Where Do I Stand with a Refund from The Mechanic?

So my car developed a squeal from the serpentine belt (drive belt) and so I changed the belt over with a friend who used to be an apprentice mechanic and it didn't fix it. So realising that I don't have the skills to take it further, I took it to the local Jax mechanic.
They said it was my tensioner and pulley and it'll run me $650 which I paid for. This morning the squealing was still there, just the same as before. So I called my friend (ex-apprentice) and he said that there was nothing wrong with the tensioner at most the pulley on the end might have needed a replacement for around $100.
I took it back to Jax and they are saying that they need to have another look at it. But it is probably the one-week-old belt and the tensioner was still needed to be replaced.

Where do I stand? Clearly, if the tensioner was the problem, there wouldn't be an issue now. I doubt I can say I want a full refund. But $650 is no small amount to have paid for something that wasn't the issue. What should I be telling the mechanic?

TL;DR
Mechanic replaces a part, didn't fix the issue, charged a lot. Should I ask for a refund? Or something else?

Comments

  • +9 votes

    Probably need to get a quote from another car repair place - Jax will laugh at your friend's advice.

    •  

      Yeah I figured that. Problem is, it is not like I have the old one to get it checked elsewhere.

    • +1 vote

      Probably need to get a quote from another car repair place - Jax will laugh at your friend's advice.

      What does that have to do with the question? OP shouldn't have to take it to multiple mechanics just to solve the problem.

      •  

        There's no "shouldn't have to" here. Car mechanical problems are a bit like health. It's not an exact science. Usually it's cheaper to replace a part that's 80% likely to be the problem, than to do a full strip-down diagnosis which will certainly not fix anything (because it's a diagnosis) and cost more just in itself.

        In medicine it's a bit like treating for the most common cause of a symptom, monitoring for results, and then doing more diagnostics if that isn't the issue.

        •  

          That is misleading and not understood by most people that take their car to be repaired by a general mechanic.

          •  

            @Lorindor: It's probably not well understood but it's not misleading at all. I have no background (literally nil) in cars or engineering but even I've picked this up just in casual conversation with my mechanic. It's pretty straight-forward:

            "It's probably ABC. Cost you $650 to replace. Cheaper than taking it apart to confirm which'll cost $1k+."

            I've never known any mechanic to guarantee results. Ever. Plus, OP still gets the new part which means it won't need to be replaced as soon as the old part, even IF the old part was fine.

            •  

              @HighAndDry: I don't think your experience with mechanics applies to everyone, as there are over a thousand workshops nationwide, all with different processes, knowledge and motives.

              You can't blame OP for expecting to spend that amount of money and not have the underlying issue resolved.

              •  

                @Lorindor:

                You can't blame OP for expecting to spend that amount of money and not have the underlying issue resolved.

                I'm not blaming OP. I'm just saying you can't blame the mechanic either. There doesn't always have to have someone you can blame.

                •  

                  @HighAndDry: In this case you really can. They assumed, rather than simply popping off the belt and actually checking things.

                  •  

                    @brendanm: From OP's updates, I think the mechanic finally did (the bare minimum of) research, thought it was the alternator clutch, and either it wasn't or they've bollocks it up even more in trying to fix it. And it's an 05 diesel Hilux, not like it's a 90s BMW or something.

                    • +1 vote

                      @HighAndDry: Exactly, my point being it's a very simple diagnosis, op dropped it off saying to fix the belt noise, and they didn't, as they threw parts at it randomly rather than actually finding out what the problem was.

                •  

                  @HighAndDry: The mechanic would have known better, it's their profession. If they weren't confident that the repair would have actually solved the issue, they should have told OP that was the case.

  •  

    Tl;dr: ping pong.

    Drop the Jax and unfriended your mate, then go to another mechanic and gluck, hopefully no more he said this she said that.

    • +1 vote

      It is less about my mate's input and more about a mechanic replacing something, it not fixing the problem, but being stuck with the bill. I guess I could have done a better job getting to the point. But when I do, people say there is not enough info to give advice.

      Ps: what is ping pong? Other than a fun game to play.

  • +2 votes

    Some baby powder, grahite powder and lithium grease on the pulley. $5.

    Fixed mine in several cars. I have never replaced a belt or pulley (unless lightened for power etc) in 30+ years.

    PS: You made need to spray the pulley every 3-6 months.

    •  

      I tried the good old WD40 before sending it in. Didn't know about baby powder. Either way, my suspicion is that the bearing is shot. Probably didn't need a whole tensioner arm replaced.

      • +12 votes

        You do know that WD-40 isn't grease/lubricant right?

