CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Serious mistake by recommended mechanic

I don’t know what to do. A mechanic I got grom the Car Talk recommended list fixed the brakes on my wife’s car.

But he left a screw loose and the brake fluid leaked out. Luckily we needed a tire and spotted the problem before a serious accident. The guy seems otherwise good and I don’t want to ruin his reputation, but…

What should I do?

Have you talked to the mechanic? Even the best sometimes make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Seems to me this was an honest mistake.

I installed new drive belts on my car two weeks ago, and forgot to tighten the bolts on the alternator after adjusting the belt tension. After a rest stop on the PA Turnpike the belt squealed when I started the engine and I discovered the loose bolts. Luckily the bolts and the new drive belt were still there, and hadn’t fallen off. I had driven the car nearly 200 miles before discovering my mistake.

Talk to the mechanic before you do anything else.

This forum is filled with very competent experienced mechanics. Yet every one of them can tell you stories about the many mistakes they’ve made over their careers. I know I made more than my share.

Take mcparadise’s advice seriously. A sign of a good mechanic is not whether they make a mistake, but how well they handle it after the fact. Talk to the mechanic before you do anything else - as mcparside suggested.

I left a caliper bolt loose on the rear of a Lexus a few months ago. Sometimes someone is asking you a question and the phone rings and …

I would forgive him, but I would definitely point it out to him.

EVERYONE I know has made mistakes. Doesn’t matter if they’re a mechanic, engineer, mailman…WE ALL make mistakes.

What separates the GOOD ones from the BAD is how they handle their mistakes. Some will NEVER EVER admit they made a mistake and ALWAYS try to blame someone else. The GOOD ones own up to their mistakes, FIX any mistakes they made and try to learn from it. I’ll work with the latter any day of the week.

If the part left loose resulted in brake fluid loss then it wasn’t a screw it was a fitting,someone should have noticed the brake pedal did not feel right (because the brake system was not holding pressure) from the very beginning.

This is different than leaving a bolt holding the caliper on loose,those can go for a long time before noticed.

At a Dealership this most likely whould mean your job, probably 75% your gone,espically if you are new.

I brought it back to his attention the day we discovered the leak. He kept the car all day. He fixed it for free and admitted, sort of, his mistake. The consensus appears to not mention this understandable, but potentially fatal, error. I’m in the medical field, and a mistake of this sort would have to be reported to a State agency in Florida.

as forrest gump said… ** it happens.

you found it, it got fixed, and the guy admitted it. good thing no one got hurt. just shows that even a little observation goes a long ways.

and do check your cars fluid levels occasionally.

understanding your frustration, but this is a machine, and all these parts do require the human touch. with the human touch comes human error.

Be happy nothing happened and move on.

Give me a time-line on this, please… Was the “loose screw” found 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week after the repair? And I am very curious as to which “screw” that was. As I try to envision this dilemma, banjo bolts and debris on seals keeps coming to mind.

Absolutely, give the tech the chance to atone for his own mistake.
Give him this all-important opportunity to step up to the plate. It will show him that you have continued confidence in his work and he’ll be that much more diligent in the future. It will also allow you to learn even more about the personal integrity of this tech.

First of all, you can’t trust the Mechanix files. Negative feedback is censored and only positive feedback gets published. Nonetheless, give the guy a chance to fix it. It is probably an honest mistake. However, next time look to a trusted impartial source for a recommendation.

Don’t most brake systems have a “split” system which gives you right front and left rear even if the other side (left front and right rear) fails? Also, seems like a loss of brake fluid would cause spongy, loss of brake pedal. I think you should cut the guy a break and thank your maker that you noticed it before you had a panic stop in a school zone. I’m glad that you’re here to post it. Makes me think about being a bit more careful when I’m doing brakes. Rocketman

Give him a chance to correct any mistake he may have made. Be polite about it unless you get nowhere.

Keep in mind that being on a recommended list may not mean much. Someone can even recommend themselves or have a friend do it.

As Rocketman points out, modern brake systems have redundancy built in such as a split master cylinder so that a leaky line will only affect 2 of the 4 brakes. It will take a little further to stop but you will still be able to stop.

Also, when the brake fluid drops below a certain level the “brake” light on the dash should illuminate, letting you know something needs checking.

In the rare event that brake lines get severed to both systems simultaneously or the master cylinder suddenly ceases to function you also can use the emergency brake to get the car stopped. More distance will be involved but as long as this brake is functional it should get you stopped.

I don’t think you were in serious danger and the mechanic seems to have admitted his mistake and made everything good.

It Probably Was A “Bleeder Screw”.

It seems everybody has a story to tell about a mistake they made that could have become dangerous. Most mechanics can also talk about things they have discovered while doing routine check-ups on cars, that they have brought to the owner’s attention and then corrected, that could have prevented an imminent accident.

Besides I have had Doctors make mistakes on me when I trusted them for help. I could talk about that, but let’s just say that I agree that everyone makes mistakes. Also, like mechanics, doctors sometimes discover things that can prevent somebody from having an emergency or an illness from becoming worse, during routine check-ups.

I can, and I have, forgiven a lot of mistakes because a shop is HONEST.

So let’s forgive A-Rod,he came clean didn’t he?

Just a note about the Mechanics Files. We will remove shops, if we hear of a very serious mistake that we believe represents something more egregious than the occasional error that results from all of us being human. Or, if we hear of a pattern of mistakes, or clear deceit.

Overall, we get very few negative comments about shops in the database. It’s an idea that Tom and Ray had years ago, and has proven very useful over the years.

Thanks for all the good advice here in the CTC!

Best,

Doug Mayer
Senior Web Lackey

it was just a mistake.just let it go.just next time you have work done have them recheck everything, with you there if possible.especilly when it comes to brake work.even check the lug nuts.