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Mechanic Screw up Cost $300 or Just Old Car Problems?

My 85 year old mother’s 94 Toyota Camry (mint condition) needed a jump so a local tow truck guy came to help her out. Here’s what happened:

1. Broke the driver’s side door handle. Did not tell my mother so she found out only after he left.

2. Failed to tighten the battery cable so it fell off a day later and stranded my mother requiring another tow/service call.

3. Somehow he activated the car alarm without the horn sounding (broke?)so all the lights were just flashing. He couldn’t turn it off and jost told my mother to go to the dealer (90 miles away). I was able to walk her though it over the phone to shut it off. Now the car alarm horn does not work.

The door repair and second service call for a stranded car cost her about $300 plus a 180 mile road trip to the dealer (she lives in the boonies).

I’m about to ga after this clown with both barrels but I’d like a second opinion to see if I should just chalk this up to chance or an old car.

What other people do in this situation?

You’ve got a good case with the battery cable.

I’d like to know better what broke on the door handle. Is this the inside or outside. What exactly broke? The handle itself or the clips inside the door that hold the rods to the handle? There could be some age issues here, but these handles are typically well built and well engineered. I’ve owned may older cars, and only had problems with the retaining clips getting old and breaking.

As far as the alarm, it may not be his fault. Setting off the alarm but not the horn tells me the fuse to the horn blew or the horn broke. Find out what happened here, and it may be something coincidental.

If you can find out what happened the the horn before you get on this guy, it may provide some additional ammo.


Thanks for the quick reply.

The inside door handle broke (cracked very badly and bent). I thought those things were indestructible.

Good point on the horn.

Just wanted to make sure I got another point of view (deep breath) before I talked to the tow truck guy.

I’ve heard of some heavy hands breaking these things. I’d go at him over that as well.

My sis-in-law also managed to break an inside door handle on her Toyota. It was 6 years old at the time. My brother got a replacement one from a salvage yard, and it took us 15 mins to replace it. It never broke again.


Thanks again for the quick reply and 2nd opinion.

P.S. Sounds like your brother should keep his wife happy…

You do not need to loosen a battery cable to give a jump, why did the car need a jump? (OK dead battery, why did the battery go dead?)

Mint condition cars seldom need jumps and it never ceases to amaze me how many of our readers are able to call a car “mint” but have to write in for answers to their technical problems, if you can do one you can do the other.

The tow truck driver is not a mechanic. If he was called out to provide a jump start then it’s not his job to go over the vehicle with a fine tooth comb.
If he pulled the car out of high water would it be his job to get it running? No.

The car is 17 years old and battery cable connections are something that should be gone over once a year at least as a preventative maintenance measure. Your mother is 84 years old, the job is simple, so why don’t you perform this task?

Camrys are known for door handle failures. One on my son’s Camry recently snapped off and he said he barely touched it before it gave way. Look closely at how thin and flimsy that plastic is. Plastic ages and becomes brittle so stuff happens.

At this point I think the car has age and neglect issues and the finger should not be pointed at the tow truck driver.

My thought also that the battery cable was loose to begin with, he jumped it and got it going, you do not need a tight battery cable to jump a car and doubt the driver even fiddled with it. He is not a roadside mechanic to analyze why, only to get you going. He nay not have known the handle was broken as from the story it did not appear he was stuck in the car. If it broke for him it probably would have broken later, so cool down, replace the handle. Car alarm, who knows, try and find a reasonable scenario how a guy jumps a car and could break the alarm system.


Lots of replies by mechanics who were probably blamed for all sorts of things by their customers. Thanks for the feedback.

Here are few more details:

  1. I live 600 miles away so I can?t run over and ?fix things.?
  2. A service call for a ?dead battery? requires an inspection of the battery connections (corrosion, loose fitting, etc.). This is northern Minnesota so battery service calls are given some extra attention. Unless the tow truck driver was brain dead, there is no way he would have missed a loose connector. Actually, since he left the car with a loose connector, he must have been brain dead. You shouldn?t defend the guy for that !!!
  3. 1994 Camry V6 with about 45,000 miles. Driven to church on Sundays and the occasional 90 mile drive to nearestnTarget/Walmart and Toyota Dealer. 1 year old NAPA battery. NOT a cheapie. My Mother is frequently out of town for long periods so the battery will completely drain (and sulfate). We replace the battery about once every 2-3 years. No, my mother will not be messing around with battery cables to disconnect them when she goes out of town?
  4. Once every year we bring the car in for a complete inspection and oil change despite the lack of annual mileage (about 1,000 miles per year now that my father has passed on). The annual oil change gives the dealer some business to justify the inspection. We do try to top off the battery with a charger when we?re in town. The mechanics at the dealership have commented on the pristine ?cream puff? condition of the car and engine bay (my late father would clean the engine?).
  5. The broken door handle is painfully obvious so there was no way the tow guy couldn’t have noticed he broke it.

While I might attribute the broken door handle to age, I find the dishonesty of not telling my mother combined with the loose battery cable inexcusable. I am not amused by the fact that he charged her for both service calls.

So, what would you do if this happened to your mother?

I think you are leaping to conclusions and if it happened to my 88 year old mother I would say I am glad you got home safely.

camry door handles are known for breaking, i have replaced a ton of them and acually have a 95 camry in my shop right now waiting for the handle to come from the dealer. as for the battery cable issue, well it seems to me the tech made a mistake. it should have been tightend up. the alarm system issue is most likely due to the battery cable being loose. you may be able to reset that by locking and unlocking the driver and passenger doors with the key and not the remote

If the battery cable connection was loose then I’d be hot at the people who installed that 1 year old NAPA battery and/or the one who service the vehicle yearly. They would be the root cause of this problem.

I’m not condoning the guy not checking the tightness of the battery cable ends but you’re dealing with a tow truck driver, many of whom are not technicians. After checking the cable ends should he have also performed an alternator test, a starter draw test, checked for a parasitic current draw, and inspected and replaced the accessory belt as necessary?

A problem like this in a shop setting should mean all of the above is done but you’re dealing with a driveway or side of the road thing here. Jumpstart it and away she goes and where in the rules or regulations does it “require” anything other than the services asked for to be done?

Those door handles can nearly break just by eyeballing them sternly. Check eBay and ask yourself why they’re listed there in droves.

Since you live 600 miles away how do you know that the reported loose battery cable is in fact the truth? did you yourself confirm it was loose?