By December 22, 20050 Comments Read More →

Transmission Shop Does Unauthorized Repairs to My Car

Reader Question
My name is Elaine and the purpose of this letter is to try and get some kind of guidance with a horrendous auto repair situation that I am involved in.

November 2, 2005 I dropped my car off at Lewis**** Transmission, to have a mechanic determine why I was once again having problems with the transmission, that had been in their shop twice since March, 2005.

My specific instructions to Tim (the owner) at 8:59 am on Wednesday was to “look at the car, determine what the problem is, call me back with the analysis and estimate of how much it will cost, if anything, to repair, and depending on the cost, I will determine at that time if I can repair the car or if it will have to wait until I have the funds. I did not hear anything back from Tim on Wednesday.

November 3, 2005, 11:30 am, I called him to get an update. During the call, he told me that he was waiting for the dealership to call him back with the cost of the parts. He put me on hold twice thinking that the call coming in was from the dealership. I told him that when he gets his information, to call me back with the repair estimate. He said ok.

I called him back at 1:23 pm for an update. At this time he informs me that the car is ready to be picked up. Total cost is $1700.00. I was stunned because this was not the news I was expecting to hear. I was expecting to get the “estimate only”.

I told him that I did not authorize him to do the work and that he will immediately need to remove the parts that he put on because I am not prepared to spend that type of money and because he did not show me consideration by doing what I had asked him to do in the first place. He told me that he would not/could not remove the parts.

I asked him why did he do the repair without my authorization. He responded with “I told you whatever the cost was, I would work with you”. That statement does not constitute an authorization or an agreement. It is just him letting me know that he was not going to charge me another 3,000.00 again.

I never verbally agreed to the work and I definitely did not sign anything.

November 4, 2005 – I faxed a letter to Tim demanding that he return my car to me and letting him know that his only options were to remove the parts from the car, eat the cost or go to court. Tim left me a voice message at my job. (I have a copy of the message on my recorder):

November 16, 2005 Spoke with Dan with Citifinancial. Tim called demanding that the title to the car be turned over to him. Dan refused because he had no idea what was going on and since I am his customer, he was not going to do anything without hearing my side of the story, which I gave to him.

November 21, 2005 Spoke with Dan @ Citifinancial again. He said that Tim called him 8:00 this morning once again demanding the title be turned over to him. Dan told Tim that their attorneys have advised him against such actions. Tim then told Dan that he has in his possession my social security number and he will use that his authorization.

I never gave him my social security number. The only way he could have gotten that information was off of an old credit application that I submitted through their business earlier in the year or he went through my car, performed an illegal search and found a paycheck stub or other personal and legal items with my social security number on it. He also stated that he plans to file the mechanics lien on the 5th of December. As of today, I have not received any written notification from him regarding his intent.

December 7, 2005 I Sent a settlement offer to Tim proposing that I pay for the parts only and that he would remove the labor and storage fees.

December 9, 2005 – Called Tim to see if he had received my fax. He said that he did receive it and needed to speak with his partner, but there would be a delay because of the death of his partners father. He would get back with me early the following week.

December 14, 2005 – Received fax from Tim with a settlement payment of $1200.00 which includes parts for 952.00 and labor charges of 670.00 (for 1 hours work?). The repair order #0021567 is dated November 9, 2005. The car was supposedly repaired on the 3rd of November. I sent a fax to Tim declining his offer because it is not fair or reasonable.

December 14, 2005– My husband went to the repair shop to retrieve some items out of my car. Tim told him that he did the work because I gave him the last four digits of my social security number which is a lie. One of the documents that were retrieved from my car, from the back seat in a envelope, was my 2004 tax form which I was using to complete my daughters financial aid information.

My Reply


Wow, what a mess! I wrote an article about transmission shops a few months ago, to try to help my readers avoid situations like this, it is after the fact, but still might be helpful to you. Transmission Shops

I am NOT a lawyer, and really don’t have any legal advice to give you. I would suggest you visit the shop with your husband one more time and sit down with them and try to have a peaceful talk and come up with some kind of settlement. If you truly got a complete transmission overhaul, and with a $1700 bill I would think that is what you got. If they ordered a complete rebuilt transmission from the dealership and then just installed it, they might have spent $1200 in parts alone.

I think I would try to split the bill with them, you paying $850 and the shop absorbing $850. If they don’t agree to this I think I would hire a lawyer….but going the lawyer route will cost you money and take time to get anything resolved.

I have taken a transmission shop to small claims court before for something silimar to this….and after 6 court visits (with my lawyer) I spent about $1500 on fees to fight a $500 argument. I will NOT do that again.

You might want to contact a local tv news station there and see if they have a “consumer defender” person that will look into the matter and investigate for you…although, since he still has your car it would probably be in your best interest to get your car back as soon as possible and the court, hiring a lawyer or calling the tv station all take time.

To me it sounds like this guy either does this kind of scam often and is aware that not much will or can be done to him, or he is just plain stupid and needs a few lessons in customer communication. I would suspect he has done this a few times before and knows for the most part the laws in TX are on the lienholder side…HIS SIDE.

Since you did have tranmission problems, and it would have probably been repaired anyway…correct…you should pay him something, $1700 for a complete overhaul depending on the vehicle is pretty much the going rate, so if you pay him anything less than $1700 AND you really did get a complete overhaul…you will be paying less than if you took it somewhere else.

Austin C. Davis

Elaine’s Reply

Thank you for responding. He never said that he would have to rebuild the transmission. The repair order that he faxed to me last week shows that he replaced the “LS Kit & a shift/lu solenoid”. The transmission was rebuilt in March of this year.

It’s just the fact that even after I told him that I didn’t want him to do anything until I had some kind of written estimate of how much it was going to cost and he totally ignored my request

My Reply

I hear what you are saying…and am sorry it happened, this kind of thing gives all of us mechanics a bad name!

You should take that fax to a few other transmission shops and see how much they would charge to do the work….actually I am not real sure what he did. I am not familiar with “LS Kit & a shift/lu solenoid” but I am not a transmission mechanic either. When I see abreviated terminology on work orders I suspect they were placed there on purpose to confuse the reader, and I feel this is the case here.

$1700 should be the price of a complete rebuild transmission plus installation (on most cars, you still have told me what kind of vehicle you have), so if he did not rebuild it…you need to know exactly what he did and get the going rate for that work from other shops in your area and confront him with that.

If it was overhauled in March, isn’t it under warranty?


Austin C. Davis

Elaine’s reply

There was a 12 month 12,000 mile warranty. The day before I took the car to the shop, I remember looking at the odometer and thinking that since the car had 178xxx miles, I really needed to think about trading the car in. The next day, Tim calls me and the very first thing he says is “your warranty isn’t valid anymore because you have 184xxx miles on the car which would mean that you put on 14K miles in 8 months. I do not drive the car out of town. It is a strictly locally used car. I put on 200 a miles a week to and from work.

When I told him that his odometer meeting was wrong because I know what I read the night before, he became very defensive and asked if I was accusing him of tampering.

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