Did my mechanic fry my radio?


#1

I have a 2006 Cobalt, about 82,500 miles on it. Been a good car - just done basic maintenance and changed batteries and tires periodically - no serious issues until last month when timing chain skipped and bent valves - had to have upper part of engine rebuilt. Before it was brought in to the shop, the radio worked completely fine. When I picked it up, the display was blank, so no clock, no showing what radio station you were on etc. The knobs would work so you could turn the radio on and off and switch the channel - but had to wait for station identifier to tell what station you had since the display was blank…none of the actual buttons worked, except the one to eject a CD.

Mechanic said the wiring in the radio is fried . . . somehow. This seems just a little coincidental to me. He told me they had to jump it because they left it sitting outside for several days (it was in the shop over 2 weeks). Could this “frying” have been done when they jumped it? Or is it REALLY just an EXTRAORDINARY COINCIDENCE. Of course he said he could find me a replacement radio and install it for me - I’m just not sure I want to be a repeat customer. Appreciate some feedback!


#2

You might check the headlight switch. The radio dial illumination is likely through the same circuit as the instrument panel. You might have a bad instrument panel fuse or switch. Also, is the radio original or after market?


#3

The shop probably fried your radio…but accidents happen. My dad taught me many years ago how to safely jump start a car by simply attaching the black (ground) connector of the jumper cables directly to the engine block on both vehicles (bumpers not touching). If you connect the red (positive) connector to the wrong battery post…no harm done. Simply move it over to the positive (+) post and start the car. So far…in 50 years of jump starting vehicles…I’ve never got it backward even once…knock on wood.


#4

The bad news is your radio got fried.
The good news is only your radio got fried. :smile:

Aftermarket replacement radios are readily available almost anywhere and not difficult to install. One thing I’d suggest is that whoever replaces use an “adapter cable” and NOT butcher the wiring harness. An adapter cable allows you to wire the radio wires to a plug that will plug right into your OEM wiring harness, and to do so right on your kitchen table. The instructions come with the plug and are super easy to follow. The adapter costs little, and using it prevents a whole lot of potential problems.


#5

It is the original radio - some of the buttons light up - but even the ones that do light up still don’t work.

And, I can certainly accept that accidents happen, but I was raised to admit when you make a mistake and do what you can to make it right. Gave this guy 2 chances and all I got from him was “no idea how it happened, but I didn’t do it” response. . . and then after this he tried to tell me I should replace the battery - because he thought it was the original. I just got a place with a garage so this has been an outdoor car in WI winter - I’ve replaced the battery twice-last time was 2-3 years ago so should still be good. This is one guy who isn’t going to see me as a repeat customer.

I’ll look into the adapter cable when I can afford to replace the radio. Thanks for the suggestion.


#6

The mechanic offered to replace the radio and you declined?

There is risk of this type of radio failure when reconnecting the battery, some old radios don’t reboot properly. Nothing “fries” in the radio, the display, button or operation of the radio becomes corrupt. This is a rare occurrence, perhaps 1 in 10,000 chance of failure.

Last week a vehicle that came in for an airbag recall had a blank display on the radio, I was unable to record the customers radio stations before disconnecting. After reassembly the display was working. Sometimes another disconnect corrects the problem.


#7

@Nevada_545, I get theimpression that the mechanic would replace the radio at the owner’s expense.


#8

I get the impression that the OP is mostly disappointed/upset that the garage did not take responsibility for killing the radio and has not offered to replace it at their expense. Since the OP didn’t have the car for two weeks and it did not work after it was returned, the garage is responsible for killing the radio.
My opinion: A heart-to-heart talk is warranted with the person in charge. Replacing the radio should be the garage’s responsibility. An upstanding business would do this.


#9

I get the impression that the OP is mostly disappointed/upset that the garage did not take responsibility for killing the radio and has not offered to replace it at their expense. Since the OP didn’t have the car for two weeks and it did not work after it was returned, the garage is responsible for killing the radio.
My opinion: A heart-to-heart talk is warranted with the person in charge. Replacing the radio should be the garage’s responsibility. An upstanding business would do this.

