Car wash company ruins electric seat adjuster

I took my 2000 Volvo s40 to a car wash company today and they messed up my electric seat adjuster and moved my seat back. Now I can’t sit in my car comfortably and I can’t adjust it back so it was where it was when I brought it in. A new electric seat adjuster costs $400. They say they won’t fix it. (Afterwards I saw a sign there saying “Not responsible for any damages”; however, I paid with Visa and live in California, so am hoping I can put some possible BBB/FTC pressure for reimbursement.) What other suggestions do you have to get them to make the car the way it was when I brought it in, which means the same comfortable seating position for the driver?

The problem that you are going to have is proving that the seat worked properly when you brought it in, and was broken by them. The car wash management will claim that it was broken when you brought the car to them, and with a 10 year old car, that claim would be believeable–even if it isn’t true.

As to agencies that you might want to contact, you can forget about the two that you named.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not regulate car washes, so you will look very foolish if you threaten to report them to the FTC.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is essentially useless. It is a PRIVATE, non-governmental entity which businesses can choose to join, for a fee–in essence it is a club for businesses. The BBB has absolutely no regulatory or punitive power, except to refuse membership dues from a company that it a constant offender. About 2 years ago, Smart Money magazine did an expose on the BBB, and concluded that “very few consumers are helped by the BBB”.

You might want to contact the Office of Consumer Affairs, which is a governmental entity, and which will intercede for you with a business that has taken advantage of you. They do have punitive power, through the office of the Attorney General. However, the ultimate problem will be proving your case when the car wash management denies that their employees damaged your car.

Give the Office of Consumer Affairs a try, but don’t be surprised if they are unable to help you, due to an unproveable case. Ultimately, you might have the best chance in Small Claims Court, where you represent yourself. If the defendants do not show up for court, you will win by default.

I think the seat broke under normal usage and care. It is also 10 years old and not surprising but a large bummer. You would have to prove abuse which is 99% likely not the case and difficult anyway.

They likely had a bigger person who got in and had to move it back to move the car.

Sorry about the issue. It could have happened at a mechanic/garage too.

Good luck.

I had a 2000 and a 1998 Volvo, both V70XC wagons. The switches on the seat adjusters both went bad. I could get the seat to move forward by giggling the switch and getting it just right. Then I set the seat memory on one of the memory buttons on a far forward setting. That allowed me to adjust the seat.

You can buy replacement switches on ebay. Volvo dealers will charge the boatload amount to fix this, which is the $400 you mentioned. Any decent mechanic or car audio electric shop, even tinkering owners, can pop off the plastic casing with the switch in it and touch the contacts to get the seat to move. Then do the memory set as I described and learn to live it.

It was going to break, its a Volvo. If you take your car to a car wash you take all kinds of risks, popped tires, trim falling off, bent radio antennas, so you won’t get anything from the car wash. They did nothing wrong.

It’s 11 years old and this will be near impossible to lay off on them.

Electric seats often mess up in this position, meaning it may go back easily but not forward. There’s a lot more stress on the seat motor while trying to move it forward as compared to backwards due to the tendency to use body weight and subtle leg pushing to help propel it rearwards.
When moving the seat forward this means that small motor is not only moving the seat but also the entire weight of the person sitting in it.

Try turning the key on and operating the seat by hand without sitting in it and see what happens.

The FTC? Really? I believe they handle things more along the lines of false advertising, shady business practices and monopolies. It’s unlikely they’ll be willing to much for somebody with a bad power seat. As others have posted you’re going to have to prove that the seat was functioning before you had your car cleaned, it’s also entirely possible since the car is at least 10 years old that it’s simply a coincidence. I think the best you’re going to be able to hope for it that they’ll meet you half way on the repair bill. Considering it’s a Volvo, you’re getting off pretty light with a $400 repair bill.

You can try the BBB, but that’s pretty hit or miss, considering it’s run by the businesses themselves. Since they did have a disclaimer posted, they really don’t have any obligation to do anything for you. Caveat emptor