Bottom Line
It all started with a bad clutch
When repair shops aren't eager to stand behind their work, there are friends you can call.

By Donna Ryun, OOIDA Communications Manager

It's an old story. You know … the one where your truck breaks down and you take it to a repair shop, and then when you get it back, you discover later that the cure was worse than the ailment. That's after you've used up your cash paying for the original repair.

OOIDA Member John Weems found out the hard way that repair shops are not always eager to stand behind their work – particularly when that work is so shoddy that it starts a domino effect, which leads to subsequent damage and downtime costing him money he doesn't have.

It all started with a bad clutch that John had replaced at a nearby service center in Florida. Simple enough. However, a couple of weeks and a few miles later, John discovered leaks everywhere. The tranny was backed out of the bell housing, and a trip to a Freightliner service center gave John an unwelcome eye-opener: The original repair shop messed up.

Turns out that the mechanic who replaced the clutch took some shortcuts, used some bolts that didn't fit, neglected to tighten others, and even failed to replace one or two. The bell housing was damaged around the bolt holes, broken bolts were found in the flywheel housing, and several others had thread damage.

The Freightliner shop in Iowa fixed the damage caused by the original repair shop, but now a $600 clutch job has turned into a $5,300 nightmare. And that doesn't include John's downtime, or motel and restaurant bills, not to mention the headaches trying to get the first shop owner to admit and pay for the damage they caused to the truck.

Meanwhile, John was stuck in a motel room with no money to get the truck out of the Freightliner shop so he could get back on the road again and he was feeling pretty hopeless … until he thought of calling OOIDA and was connected with Tom Crowley, a compliance agent in OOIDA's Business Assistance Department.

After talking with John and looking over the info that he sent, Tom agreed with Freightliner. The original repair shop was at fault. Having made that determination, Tom didn't hesitate to call the shop owner in order to give him a nudge in the direction of accepting responsibility and paying Freightliner so John could get his truck out of the shop and back on the road.

After many minutes on hold and several broken promises for callbacks, not to mention obvious avoidance whenever OOIDA's number appeared on the shop's caller ID, Tom decided to use his "media" connections to see whether an exposé would prompt some action from the shop owner.

Land Line's senior editor, Jami Jones, is always looking for a good story, so she agreed to check into the situation as well. She called the shop to get their side of the story, but was given the runaround. No surprise there.

After being told that the owner wasn't there, she said: "That's fine. I'm sure we have enough for the story. We have all the photos and information needed. We'd be more than happy to hear from the owner if he or she wants to comment on why this happened and why Mr. Weems' truck is still in the shop before we write our story."

Next thing we know, the owner is on the phone with John working out the details. Long story short – John is back in the truck and the bill has been paid, including the downtime settlement.

As it turns out, the owner of the repair shop finally (with a little nudging from Tom and Jami) decided to contact his insurance agent about this situation.

Everybody knows that mistakes happen. A mechanic gets busy and takes one too many shortcuts, or he is interrupted in his work and the distraction causes him to forget to replace a bolt or two. Faulty products or installation can cause big trouble for everyone involved. That's why most repair shops or service centers purchase and maintain liability protection against such hazards.

Customers should make sure that their repair shop maintains business liability insurance that includes coverage for damage to vehicles caused by faulty products, installation, or service while in the care of the repair shop.

Fortunately, the shop owner did have the insurance protection that was necessary to cover his mechanic's errors. Although the owner was initially somewhat reluctant to file a claim, OOIDA staff's persistence and determination to help a member paid off. And the shop owner eventually did the right thing by turning it over to his insurance agent, who paid the bill and got John rolling again.

It never hurts to get a little help from your friends at OOIDA.LL