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What liability should a garage have on a repair?

I wanted to get some opinions from the community on a little issue I have. I recently brought my car into a garage to repair an electrical problem. After some diagnostics, The mechanic was able to isolate my problem and had my alternator replaced. In addition, I had a couple other things done that I needed. In the process of changing out the alternator, the mechanic broke a hose by bending it back and they replaced that at no charge. I paid my money and was on my way. I was given a heads-up that I would need some work on the radiator, but not right away.

Next day (in 110 degrees) the car breaks down and has to be towed to the garage. The radiator hose that was replaced had broken off at the radiator, all the fluid had blown out, and the engine was cooked. Apparently, the connector on the radiator was cracked and broke right off with the replaced hose.

I am wondering what people’s opinions are on what the garage should cover. This is not that simple as the car is 15 years old and has 240,000 miles on it. I realize that its time was coming but I hoped to drive it a while longer, especially after having put several hundred dollars into just the day before. KBB valued the car at about $1,100.

Anyone care to weigh in?


Can you weigh in on it? Like what year, make, model of vehicle you’re talking about?


Sure. 1996 Infiniti G20.

IMO, going by the “heads-up that I would need some work on the radiator, but not right away” comment, you probably should have stopped him right there, and asked specifically what he meant. Judging by the failure, it sounds like the effort required which “broke a hose” caused excessive damage to the radiator.

Again, this is only my opinion, but if he knew there was damage, it shouldn’t have been allowed to leave the premises without being corrected, or at least a thorough explanation of the problem, and the possible results (one of which would be what you’re currently seeing).

A radiator pressure test, during which the hose should have been moved around - as would normally happen during driving - should have been done. Any impending failures may have been visible…maybe not. That’s why you needed a full explanation, with consequences, and the option to have it repaired immediately, or to sign a waiver absolving the shop of liability if it failed.

I am concerned, though, as I hear “that *&^% mechanic messed up my car” comments on a far too regular basis, when in fact, the vast majority of the problems I hear can be traced back directly to owner neglect. No one wants to hear the facts about a case in which they may be at fault. How many people do you know who “put gas in it and drive”, and do nothing else?


Your car is pretty much at the end of life.

I understand your frustration on this. However the garage did a favor by replacing your worn out hose without charge. Typically when an engine overheats its not cooked unless continued to run. Some fault goes to driver who is not aware of temperature warning light or guage. Newer motors do not cook immediately on overheat.

Mechanics do not like old cars since if you touch one thing it typically is worn out or at failure and they get blamed or eat the cost.

Sorry again…

Good and fair points above. The radiator work I was warned about was an upper tank that had issues and required an eventual radiator replacement. I am not mechanically inclined, so I hope that makes sense. I don’t believe they knew of any possible damage from replacing the hose. And I was told that if the coolant blew out fast enough, there would be no increase on the temp gauge, as it reads liquid and not air temp. It, in fact, never read as being overheated. I actually have very high regard for this garage, so I want be fair. Thanks for your opinions.

Few if any repair shops have “liability insurance” that covers their repair work.

Plastic radiators were junk the day they were made, after 15 or 16 years of service, the only thing holding them together is divine grace…

I am a former shop owner. In my shop, prominently displayed, was a sign.

“If I Wanted To Work On Junk I Would Work In A Junkyard”

Cars do not wear out one part at a time…They have been cleverly and intentionally designed to wear out as a complete unit, bound for the shredder before they become an emissions nightmare…You can only postpone that termination date for so long…

A good mechanic will warranty their work. They make mistakes like everyone else…When I had a exhaust system replace some years ago…The mechanic forgot to reconnect the O2 sensor…When he backed the truck out of the garage…the O2 sensor was dangling down and got wrapped around the drive-shaft and yanked it right out of the computer…When I showed up to pick up my truck…they told me the story…and I had to wait about 15 minutes while one of their techs went next door to pick up a new O2 sensor (on their dime).

Any mechanic or business that wouldn’t correct any mistakes they make are just crooks and should be avoided at ALL costs.

I’m not a fan of plastic tanked radiators at all. Plastic is not too bad when it’s new and a bit pliable. Throw in years of age and repeated heating cycles and it has a tendency to become egg shell brittle, prone to cracking at any time.
What happens to a plastic dashboard over time? They dry out and crack just like a radiator.

They bent and broke the hose. Did this affect the radiator and cause it to fail? I have no idea but it is a possibility.

You state they warned you of a radiator failure so I would think there was something more to this.

So the radiator splits and all coolant was lost, leading to destruction of the engine. When overheating an engine MUST be stopped immediately even if this is out in the sticks and you have to walk 10 miles home. The alternative is a fried motor.

I’m on the fence on this one. The shop may or may not have contributed to the failure but other circumstances may override that.

It would have taken more time, but perhaps the mechanic should have removed the hose instead of trying to bend it out of the way when replacing the alternator. I suppose 99 times out of 100 bending the hose back would have worked out just fine. I agree with others that mechanics don’t like to work on old cars for this reason. I know when I take my 1978 Oldsmobile into my shop for problems I can’t handle, I find the technicians hiding in oil drums, locked in the restroom, etc.
I do know that when I have taken an old pair of glasses to the WalMart optical department for repairs to the frame, they warn me that the frames may be damaged as they make the repair. Perhaps automobile shops should give the same warning for certain repairs to older cars.

I’m just a consumer so can’t say legally what is appropriate or customarily what is appropriate. I know the second to the last visit I made to the shop I used, cost me a day, a tow, and $500 in repairs. In addition the guy blew out a transmission switch diagnosing a problem that I told him it wasn’t. That $400 job was under warrenty so the trans shop ate that. I didn’t ask for any money back, I just started looking elsewhere, when about all I got was a gee whiz-too bad.

There are two contributing factors here though. The first is their work on the hose and damaging the connector tube. They may have some liability for that if they cracked the tube, but if it were that old, that might be just a casualty of the repair. The second though is that if all the fluid blew out, even if the gauge did not show hot, there would be steam coming out of the engine compartment like crazy. I think a reasonable conclusion would be that you can’t drive the car like that regardless of the guages. Having stopped the car when steam started, would have required just a tow, and a new radiator. So I guess looking at the liability, it would fall mainly on the driver and not the shop. Sorry but I think that’s how a judge would see it.

I’d also be wondering if they damaged the radiator by putting extra stress on it. It seems to reason if they damaged a rubber radiator hose (very flexible) they may have also caused the crack in the neck on the radiator (brittle plastic). If you had looked at the radiator prior to taking the car from the facility it might have been evident whether this was old or new damage. There wouldn’t be any liability on the part of the garage unless you could prove they actually did the damage and even then the only liability they would have would have been replacing the damaged radiator.

I think your best resolution to this would be going to the garage that did the work and tell them the radiator they claimed wasn’t that bad failed the next day and see if they will work with you in order to satisfy a customer. It just seems funny to me the damage was in an area they had already caused damage. Was the damage they caused to the radiator hose close to where it fastened to the radiator?