Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Does mechanic have duty to inform of scheduled maintenance?

Re bottom-of-the-line 2004 Honda Civic with 81,000 miles. I’m sole owner, living on a tight budget but never miss scheduled maintenance so it will have a long life. At last oil change, the mechanic advised me I should do a timing belt replacement within the next year. So yesterday, as I headed over there to get my oil change and tell them I’d decided to go ahead with the timing belt replacement, would you believe the timing belt broke as I went up a steep hill? It was a nasty scene, complete with a 911 call, police, towing, etc. The car is still in the shop while they check for engine damage, and meanwhile, I checked online for the maintenance schedule & found timing belt gets changed at 110,000 miles…or 7 years. That would have been in 2011. Shouldn’t I have been advised in 2011? If my engine now is shot, doesn’t the mechanic bear some responsibility? I fully realize that knowing the maint. schedule is up to me, but I have depended on these guys to cue me. They are a family-run shop, extremely busy and not at all chatty or proficient in English. What should I say to them?

Need a lot more background. Have you used this shop exclusively since the car was new? Did they offer a service that you signed up for where they would track your maintenance and send you reminders? Have you been the sole owner since it was new?

Your engine likely has damage due to valve to piston contact. This can be expensive to repair and in some cases the entire engine can be wiped out.
In all honesty, the belt should have been changed back in 2009 IMO because the belt and the car was likely manufactured in 2003. Six years is about the limit with a timing belt on an interference fit engine such as yours.

Is it the shop’s legal obligation to pay for this? No; not in a million years. Recommending needed services or repairs is a nice gesture to the customer but not making that recommendation does not make them legally liable.
There are some who say that a shop recommending serivces or repairs over and above what the car is brought in for is simply trying to gouge the consumer.
It could be this shop has been accused of this and maybe they’re a bit gun-shy over saying anything.

Tough break unfortunately and engine damage is pretty much a given. I will add that this damage can be determined without replacing a timing belt or spending much money at all on a diagnosis so don’t fall into the 700 bucks to see what’s going on scenario.

To answer your title: absolutely not. Your property; your responsibility. They even provide you with a book with ALL the service intervals in it!

All you had to do, was read it…

A mechanic has no idea of what you have done or not done. It is your responsibility to read the manual. Alternative angle we went to local dealer for a check engine light at 18k miles, they wanted to do $500 worth of work that had already been done by another dealer, tire rotation, oil change etc. They only reset the light under warranty, 2 dayslater cel went to dealer we bought it from, bad pressure motor for fuel system check, no extras, fixed and done.

Sometimes I feel the we will get you little honey.

The only solace I’ll give, is that it’s tactically poor for a shop NOT to hunt around for extra revenue-producing work like that.

It is solely your responsibility to keep up with the recommended maintenance of your particular car.
If it was up to them to check every component you would be making out a three page questionnaire every time you stop in for an oil change. Then you would be paying the mechanic another 2 hours labor( $75-$100 per hour) to read over the questionnaire and to look up all the specs for your car, then look the components over… Remember there are probably 200 makes and models and double that number because there are usually different engine options for each model. Only then could he make the proper recommendations.

And @meanjoe75fan, is right. They should be looking for things that you have not had the service done on, which your mechanic did do. It was just your luck that when he mentioned it, the belt was already to break.
It’s a tough lesson, but you cannot expect the mechanic to have all those spec’s in his head.


“Shouldn’t I have been advised in 2011?”

Actually, you were advised in…2004…or in whatever year you bought this car.

How were you advised?
The vehicle manufacturer placed a maintenance schedule in the glove compartment, and thoughtfully wrote it in 8th grade English.
That maintenance schedule–which anyone truly interested in keeping his/her car running reliably and economically should have read–was your notification.

How does your failure to read your own vehicle’s maintenance schedule for a period of 10 years constitute negligence on the part of anyone other than yourself?

I'm sole owner, living on a tight budget but never miss scheduled maintenance so it will have a long life.

So you know there is such a thing as “scheduled maintenance” but you did not take the time to look at the little books in the glove box? Why should any one else be more responsible for your own belongs than you? It seems that more and more people want others to take responsibility for their own actions or in-actions. No wonder we are in the shape we are in.

No way…your owner’s manual has been telling you about maintenance since day 1. If you had read it like you’re supposed to you would have already had the information. Sorry.

“It seems that more and more people want others to take responsibility for their own actions or in-actions. No wonder we are in the shape we are in.”

During my 5 years of teaching, and the subsequent 30 years as a school counselor, one of the things on which I spent a huge amount of time was attempting to instill the concept of Personal Responsibility. Lack of a sense of personal responsibility was the biggest factor in…students failing courses…and failing to meet deadlines for test registration, financial aid applications, college applications, and other significant events.

