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Mechanic put automatic front axles into my manual car-stream of ensuing problems. Please advise

During a tire rotation, a mechanic noticed that my 2 front axles were cracked and advised to replace them. Since they already had the car, I agreed. My car is a 2002 Hyundai Elantra, manual transmission, 53299 miles on it. It has been regularly maintained, asymptomatic and no problems until this repair job. When I picked up the car, I noticed that it sounded very loud like it was straining around 3000 rpm in every gear, but above 3200 rpm the noise would die down again. After I drove the car for 2 days, I noticed a bad transmission fluid leak and brought it back to the mechanic. They replaced one seal, gave it back to me, but 2 days later the leak reappeared. This kept happening- 4 transmission fluid leaks in one month, all they did was to replace the seals. I finally put in a complaint and at the 4th visit they noticed that they put in automatic axles in my manual car! They finally put in the correct axles, but a few days later transmission fluid leaked again - 5h time! This time I went to the dealer and they replaced both seals because they were leaking. Unfortunately, since the negligent first mechanic had been lifting up my car so much in one month, one of my struts failed, so I paid $750 to replace the struts. After all this, the transmission fluid leaked again -6th time. After consulting with the dealer’s mechanic, they believe that the inner seals in my transmission were damaged by the negligent mechanic, and the only way to repair this is to replace the transmission- estimate $3300. The KBB value of my car is around $4000 but it is in great shape and should have lasted me much longer until this incident. What would you do?
a) I worry about spending so much money on replacing the transmission, only to later find more problems (like the struts) caused by the negligent mechanic. It doesn’t make sense to put more money into repairing a car than it’s worth. But I do need a vehicle. Do you think the negligent mechanic may have caused other problems that I havent seen yet?
b) Can I argue to get money for the value of my car from the negligent mechanic? I feel like it would be better to look for another car, though that will be a financial burden.
Please advise about possible other problems caused by this negligent repair, and what would you do in my shoes? Thanks!

Have you kept your copies of the shop orders? Have you been checking them for complete and accurate descriptions? If so, you have enough IMHO to proceed with a civil case against the shop as well as your total costs to-date. Contact an attorney.

Yes the CV shafts are definitely different between the 5-speed and automatic transmissions. I suspect the automatic’s shafts are just enough longer than the 5-speed’s so that internal damage has indeed been caused. The errant mechanic MAY have insurance to cover his mistakes, or he may not. At this point, I’d ask him if he does. If so, I’d file a claim.

The really galling part of this scenario is that you probably didn’t need new axle shafts at 53K miles. IF the BOOTS were cracked, he could have simply repalced the boots. The boots are the only part of a CV shaft that could be described as having any cracks.

I think you have a case against the original mechanic. BUT, you are an easy target. No way did putting the car on the lift damage your struts, the dealer took advantage of you. Also your axles were never cracked, but the CV joint boots probably were considering the age of your vehicle. ALWAYS get a second opinion and quotes. NEVER let them do the work just because “Since they already had the car”.

You don’t have to be an expert on cars to avoid these practices. Car maintenance is a business decision, pure and simple. When confronted with additional maintenance recommendations, ask for a written estimate or quote. Then go to at least one other mechanic and ask them to examine the car. If they make the same recommendation, get another written quote.

If you are still unsure, or you want to be absolutely sure, get a third opinion and written quote. Beware of any quotes that seem too low though, same with any that are too high. Treat maintenance decisions just like any other business decision.

(You don’t have to post sentences in their own separate posts, Keith. Just hit edit and add what you want to add)

I’d go to the original boneheaded mechanic, see what he can do with his insurance. If he doesn’t want to do anything, get him to small claims court since the damage is under 5K. Hiring an attorney will cost you money.

Some here on Car Talk advise people to bring their cars to an independent mechanic to save money because they usually charge less than dealers. In this particular instance, it seems that the dealer might have known your car better to do the work correctly. The key, if you don’t understand what is going on is to always be a little suspicious and ask to see things with your own eyes if that is possible, always ask for the old parts whether that may be practical or not and as was recommended, get more than one quote for the work.