      •  

        What car? Had to do a tensioner bearing on our hilux recently. Cost difference of whole unit vs just the bearing was under $50 so went with the safer option(bit of a gamble really, worn toyota part vs new after market?).
        We supplied parts and on site mechanic took about 1.5 hrs so $150 labour. Parts incl belt about the same.

      • +7 votes

        Baby powder or graphite powder even a cake of soap for the belt.

        And Lithium grease (spray) for the pulley bearing.

        WD40 will wash out the remaining grease etc and make it worse.

        • +2 votes

          Baby powder or graphite powder even a cake of soap for the belt.

          This isn't a good idea. Greasing the pulley bearing is a good idea because it's meant to have grease in it. Adding anything to the belt will cover up the problem instead of fixing it - it will still be slipping, you just won't hear it.

  • +15 votes

    I usually wait until the Movie comes out on DVD or watch it online.

  • +6 votes

    Yeah, I'd ask for a partial refund. $650 seems very expensive too.

    I had a similar experience a couple years ago - my car had a fault that two mechanics couldn't diagnose and told me to take it to a dealer. The dealer had the car for over two weeks and said they fixed it. Picked it up, saw on the invoice they had charged me for two parts that I previously told them would NOT fix the issue (they initially said replacing these parts would fix it but I disagreed as it simply was not possible), questioned them, they maintained it was necessary to fix the car. Paid (about $900 - $250 parts, the rest labour), left and 10 minutes down the road, the same issue started happening again. Called them, they said I could bring it back but they would continue to charge me to try to diagnose the issue (at some ridiculous rate of labour - $200p/h or thereabouts) so I declined.

    A couple days later, sent an email asking for a partial refund. Declined. Threatened to take it to QCAT, they again declined and told me I couldn't take this to QCAT as they don't hear these matters. Linked them to the site which provides car repairs as an example for QCAT dispute (https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/marketing-s...) and they immediately rolled and refunded the labour ($650).

    • +3 votes

      OP needs to find out the correct fix and have a mechanic's report on the failure of previous fix.

      At this point, he/she doesn't have a case.

      •  

        Yeah. Which is not going to be easy given the old tensioner was thrown out.

      •  

        OP does have a case.

        He paid for a service. That service did not give the agreed result.

        • -3 votes

          He paid for a service. That service did not give the agreed result.

          This sentence should explain why he isn't entitled to a refund. At least not yet.

          He paid for service. Not a result. The service was provided.

          … it was my tensioner and pulley and it'll run me $650 which I paid for.

          This explicitly specifies that OP paid for work to be done on the tensioner and pulley.

          If OP paid a sum for a diagnosis then it is easily arguable that OP is entitled to a refund for the cost of diagnosis.

          So at this very point in OPs story, he has a car that squeels, and he has done some work to it and the squeel is still there. We don't know if the squeel is caused by multiple factors or if the standard procedure to address the squeel is to replace the tensioner and pulley by process of elimination of the cheapest component.

          • +1 vote

            @tshow: I have a feeling that this is the problem with getting a refund or partial on a service where the customer doesn't know what is going on. I think I am screwed here.

            • +2 votes

              @curtturtle: I feel for you. I've certainly had my fair share of unfair shares.

              Not all diagnosis are accurate and not all diagnosticians are competent unfortunately, when we pay for a service and we received said service, the exchange is complete.

              There is a lesson to be learnt here so it is not a complete waste of money - if you can't fix it yourself, you're at the mercy of others.

          • +9 votes

            @tshow:

            He paid for service. Not a result. The service was provided.

            You pay for a service to obtain a result. Why else would you pay for a service?

            Maybe you need to freshen up on the current legislation and consumer guarantees
            https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees...

            "be fit for the purpose or give the results that you and the business had agreed to"

            This explicitly specifies that OP paid for work to be done on the tensioner and pulley.

            "be provided with acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge and taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage"

            Sounds like they didn't sufficiently diagnose the issue. Which is what they were paid to do.

            You pay for a haircut. So you hair gets cut. You pay for an electrician to install a switch. So you get a switch.

            OP paid to investigate, identify and remove a squeal. The squeal did not get removed.

            when we pay for a service and we received said service, the exchange is complete.

            OP did not receive said service under the requirements of consumer guarantees. They failed to provide competent technical knowledge and skill, and failed to provide the agreed result.

            •  

              @zeggie:

              "be fit for the purpose or give the results that you and the business had agreed to"

              That is why no mechanic will agree to fix something like a squeak because they cannot always determine what the underlying issue is.

