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Should I Pay a Mechanic Who Screwed Up?

Took my vehicle with 54k miles in for a noise/vibration in front end, and my NON-Ford-dealership mechanic (trying to support my local merchant) diagonosed it as a faulty wheel bearing. He took parts off, bought replacement parts, and put new parts on. Turns out he was wrong, and was not the wheel bearing. He wants me to pay for both diagnosis and part replacement labor. I am leaning towards telling him to “pound sand”, because he diagnosed it incorrectly. Also, since this might be a powertrain issue, he should have told me to take it to the Ford dealership where it might have been covered by 60k mile warranty (my mistake there as well). Am I being to harsh by not wanting to pay? If so, what portion should I pay for to be fair? Thanks for reading my question and your advice!

Well? Did you ever think the mechanic actually found a bad wheel bearing? And replaced it in an effort to see if it would resolve the problem?


Great point. After looking at bearing and seeing that new one made no difference, he said old bearing was still OK. Thanks

I say it is tough! Why not pay for parts and 50% labor for the bearing change. There is no diagnostic fee if you do the repair at the same place, so that fee is out the window anyways.

Well it wouldn’t be the first time something was misdiagnosed. The problem is you got a new wheel bearing instead of one with 54K on it. I don’t like paying for stuff either that didn’t do the job but I forked over $500 on an EGR. I would think you should pay for the part and part of the labor if he is willing to cut a deal. The reality is though, he can charge the full price and that is the purpose of mechanics liens that he could put against your car to pay the bill. The courts won’t allow you to be unjustly enriched.

Did he screw up or did he proceed prudently but in this case it did not work. So do you feel that even though he may have acted prudently, he should not be paid for his work?

Think about your job. Most of us work per hour. If we make a reasonable error, we still get paid.

I wonder if your mechanic went solely on your description of the sound, and performed the “repair” based on that? This is always a mistake, except, when the problem is intermittent and can’t be duplicated…just guessed at. Even, under testing, a customer’s sound may not be the sound the mechanic hears from the many sounds from that area.

Big difference between an hourly wage employee and a owner of a company. I’ve had employees that work for me screw up and of course I paid them…HOWEVER…We NEVER passed that cost to our customers. It’s the cost of doing business. Of course everyone and every company is going to make mistakes…You DON’T pass the cost of those mistakes to your customers.

Did you authorize the repair and agree to pay the amount he is charging you? If so, you better pay up or you should not expect to get your car back.

Misdiagnosis can happen anywhere with any mechanic. This guy has bills to pay, including the mechanic’s pay for the job and the parts he bought with your authorization. Perhaps you should ask him to give you a discount so he can still cover his costs, but maybe break even on the job.

I often see regulars on this sight advise people to go to an independent mechanic rather than a dealership, and I often suspect this advise comes from independent mechanics, who are obviously biased, or former mechanics who look back on their experience at dealerships negatively. The truth is an independent mechanic can be dishonest or make mistakes as easily as any other mechanic.

The truth of the matter is you authorized the repair, whether it was the right repair or not. If you don’t feel it is fair to pay for it, tell the mechanic and see if you can work something out. If you make this an adversarial thing, you will only impede progress. I don’t think of my mechanic as an adversary. I think of him as someone I work with to make sure we both take good care of my car. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Since the original bearing was good…He should have put it back in and returned the original…no unjustly enrichment.

Look at it from a consumers point of view…A SHADY mechanic NEEDS the business so he just starts replacing parts and charging you for them…even though he may know perfectly well that the parts he’s replacing are fine…OOPS I made a mistake here’s a $500 bill…

The truth is an independent mechanic can be dishonest or make mistakes as easily as any other mechanic.

True…but it doesn’t cost you as much.

The truth of the matter is you authorized the repair, whether it was the right repair or not.

