CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Truck damage

A friend offered to launch our 24 foot boat as we did not have a vehicle capable of performing this task. This was accomplished the last week in May. At the time of the launching the truck (which is not new by any stretch of the imagination) struggled to pull the boat on some hills. Once the boat was launched the 4 wheel drive seemed stuck but then did disengage. Now a month later, the owner of the truck says it is not working properly and the damage was caused by pulling the boat last month. He is requesting payment of the repair bill which is yet unknown. I am feeling very uncomfortable about this as it is a month later and he has been using this vehicle the whole time. If it had happened while the boat was being pulled I would not question my cupability but a full month later without any warning to receive this message makes me leery.

What is the year, make, and model of the truck? How heavy is the boat?

Did your friend volunteer or did you ask for the help?

At best I could be convinced for a 50/50 fairness split on the bill, but not 100%. This is especially true if the vehicle is more than 5 yrs old and has a lot of miles on it. Without knowing anything else, I would suspect that the fault/repair issue got a start way before the boat towing.

I would not even consider asking for any type of compensation and the reasons are numerous,just my bad luck my truck broke.

I will ask who was driving while the truck was struggling to pull the boat? Was the 4wd engaged while on the pavement?

Your friend offered to pull the boat. You apparently did not ask. It seems to me that you owe nothing. It is his responsibility to understand his truck and what it can and can’t do. You took advantage of a kind offer, but that does not mean that you owe anything. And as you say, who knows what the truck was used for before or after he moved your boat. Tell him your really sorry. Maybe take him to dinner.

When I loan something to someone and it breaks, I assume that it probably would have broken the next time I used it. When I was a kid, I was teaching a neighborhood kid how to ride a bicycle. He was doing pretty well until the front fork broke. The front wheel went one way, my friend went another way and the rest of the bicycle went a third direction. My friend ran home even though I told him it wasn’t his fault. His parents came over and tried to pay for the repairs to the bicycle. My parents wouldn’t let them. They knew that I had weakened the fork because they had seen me ride the bicycle over daredevil ramps that we constructed. In fact, I got the dickens for not treating equipment with respect. It took me a couple of weeks to save enough money for a new front fork.

It could be that your buddy (not your friend) did not know the limitations of his vehicle, i.e. his Tacoma or B3000 was under powered for the task.

The boat is heavy and I questioned the capability of the truck but was assured it was rated high enough. I am not sure if he offered or I asked, we were discussing launching boats and we had just sold our truck. I may have asked if he would mind helping out but the actually towing was not done for more than a month later so he had plenty of time to change his mind.
I am waiting for the estimate for repairs which will tell me the actual make and model. From memory it was a GMC large pickup.

Not sure if he offered or I asked for help but there was at least a month between the agreement and actual event so I was confident it was not an impulse someone regretted. When he arrived I even questioned if he had concerns about the trucks ability to handle the boat.

This person is not your friend. He may have been, but he isn’t any more. If he volunteered to tow and launch your boat it’s his problem. You didn’t hire him, he did it for free. If the truck wasn’t up to the task he shouldn’t have done it, and he is WAY off base asking you to pay for any damage, whether you think it came from towing the boat or not.

It’s his truck and his problem. It was old and tired and he pushed it over the edge by towing a load that was too heavy.

Find someone else to help you when it’s time to get the boat out of the water in the fall, and make sure you understand the terms of the deal.

This is one of those unfortunate things that happens “doing favors”. I assume that pulling and launching boats is not new to the person and his truck, yes or no? How long was the drive from the storage area to the launch ramp? Was this “friend” familiar with the terrain and know there were hills? Did you tell him the weight of your 24’ boat and trailer?

It the friend knew all the correct facts in advance then it is his bad luck and if you want to give him some $$ that is your call.

If he expected to pull a 16’ runabout and ended up pulling a 24’ day cruiser perhaps you should have declined his offer or made sure he understood the facts in advance. If you don’t feel repsonsible in anyway then you are not. But if you decline to help with some $$ you can expect this to be a “friend no more”.

So he’s been driving the vehicle this whole time it’s been broken? Or did something just break and he thinks after a month, it’s your fault something broke?
Ask him to get the mechanic to put it in writing that towing the boat caused something to break, or come loose, and go from there.

We easily could have hired our boat mechanic and will have him pull it. It was an impulse on my part that I am regretting now. I am still waiting for the “estimate”, I did respond to let us know what the mechanic said about the damage and we would “discuss” it. I was then informed that it is a clunking noise in the rear end. Not sure what that means, Any ideas?

Have you made some sort of commitment to pay for this? Or for part of it? I think it’s time to tell this guy he’s on his own. As long as he thinks you’re going to chip in he’ll keep bugging you.

You owe him nothing. He’s been driving the truck for a month. It broke. It’s not your problem.

He has an old truck, an it’s going to cost a boatload to fix it. Don’t get involved. Even after they patch up the rear end something else will break and he’ll blame that on your boat, too. Get out now!

What damage?? What’s not working properly?? This could just be a U-joint but who knows?? If YOU feel compelled to pay for this, then it should be YOUR mechanic who determines the “damage”, if any…A U-joint, something like that, is just normal wear and tear…

Today, you can BUY trucks like this cheaper than fixing them…

I really need someone who knows what they are talking about to explain to me if this is even reasonable. Today’s story is that the garage says that the ring and pinion has been totally chewed up due to excessive weight. The truck is a 1999 Ford F-150 with 138,140 miles. The itemization of parts has axle bearings, axle seals, pinion bearings both outer and inner, pinion race and seat. I think the race is a typo and it should be rack but that is just from lingo I have heard on TV commercials. Total cost approaches $ 900.00. Any thoughts. Thanks.

You are thinking of rack and pinion steering. The description is the innards of the differential. It translates power from the engine (front to back) to the axles (side to side). It’s hard for me to believe that an F-150 differential would be blown out towing one boat. The F-150’s maximum towing capacity is 7500 lbs. Does your boat and trailer weigh that much? This seems like a worn out differential and you should certainly not be held responsible for it. You might offer a ride back from the repair shop and dinner if it makes you feel better, but IMO your boat didn’t break his truck.

There’s not any definitive way to say it was “due to excessive weight”-- I bet the mechanic is the guy’s buddy and has been coached. Like Jt said, unless your boat is a huge ocean liner of a craft, there’s no way it would wreck the differential unless it was on the way out anyways.

The most I would do to try to salvage the friendship, would be to maybe offer to pay for half of a used differential (parts only!), you know, as a fee for him helping you launch your boat.