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Chrysler Sebring Water Pump Repair..think the Mechanic is hosing me

Hi, looking for some advice on my situation. I have a 2001 Chrsyler Sebring that stalled out on me last month on Tuesday, April 15th. The engine smoked up a bit and stalled. I had it towed to a local shop where I’ve had work done before to have it looked at. I worried it might be head gaskets or the water pump and relayed that to the mechanic. They said they’d do diagnostics and get back to me.
Well…first mistake…It took several days before I got any response or update and I was informed the car was just being taken apart to look at and the shop had two other major jobs. This was a Friday. The shop owner quoted me around $100-$1200 in labor alone if my gaskets were blown. Big gulp at those numbers. No update the following week, despite my repeated attempts to contact them. The following Friday, the actual mechanic working on my car said he was doing diagnostics and saw water mixed with oil, which worried him. He said there could possibly be a cracked engine block and it might not be worthwhile to repair the vehicle. That was April 25 and I recall that well because it was bad news on my birthday. He promised to update me Monday as to what the specifics would be and whether I’d want to possibly look at repairs or a vehicle replacement. Never called me, no return to my phone calls Monday or Tuesday.
It was another week before I heard back from the shop and it was the owner, telling me there was no crack discovered, my head gaskets looked okay and the problem was my water pump, the cheapest repair of the three concerns. I was informed they had to order the part, but it would be ready within a few days. I asked for an updated estimate, as the initial one was for the possibility of blown head gaskets. No answer, because they made the excuse they’d written it down and didn’t see it in front of them. They were to call me back later that Thursday…No call back and no returning my calls. Here we are into this week and I finally get a hold of them and they now tell me I’m looking at $1900 for total repairs and not including fluids and I could probably pick up my car Wednesday! This was Tuesday. I was livid and shocked at the total…seemed excessive for a mere water pump. I asked why so much and they said everything was detailed on the invoice…somehow not available, but I could see it when I came down to the shop. Well, Wednesday comes, and lo and behold my car isn’t finished. Thursday comes, same story and I’m now informed that my serpentine belt was so damaged they went ahead and replaced that and changed/topped all my fluids, bringing the total after taxes and fees to $2040.00!! I asked why I wasn’t notified about this repair beforehand and got an excuse that it must have slipped their mind, then wasn’t noticed til later on.
Here we are at Friday, today, May 16… I went down to the shop this morning about 45 minutes after they opened, but no one was there. I called 3x today and just got a response that yet again…my car isn’t ready. Of course I get the call right before closing time! I blew my freaking temper. I told the shop owner I was coming down Monday and if my car wasn’t ready, I was towing it. I said I don’t recall authorizing specific repairs and they did them anyways, notifying me after they began them. The time frame was ridiculous and here we are at a month’s time, with a job that should’ve taken a weekend to do.
I am worried that I won’t be able to recover my vehicle without paying all their fees, despite the fact I didn’t authorize them to do certain repairs. Also, the time frame. They’ve kept my car for longer than necessary, citing personal problems from a death in the family to the mechanic working on my car being injured…I don’t care about all that. If they weren’t able to fix my car in an appropriate time frame, they should have notified me…am I right?: Do I have any rights here?

As a non mechanic, I don’t think your car will be fixed after the $2000. I don’t see how a water pump could have stalled the car unless you over-heated it, or the pump froze and that caused the engine to falter. I guess this is how things go, just keep getting in deeper and deeper, until not much else you can do to get it back. At any rate, you are probably going to have to pay it to get the car back. In most states they can put a lien on it and sell it for the repair cost. You can pay it with a credit card and then contest it but good luck with that. If that doesn’t work, your last option is filing a claim with small claims court. You still have to win and still have to collect but at least you can get your car back. One of the main issues though will be what really was or is still the problem so you can have it fixed somewhere else and then go after them.

Lordy…it just keeps getting uglier. I worried about that, too… I didn’t think a water pump would cause my car to stall out like that, which is why I initially thought it was my gaskets. My car isn’t worth anything really at this point, so to dump more money in for repairs freaks me out, but I’m not in a position to purchase a brand new one either. I’m wondering if I can dispute anything at all regarding the repairs? I didn’t authorize certain parts to be replaced and it really disturbs me that they would just “fix” things and not think to notify me…But, obviously communication has been an issue the entire time. Plus the ridiculous time frame.

I have a feeling the real ugliness hasn’t even started yet…

Clearly there are serious issues with the shop itself, but whether you have any recourse is a legal question that depends on your specific state statutes. That question should be referred to an attorney. The first visit is usually free where I live. Detail the dates, the events, what you 've been told, and any hard evidence you have for the meeting with the lawyer.

