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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Auto Repair Shop Holding My Car Hostage For Payment After Service Failure

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? North Carolina

    Do I have a case? Can I win this in small court? This could be civil but I have decided to pay them tomorrow to get the car back first before they put a mechanic lien on it.

    Long story short, Prestige Auto failed to perform the expected service twice but is holding my car hostage demanding for an outrageous payment.

    On August 2, I took my 1996 Toyota Camry to Prestige Auto in Durham for a repair. I had gotten Auto Zone and Advance Auto to diagnose the engine error code for me and it showed up as cylinder 5 misfire. The owner of Prestige Auto diagnosed the same code and said a coil replacement would fix the problem. I paid $114.53 for the coil replacement part and labor for the service Prestige Auto performed but found out 3 days later that the issue still was not fixed.

    I called the owner for this and they (him and his wife) came to my place to pick up the car for a re-service. Because the car needs to be driven after the service to ensure the problem is solved, we agreed to let the owner keep the car for approximately a week so that they can test their repair work before returning the car to me.

    The owner's wife drove the car back to my place approximately a week later and promised that everything has been fixed. She said a spark plug and a wire set were replaced and a cylinder compression test was performed. She later presented me an invoice for $160. I signed her a check and we left my place in the supposedly repaired Toyota Camry to drive her home. While driving her home, the engine error light came on again. The wife acknowledged the error code and phoned the owner and they agreed to return the $160 payment on top of the labor portion of $114.53 because they had already thrown out the original coil, which probably isn't necessary.

    The wife handed me the check back and I tore it into pieces to make it void. She then dropped me off back at my place and said the newly installed parts during the second service (namely the spark plug and the wire set) need to be taken off the car and I agreed to let her take the car back for one more day. She also insisted on me handing her back my copy of the invoice for the second service ($160). I disagreed but eventually gave in. Before leaving, the wife promised to return the car the next day.

    Come next day the wife stopped answering my phone calls. It was not until 7PM that I finally got the owner on the phone. He acted as if nothing had happened yesterday over the phone because he has an alibi and refused to give me the car back unless I go to his shop to pay for it. I asked him to verify the car failure with his wife but he refused to do so as well. The owner also dared me to take legal actions.

    Long story short, Prestige Auto failed to perform the expected service twice but is holding my car hostage demanding for an outrageous payment. Today is August 26.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Pay to get your car back then sue the bad guy. Do not let the car sit at the auto repair shop. You have an obligation to minimize your potential damages, you likely won't win the cost of storage fees if the let the shop hold the car. Then gather your proof, sue and make your case to the judge.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    But recognize that the real cause of your technical problem, can be difficult to determine. It can be caused by a number of things. An error code only points a mechanic to the area of concern. Although it may call out a series of parts, those tend to be the likely parts in that area of concern.

    So it may take a couple repair cycles on some problems, to zero in on the problem, and he may have to replace those parts he did. A vehicle that age, is likely to be way overdue on a normal maintenance like that.

    From what you wrote, those are all correct repairs and parts to use for your symptom, and the prices he is charging you are quite reasonable. If those electrical parts don't fix the problem, then the next thing to suspect would be a mechanical problem with the headgastket or valves on that cylinder, which get substantially more expensive (by an order of magnitude). So you definitely want to replace those cheaper electrical parts to avoid the potential of having to tear into the engine if possible. He said he did a compression test, which is a logical thing to do as well...... to check on the mechanical health of the valves, headgasket, piston rings. If there was not a low pressure problem in that cylinder, then it's back to a likely electrical problem, or it could be an intake manifold gasket.

    I'd pay the bill to get your car back, and move on with life.

    If you want to try and sue go ahead and spend your time, but from an impartial observer perspective it looks to me like they did a very reasonable job at very reasonable (if not cheap) prices. Good luck.

    Last edited by Kiawah; 08-27-2010 at 07:37 AM.
  4. #4
    That's exactly why most reliable mechanics will usually call you in advance to let you know what they are going to repair after diagnosing the issue and a ballpark figure on how much it's going to cost. By agreeing to have the service preformed you're liable for the costs incurred even if the original issue isn't fixed. Just because an engine error code is available doesn't mean it's always as simple as problem a is solved by solution b. There's usually a number of different factors involved that could cause the same engine code error.

    Not sure exactly what you're hoping to sue for in small claims, if anything they would have a case against you for non-payment for services rendered. Best bet is to pay the (ridiculously low) charges for the work that was preformed and to get your car off their lot asap before you receive a nice fat bill for storage fees on top of your original bill. Under $300 for the work you had performed is VERY low, and even though it didn't fix the original problem doesn't mean that they shouldn't be compensated for their work and parts.

    To put it in terms you may understand better, if you go to the doctor complaining about a list of symptoms and they have to run numerous tests before figuring out what the actual issue is do you think you wouldn't have to pay for the tests that came back negative before they found the issue?

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