"Backyard mechanic" holding my car hostage..please HELP!

I have a 2000 Chrysler Intrepid. Yes, I know it’s made by Dodge, but the car says Chrysler, so this girl says Chrysler. Anway, my alternator and battery took a dump on me last week. I was over 100 miles from MY mechanic, and already had to pay $150 in tow fees to just get halfway to him, so I asked about referrals for the town I’m currently staying in. I was referred to a backyard mechanic here in town by several friends, people I trust, so I took my car over there. I purchased the battery and the alternator and left them in the car, in his yard. When I spoke to the mechanic, he stated that he’d worked on two Intrepids “in the last year” so he was familiar with them, and how much of a pain in the neck they can be, but he could do it. It would be $125 for labor, since I’d already provided the parts, and I would have my car back that evening (Saturday) or Sunday early afternoon at the latest. I called Saturday evening for an update since I hadn’t heard from him, no answer. About 9pm Sat night, his gf called to say it’d be Sunday afternoon, that he’d run into some trouble b/c “he didn’t realize how much work would be involved in fixing this problem”. I reminded her that he said he had experience, and she said he did, but this was more intensive than what he’d previously done. I decided to wait until Sunday. 2pm Sunday, still hadn’t heard, called, left several messages. 4pm, the gf calls and says it’s going to be a few more hours, the cost is now up to $200 b/c not only has he had to put in MORE hours, but he’s had to bring someone in to help him (???). I told her my car needed to be done Sunday night, that I had to be at work Monday morning and had NO flexibility and he’d already misinformed me about his experience, that I wasn’t going to pay anything more than the $200 b/c it was not my fault that he didn’t know what he was doing. My car is completely torn up at this point, so I had NO recourse but to suck it up and pay. At 9pm, she calls (I have yet to speak to the “mechanic”) and says that it’s just too much, it won’t be done until Monday morning b/c he now has to go get power steering fluid and “other parts because when he turned your car on, power steering fluid blew out everywhere on the engine”.

I’m stunned at this point. I tell her that’s ridiculous, that he’s done something wrong b/c that has never, ever happened with any mechanic who has replaced my alternator or battery at any point in the past. She tells me that he has to go to the auto parts store in the am; I tell her unacceptable, it WILL be fixed by tonight, I’m tired of them lying to me and jacking up the price b/c of his ineptitude. She then calls back, my bf speaks to her b/c I’m too livid to form words. She tells my bf that the car will be done by midnight and that we have to pay the remainder of the $200 at that point to get my car back. We don’t have the cash on hand at this point, were planning on paying with check, which NOW they won’t accept, so I can’t get my car til the bank opens at 9am Monday morning.

At Midnight, this guy finally sends a Facebook post to my boyfriend, NOT ME, stating that he has to be up at 6am, so now the car isn’t going to be ready until later Monday night. This jerk hasn’t returned a single call, his gf is the one relaying information and she’s drunk half the time she calls (not me guessing, it’s known), she her story changes every time we talk, and she doesn’t recall half the things she’s said or told me, then tries to argue with me when I say they’ve lied to me this whole time.

I contacted the village police department, and am waiting for their response. My question is this: What recourse do I have? My friend drove by and said my car is sitting in this guy’s yard, hood up, parts shoved into the engine/under the hood, and into my front seat. I have to work from 12-9 pm tonight, so I can’t get to pick it up any earlier than 9:30pm. IF I show up with a flatbed truck and take it, am I in the wrong? I’ve given this guy $80 (over half his original price to fix my car), and he’s not done anything but cause more damage and put my job in jeopardy (not to mention that it’s going to cost me twice what he originally said JUST to get it assessed and working once I do get it back and to my mechanic). HELP ME, please.

The village police department will likely not do anything since this will be deemed to be a civil matter. If the mechanic has promised the car to be done by 9 pm tonight, I would be there with cash. If he hasn’t completed the job, then I would consider paying him off for labor accrued (minus what you pre-paid him) and tow the vehicle. If you think he was incompetent, you can file later in small claims court.

I also strongly suggest you obtain a written statement from him, explaining what services he provided, vehicle diagnosis and document what monies have changed hands.

You have run into the inherent danger of using a backyard mechanic rather than a shop whose full time business is to repair cars. .

Let me also add that you need to have a witness to every conversation you have with the mechanic and/or his girlfriend. That way, if the issue ends up in court, the “he said, she said” aspect is minimized.