Sorry…that won’t hold up in a court of law. He authorized it based on the MECHANICS EXPERT recommendation. Are you saying that a consumer should have to pay for a mechanics dishonesty or incompetence??? That could easily bankrupt someone.

I had a friend have his clutch assembly replaced because the mechanic diagnosed it as being a bad throw-out bearing (this same mechanic had replaced the clutch just 6 months earlier). It turned out to be the input shaft bearing and the transmission needed to be rebuilt. So the mechanic made a bad diagnosis…changed my friend $1100 for the job…AND then wanted another $500 to remove and replace the transmission to send it out to be rebuilt…the cost of the transmission rebuild is separate. I’m sorry…but I have a problem with that.

What I am suggesting, Mike, is that we don’t know whether or not the wheel bearing was bad. The car might have had more than one problem. The other thing I am suggesting is that proving that the wheel bearing didn’t need to be replaced is far more trouble than it is worth, if not impossible.

It certainly isn’t the mechanic’s fault that the owner didn’t take it to a dealership for warranty work.

I think that rather than “telling him to ‘pound sand,’” it might be a better idea for the OP and the mechanic to reach a compromise.

Mike, this was probably either a misdiagnosis or there was more than one thing wrong with this vehicle. We don’t know for sure one way or the other, and neither does the OP.

You seem to assume the wheel bearing didn’t need to be replaced. I am not willing to make that assumption.

I’m just making my comments based on what the OP said…In a reply to tester he said the Mechanic told him the old Bearing was fine.

From OP Above…

Great point. After looking at bearing and seeing that new one made no difference, he said old bearing was still OK. Thanks

If that statement is false…I have no idea. Do you know something I don’t.

You seem to assume the wheel bearing didn’t need to be replaced. I am not willing to make that assumption.

I’m NOT making that assumption. I have no idea…I’m just quoting what the OP said.

So the mechanic said the old bearing is fine, but he still wants the OP to pay full price for its replacement? It seems as though either something is missing from this story or something was added. I sure would like to hear [i]BOTH[/i] sides of this story before I pass judgment.

Sorry…that won’t hold up in a court of law.

Is that your expert legal opinion?

My brother is co-owner of a plumbing business. He was recently called to repair a propane-fired water heater. This heater used a draft induction motor and pulled the combustion air from the outside and vented to the outside. Even though my brother suggested that 1) the customer call a HVAC company who deals with this set-up on furnaces or 2) the customer replace the water heater with an electric heater, the customer wanted my brother to repair the heater. To make a long story short, the heater would shut down and not heat the water. Everything was checked–the air was coming out the vent when the draft induction motor was on and all the safety swtiches tested o.k. A call to the manufacturer said that the electronic gas valve to the burner was causing the problem. This valve was quite expensive, but the customer o.k.'s the replacement. Well, the valve didn’t fix it. My brother finally found the problem–the previous owners of the house had had dogs that stayed in the basement. The draft motor had sucked up the dog hairs and the dog hairs partially blocked the vent at the elbow. My brother cut the customer a lot of slack and took a loss on the job.

I had an experience with a Pontiac dealer in a small town when I was driving home from graduate school. I had left school for the 350 mile drive home in the early evening. The car ran worse the further I traveled and I realized 100 miles into the trip I probably wouldn’t make it. I stopped at a motel in a small town for the night. The next morning, I found the town had a Pontiac dealer and decided that that had to be my best option. The service manager took the car in right away and a mechanic went to work on the engine. He worked at least an hour. When I went to get the bill, it was only $5. I told the clerk that there had to be a mistake–the price was far too cheap, even for 1963. The service manager came over and explained that the mechanic had done his best, but the car wasn’t right. He said that they had it good enough for the rest of the trip. When I said that I thought I owed more money, he said that he couldn’t charge full price for a car that wasn’t right. “No car leaves this shop unless its right”, he told me. I did make it home without problems and did get the car fixed correctly at that point. The other part of the story is that the proprietor of the motel only charged me $4 for the night–said he couldn’t charge the regular rate because the television in the room didn’t work.