              The mechanic offered to replace tensioner and pulley based on their assumption and knowledge.

              They did the work they were paid to do and have the results (a new tensioner and pulley).

              They also did the work with acceptable care and skill because they did the work successfully and did not cause any damage during the process.

              •  

                @spaceflight:

                That is why no mechanic will agree to fix something like a squeak

                Nonsense. Of course they do.

                Consumers go into mechanics all the time seeking a fix for a problem they can't identify - a squeak, smoke, feature won't work, car won't start etc. They don't go in with the knowledge of what part they want replaced.

                The mechanic offered to replace tensioner and pulley based on their assumption and knowledge.

                And they were wrong. Thus a lack of skill or technical knowledge. They also failed to test the vehicle after the work was performed. They also turfed the original parts so the work couldn't be restored to its original condition.

                OP did not go into Jax and ask for a replacement tensioner and pulley. OP went in and paid for a specific service - to remedy the fault. Jax did not do that.

                These guarantees exist as the consumer won't have the specialised or technical knowledge to confirm if the service provider is correct. Otherwise Jax could just say "the engine is faulty and needs replacing to fix that squeal" and charge OP $5,000 with no repercussions.

                They did the work they were paid to do

                You are now arguing semantics pointlessly when the ACCC has already clearly defined what a service is - which I linked above.

        •  

          You pay for a service. You don't actually pay for guaranteed results.

          And they were wrong. Thus a lack of skill or technical knowledge.

          Car repairs (like medicine) isn't an exact science. Mechanics aren't miracle-workers. Sure - if you pay them $15-50k to strip down your car to parts and rebuild it, they'll be able to tell you exactly which part is the problem. But for most issues, the cost of making the most likely repairs is far cheaper.

    • +2 votes

      I was kind of thinking of asking for the labour to be refunded.

  • +28 votes

    If you live long enough you'll find this is a norm.

    Mechanics just troubleshoot problems by replacing piece by piece until he gets to the correct solution and ask you to pay all of it including his time.

    Good/experienced/none-dodgy one, gets there sooner / fixed in 1 go.

    Same with doctor, except some patients didn't live long enough or too late when the correct diagnostic is found.

    •  

      Same with doctor

      You believe doctors "replace piece by piece until he/she gets to the correct solution"?

      • +8 votes

        replace "replace piece by piece" with wrong diagnostic/treatment/prescription

        • -13 votes

          You honestly believe that? Wow.

          • +5 votes

            @zeggie: Wow ? So all GP got their diagnostic right in 1st go, for you and all your family and friends ?

            • -3 votes

              @phunkydude: It would be very rare to occur. Certainly not the "norm".

              This is going offtopic but what percentage of GP's do you actually think misdiagnose on the first appointment?

              •  

                @zeggie: That would be very small if you factor in millions of normal sickies like flu/fever/cough everyday.

              • +1 vote

                @zeggie:

                what percentage of GP's do you actually think misdiagnose on the first appointment?

                From my experience, about 60 to 70% of them. Most of the time it's "best guess" and "here, try this and see if it helps. Let me know."

                I would hate to deal with the human body. As a mechanic, at least I can remove a part, put a new one on and see if that fixes it. Cant do that with humans…

                • -3 votes

                  @pegaxs: What conditions exactly were they misdiagnosing for you? That's alarming percentages.

                  I've never seen a GP misdiagnose a virus, cold or flu and it would be pretty rare. They're simple stuff with specific symptoms.

                  • +3 votes

                    @zeggie:

                    I've never seen a GP misdiagnose a virus, cold or flu and it would be pretty rare. They're simple stuff with specific symptoms.

                    You must have never seen a GP.

                    Viruses and bacteria are tricky. They cause similar symptoms and many illnesses—like pneumonia, meningitis and diarrhea—can be caused by either a virus or a bacterium and have similar symptoms.

                    You are using anecdotal evidence to believe that GPs can diagnose and treat an underlying illness where symptoms and recovery periods are similar.

                    Because most viral and bacterial illnesses will pass in a few days, whatever misdirected treatment was initiated will be assumed to have "treated" the problem even if it has done nothing.

                    During the flu season a number of illnesses misdiagnosed (such as mesothelioma, pneumonia, meningitis and malaria) increases as they are misdiagnosed for the flu.

                  • +1 vote

                    @zeggie:

                    I've never seen a GP misdiagnose a virus, cold or flu and it would be pretty rare. They're simple stuff with specific symptoms.

                    Same saaaame.. simple stuff for mechanics would be flat tyres (which are mostly correctly diagnosed although they still can misdiagnosis, e.g. attribute the fault to the ring, tyre, valve, etc.)