There are enough incompetent and cheating mechanics in the car repair field that you must ask questions and do these things to protect yourself.

Yes, make a timeline account in detail with supporting documentation and then use Small Claims Court if necessary to get compensated. This sounds like a very good case for Small Claims Court. The Internet can help you get going with that as it works in your state and county.

I would carefully inspect both axles, a manual and an automatic side by side and see exactly what the difference is so the damage caused by using the wrong axle is better understood. If the improper axle has damaged your transmission, then the repair shop who caused the damage is liable for the cost of replacing it…

@keith Has it occurred to you that by hitting the key to the left of the home row on your key board, the one that says enter with the little down and over arrow, that you can skip a line in your posts in order to form another paragraph. Look at all the posts above. Do you see anyone else putting three posts in rapid succession on one subject? Last night I think I saw one with five. Or is it just that you are trying to get to “Senior grease Monkey” without bothering to give that many answers? Your advice is usually good. It just takes too many posts.

I also agree that the negligent shop should be responsible for any damage caused by their mistake. I’d suggest having the car looked at by a Hyundai dealer to see what all damage has been done and have them give an estimate of the repair costs to present to the negligent mechanic. If he balks get the case before a judge to get the problem resolved correctly.

it seems that the dealer might have known your car better to do the work correctly.

This has nothing to do with dealer vs independent mechanic. This has everything to do with moron vs competent mechanic. There are plenty of incompetents, and competents, in both dealerships and independent shops.

Person doesn’t even have to be a mechanic. An auto parts store could have given them the right axles if they’d simply told them it was a manual transmission. I’m not a mechanic, but when I had to replace the axles in my '88 Escort I told them at the auto parts it was a 4 speed manual transmission and got the right axles.

Thanks for all the input and help everyone. I have pictures of the broken axles the negligent mechanic removed from my car because I asked them to show me, and they do indeed look broken. Blame on the terrible roads where I live despite the mileage on the car. Also, the strut really did get damaged after the dealer took a look at my car because when I picked it up the car felt very bumpy, and when we pressed on all the wheels it was clear which strut had failed. The dealer was nice because they managed to get the strut unstuck, but then it locked up again so it had to be replaced. Thanks again for all the insights. I will definitely get a second opinion for everything from now on, and I just hope I manage to get reimbursed for this with the least amount of headaches possible.

That’s the only way Keith can post…Some kind of glitch between his satellite server and this site…

@Caddyman So what is he doing, tweeting or posting? How come, with all the hundreds of folks who post here, he’s the only one with this issue? Sorry, I’m skeptical.

I’ll agree except for the strut damage. I had rear shocks lock up so hard they would hardly function from being extended on a lift so I think it can happen. But mine had probably several hundred thousand miles on them, but at any rate I think the struts are on you.

Your axles were not even damaged to begin with. The struts sure at these miles. But you got taken. The front axles were really close to warranty repair at 53k. This shop should never have done the job to begin with. If what they said was true, they should have refered you to the dealer. As a possible warranty issue. Axles normally go 100k+. 53k is very early for replacement.

I totally agree that halfshafts should easily go 100k miles but that they can fail much earlier if a joint boot cracks from dry rot or is torn by road debris which leads to slinging the grease out and allowing water and dirt in.

Back in the 80s Subaru had a campaign going for replacement of the right side inner boot and the joint if needed due to boot failures which were caused by catalytic converter heat. Many of these failed at under 50k miles.

Struts and shocks can certainly fail at any time when a car is raised on a lift or jack the suspension gets fully extended.
About half a dozen years ago I walked out and found my Lincoln with a flat due to a nail. After changing the tire and lowering the car I found it riding like a ping-pong ball. Sigh, new struts needed.

@Keith Sorry Keith. I apologize. Word from the web lackey on duty is that Caddyman is correct. I don’t understand how the internet works at all, much less all the nuances involved in satellite communications. Don’t mind me. Just keep up the good work.