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Mechanic broke door handle ... reasonable expectations?

I’m getting my 1997 Civic worked on for multiple issues (including the head gasket) to the tune of what looks like at least $2500… approaching the value of the car.

My question, however, is not about mechanical issues so much as etiquette and expectations.

The mechanic broke the door handle on the driver’s side my car. According to his story, he was just going to open it normally, but it broke. This same door handle I’d used earlier that day and not broken.

Today I got an itemized quote for all repairs, and it includes a $76 charge for the door handle and $185 for labor on the door handle, and a $100 labor discount. So … he broke my door handle to the tune of $261, but because he broke it he’s only going to charge me $161 for it. In addition to the other $2500 in repairs he’s doing for me.

Is this reasonable? I feel like, with me giving him enough other work, and with him being the one who broke the handle, it’s not too much to ask him to just fix what he broke.

I don’t even think I should have to ask for it, he should just say “whoops” and eat it; it’s not like he’s actually paying $76 for the part or like he’s not already making more than $261 on the other work I have to do or any of the additional work on my other vehicles which I bring in regularly.

Thoughts from mechanics as well as “normal people” would be appreciated here.

This one is tough. Without actually seeing the damage it’s impossible ot even guess if he did it or it was just waiting to break. If it broke sue to negligence on his part, he’s responsible. If it was just simply do to break, it’s your baby.

Yes, I think it’ s reasonable. The car is 16 years old. How many times has he touched the door handle in that time? It is unlikely that the door handle broke because he touched it. This is more likely an accumulation of damage over the 16 years of use the car has seen. The handle has been used at least 25,000 times, and probably more like 30,000.

I think the mechanic is giving you a bit of a break on the door handle repair. I’d think having you pay for the part and he install the new handle with no labor charge at all seems very reasonable to me. He is being somewhat reasonable, but you might propose my very reasonable solution and see if he goes for it.

I agree. Parts like this do wear out with continual use, and obviously the driver door gets more use than any other door. The sad problem is that the mechanic, and not you, happened to pull it that one last time. If you still are not convinced, the best you can do is to ask the mechanic if it was clear that the handle was just worn out, though that may be impossible to judge. I’m inclined to think the mechanic is probably being honest with you in this case.

If you want to save a few bucks, you might consider stopping at a salvage yard to get a used replacement for far less than the new price, and you might find that this is a job you can learn to do entirely on your own. Given that you have an old but valued car, this might be a good time to get in the habit of fixing smaller less technical issues on your own in order to save money.

This is a tough call mainly because most modern door handles are made of plastic or pot metal; or a combination of the two. Either substance is prone to failure when new, much less aged.

The door handles on one of my son’s Camry have broken off on several occasions and one on my Lincoln snapped off last year while barely even touching it. With the Camry it’s aged plastic and a poor handle design and with my Lincoln it’s the use of pot metal.

My feeling is that the handle on your car was already stressed for who knows how long and it was going to break at some point. It just happened to pick that time. If it had not broken at the hand of the mechanic it may have given up when you came in to pick up your car or the next day. Who knows.

In the old days, door handles were made of solid steel and seldom ever broke. Steel adds weight, and cost, so the car makers go with the lighter, cheaper, and more production line friendly alternatives such as plastic and pot metal.

As an automotive technician, the last thing I want to do is purposely break your door handle after spending hours replacing the head gasket. When that happens, it means I spend more time on your vehicle than I alloted for. So the vehicles behind yours are delayed from coming into the shop for service. And some customers aren’t happy when you call them saying their vehicle will be an hour or two later than was quoted.

All over a cheap door handle.


My memory is very fuzzy on this, but I vaguely remember a poster on here some years back whose complaint was that the shop should foot the bill for a new hood cable.
The car had been taken in for some kind of service and the cable broke when the hood release was operated by the mechanic.

In a similar way the breakage of the hood cable is not the mechanic’s fault either.

I say he pays for labor and you pay for parts. You are really close, and figure if it happened by you 1 day later you would be on for the full boat. I do not think they did anything wrong, and it would have broken sooner or later. Go for it and let it be you got $100 by lucky circumstances.