You have no recourse. You opted for a backyard mechanic - perhaps to save money? Without a full shop and an inventory of parts and fluids the mechanic really can’t finish the job until the parts store opens.

Rent a car, get a ride to work, or call in sick - car sick. The mechanic really didn’t want the job, your clue was he told how much of a pain in the neck that model is to work on. At that point you should have looked for another mechanic. Learning point, if a mechanic says they really don’t like working on your car, or doing a certain type of repair then say fine and go to another shop.

If you really need a car and have deadlines - never use a backyard, or semi-professional mechanic. A decent shop would have had this done in 2 hours or less.

Pay the balance of the $200, get your car back, and write it off to the price of an education…yours. There’re good, valid reasons why most backyard mechanics are working in their back yards instead of in a reputable shop. Uncle T mentioned some. Others include the lack of proper qualifications and/or credentials.

Your education has been far cheaper than it could have been. Count your blessings and move on.

There’s a ton of things done wrong here. You refer to showing up with a flatbed and taking the car. That may or may not be an option. It could depend upon how the flatbed driver feels about stepping onto private property and risking himself to physical violence, becoming part of a lawsuit, or losing his tow license.

You may end up having to pay to get the car back in pieces and then have the job done by someone else; who may legitimately charge you much more than it would have cost originally.
Mechanics hate the thought of digging into someone else’s mess and there’s also the 100 miles one way cost of towing a helpless car back to your mechanic.

You also did not state the reason for the battery/alternator diagnosis. This reads as if it were done by you or a friend. Maybe neither one is bad and this is all for naught.

Wonder how the trusted friends who steered you in this direction feel about this guy now; rhetorically speaking.

Here’s something to consider.

I am a civil service mechanic working for a city that has thousands of vehicles, hundreds of which are assigned to my shop alone.

I also occasionally do side jobs.

I am very picky.

If something seems like it’ll be too complicated, I’ll turn down that particular job offer.

If I quote $125 labor for a job, that’s what my customer gets charged for labor, even if it turns out to be much more involved than I thought it would be.

I’ll “take the hit” and retain my good reputation as a man of my word.

This “back yard mechanic” has no honor. He should have stuck to his original labor estimate, even when things got difficult. He can be sure that word will get out that he is incompetent and untrustworthy.

Ya know this is a guy working on a car that has exceeded it’s life expectancy. Now every body gets so hot and bothered about stuff, but you were looking to save some bucks and that is the chance you took. Now you could get it towed o a dealer and probably pay more in repairs than what the car is worth, but if you treat people like people they will treat you like people. Ya got to have a little give and take, I understand your frustration but I grew up in a different world where you work with people, not hire a lawyer. Face to face and a handshake still means more to me than a lawsuit.


The car is 13 years old. How is that “exceeded it’s life expectancy” ?

It sounds more like OP’s car exceeded the back yard mechanic’s capabilities . . .

Was there paperwork? A written estimate? Was there a written document which he offered a guaranteed price to fix the described problem? If not, I doubt there is much you can do.

Mechanics cannot generally give a 100% guaranteed price on a fix. They charge by the hour, and they don’t know how many hours is required until they take the stuff apart. About the best they can do is give an estimate. Once the estimate is reached, the mechanic – this is my opinion – should tell you, and give you the option pay the estimate, and to remove the car from the premises.

I expect he’d prefer to fix the car for you, but it is simply taking longer than he expected. He has bills just like you, and needs to be paid for his time. But I think he should at least offer you to only pay the amount of his estimate, and then you can take the car to another shop if that’s what you want.

@db4690 the intrepid was a disposable car not meant for longevity and repairs from my experience. 13 years old was above the expectations in the design imhop, kind =a like windows millennium(ca 2000) edition, sorry, obsolete. I am not saying it is a good thing, I love cars I can rebuild and keep running forever, this is not one of them.

In other words, not one of Mopar’s finest designs . . . got it.

2000 Intrepid is on its last legs. However this conjecture that the mechanic doesn’t know how long the job will take is silly. They make the book rate on repairs for just this reason. Some jobs take more time and most take less. Just because the mechanic isn’t competent doesn’t mean he gets reimbursed for his lack of skill. That’s likely the reason he doesn’t work at a licensed shop. If it takes you all day for a 2 hr job you won’t keep your job long.

@GeorgeSanJose I’m not sure if you ever worked at a dealership or an independent shop . . .