Unfortunately, many of the students who ignored all of the notices/advice/warnings about taking responsibility for their actions while in their adolescent years have grown into adults who continue to ignore everything that is provided for them, and who always want to point fingers at other people for their own failings.

I don’t know if this problem exists in other countries (I suspect that it does, however), but as PvtPublic implied, one of the things that is dragging us down as a nation is the failure of too many adults to take responsibility for their own actions and their own inactions.

The mantra of all-too-many people nowadays is…It’s somebody else’s fault.

Have these replies have gone overboard admonishing the OP?

The OP said: “I fully realize that knowing the maint. schedule is up to me, but I have depended on these guys to cue me.”

This board is filled with car geeks who read their owners manuals (myself included). But we represent about 0.001% of the public. Owners manuals today run 600-800 pages long. Most of the public isn’t going to read them, no matter how much we try to stand on high ground and look down on those who don’t or has no aptitude for it.

It’s true the mechanic does not have a duty to inform customers of scheduled maintenance. That was the question asked.

“It’s true the mechanic does not have a duty to inform customers of scheduled maintenance.”

…and when mechanics do try to be proactive in this regard, all-too-many customers accuse them of “over-selling” or pushing unnecessary services. How often have we had posts from people complaining about their mechanic who tried to convince them to…do a trans fluid change every 30k miles…or doing an oil change sooner than 7,500 miles…or simply rotating their tires…or…some other service that was really a good idea…but the customer “knew better”?

That old expression, Damned if you do, damned if you don’t seems to fit, and I think that after getting negative push-back from customers over the years, a lot of mechanics have backed-off on telling customers what to do and when to do it.

I’m with the crowd. This is on you, not your shop.


"never miss scheduled maintenance "

You may want to rethink that statement^ES1614PW

What I just posted lists the timing belt as being due every 110000 miles or 7 years, whichever comes first. In other words, it’s quite a few years overdue

I know I’m just repeating what all the others have already said, but by posting it, I wanted to demonstrate that we do know what we’re talking about.

We’re not being callous

We’re just pointing out that the mistake was made by you, not the mechanic

Get this resolved, don’t point any fingers at the mechanic, and study that owner’s manual and maintenance booklet carefully. Make sure you haven’t neglected other car maintenance

If it’s any consolation, Honda has stopped using this type of cam-drive (rubber belt) across their entire line…Newer Hondas use a steel chain running in an oil bath. Most car makers have followed suit and the rubber belt / interference engine design is a thing of the past… Consumer resistance prompted these changes…

If your engine has suffered major damage as is likely, the cost of repairing it will probably exceed the value of the car…

Actually, I think it’s worth fixing the damage

2004 Civics still fetch a considerable amount, in my neck of the woods

I think the likely scenario is that the head will get sent out to the local machine shop. They’ll probably have to replace a few valves, as well as a few seats and guides. I suspect the pistons are fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if a valve contacted a piston, but I doubt that it actually poked a hole in the piston top.

Hmmm, interesting replies. I’m thinking many of you are mechanics, reacting defensibly to a customer “trying to blame the shop.” Most of you didn’t read the entire post in which I stated that I already understood it was ultimately my responsibility to know the maintenance schedule. The personal attacks to my character added a new dimension to the stress of almost losing my life and possibly losing my car. Beyond that, I think those of you who ridiculed me are full of it. Many people don’t bother getting their vehicle serviced at all, let alone read the manual. It’s not unreasonable to expect a repair person with whom you’ve had a relationship for years to warn you of upcoming problems that might pose safety threats not just to you but everyone on the road; they have computers and can easily track the maintenance needs of each and every car they service. My thinking was that the mechanic might give me a break on the bill if it was partially their fault. A big thank you to those who posted helpful replies.


I don’t see any character assassinations in those replies

Please don’t try to see things that aren’t there

“Most of you didn’t read the entire post in which I stated that I already understood it was ultimately my responsibility to know the maintenance schedule.”

Please don’t insult us.

How can you assume and/or know that we didn’t read your entire post?

I did, and I suspect everybody else did, as well

Just to give you an idea what the major costs will be, here is a professionally rebuilt head (the part most likely to be damaged). This is one of two possible cylinder heads used by Honda in 2004. The other one is a hundred bucks more. Don’t forget the core charge, you get that back if your head can be rebuilt…It’s possible your head can be rebuilt locally and now you have a ball-park price for that service…There is a lot of wrench twisting involved changing cylinder heads so labor costs will be considerable…