              • +4 votes

                @zeggie: I don't think you know how diagnosis works.

                Physicians search for the more common problems first; enlarging the search when patients do not respond to initial treatment.

          •  

            @zeggie:

            You honestly believe that? Wow.

            Absolutely. If you have sniffles during the cold-season, Dr will prescribe you rest and warm fluids, and tell you to come back in a week. If you're not well after a week or however long a cold takes to resolve itself, THEN they'll look further into it.

            But they're not going to subject you to a battery of chest xrays and CAT scans for sniffles, even if they're not 100% sure it's only a cold or flu.

  • +1 vote

    I took it back to Jax and they are saying that they need to have another look at it.

    So let them take another look at it. See what they say. Then seek advice.

  • +1 vote

    Just heard back from them. They now say that it is the two other idler pulley that needs to be replaced. When I questioned the initial work, they said that the tensioner was still stuffed and needed to be replaced. They are offering to replace the two idlers at cost (no labour) $120. They aren't interested in refunding the labour cost of the original work.

    • +4 votes

      The current price for all parts including tensioner is about that. These are decent quality similar to what most shops will use unless you request genuine.

      https://www.onlineautoparts.com.au/products/Drive-Belt-Tensi...

      As I mentioned above a competent mechanic can do the job in a little over an hour, so all up $300 tops I reckon

      • +2 votes

        Sounds like a decent compromise for OP if that's the case.

        • +5 votes

          Yeah I'll just take the offer and be smarter in future with where I go.

          • +1 vote

            @curtturtle: Your other option is to demand a refund for the labour and go elsewhere.

            You could always get a quote for the job from someone else. If it's close to $120 then go to them and demand the labour charges back from Jax. They likely won't back down easily tho.

            • +3 votes

              @zeggie: Yeah. I can't be bothered fighting the extra $120. I gave another mechanic a call and it would be $250 since they would charge for labour. So at least Jax solution is fair. It is just the initial cost from yesterday that sucks. I will just swap to 2 minute noodles for a week or so. lol

              • +2 votes

                @curtturtle: Fair call.

                Hope it works out and they finally fix the damn problem!

                Keep all the receipts for when you ever sell it. People love that stuff when buying a car.

  • +1 vote

    It's really up to you if you want to keep trusting them.

    Always get a other opinion until you can Find a mechanic you can trust long term. Personally I find the smaller shops run by one or two guys are the most honest.

    •  

      Yeah. I usually go to the small guys. I figured this time was a simple fix and just go to the closest place around the corner with good reviews.

      •  

        If you want a better outcome in the event of something going wrong …. try the “big guys” you would be surprised how much more a larger mechanical group can and will do to resolve issues.

  • +6 votes

    I doubt you can get a refund because even though it didn't fix the issue, you still received a new part installation. Whether or not you have use for that part is irrelevant. A Big Mac meal might not fix your hunger but you still have to pay for it.

    That being said I've been in this situation before. It's criminal that mechanics can take a wild guess at what your car needs and charge you for it. There should be regulations around what is promised and delivered.

    That's Australia for ya. If you buy a toaster you have endless rights and protections, but spend thousands on a car or even millions on a house and it's on you if it goes wrong.

    •  

      There should be regulations around what is promised and delivered.

      There is. I linked above.

    • +1 vote

      It's criminal that mechanics can take a wild guess at what your car needs and charge you for it.

      Why?

      How else do they indicate how much something might cost when the only way to know what the problem is (and what the cost will actually be) is by doing the work

      • +5 votes

        They can and should figure out what's wrong with the car before they carry out the work on it. It's that simple. Most skilled mechanics can easily figure out why a car is making funny noises or running badly. The problem is they don't want to and would rather just take a guess since they know they'll get paid anyway.

        There are few professions where this is acceptable. Would a doctor bill you for a heart bypass unless he knew 100% you needed one? No.

        • +1 vote

          Would a doctor bill you for a heart bypass unless he knew 100% you needed one? No.

          That's because I would have paid for several appointments so the doctor can work out what is wrong with me before doing surgery.

          Most people don't want to pay for the expertise of a mechanic to work out what the issue is with their car before they did the issue (because labour is expensive) so it is easier to replace/fix the most likely thing that is causing the problem.

        •  

          They can and should figure out what's wrong with the car before they carry out the work on it. It's that simple.

          It's not simple at all. They can absolutely find out what's wrong with 100% certainty, but it'd cost OP $2k. It just wouldn't be a cost-effective solution.

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