I wish you the best. You’ve fallen into the “black hole of ugliness” that causes so many people to quake at the very mention of the word “mechanic”. Fortunately, we do manage to get through these things.

The operation sounds very disjointed to me based on the way you’ve related this tale. Whether you have any rock solid recourse or not may depend upon the state you live in, whether you signed any repair order authorizing X,Y, and Z, etc.
Less rock-solid states may have alternatives but may require more legal pushing.

Depending upon the mileage and the condition of the rest of the car a shop might be well-advised to not even do any repairs on the engine based on the overheating episode of a 15 year old Sebring. Those kind of things can often lead from frying pan to fire.

Driving without coolant leads to warped cylinder heads and failed head gaskets. They may have observed that your water pump has failed but don’t know how long it was driven without coolant.

I am guessing that this is a sedan or convertible with a 2.7 liter engine (coupe is much different, Mitsubishi built). The water pump is chain driven on the 2.7 L engine, making this an expensive repair. With coolant in the oil it is time to scrap this car. No point spending $4,000 plus on an engine when you can buy another old Chrysler for $1,500.

This shop seems inexperienced with this type of repair. A Chrysler dealer tech would be familiar with the repair and complete it in one day, it is 7 hours of labor. However, this vehicle would be rejected by the dealers that I have worked for. It is too old and the repair costs will be too high. There are always cars in the back lot that people wanted repaired and then abandon the vehicle.

The damage to this engine may not be obvious, it may have good compression, pass a leak down test but fail to hold coolant at 220F.

Go down to the shop and tell them you don’t think this car will ever run again or be reliable. Tell them you intend to junk the car and offer them $200 for their efforts. They have more than that in parts in this repair but may feel relieved to see this car gone. Or maybe they will bill you for $2,000 and you’ll be stuck with a piece of junk.

I was sincerely considering not responding, but I do not think what you have gone through is right. In my experience, I have never had to go to court, remembering one body shop that charged insurance for a new hood but did a bondo repair instead and I called them ie pointed out the obvious to them, talk about sleexeballls, they are out there and you are not alone, but I think it might be time to play let’s make a deal. Of course I am not an attorney and do not imply my post has any merit, contact car talk dewy cheatam and howe for further legal opinins.

First, I would never have let them keep the car that long.The constant delays and lack of communication is a sure sign that they aren`t reliable.After the first week I would have had it taken somewhere else.
Correct me if I am wrong but the only way water could get into the oil is from a blown head gasket,which tells me that they either lied about water in the oil or they lied about the head gasket being ok.

If you can afford the $2040.00 for repairs than you can afford to just buy another (used) car for $2000.00 and tell them to just keep the car because it`s not worth the $2040.00 that they want for the repairs.

In my experience when a shady place like that works on your car it won`t run right even after you get it back.Just let them keep it and use your $2,000 to buy another car.

I think Nevada is on the right track. Not much they can do about it if you are willing to just dump the car on them. They can put a lien on it and sell it but that’s not going to get them their $2000. They’re trying to take you for a ride and if you are willing to tell them to just keep the car, you don’t have to go for their ride. In my humble opinion anyway.

With 20-20 hindsight you’d probably agree it would have been better to have simply towed the car to another shop after 3-4 days of unexplained delays and non-communication. Well, one positive from this experience, you learned something for the next time you take a car to a shop; i.e. you’ll insist the shop give you a cost estimate and a estimated completion date, with intermediate milestone completion dates as appropriate.

It’s hard to say what to do at this point, until you know for certain whether oil and coolant are mixing or not. If I had this problem, before continuing with any water pump work, I’d probably ask the shop to run a set of pressure tests looking for head gasket leaks. And chemical tests to determine if oil and coolant are mixing. And another chemical test for exhaust gasses in the coolant. If the pressure tests showed no signs of leaks, and the chemical tests came back ok, I’d just pay them the $2000 and drive the car from the shop. You might get lucky and the problem is now solved and you have some more years of worry free driving ahead.

Is $2000 to much for this job? The post by Nevada above says it is a 7 hour job. So that’s $700 just in labor for the water pump alone. With parts, and the other tests they’ve already done, $2000 seems maybe a little high. But if we make some educated guesses about other stuff they probably did, $2000 is not entirely out of line. The schedule they did the job to was out of line in my opinion, but that is water under the bridge at this point.

One bit of advice for choosing a shop. Ask friends, co-workers, fellow church goers who they use to fix their cars. And then tell the shop owner who it was that recommended them to you. This gives you some leverage, as if the shop mistreats you, the shop owner will know that you will communicate this bad experience to another shop customer, and some future business may be lost.