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When Your Car Repair Goes Wrong

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

A broken down car can be heartbreaking. You just want your car back and running like new again. And most of the time, car repair shops take good care of us and our automobiles.

But about the times they don't? What happens if you get your car back from the shop with the same problems it had when you sent it in? While you may not know a radiator from a rocking arm, you do have rights when it comes to getting your car repaired the right way.

Work Under Warranty

The first place you want to go for repairs is straight to the source. If you purchased a new car, it should come with an automobile warranty. Your warranty will list the time or mileage within which repairs are covered, the kind of repairs covered, and where you need to bring your car to make sure the repairs are covered. Often, a warranty will require you to bring a new car back to the dealership to be inspected and repaired. Even used cars may have some warranties.

If your car is covered by a warranty, it will usually list the protocol for repairs, including what to do if the car isn't repaired properly. Make sure you abide by the warranty -- as taking the car to a different repair shop or trying to fix it yourself may void the warranty and therefore any coverage of future repairs.

On Your Own

Unfortunately, warranties run out, and if you bought a used car from a private individual, it probably isn't covered under any implied warranty. In either case, you may be dealing with bad repairs on your own.

Many states require auto repair shops to disclose details about repairs before they are done. Referred to as unfair and deceptive acts and practices statutes, these laws dictate that shops must provide detailed estimates of all work to be done and disclose whether used or rebuilt parts are being installed. Always make sure you get any proposed repairs in writing, just in case something goes wrong.

If your car is repaired poorly or ineffectively, your first instinct might be to refuse payment. But be warned: if you refuse to pay for services provided by an auto shop, the shop might be entitled to legal possession of your car. Under what's known as a mechanic's lien, a shop or repair person could have a legal claim for property that has been serviced if the property owner refused to pay for services. So even if the shop does a bad job on your car, your best bet may be paying for the repairs anyway, getting your car back, and trying to recover the money later by proving the repairs were either ineffective or unauthorized.

Not All Lemons Make Lemonade

It's the worst case scenario: even the shop's best efforts can fix your car. If this is the case, you might have a lemon on your hands and might need to address the problem through applicable lemon laws.

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