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What do you folks think is a reasonable course of action?

I recently had my car “repaired” by a mechanic who was to fix the tail lights and also my fuel gauge. Well, when I went to pick up the car, the tail lights worked, and the fuel gauge, which had been pegged below empty, showed half a tank of gas.

I thought everything was okay, so I drove the car to the airport the next day to catch a 6:00 AM flight. As I was driving on the interstate, my car hesitated, sputtered, and ran out of gas. I realized something was wrong so I managed to coast to the shoulder. Oh, yeah, the fuel gauge was showing that I had a third of a tank of gas.

I ended up having to pay $100 for a tow truck, missed my flight and had to take a different one, and could have gotten killed because cars and trucks were whipping by at highway speeds.

I have disputed the charge with my credit card company. I’d like to know what the people here think is reasonable. I suppose I could go back to the mechanic and tell them what happened and say calibrate the fuel gauge, but I want nothing to do with a company that could have gotten me killed.

Should I go back? Should I have to pay anything for the repair since the outcome was so bad? What do you folks think?

Was the car out of gas? It sound like a bad sending unit.

Yup. Bone dry. It was towed to a gas station and when I filled it up, it started just like that. And the fuel gauge went way past full. I think that they’ve screwed up the fuel gauge so that it shows half a tank more of gas than is actually there.

Whatever, the problem is, I’m not happy with the outcome of the repair. Am I being unreasonable in disputing the charge and not wanting to have the same shop work on the car?

I think you’re being a little overly dramatic. You knew the tank was low when you took it to the mechanic. Did you really think he was going to give you half a tank of gas for free? So you should have gone to fill it up when you left, which would then have alerted you to the fact that the gas gauge wasn’t fixed because you would have put more than half a tank in.

The mechanic screwed up, but he didn’t “almost kill you.” People pull over to the side of the road all the time. Unless you were dancing around in traffic, you had pretty decent odds of survival.

Which charge did you dispute with the credit card company? The mechanic’s bill, or the tow? If it was the tow, then you just ripped off the tow truck company because none of this is their fault. If it’s the mechanic, then you did things in the wrong order. Step 1 was to call him and tell him what the problem is, and see what he’d do to resolve it. Now that you’ve filed a dispute without even telling him there was a problem, he’s going to be (rightfully) pissed off at you because chargebacks cause trouble for merchants with the card company.

By your calculations was having a half of tank of gas a reasonable possibility? I have seen these type of things before when the gas gague delivers inaccurate information but for some reason the driver thinks that they have entered an alternate universe where it does not require any fuel to operate the vehicle. They just keep driving and driving,not bothered at all by the fact that their fuel supply should be decreasing but they are not seeing any indication that it is…until the car dies.

After you picked up the car you should have filled the tank and compared the amount actually put in the tank with the amount you would have expected the tank to accept if there actually was a half of tank of gas already installed. Trust but verify.

You should go back and at least give them the chance to fix it. Explain the situation, and see what they are willing to offer. What parts did they repair or replace? Sometimes, these parts may not be working correctly when installed. Other times, there may have been a problem getting them installed right. And, there may be other issues that could have been overlooked during the repair. That is why they offer warranties on both parts and labor.

They should try to fix the car right under their dime, since they did the work and ordered the parts. You should at least give them the chance to make this right.

I can see why you are unhappy, but gas tanks are not easy to work on and fuel guages can be tricky. I picked up a new car with a full tank, according to the guage. This was in a time when most new cars didn’t come full of gas so my first stop was a gas station, and the car took about 13 gallons. The gas guage was bad and fixed as a warranty repair, but had I trusted it I would have run out of gas.

After any repair to a fuel guage I’d go and fill the tank at a service station to be sure I had gas. When you work on a gas tank in some cars you need to drain the tank. So, after a repair that involves the fuel filler, fuel guage, or fuel tank I always make sure the tank is full until I know the guage can be trusted.

I won’t expect you to know this. Now, that this has happened to you once I expect you won’t let it happen again. One of life’s lessons learned. Take the car back to the shop and tell them the guage isn’t working properly and the reading isn’t accurate. They should have the chance to make it right.

