My car got 'mis-aligned' when it was towed, how should I handle this?

toyota
corolla

#1

My car got towed in the town of Quincy, Massachusetts for violating a snow removal policy.
I had driven there a couple of days earlier to visit my sister from New York City. I was
not aware of such a policy, neither was she apparently. In any case, the car was towed by
local establishment and I paid 130 dollars to have the car back. Immediately, I noticed the car didn’t
track straight (when previously it did.) To go straight the steering wheel has to be turned 90 degrees. I thought it was possible that the snow slush on the
road was the reason. When I drove the car home, some half mile away, I got out and looked
at the car (the steering is placed perfectly straight ahead.) While the driver’s side
front wheel appeared to be perfectly pointing straight ahead, the passenger front wheel was
turned at an angle. I believe this is called toe-out, I would estimate the degree to be about
5 degrees out. SO, I called the shop that towed my car and they told me to bring it in tommorrow morning.

SO, that’s the story.

The question is, how do you think I should handle this to get them repair it properly?

Any tips? Is this something easy? Do they just pop it back into place? Do parts need to be replaced?


#2

Question 2: If they can’t repair it properly (they’re a body shop apparently,) whom should I bring it to?


#3

Document the problem and then contact the city. Be prepared for a battle, though.

Most regular mechanics should be able to repair the problem if it is a bent or otherwise damaged suspension or steering component. Then it needs to go to an alignment shop.


#4

You definitely need to report this as quickly as possible, otherwise they will claim you did it on your own after you picked up the car (which they might anyway). But reporting it quickly and taking pictures will help you a lot if you need to go before a referee or small claims court.


#5

It’s my guess you’ll find that one of the steering linkage components, most likely a tie rod, got bent during the towing procedure. Tow truck drivers aren’t very gentle with the cars they tow, sadly. Don’t drive it too much further in this condition, you’re eating your tires alive.

I wish you luck, but It’s my guess you won’t have much. In my metro area, all of the towing firms have giant signs posted in the area you pay to get the car back that disavows any responibility for anything missing or damaged. They’ll point at the city for responsibility, who will immediately point back at the towing company.

The problem here is that the city ordinances do indeed absolve the “officialy designated” towing company of any responsibility. Year ago, one towing company was using this “liability shield” law to systematically loot cars of tools, stereos, etc. The “responsible” employees were fired, and the company managers got a very light slap on the wrist in return for “we promise we won’t do that again, honest!”.


#6

Yes they bent something for sure and it needs to be repaired quickly and realigned again before you drive it. Any general repair shop should be able to do it except possibly the alignment part. Yes see what they say but regardless, document the damage and get it fixed, then file a claim for the damage. Hopefully they will see their error and take care of it. Signs saying they are not responsible are not legitimate, and signing off on a form without any opportunity to drive or inspect your car is also not legitimate and doesn’t get them off the hook. I can have you sign anything I want but still doesn’t make it legal. They had full custody of your car and were required to exercise reasonable care while they had it.

Main thing though get it fixed right away. Take pics, get a statement on the invoice of the problem from the repair shop, and put the claim in.


#7

I’m going to guess (as have others) that the tow truck driver bent an inner tie rod while moving your car. Any competent local shop should be able to handle this for you. You will certainly need an alignment following the repair (or as part of the repair). Don’t drive it anymore than to the repair shop, or you’ll be buying tires as well.

I’m sure every locale is different, but around here illegally parked cars are towed at owner’s risk and expense. Meaning that if you leave your car in a no parking zone it’s gonna get towed and you’ll have to bail it out and fix whatever gets broken in the process. Legal or not, I think it’s ethically square. Assuming there was snow on the ground and the car needed to be moved, the tow truck’s main goal was clearing the street, not caring for your car. I doubt they did any damage to your car on purpose though.


#8

Thank you for chiming in, this has been a real bummer… This has been a learning experience.


#9

What it will cost you in legal fees to sue the town for damages will not be worth just having it repaired. This is not a circumstance where a negligent city worker just damaged your car for no reason. He was employed to enforce an ordinance that you violated and “not knowing” is no excuse under the law. This is why rich people get away with so much. They could overwhelm the town budget in legal formalities in some situations that they would then be ones to cry “uncle” and perhaps pay for damages. Not here, not now…@acemaster is right. You immediately put your car in harms way when you violate an ordinance and it’s not worth the expense to get the town to “play fair”. From a legal point of view, it would open a pandora’s box to expect the town to be liable for damages every time they enforced an ordinance. Your sister’s local taxes would go through the roof. ;=)


#10

Get it fixed and then file a claim against the city. The odds or presiding are tiny, but the form is free.