Just because something happens to a car while it’s in the shop doesn’t mean the shop is responsible for it. It’s a one in a thousand chance for a radio to die when battery voltage is lost but it can and does happen, and it’s no one’s fault. If the car were jump started incorrectly the radio would have been the least of the worries, many other electronics would have been “fried.”

I had a car in the shop for some minor repairs, it had failed an emissions test. I fixed the emissions issue, went to drive the car, backed 3 feet out of the shop and the car stalled. I double checked my work, which was unrelated to the engine, and then found the fuel pump failed. So now in addition to a $300 emissions repair the customer had a car that didn’t run and needed a $600 fuel pump. She wasn’t happy about that, but I didn’t break it and I didn’t offer to fix it for free.

An upstanding business will try to keep customers happy, but also will not take the blame for a failure of a 10 year old radio it was not responsible for.


#10

In your fuel pump example I completely agree. The work you did very likely did not have any impact on the fuel pump. And I agree that things can happen at a shop unrelated to anything the shop did; the shop should not be responsible in these cases.
In the OP’s situation, the evidence (and two other posters) tell me that the shop very likely caused the radio problem and expects the OP to foot the entire bill for replacement. I’d be miffed, too.


#11

@boilerengtn What measures should the mechanic have taken to prevent the radio failure? Some believe the vehicles electrical system should remain on life support at all times but that isn’t possible when performing engine or airbag work.


#12

If the only tasks that could have affected the radio were disconnecting/reconnecting the battery and jump starting the car, I don’t know that any additional measures are needed. It sounds like those tasks are unlikely to cause radio failure.
Do you think the radio failure was bad luck, the shop inadvertently made a mistake, or something else? I think the shop inadvertently made a mistake.


#13

I can’t think of any mistake a shop could make that would cause the radio display, and only the radio display, to malfunction. If there was some sort of electrical issue like reversing polarity when jump starting, there would be far more damage to the car.

Yes, simply disconnecting the battery is highly unlikely to cause radio failure, but it happens. I’ve had it happen to me. I’ve disconnected a battery and then had the car not start because the engine computer died. I’ve disconnected a battery and had a heater blend door stuck on cold. All of these things happened during the course of a routine unrelated repair yet none were caused by any negligence or mistake on my part. And therefore are not my responsibility.


#14

The car is 10 years old and while things like this may appear to be connected to whatever repairs was done this is not always the case.
Maybe the problem is nothing more serious than a popped fuse.

Some other bits of food for thought.
If the chain and tensioner was worn out in only 82k miles then what shape is the lower end of the engine in? This could be caused buy lack of oil changes or chronic low oil level which can contribute to engine sludging.

The shop was handed a non-running car with possibly a shaky battery if it went dead that quickly or the car had been sitting for a long time before being towed to the shop.

Maybe there were jump start efforts made before the shop ever saw the car.

There are others but I assume one gets the point; or points. Coincidences in the auto repair world are not that rare so I’m not too keen on automatically blaming the shop for every hiccup on a 10 year old car.


#15

@boilerengtn: Thank you for your posts - it’s nice to have some vindication in this situation.

The shop owner said he’d check junkyards for a used radio - for around $50 he thought it would be and then I’m sure there would be additional charges for labor. I would speak with him further if I thought it would do any good, but his dismissive attitude makes me believe it would be a waste of time. This isn’t something I’ve had much experience with, but I believe that because I am a middle-aged female, I don’t think this person gives any weight to my words. I have asked others at my workplace for recommendations and will simply do my best to find a different mechanic.


#16

FYI: I was only late changing oil this one time - and battery only 2-3 years old. So car was not in such bad shape as ok4450 seems to think. Dad used to be mechanic so was trained to check/change oil.


#17

When I replaced a battery in my 2002 Mitsubishi in 2006 the display read CODE. I entered the security code and it is still working fine. Has this been attempted?