Mechanics generally work flat rate. That means they get paid based on the amount of work they produce, NOT how many hours they were in the shop.

One obvious exception is civil service.

Anyways . . . if “book time” to replace a water pump on a specific car is 2 hours, the mechanic gets paid 2 hours, REGARDLESS of whether he does it in 3 hours or 1 hour.

This should somewhat hold true even for back yard mechanics. If a guy says the labor charge is x amount, that’s what he should charge, even if he miscalculated. The miscalculation is the mechanic’s, not the customer’s fault.

I’m not saying I like it or dislike it. It is ruthless and cut throat, to be sure. I’m just explaining “the system”

I had to work flat rate for years. Sometimes I came out ahead. Other times I fell behind. Other days I “broke even”

Even when I do sidejobs, I use Chilton labor times as a guideline. I charge the appropriate amount of hours x my own personal labor rate.

Omitting all of the issues related to money up front, drinking, and potential mechanical butchery, I think the guy working on the car made a mistake by even taking this job on.

He was presented a car hanging off the back of a wrecker with a bad battery and alternator diagnosis made by someone else and the diagnosis may or may not be correct.
The first thing said should have been something to the effect of I’ll check it out and call you first.

It’s a bit premature to say that a going on 14 year old Intrepid with an unknown number of miles is a disposable car. It’s apparently made it this far in life.
A number of people around here own them and beat them into the ground including a former next door neighbor who logged almost 300k miles on one.
Personally, I don’t care for that Fried Egg School of Design look they have, but… :slight_smile:

You nailed it ok4450.

It’s not easy getting the alterator out of this car. Unless you have lift to gain access to the small area to R&R it, it can be a bear.


How Many Of You Commenting On Intrepids Have Real Life Experience With Them ?

I Purchased My Wife’s Former 1999 Intrepid W/2.7L Engine From A Dealer In 2000 When It Had 9,000 Miles On It. It Was Handed Down To My Daughter And She Ran It To Well Over 300,000 Miles Before We Sold It This Past Fall.

We Still See The Car On The Road, Weekly, With My Daughter’s “I’d Rather Be Driving A Tiltleist” Bumper Sticker (Small Town). I Never Had Any Major Problems With This Car, No Engine Mechanicals And Only Transmission I/O Speed Sensors (That I Replaced In The Driveway).

The negative reputation these cars had for oil passages in the heads being too small (sludging) and timing chain guides that wore out concerned me, but I think those problems were basically earned by folks who did not change oil regularly. I personally, religiously, changed oil and filter every 5,000 miles. It did consume a qart of oil every 1300 miles when I sold it and made sure that the buyer knew that. It was very manageable and was not worsening.

The alternator was a bear to remove to put brushes in, I will attest to it. Fortunately, I never had the water pump fail, as access to that was even worse (driven by the timing chain !). However, other things (like 100,000 mile spark plugs) were a cake walk. The non-transverse, in-line engine was nice for some things. Oil changes were also a cake walk.

My wife still misses that car. She would buy a brand new one if they started building them, again. I have to tell you, it was a smooth running, roomy, comfortable, quiet ride, right up til we sold it. It never stranded anybody and got really good mpg ! My daughter misses it, too. I decided to put her in the Impala that my son moved out of since it only had a couple hundred thousand miles on it - just getting broken in !


CSA is correct. The 2.7 is only a problem when someone neglects them. Thanks to complaining owners, lawyers, and the internet some things take on a life all their own.

There was a rant several years back from a Chrysler service manager who had 28 years in and went off on this. He said that he had seen sludge problems in every engine that Chrysler had ever built over the years and it all boiled down to one thing; not changing the oil often enough.

He also stated that the people who went ballistic when told their engine was trashed and warranty would not pay would all protest loudly that they had changed the oil every 3k miles, etc, etc.
It was further stated that when pressed on it, these people could not produce receipts to back up their claims of regular oil changes.

I feel that Toyota got tarnished in the same way. The fact that a car maker agrees to step in and do something does not mean an admission of guilt or a fault. The bean counters and lawyers look at the risk of going in front of a jury pool who have already made their mind up they’re going to hammer big business so they’re just taking the cheaper route out of the situation.

Slightly OT I suppose, but there’s not much can be done to help the OP straighten out that bad situation.

One question though. If the OP was in the middle of a 100 mile trip when the car quit then why not have it towed 50 miles back to their regular mechanic instead of 50 miles into the unknown?