I’d recommend not bothering with a lawyer. I wouldn’t even trust any lawyer that would take such a case. As already pointed out, you violated and ordinance, and you need to accept the consequences. And the city has I’m sure legally indemnified itself against liability for damages that are a byproduct of their enforcement of their statutes.


#11

Had to tow my caddy. Thanks aaa, company policy is flat tow all caddy cars. They winch car onto bed. No drive. Even though car drove fine. Also company policy.


#12

OK so she’s a criminal. Still not a felony though. The city contracts for the service so they have some skin and blame in the game. Regardless of towing a criminal or not, they still are required to exercise ordinary care when towing a criminal’s car. Now maybe it was parked such that it had to be pulled out or something to get it hooked up and that would be a mitigating circumstance if they had no other choice. I don’t think they will argue much though. That’s what they have insurance for.

High crimes and misdemeanors indeed.


#13

I brought the car into the shop this morning (it’s an auto body shop with a towing service apparently.) They told me the tie-rod had been bent and that they would replace it for me at no charge. This is good news. I’ll reserve final judgment for when I get to drive the car.

I’ll keep you fellas updated. THank you so much for chiming in. I needed some hand holding.


#14

All right, I drove the car back (about half a mile distance) and everything seems to be okay. Tonight I make a 188 mile drive home to NYC. I’m so glad this didn’t become a nightmare for me.

Thanks you all so much.


#15

One thing you might want to ask them though is whether they checked the alignment or not. They could get it pretty close and if a body shop, should have the facilities, but if they didn’t, you might want to put that on your list of things to do when you get home. Watch for front tire wear or just have the front end alignment done for peace of mind.


#16

Really glad things worked out as well as they did. It’s nice to hear some good news once in a while.


#17

My suggestion would be that you have the car looked over once back home and consider an alignment check at the same time.

If the tow outfit was that careless loading the car then one has to wonder how conscientous they were when doing any kind of repair.
Maybe their idea of a fix is to sledgehammer a bent tie rod into a reasonably straight position or heat it with a torch before whacking it into shape.

Given the snow scenario and plows, I tend to think the tow driver had no intention of crawling around on the ground in the muck late at night while looking for a tow loop or subframe. He simple felt around for a tie rod, snagged a chain on it, and then started hoisting; bending the tie rod in the process.
Straightening a tie rod or pulling a car by the tie rod can create problems later on with the steering rack and so a careful inspection might be warranted.


#18

I had something similar happen with fortunately the same end result. My 1991 Jeep Cherokee would crank but not start. I had it towed to my regular mechanics as I had no training or experience with computerized vehicles. If I needed a tow I normally used a body shop which was owned by my friend and former next door neighbor. I knew he had sold the towing service but since it operated from his property I was confident it would be OK. The tow truck was a flat bed. I rode with the driver to the shop and he unloaded the Jeep while I was in the office doing the paper work. I paid the driver and he left. I was driven to work by one of the mechanic shop employees. Less than an hour later I received a call from the shop with good news and bad news. Good news: The no start problem was a bad battery. Apparently a battery with less than 11 volt output could crank OK but the computer would not trigger the ignition. The charging system was fine $70. Bad news: Did you forget to tell us the Jeep has no steering? What??? I informed them that the Jeep steered just fine that morning in fact I had coasted it down my driveway and turned into the street to make it easier for the tow truck driver to load onto the flatbed. They said the steering arm link was broken in half. I asked how much? $85. I said please fix it while I call the towing service. Before I could even finish explaining what happened the tow service owner screamed “you’re not screwing me for something that was already broke!!!” I said “It was not already broke”. He screamed “prove it!” and hung up! I called my friend who used to own the tow service and told him the story. He explained that the new owner was a total jerk which I already knew. He said he would talk to him. 3 days later I received a letter of apology and a check for $100 from the tow service owner!


#19

Consider to have this car towed to the shop. Otherwise you risk damaging the one tire that is out of whack if you drive it. New tires are expensive these days.


#20

The work is already done free and she is happily on her way back home again.