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Mechanic stumped after over 2 months, but wants $2400 for no repair

So my BMW 325 was running fine, then started losing power going uphill. To the extent that I pulled over and turned around. It drove the 60 miles back home but kicked the EML code twice in the process. Long story short, a BMW mechanic has had my car for over 2 months. He’s replaced numerous parts and has yet to find the issue. He’s about to give up but wants the $2400 in all of the non needed parts he replaced. My question is, if I have to tow it out of his shop after his failed attempts, do I have to pay the bill? My car is worth $4000, and when I last went to see it, they had actually cracked my engine cover and my battery was dead from sitting for two months. I’ve been calling weekly, but it’s always another answer. So I supposedly have all these new parts and a big bill totaling more than half the value of the car. Do I have any options, or am I SOL??

I think you are going to need actual legal help . You can receive advice here but if you take the wrong advice your situation could be even worse.

Thanks for the heads up. I was just hoping for some leads on where to go and maybe my legal obligations. Just posses me off that it’s taking so long, and all the expensive repairs have done nothing so far. I don’t pay a mechanic to guess. I could do that myself. Smh. They’re a reputable shop, but I’m not a fan at this point.

I agree with Volvo on this. You no longer have a car problem. It has evolved into a legal problem.

You won’t be able to take the vehicle if there is a repair bill but you can settle this in small claims court. You can ask him to remove the new parts and install the old parts, then come up with a reasonable fee. If he refuses notify him in writing that because of the failed repair attempt you want the old parts put back on your car. If he still refuses you will have to take him to small claims court. You will need to pay the bill and tow it to a different shop so that you can sue for the ineffective repair.

JEEZOO…this shop has some Balls I can tell you that. I would have to agree with all of the above on this one.

What other conclusion can you come to here? If they suggested this or that as a repair plan…and it didnt work out…thats on THEM…who should it fall on?

Any court will decide the same methinks… The shop should be ashamed of themselves and trying to offer you a choice as what to do…not simply bill you for incorrect diagnosis and premature or incorrect part replacements.

Nevada is pretty much correct…they should return it as they found it since they got it all wrong in the repair department. This is kinda messed up…on their part.


I don't pay a mechanic to guess. I could do that myself

If you're sick, and go to a doctor, and his first diagnosis is incorrect... do you not pay your medical bill? IF you were kept "in the loop," and signed off on all his owe the man something for his labors. Not full price, mind you, but "parts plus"...something. If he "went rogue" and replaced a bunch of stuff without bothering to get your assent--well, that'd be pretty daft, wouldn't it?

I think Nevada is correct. If each time he wanted to try something he asked first and you said ok, its on your nickel. But if he just went helter skelter guessing, I think he’s on the hook except for the major diagnostic time. I remember on my Olds, trying to clear an emissions code, they wanted to try a $500 EGR valve. It didn’t make any difference but I paid for a new valve. The Olds dealer didn’t have any better luck but would need to pull the trans to clean the EGR lines so I declined at that point but paid the diagnostic charge.

Sometimes its just tough to find the problem so its a two way cooperative street. But BMW? That’s why I told my son he should be sure to trade before the warranty is up.

Situations like this is why some places get the reputation of being part changers instead of mechanics or technicians . I personally find it difficult to equate medical problems with automotive problems . An engine can be repaired although it might not be financially feasible to do so , a human body can’t always be fixed at any cost .
If a person hangs out a shingle & accepts a job I’m not so sure they should be paid for trying & failing to perform that job . The car isn’t fixed & the customer gets nothing but a large bill for nothing . Doesn’t quite sound fair to me .
Now , if the mechanic said to the customer , I’m not sure what’s wrong with it but I think it might be so & so & the customer says go ahead & try it , then the customer should pay . If the mechanic threw a bunch of parts at it without telling the customer he was guessing , I don’t think the customer should have to pay .

Actually the situation sounds similar to my experience with healthcare providers @meanjoe75fan. The doctors didn’t seem to care what my opinion was they were determined to run me through every conceiveable test starting with the most expensive and working their way down regardless how off base they were.

If a person hangs out a shingle & accepts a job I'm not so sure they should be paid for trying & failing to perform that job
Attitudes like that explains why so many shops take a "shotgun" approach to repairs.

While I know you question the parallel, let me take the “mechanics and doctors” one a bit further: just like a chest pain “could be angina, or it could just be gas,” a (say) car with oil consumption and blowby “could have a bad engine, or could need a PCV valve.” Sometimes, more than fault can mainfest similarly, and sometimes the recommended course of action is to eliminate likely candidates one-by-one, starting with the cheap and easy posibilities first.