One more story: the optometrist where I had been getting my glasses retired, so I went to another optometry firm that had been recommended. I had requested that the bifocal part be made exactly like the glasses I was presently wearing. The bifocal portion was made too large on the new glasses. All the optometrist would do was adjust the nosepiece so that glasses were further down on my face. This adjustment wasn’t satisfactory, but that was all the optometry firm would do. After a couple trips back, I asked for the prescription. “Why would you want that?” I was asked. I said that I would take the prescription and glasses to an optician and have the glasses made correctly. “You will have to pay for that yourself”, the optometrist stated. “That’s right”, I replied. “I’ll pay in money, but you are ultimately paying in a damaged reputation”.

Those are both interesting stories. They remind me of one of my own.

I was driving my 1985 Buick Skyhawk form Dallas, TX to Miami, FL in the summer of 1990. Somewhere in Mississippi, the alternator light came on and the engine lost power. I had the car towed to a local GM dealership. They rebuilt the alternator, I paid (don’t remember how much), and continued my trip. I stopped at my grandmother’s house in Venice, FL before heading to Miami, and while there, the alternator light came on again. While the battery still had power, I drove it to the local Firestone shop. They told me it needed a new alternator. When I informed them of the alternator rebuild a few days before, they looked at other possibilities. Eventually, they discovered that one of the cables that connects to the alternator was heating up, and when that happened, it stopped conducting electricity. They replaced the cable, and that was the end of my electrical problems with that vehicle.

Triedaq, I wish everyone did business like that Pontiac dealership, but I don’t think your brother deserved to take a loss on the job. Discounting the job just enough to break even should have been enough to make that customer happy. Sometimes you have to eliminate one solution in order to uncover the real solution.

So the mechanic said the old bearing is fine, but he still wants the OP to pay full price for its replacement? It seems as though either something is missing from this story or something was added. I sure would like to hear BOTH sides of this story before I pass judgment.

I’m just making comments on what’s been said. I have no idea of the validity of said statements. Obviously we’re NOT going to hear both sides. I’ve yet to see the complaint here where we actually heard both sides.

Is that your expert legal opinion?

It worked for me. Had a problem with my furnace (actually power vent). The service company replaced NUMEROUS parts trying to fix it. It turned out to be a $10 switch. The bill I got was for $1,500. We went to court…Judgement…$10 + 1 hour labor to replace part. Judge told the service company I am NOT responsible for THEIR mistakes. It was their expert opinion that influenced my authorizing them to do the repairs…Then a couple of years later…same type of problem (different service company)…They replaced about 4 parts…Turned out to be this one $100 part…They didn’t charge me for the parts they replaced that didn’t fix the problem…They’re my current service company now.

There’s a difference between Authorized legitimate repairs and NON-Legitimate repairs…Don’t you agree???

“Yes I authorize you to repair my vehicle.”

“Yes I authorize you to swindle me out of every penny I have.”

Now if he said…I THINK this is the problem…and I THINK we should replace this part and it SHOULD fix the problem…and the OP authorized that…Then yea sure the OP should either A) authorize the repair…or B) Find a mechanic who can diagnose the problem correctly. Do you actually think the mechanic said…"I THINK I know what the problem is…And it’s going to cost you $x…and if I’m wrong…Sorry about that. If a mechanic ever told me he THINKS he knows what the problem is…I’d find another mechanic PRONTO.

Tiredaq, you were far more lenient than I would have been. If they refused to remake the lenses or give me my money back, I would have contacted my bank to reverse the charge on my check card or credit card.

In other words, you are determining what will hold up in court based on your experience with a totally unrelated case and without knowing in which state in the OP resides?

Like every Supreme Court nominee in the last 50 years has said in their confirmation hearings, “I would have to familiarize myself with all of the details of the particular case to make a judgment.”