By John Miller

We recently received the following email from a Radio Show listener.

I’ve received two misdiagnosis from the mechanic which has cost me money for parts and labor that never fixed the initial problem. By law do I have to keep paying while these guys keep taking shots in the dark, or do they have to apply ill-spent money toward actual repairs?

Unfortunately Texas has no regulation of repair shops and the City of Houston has very little. Houston does have an Automotive Division of the Houston Police Department where you can file grievances and theoretically a shop could lose its license, but that almost never happens. In many cases the shop is already operating without a City license anyway.

If it is a case of fraud you can go through the State Attorney General’s Office and file a complaint, but fraud does not cover incompetence. You can file complaints with any association the shop belongs to such as BBB, AAA or the ASA and in some cases they can arbitrate a solution. Chances are if the shop really did misdiagnose the problem twice and charged you for it they do not belong to any automotive professional associations. The last resort is small claims court. If you go that route you should have all the documentation you can gather about what they did, what they charged for and what finally fixed the problem.

Usually the most successful route to take is the least expensive and simplest; talk to the shop owner and see if you can reach an agreement that will satisfy your situation.

No shop is perfect, not even mine, and we can all make a misdiagnosis from time to time, or just flat screw up a job. It is what the shop does after the mistake happens that tells you the quality of the people running it. Most will face up to the mistake and take care of the customer.

The best defense against a problem like this taking place with your car is to do your research before you take your car for repair. Check the shop out. What is its reputation? What associations does it belong to? Does it have ASE Certified Technicians on staff? Does it have unresolved complaints on file with the BBB?

Once you have done all of that stop in and talk with the staff, with the service advisor or owner. If they make you feel uncomfortable leave. If they don’t have the time to talk with you about your problem and possible solutions leave. If the place is a mess leave.

A lot of the responsibility for a good repair rests on the motorist. Quality repairs by qualified technicians is expensive. If you base your choice of shop only on the lowest bidder beware, you may not get what you expect in service or expertise.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many times diagnosis is not a straight forward process. With the complex systems on cars today we often see multiple problems with a car. Often in order to diagnose them properly we have to fix the first problem we find then retest to see if there are any other problems beyond the first one. If you have a transmission shifting problem and the tech finds a bad throttle position sensor on the engine that will have to be replaced first to determine if there will still be an internal transmission problem. If you have an air conditioner that won’t cool but the tech finds and engine misfire the miss will have to be fixed because the car’s computer system will lock out the a/c if the engine isn’t running right. You may still have an air conditioning problem after the miss is fixed.

Communication is the key! You must find a shop that will take the time to clearly explain all of this to you before they start work and you have to have the confidence in the shop to listen to them.

Remember you can always call us at Freedom Automotive for a second opinion or to discuss the problems with your car. We are happy to help you understand what is going on even if we are not going to fix your car.

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