Car Repairs (Script 198)
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Cars are complex, expensive machines. You can avoid or minimize many problems with car repairs if you follow the steps below.
What can you do before a repair?
- Shop around for a reliable mechanic and compare price estimates from various repair shops. Ask friends for names of reliable mechanics. Check any repair shop you might use with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against the shop.
- When you decide on a repair shop, let the mechanic figure out what to repair. Describe the problem as clearly as possible, but don’t try to guess what’s wrong. If you do, you may end up getting something you don’t need. Go for a road test with the mechanic to point out the problem.
- Ask for a written estimate of the repair cost and the time that repairs will take. Tell the mechanic not to proceed if the repair is going to cost more than the estimate—until the repair shop calls you and only if you then approve the higher cost.
- Give the mechanic a phone number to reach you in case of problems or questions.
- Allow enough time for the repair—if you rush the mechanic, the repair may not be done well.
- Remove all valuables from your car and leave only the ignition key with the mechanic. You don’t know who works at the repair shop—protect yourself against theft or someone copying your keys or losing them.
- Ask the mechanic to return all replaced parts to you. You may need them in court if there’s a problem with the repair. You may have to pay a charge for some replaced parts (like starter motors). That is because manufacturers put “core” charges or deposits on some parts. The repair shop has to return the old part to the manufacturer or pay the core charge. If you want to keep these types of parts, you may have to pay that “core” charge to the repair shop.
What can you do after a repair?
- Report unsolved or new problems to the mechanic right away. For example, if you got a tune-up, but the car still doesn’t run well, tell the mechanic immediately.
- If you have a problem with the work, or the cost of it, talk to the mechanic or the owner of the repair shop and try to solve it.
- If you can't solve the problem, pay for the work - if you don't, the repair shop can register a lien (claim) against the car and eventually seize and sell it.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau; it may be able to help even if the repair shop is not a member.
- The BC Automobile Association (BCAA) has an Approved Auto Repair Services program for its members to ensure they get quality service at a fair price. BCAA inspects repair shops in the program to verify the quality of their equipment and service. If you're a BCAA member and you use a mechanic approved by BCAA, you can ask BCAA for help if you have a problem. Otherwise, you should ask to see a mechanic’s licence—to ensure they passed the exam to a licensed mechanic.
- Contact the Automotive Retailers Association (604.432.7987). Only some repair shops and dealers belong to this voluntary organization.
- Contact Consumer Protection BC, a not-for-profit organization independent of government (www.consumerprotectionbc.ca). It administers the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. This law covers deceptive acts and practices and it may apply if a car repair shop has:
- given you an estimate of the repair cost that is much less than the actual repair price - unless you agreed to the higher price before the repairs were done
- said the vehicle needed a certain part or repair that was actually not required
- taken advantage of a consumer's physical or mental infirmity, ignorance, illiteracy, age or inability to understand the language
- charged a price for the repair that grossly exceeds the price other repair shops charge for similar parts or services
- If one of these cases describes your situation, you may be able to sue the repair shop—item 8 below has more on this. To see if Consumer Protection BC can help, call 604.320.1667 or toll free 1.888.564.9963.
- Lastly, you can see a lawyer for legal advice. Or you can sue in Small Claims Court—or in Supreme Court if your claim is for more than the $25,000 limit in Small Claims Court. Check scripts 165 to 169 on Small Claims Court. You should have a lawyer if you choose Supreme Court because the procedures are more complicated.
[updated May 2016]
The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Mira Galperin and Ian Christman, and edited by John Blois.
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