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I Have a Problem with a Car Repair Shop – What Do I Do?

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California’s Department of Consumer Affairs has a Bureau of Automotive Repair Opens new window to help keep repair shops from taking advantage of people. If you're unhappy with work done on your car, you can file a complaint with the Bureau.

Before you file a complaint


Talk to the person in charge of service or repairs at the shop. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Be polite and stay calm.
  • Explain your problem.
  • Tell the person in charge what you think is a fair settlement.
  • Tell the person if you are willing to negotiate.
  • If you can't work it out, tell the person you're going to consider all of your legal options, including filing a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repair.
TIP: As soon as you start to think that you may need help solving this problem with the repair shop – either from the Bureau of Automotive Repair or the court:

A. Start to organize your evidence that the repair shop did a bad job.

  1. Save all of your receipts,

  2. Get your used car parts, if you haven’t already (California law requires that your used parts be returned to you upon request),

  3. Make notes of every visit or phone call – date, time, what was said, etc.

B. Have your car checked by an expert.

  1. Before you drive many miles, have your car checked by an experienced mechanic. Ask him or her to write a letter stating his or her experience, training, and what, in his or her opinion, is wrong with the car. (You may need to pay a mechanic to do this.) 

  2. Get 3 estimates of how much it will cost to repair your car. You will use these to prove the amount it will take to get your car fixed. If you have already fixed the car, provide that receipt as evidence of costs.

     

To file a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repair:


Go to their website Opens new window and click on File a complaint.  Fill in the questions it asks you.


What happens after you file with the Bureau?

You'll get a postcard telling you your case number and the name of your Bureau representative.

  • The representative will try to work things out with the repair shop for you.
  • You will get phone calls and letters with information about your case.

What if you can't work things out?
If the shop broke any laws, the Bureau will get proof.  Then they may give the shop a "Notice of Violation."
 

  • You will be told when your case is closed.
NOTE: The Bureau can't represent you in court or collect money for you.


If the Bureau of Automotive Repair cannot help you, you can sue the repair shop in small claims court.  To learn how to do this, click here.


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