Beat the bushes for a reliable mechanic. Ask friends for names of good mechanics they’ve used. Compare price estimates from various repair shops.
Ask to see a mechanic’s credentials to ensure they’re experienced. Check any repair shops you’re considering with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against them.
Let the mechanic figure out what to repair. Describe the problem as clearly as you can, but don’t try to guess what’s wrong. If you do, you may end up getting work you don’t need.
You can also suggest a road test with the mechanic to point out the problem.
Step 1. Report any problems right away
Report unsolved or new problems to the mechanic right away. Brakes still grinding? Engine smell funny? The sooner you report, the less of a chance they can say it was your fault!
If you have a problem with the work, or the cost of it, talk to the mechanic or the owner of the repair shop and try to solve it. Be firm, but polite.
You can talk to them in person. But many people are more comfortable sending a letter. We have templates that can help you with this. See this letter about poor servicing or this one about excessive charges.
If the business won't own up to the mistake, you can write a review online describing your experience. Stick to the facts, and avoid making personal attacks. Sometimes, a negative review can be very motivating.
Step 2. Pay the repair bill
If you can't solve the problem, you should still pay for the repair work. If you don't, the repair shop can register a lien (claim) against the vehicle.
That’ll make it hard to sell your vehicle, and the mechanic could have the right to seize it from you and sell it.
Step 3. Contact a consumer agency or industry association
If you're a member of the BC Automobile Association (BCAA), and you use a BCAA-approved mechanic, you can ask BCAA for help if you have a problem.
You can contact the Better Business Bureau, which receives complaints about local businesses. See the BBB. At the very least, future consumers can be warned about that shady mechanic.
You might want to contact the Automotive Retailers Association. See ARA's website. Only some repair shops and dealers belong to this voluntary organization. Or, if the repair was done by a dealer franchise, you can call the head office to lodge a complaint.
Step 4. Take to social media
Consider telling your story on social media. Be factual and truthful about what happened — using foul or insulting language may work against you.
Social pressure is powerful. The mechanic may be eager to make things right to prove they’re good corporate citizens.
Step 5. Consider legal action
If you can’t solve the problem with the above steps, your next option may be to take legal action to recover amounts you feel you’re still owed.
For claims of under $5,000, you can apply to work out your dispute with the Civil Resolution Tribunal. This is a cheaper and faster option than going to court. You don’t need a lawyer to do this!
Who can help
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in December 2019
Time to read: 5 minutes