Now, say your car has a P0420 CEL code. It codes for the cat, but it may well be a (cheaper) O2 sensor. Now, if somebody like you comes in with the attitude of “Go ahead and replace the sensor…but don’t expect me to pay if it doesn’t solve the problem,” well, I’m gonna shotgun the hell outta your car, just to be sure that I get it, first try! New O2 sensors, all new cats…heck, may as well replace the exhaust system while we’re in there–can’t hurt!

Either OP consented to the exploratory work on his car, or he didn’t. The answer to that question says a lot about whether he owes any money.

Check Your State’s DMV Website. There Should Be Information Regarding Repair Shops, Questions, Complaints, And Arbitration Procedures. This Place Could Be One Complaint Away From Losing Its License.

I don’t believe the proper procedure in doing diagnostic work is installing new parts till one of them hopefully fixes the problem .

@Sloepoke You are correct but remember we are only getting one side of the story.

It unusual – to say the least – that a pro mechanic trained to service BMW’s isn’t able to explain what’s causing the lack of engine power. He might not be able to fix it for $2000, but after $2000 worth of work he should be able to explain the reason, seems to me anyway. Lack of engine power, noticed most when going uphill, besides checking for computer codes, and that the ignition parts were in good order, a mechanic would probably first look at

  • compression
  • fuel pressure and delivery
  • intake air flow
  • intake manifold vacuum
  • exhaust system flow and leaks
  • unexplained loss of oil or coolant

For example, to decide if it was due to a clogged exhaust system, the shop could temporarily disconnect the cat and muffler and see if that improved performance. To check fuel pressure they could hook up a fuel pressure gauge to the fuel rail , rig it up in a safe way so it could be seen from the driver’s seat, and watch what the fuel pressure does when going uphill with this symptom. Have they done these experiments yet?

I tend to agree with meanjoe75fan about whether or not the OP approved plowing ahead with the repairs. If the OP said have at it then I think they’re on the hook.

In the defense of the shop, or playing Devil’s Advocate if you will, I will point out that not all problems are in black and white and also that some problems are a combination of things; some or all of which may not be that easy to diagnose.

Regarding meanjoe’s comment about the mechanic/doctor parallel I will add that a board certified heart doctor examined my 39 year old brother in law who had to be admitted to the hospital in serious pain and said doctor proclaimed that the only issue “was a gas bubble but it’s not a big deal. We’ll send him home in the morning and try to figure out what that bubble is all about”.
Three hours later my BIL was dead from an aneurysm and the good doctor denied ever saying anything about a gas bubble even though he said it in front of 10 witnesses including me.

I think you might have a different attitude if you actually tried to solve a problem with your own car. I went through the stalling issue with my Riviera. Two different shops and no luck. I shouldn’t pay for fuel pump wiring and other attempts to try and fix it with intermittent no codes?
They both gave up so I tried myself with computer, coil, ignition switch, ground connections, you name it and never did find the problem. If somebody spends time trying to find a problem, somebody has to pay for it. But sometimes the cost of finding the problem just isn’t worth it.

Sad story. Sorry for your and your & BIL’s family’s loss @ok4450. You are right that everything isn’t always black and white in car diagnosis, and that’s even more true in medicine, especially cardiology. In retrospect your BIL needed an ultrasound or angiography be done, which would likely have quickly detected the reason for the symptoms. But its not always easy to tell, GI problems are often the reason for those symptoms, and those tests are quite expensive.

I totally agree that we don’t know any agreements that was made between the op & the mechanic which very well could make moot points of a lot that has been said . That being said I’m curious what people think of the following scenario .
You have a dripping faucet that’s really getting on your nerves & wasting water . You call a plumbing service to get it repaired . A plumber shows up & spends a whole 8 hour day working on it . At the end of the day he tells you he can’t fix it & presents you with a bill for $520.00 . $100.00 for the service call & the first hours labor & $60.00 an hour for the remaining 7 hours labor . Aw heck , lets include a couple hundred for parts he used trying to repair it . That brings the repair bill for your unfixed faucet to $720.00 .
Are you going to happily pay that bill because you told him to fix it & he tried ?

I don’t know if that really fits. A leaky faucet is a pretty straight forward repair. Worst case you just replace it in an hour. Quite unlike trying to find a quirky problem in a BMW I think. More like a plumbing problem people around here were having a couple years ago. Ours didn’t, but main supply water pipes were freezing. Plumbers were called out but not all could thaw the pipes under-ground. One guy written up in the paper went through three different guys until one finally got the job done. The difference was the equipment and skill level I guess. I don’t know if the first two charged for their attempt or not but usually there would be a reasonable charge for showing up and making the attempt. Success is not always guaranteed but its usually covered in the initial conversation.