Diagnostic fee when there's a recall

I don’t begrudge a garage charging a reasonable diagnostic fee…but what if 1-2 hours (who really knows) are spent diagnosing a problem when the mechanic suddenly realizes that there’s an active recall directly related to the issue, and that recall repair (that they sent to a dealership to be performed) immediately fixes the problem? Should I pay for the mechanic’s lack of awareness of the recall? The mechanic specializes in the make of my car and has worked on it several times in the last few years for regular maintenance and a couple of repairs.

Every independent mechanic and garage can’t keep up with all the recalls on all brands of cars. In this case you state the mechanic specializes in your brand of car. I’d expect a mechanic to be aware of most recalls on the brand that s/he is supposed to know well.

However, the owner is also supposed to know about recalls on the car they own. You don’t give any specifics as to the year, make, model of car? The recall and the diagnostic charge you were asked to pay? I think a diagnostic charge is OK if it is reasonable. I’d need more info to tell you my opinion in this instance.

Indy shop or dealer ?
At a dealer, they enter the vin FIRST and that pops a history on the vehicle and if there are open recalls, the dealer is to perform those no matter if you bought it there or not. PLUS they can then inquire about TSBs related to the problem.
I don’t know what data the indys have access to prior ot repairs.

I agree with all of the above—I didn’t know about the recall, and yes, I should have. This is for a 2007 BMW 328i… the recall is for a faulty battery cable. Garage wants to charge $200+ to diagnose. This doesn’t sound reasonable to me, but perhaps I’m wrong…that’s why I’m reaching out for guidance.

Yes, Ken—thanks. I understand that a dealer would cover this without the diagnostic fee issue. My question is with a third-party indy shop, do they bear some responsibility for checking on any recalls first for a vehicle in which they specialize, and they’ve seen a number of times in the past couple of years? Just want to make sure I’m not getting hosed, and if I should challenge this seemingly large diag fee.

I know there are some good BMW knowledgeable folks on this site and they can have a say here. This is a recall from 8 years ago? Or, a more recent recall on an older model?

I think a BMW specialty shop should have knowledge of this recall, but perhaps it isn’t top of mind because it is from years back. Still, $200 seems excessive for something they really should have experience with since they service BMW’s and this isn’t a new problem. They must have seen the same problems on other cars in their experience. I think I’d ask for some relief on a $200 fee. Time to pull out your negotiation skills.

@UncleTurbo–The recall is just a couple of years old…multiple years and models. I believe they recalled in excess of 500,000 cars. Thanks again–

If you would have used a dealer, the diagnostics would have been covered. When you use someone else you takes your chance and pays the price. He’s not in business t give time away.

Why didn’t you know about the recall, didn’t BMW send you a notification?

The independent mechanic spent time troubleshooting your vehicle so he should be compensated for his time. Don’t forget, there is more to the labor charge than just his wages and benefits, there is the rent on the garage, utilities and the amortized cost of his tools and equipment that he is paying for.

Would you work for free, and put in your own money to boot?

OK all—appreciate the advice. Thanks!

If you trust this shop, I’d just pay what he asks. If you complain and, say, settle on $100, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get “even” on future work. Not that he’s bad, just human.

You’re not paying for his lack of awareness. You’re paying for the time, work, and technical expertise he put into the vehicle culminating in the discovery of the recall and referral to the dealership. And you rightfully owe that to him in full.

This situation, after paying for the independent mechanic’s efforts can be a valuable learning experience for you and for others. There are sites on the internet that list recalls such as NHTSA and CarFax. There are others. A question presents itself: Is it possible that a problem with your car can be recognized from a recall description to be cost covered by a manufacturer? You can try to protect yourself next time by searching for recalls that may apply to your particular problem.

If you think the mechanic should have known about the recall, then you would be paying for an hours time, his searching for the list of recalls for your vehicle. Remember, he does not have the network that the dealer has and would have to refer to you as to weather you had TSB 123 performed and then he’d be asking about TSB 456. By the time he and you would figure it all out he’d have lost 2 hours time there. He would have to read all the TSBs and then refer to you as to what was done and what was not.

You’d still be paying for 2 hours of his time.


You engaged the mechanic to perform the work so you pay. If it were the dealer then no they get compensated by BMW to repair it.

Tell the mechanic that the recall at the dealer did indeed fix the problem. Do not blame him or accuse him of anything. Then pay him. Maybe he’ll lower the fee, without you even mentioning it

Another possibility . . . he’ll cut you a break on your next repair, because you’ve been a regular customer, and he wants you to come back

I concur w/@insightful , if you want to stay on the good side of this shop, your best move is just pay up. Many shops charge by the hour, no matter what they do. It would have taken them an hour to figure out this was a recall situation even if they had done it perfectly. It was at most a minor error on their part. Pay them for their time, and maybe they’ll give you a break on the next job they do for you. Good non-dealership BMW mechanics are what you need most if you own an older BMW and it needs service or repairs.