If you refuse to take it back to the shop your credit card might not honor your claim.

I’m sure you were pretty angry after this whole situation, I would be frustrated too… you have my sympathy for that, but:

Disputing the payment before even giving the mechanic a chance to remedy the situation or at least explain why this may be happening isn’t going to sow a lot of goodwill or improve the situation in my opinion.

Since you’ve been driving the car with no gas gauge for a while, surely you should have some feel for how much gas was left after the repair, despite what the gauge said, so I think you are at least 50% to blame for the running out of gas, and for not mentioning to the mechanic that it didn’t look quite right.

Cars break down all the time, I’ve broken down multiple times on the highway in my life. It wasn’t exactly a life threatening experience as the car does coast for a while.

Also, this is part of car repairs, sometimes things aren’t perfect after a repair and the reasonable course of action is to go back and let the mechanic make it right. Disputing the charge with the credit card company over this situation is completely unreasonable and you are literally just stealing from the mechanic as he did provide the service (including a warranty on that service) for the amount you paid him.

I have to tell the OP that I agree with the other forum members who believe that he is being unreasonable.

Of course, you have a right to be upset. However, if every car repair, or appliance repair, or home repair that was partially unsuccessful resulted in contesting the charge rather than allowing the repair man to make it right, our financial system (and perhaps our legal system) would be hindered and possibly paralyzed.

As was said, you have a perfect right to be upset. However, your reaction is extreme and unreasonable. Allow the mechanic to make good on his repairs. If he continues to be unsuccessful, then you might want to contest the charge–but doing it at this point is very premature.

The gauge was not operating and you paid to get it functioning. Once functioning you find out it is not accurate, which is a different issue. And it is very unlikely that you will find a shop that can calibrate a speedometer.

I don’t think the outcome of your situation is that bad. When you called the tow truck, you should have instructed them to take the car to the shop that did the work. That’s what my customers always seemed to do if anything went wrong within a month of the shop I was working for having made repairs to their vehicle, and something went wrong with it. As mentioned by others, repairs don’t always go perfectly, and fuel sending units can be tricky. They may have ordered the wrong sending unit, repaired one that really needed replaced, or even had their parts supplier send the wrong one. Your mechanic deserves a second chance. The problem may not have even been caused by anything he did, particularly if he was supplied with an incorrect part.

I also would debate the statement that you “almost got killed.” All cars break down from time to time. You could run over some debris on the highway and get a flat tire or have a blowout. As long as you react sensibly, you won’t get hurt or killed (don’t act like most of the people who sued Ford and Firestone several years ago. If a tire blows out, you don’t slam on the brakes and jerk the steering wheel). Being on the side of the road can be scary and is somewhat dangerous, but I wouldn’t automatically call it a near-death experience. My brother repairs and replaces tires on 18 wheelers for a living, often on the side of the Interstate. He knows his job can be dangerous, but he doesn’t say that he “almost got killed” every day he goes to work.

I say you should give your mechanic another chance to make it right, and see about dropping the issue with your credit card company. If you explain all this to your mechanic, he may even cover the cost of your tow bill. Be calm and civil with him/her for best results. Keep in mind that not everything goes 100% right the first time, every time. When my son was a baby, he had blocked tear ducts, a common condition in infants. I had to take him in for surgery since they didn’t clear up on their own in his first year of life. The first surgery did not completely solve the problem, so he had to have it done again. The only thing that upsets me about that whole situation is knowing that, if my son were a car and the doctor were a mechanic, the second surgery would have been a “comeback” and I wouldn’t have had to pay for it.

You might want to ask your independent mechanic? if he checked his work. He should know how much gas was in the tank if he accessed the gauge sender to make the repair and whether a 1/2 tank reading was reasonable. Get him to make it right, explaining what happened and that you want to apologize for being hasty about stopping the charges as you were stressed out from events. Then later find another mechanic.

Your auto insurance should have paid for the tow.

