|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Mario Garcia, CarbonCure Technologies in October 2022.|
Vehicle repairs can be complex and expensive. You can avoid or minimize problems with repairs by following these tips.
Tips to minimize problems
A good mechanic is like a bald eagle in the wild: rare, beautiful, and elusive. Until you find a shop that you fully trust, be a good consumer and think about the following.
Beat the bushes for a reliable mechanic. Ask friends for names of good mechanics they’ve used. Compare price estimates from various repair shops.
Ask to see a mechanic’s credentials to ensure they’re experienced. For any repair shops you’re considering, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against them. Visit the BBB's website.
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. See their website for details.
Let them diagnose
Let the mechanic figure out what to repair. Describe the problem as clearly as you can, but don’t try to guess what’s wrong. If you do, you may end up getting work you don’t need.
You can also suggest a road test with the mechanic to point out the problem.
Allow enough time for the repair — if you rush the mechanic, the repair may not be done well.
Give the mechanic your phone number in case of problems or questions.
Get a written estimate
Ask for a written estimate of the repair cost and the time it will take. Tell the mechanic to stop working if the repair is going to cost more than the estimate — unless they call you and you approve the higher cost.
Keep replaced parts
Ask the mechanic to return all replaced parts to you. You may need them to prove a problem with the repair. You may have to pay a charge for some replaced parts (like starter motors).
The steps involved
There are a handful of steps you can take to resolve a problem with a car repair.
Step 1. Let the mechanic know right away
Step 2. Pay for the repairs
Step 3. Contact a consumer agency (not always applicable)
Step 4. Tell your story on social media
Step 5. Take legal action
More on each step
Step 1. Report any problems right away
Report unsolved or new problems to the mechanic right away. Brakes still grinding? Engine smell funny? The sooner you report, the less of a chance they can say it was your fault!
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. Be firm, but polite.
You can talk to them in person. But many people are more comfortable sending a letter. We have tools to help you build a letter for your situation. See this letter about poor servicing or this one about excessive charges.
If the business won't own up to the mistake, you can write a review online describing your experience. Stick to the facts, and avoid making personal attacks. Sometimes, a negative review will compel them to act.
Step 2. Pay the repair bill
If you can't solve the problem, you should still pay for the repair work. If you don't, the repair shop can register a lien against the vehicle.
That’ll make it hard to sell your vehicle, and the mechanic could have the right to seize it from you and sell it.
Step 3. Contact a consumer agency or industry association
If you're a member of the BC Automobile Association (BCAA), and you use a BCAA-approved mechanic, you can ask BCAA for help if you have a problem. Visit the BCAA website.
You can contact the Better Business Bureau, which receives complaints about local businesses. At the very least, future consumers can be warned about that shady mechanic. See the BBB website.
You might want to contact the Automotive Retailers Association. See the ARA's website. Only some repair shops and dealers belong to this voluntary organization. Or, if the repair was done by a dealer franchise, you can call the head office to lodge a complaint.
Step 4. Take to social media
Consider telling your story on social media. Be factual and truthful about what happened — using foul or insulting language may work against you.
Social pressure is powerful. The mechanic may be eager to make things right to protect their reputation.
Step 5. Consider legal action
If you can’t solve the problem with the above steps, your next option may be to take legal action to recover amounts you feel you’re still owed.
For claims of under $5,000, you can apply to work out your dispute with the Civil Resolution Tribunal. This is a cheaper and faster option than going to court, and you don't need a lawyer. Visit the CRT's website.
Who can help
There are options for free legal advice.
- Lawyer Referral Service
- Helps you connect with a lawyer for a complimentary 15-minute consult to see if you want to hire them.
- Call 1-800-663-1919
- Visit Website
- Access Pro Bono's Free Legal Advice
- Volunteer lawyers provide 30 minutes of free legal advice to people with low or modest income.
- Call 1-877-762-6664
- Visit Website
For more on this topic, see our in-depth guidance on car repairs. We take a closer look at your rights, and explain each step in more detail. See our in-depth info.
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