized. This is the time to ask questions. If you are not convinced, decline the work and seek a second opinion, BEFORE AUTHORIZING ANY WORK.

These are typical questions you need to ask

  • Will the work suggested resolve the complaints I have listed?
  • What is the original cause of the problem and how is that being addressed?
  • Are the parts used, new or rebuilt, aftermarket or original?
  • What is the warranty on the work and what is excluded?
  • What is the total price, including tax?

Remember to also request an estimate, after the vehicle is diagnosed but before work is started. Better shops always provide an estimate after the vehicle has been checked. If you would like your old parts returned, state this before work is begun. Also be aware that some parts must be returned to vendors and keeping them may involve a charge. This is common on rebuilt parts, such as starters, alternators and computers.

Most auto repair complaints concern two things:

1. The original problem has not been resolved
2. A new problem has been created

The original problem has not been resolved

Resolving even serious problems is normally not difficult when both parties remain rational. A key is letting the auto repair shop know of the problem, remaining civil and being perfectly honest. People sometimes feel a need to embellish the problem to make a point. Exaggeration will make the problem more difficult to find and lessen our credibility in the discussion. From a standpoint of repairing the vehicle, exaggerated complaints increase the time required to find the problem. A far better approach is to inform the shop we still have a problem and show the technician what is wrong. Sticking to the facts and remaining cordial will make the problem far easier to resolve.

Don’t exaggerate symptoms

Give as much factual information as possible

A pleasant relationship increases the odds of a favorable outcome

Demonstrate the problem to the technician that is to repair the vehicle

With a copy of the invoice, review the original complaint with the shop. The complaint should be in writing and on the original invoice. We can resolve many problems at this stage. Most often, a lack of understanding exists when they do not fix the complaint. When a new problem has surfaced, please see New Problem has Surfaced, below.

Having the technician ride with you and showing the exact problem, eliminates most communication problems. For instance if the complaint is "Grinding noise at thirty MPH," drive thirty miles per hour and point out the noise. Once the technician acknowledges the noise, they know the problem that they need to resolve.

If re-creating the problem is not possible, a bit of understanding is in order. Some problems are intermittent. If we cannot recreate the noise, ask the shop what they suggest. Sometimes bringing the vehicle back when the problem is occurring will work. Good shops want satisfied clients. Understanding and consideration gets most shops to go far out of their way to resolve such a problem.

Review the original complaint

Demonstrate the symptom to a technician

Ask what can be done

 Allow time to find and resolve the problem

With things like a check engine light, the light is a symptom of a problem. Up to two-thousand problems may cause the light to come on and there is only one light. If the light comes on again after repair, review the invoice.  The diagnostic trouble codes that were addressed should be listed on the invoice. The auto repair shop check the codes again and see if the problem is the same as before or an additional problem.

Remaining calm and clearly communicating gets problems resolved

A new problem has surfaced

Many complaints, which surface after repair, may be noises or vibrations. When we disassemble things, parts sometimes do not return to their original position. Leaving fasteners loose or bumping hoses and connections is also possible. Displaying the problem to the technician should allow them to resolve it.

If the shop claims they do not relate the problem to their work, ask for an explanation. Parts, particularly on older vehicles do sometimes fail. View any immediate new problems with skepticism but also listen to the explanation. If in doubt, select another qualified shop and have them look at the problem. If they also feel the fault is with the original repair, contact the shop and ask how they would like to continue. Opinions from friends, neighbors and coworkers are likely to only cloud the issue.


People date things from points in time. An automobile repair is such a point in time. Everything occurs after the things that have preceded it. A problem or failure after an auto repair does not necessarily mean the repair is the cause.

Let the shop know a problem exist

Listen to their explanation

Get a professional diagnosis from another shop

Opinions from friends, neighbors and coworkers are useless

If further action is required, giving the shop an opportunity to fix the problem strengthens your case in most instances

 Preventing problems

  • Communicate your wishes clearly, make sure they are listed on the work order
  • Ask an abundance of questions BEFORE you authorize the work
  • If you are not sure, wait. Bring the vehicle back later if necessary
  • The invoice should include the original complaint, any codes that were addressed, comments that were discussed, the warranty and any exclusions
  • If you want parts returned to you, state this before work is begun

Further steps if the shop will not respond

If despite your best efforts the problem is not resolved, try these things, in this order.

1.)  A letter addressed to the owner, stating the facts and with documentation

2.)  A letter to the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) or State Consumer Agency

3.)  A letter stating the matter will go to small claims or an attorney demand letter

4.)  Civil action; file with small claims or have an attorney file a suite



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