The labor to compare the indicated level and the actual level in the tank would be somewhat outrageous. We each have opinions based on experience. When the complaint is the gauge does not function at all and a broken wire is immediately located and repaired with the gauge subsequently working I watch the gauge while pouring fuel into the tank and if the gauge indicates the additional fuel the repair is considered successful. It can be ASSUMED that the gauge is functioning just as it was prior to the wire breaking.

The labor to compare the indicated level and the actual level in the tank would be somewhat outrageous.

Well, I think before we can say for sure, we need to know what, exactly, the repair entailed. Was the job solely to get 12VDC to the fuel tank sender unit, or did the mechanic have to remove/replace the sender from the tank?

If it was the former, I don’t think you can fault the mechanic. If it was the latter, I’d at least expect him to manually move the float through its range of motion and verify “F” and “E” at the appropriate limits.

But (yet again) we have a post involving possible error by the repairman, exacerbated by driver’s failure to exercise due diligence, that results in an unhappy ending. If I had a nickel for each time I’ve seen that here…I’d go buy a coffee!

The labor too make this comparison is simply filling the tank and noting how much you put in and comparing with either what you know the tank holds (if you are the customer) or looking up what the tank should hold (if you are the mechanic). I don’t get this line.

Let me give you folks a little more information. First, no, I didn’t drive the car around for a long time with the gas gauge broken. It broke, and I fixed it the next day. The gas gauge was pegged below the empty mark. There was some gas left in the tank when it broke, because I was still driving around. I didn’t remember how much, but there was enough in there so that I didn’t think, hey, I need to gas up. Remember, I told you that the tail lights were out. That’s a ticket, so I got it fixed right away. I wouldn’t have gone to this mechanic, but the guys I normally go to were booked so I went to these guys as a back up.

It’s also clear that some of you didn’t read what I posted. I was on my way to the airport. Towing the car back to the original mechanic, at 4:30 in the morning? What would that accomplish? He would have been closed, and by the time I got to see him on a Saturday morning, I would have been stuck, wouldn’t have been able to get to the airport, and would have had one hell of a towing bill because I’d have had to have the car towed quite a long way. Instead, I had the car towed to a gas station, where I could get gas, get to the airport, and get on the next flight.

As for disputing the charge with the credit card company, there’s a logic to it. They have more resources than the mechanic does. Now if he wants to get paid, he’ll have to make them happy. I called my insurance company, and they will cover the towing so I’m not too upset about that, although having to cough up $100 in cash when you’re traveling and want to have a lot of cash in the bank in case something happens isn’t fun.

I really don’t want to take the car back to someone who didn’t do the job right the first time. As for me doing due diligence, when someone tells me, your fuel gauge is fixed, I expect it to indicate the amount of fuel that’s left. It’s not repaired unless it’s accurate. I’m amazed that someone’s suggesting that a fuel gauge that’s connected but inaccurate is fixed! That’s like a tailor saying, well, no, I didn’t cuff your pants like you wanted, but hey, they’re long enough so you should be happy.

Also, as far as the getting killed comment, I didn’t even think about it until the tow truck driver mentioned it to me.

If it wasn’t on the work order, I’d be worried the customer might say, “Hey, I never authorized that…but thanks for the free gas!”

Or that the customer might complain of “bad gas,” or the brand used, or similar…

This is what it’s like to own a car, get used to it. If you won’t even allow the mechanic a second chance then frankly I have no sympathy for you whatsoever. Bullying him via the credit card company rather than contacting him directly to at least see what he’d offer is absolutely as low as you can go.

I really don’t want to take the car back to someone who didn’t do the job right the first time.

Well, what’s on the work order? That will tell you what you authorized him to do. If all you were willing to pay for was to plug the sender unit back in…it’s hardly the mech’s fault your used part was bad. Replacing the sender likely would have solved this problem, but would have been more expensive: did you “decline” this?

Put it this way: he hooked up your tail lights, too. Would it be “his fault” if one of the bulbs were burned out?

I think he could have done more to test the part before turning it over, but a fair amounnt your criticizm is unreasonable.