You need your car, and when you leave it in the shop for repairs, you can’t help worrying about the cost and the quality of the work that’s going on under the hood.
Your best protection from fraud and faulty repair work is to find a reputable mechanic or repair shop before your car needs to be repaired.
Do your homework to check on a repair shop’s reputation online and with friends and family. When you’re researching repair shops, you can also find out whether they have any mechanics that are ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified.
Before you go to the repair shop and the engine check light is on, consider taking it to an auto parts store who may run a computer diagnostic test on your vehicle free of charge. You can then compare this to what you are told by the repair shop.
Under the law, it is illegal to:
- knowingly make a false or misleading statement about the need for parts, replacement or repair service;
- state that work has been done or parts were replaced when that is not true;
- represent that goods are original or new, when in fact they are second-hand or refurbished; and
- advertise goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised.
Authorizations to Inspect and to Repair
You should get a written authorization to tow, inspect, test drive, diagnose, or disassemble any part of your car for the purposes of providing an estimate of repair costs, prior to the action being taken. This authorization should describe the actions to be taken, the charges, and whether any parts will be removed or the vehicle disassembled.
You may be asked to sign both the authorization to inspect and the authorization to commence repair work at the same time. The authorizations may be on the same piece of paper, but they should require a separate signature. Read each one carefully before signing.
The authorization to commence repairs should also include the date and time that you signed the form. If you decide to have repairs made, make sure the initial work order clearly specifies the work to be done, fees, completion date, terms of payment, and more.
Things You Should Not Do
You should not allow your car to be inspected, disassembled, or lifted up on a rack until you have obtained a copy of the inspection authorization forms with your signature showing the information outlined above.
You should not assume that a friendly verbal agreement will get your car fixed without arguments, lawsuits, or repossessions. Get everything in writing.
You should not allow anyone to speak for you in negotiating car repairs on your vehicle. Deceptive shops will use this as an excuse to add on extra charges, on the grounds that some other person authorized the repairs.
You should not disclose your credit card account number, driver’s license number, or any other personal information unless you clearly specify that giving the information is only for loan approval purposes, or unless you have approved the work, the work is finished, and you are ready to pay for it.
You should clearly indicate in writing that giving this information does not constitute an authorization to inspect or repair your vehicle. The authorization to inspect or repair is a completely separate authorization that should also require your signature. Deceptive shops will extract this personal information from you, commence work without your authorization, and then claim that you authorized the work because you provided this information and would not have done so unless you had authorized the repairs.