I think your mechanic is being fair. Several times when I have fixed one part on my car, some unrelated part breaks. Sometimes things break. My first experience with this was when my neighborhood friend was learning to ride a bicycle and he was riding my bike. He was doing pretty well until the front fork snapped–he went one way, part of the bicycle went another way and the front wheel went a third direction. He wasn’t hurt, but ran home really upset that he had broken my bicycle. His parents came down and wanted to pay for the bicycle. Unfortunately, my dad had seen me earlier ride the bicycle over “daredevil ramps” and pull the front wheel off the ground to do “wheelies”. My parents wouldn’t accept the money and I wa chewed out for the way I treated my bicycle. I had to save my money to buy a new front fork and figure out how to install it. I learned not to blame someone else when something of mine gets broken unless that person purposely did it.

It sometimes takes very little to break things if they are old and stressed. I’ve been lucky, most of my stuff was broken by me.

I’m a mechanic.

I’m at your house for dinner and I excuse myself to use the bathroom. In the process of flushing the toilet the handle breaks off in my hand. Your toilet is 16 years old and has been flushed 15,000 times, and as luck would have it the handle broke just when I was using it. Do you:

A. Pay a plumber or fix it yourself, since it is your toilet and your responsibility to maintain it.

B. Ask me to pay a plumber or fix it myself since it broke while I was using it, even though I did nothing out of the ordinary in my use of it.

C. Suggest that we split the cost of repairing it.

What would you do if the door handle broke after you paid the bill and were getting in your car to leave the shop? The next morning? What would you do if the handle broke that morning as you were on your way to the shop?

You say “According to his story, he was just going to open it normally, but it broke. This same door handle I’d used earlier that day and not broken.” Do you think he is a ham-fisted brute or that he purposefully broke the handle looking for additional sales?

I can tell you what would happen at my shop. I’d sell you the door handle for dealer list price and charge you the half-hour minimum labor charge as a gesture of goodwill and customer satisfaction.

I’ve had handles on unnamed manufacture, fail on me at 7years on the Drivers side, and then a few years later on the passenger side. On both of the cars. Metal against metal. The softer part lost, but the wear tolerance was very small.

Things break. Fair offer.

If I had put a certain nut onto a bolt on 1000 times and never had any issue, and he overtorqued it and stripped it clean, I would not blame it on bad timing. And if I open my car door 5000 times and it doesn’t break, and he gives it a good yank and breaks it, even if it’s old and brittle I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say he broke it. If someone who was riding with me had broken the passenger door handle or an invited guest had broken my toilet handle, I wouldn’t blame them or hold it against them, but if a professional whose job it is to fix toilets and not break them, sees this handle and gingerly pressed it resulting in a broken handle I also think that I would hold him responsible for it. In my mind, it’s not a case of bad luck, it’s a case of a hard pull that wouldn’t have broken a new part, breaking an old part, and it’s fair to hold the person who did it responsible.

Still, the reason I asked was because I wanted a second opinion to my own reasoning, and it appears the consensus on here is that whether it would have broken or not, it was 15 years old and shouldn’t be expected to last forever.

So… I guess I’ll give the mechanic a break. Thanks for your input.

Sometimes you just suck it up. We had an overnight guest that grabbed the towel rack on the wall coming out of the shower and pulled it and a big chunk of sheetrock right out. I fixed it but reinforced it appologizing that I should have installed grab bars instead of a towel rack. Stuff breaks.

ditto most of the others.
The mechanic did not break the door handle.
— the door handle broke -----period…it’s a 97 after all.

flip a coin, toss the dice, whichever.
Somebody…anybody could have their hand on it when it gives way.

I had a door handle break off in my hand when I test drove a Fiat X-1/9 many years ago. It was made of cast “pot metal”. It had enough occlusions and inclusions to resemble a nut bar.

if a professional whose job it is to fix toilets and not break them, sees this handle and gingerly pressed it resulting in a broken handle I also think that I would hold him responsible for it

@Vast and Trunkless
You’d blame the plumber, or anyone else, for breaking something when they used it “gingerly”???

Am I reading that correctly, or is this a typo?

You'd blame the plumber, or anyone else, for breaking something when they used it "gingerly"?????

Sorry, it’s not a typo just poor communication. I’m in the habit of using “gingerly” sarcastically 100% of the time, to the point that I used it to mean its opposite there… A more accurate way of saying that would be “not-gingerly” :slight_smile:

Vast and Trunkless, unlike a lot of posters that ask similar questions, you are responding as an adult. Good for you. It never hurts to ask if you are unsure. Stop back for another visit.