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Please help me decide if I am doing the right thing - paying for damage.

(27 Posts)
TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 21:26:47

Background: DF's car broke down - wouldn't start. After various attempts at fixing it, including paying a friend to fit a new alternator, I called a mobile mechanic. He didn't answer, but after I called, I recognised the name - its a friend of a friend. I called my friends, and asked them could they get in touch with him, to come and look at the car - no problem. He came out, and charged us £50 for fitting another new alternator. The car still didn't start, and in fact would no longer even jump start. Prior to this, it could be jump started and would run until turned off. He said we needed to take it to an auto electrician as he decided it was a wiring problem.

After scratching my head and wondering how to get a car that could no longer be jump started (and running my foot over trying to get the damn car back on the drive grrr!) I figured I had two choices. Get my brakedown cover to come out for the third time, or ask this mechanic to tow the car to the garage. Decided to ask him, and he said yeah, fine, for £10 to cover fuel (garage is 1.5 miles away!)

Now, to get to the point, he towed it with my DF behind the wheel, and our mutual friend in the passenger seat. According to my friend who rang me up this afternoon, while the car was being towed my DF was 'all over the place'. DF says he followed my friends instructions on how to steer (its worth bearing in mind DF is learning to drive). When they arrived at the garage, the tow bar didn't stop the car, so my friend said put the footbrake on which DF did. When they got out the car, they sent DF inside to speak to the garage, while they unhooked the car. They never told DF at the time that they found the tow bar to be bent. I received a phone call from my friend to tell me all this. Now the mechanic is telling us that he expects DF to pay for a new one.

DF is adamant this is unfair. He felt he didn't do anything wrong. The car was very difficult to steer as engine doesn't start, therefore no power steering. I have driven this car when the power steering failed, so I know just how heavy it is without. The guy was paid to tow it, not doing it for free. Would he of felt he could charge any other customer? He didn't mention it to DF at the time. Its all been done through me.

I'm torn, I don't want the guy to be out of pocket, but obviously things sometimes happen, its a risk you take. If he had done it for free, I'd of paid no question asked, as it would have been done as a favour. Is it even something DF could have caused? I have no idea! Now the only option I have is to sell things to pay him. The car has taken all our wages, and our savings, having spent more than £600 to put this right now. Its on its third alternator for goodness sake! Its just drained us completely. Its not a huge amount for the new one, but its money we haven't got at all. DF has already cancelled his driving test for 2 weeks time, and will not be paying for his learner insurance this month (month to month policy) in order to get the car fixed tomorrow. Its been an utter nightmare, we've had the car less than 2 months, and so far everyone we have paid to fix it has failed to do so, and we are having to continue to pay out sad

Please tell me what the right thing to do is here.

aldiwhore Thu 08-Sep-11 21:31:40

I'm sure your DF shouldn't have been steering even while towed if he's a learner and no L plates were on view and no qualified driver was with him.... so I THINK he'd already be at fault and could get into trouble.

Which makes me feel its better to pay up.

It also sounds like the people you've hired to fix the original problem haven't, it may not even be the alternater, you need to cut your losses, pay up and find a better garage/mechanic.

TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 21:34:08

He did have a qualified driver and L plates! Friend is fine to drive with him.

The garage the car is at now is the third garage, and have already sorted the problem out (wiring) and said the wiring problem was what has damaged all the new alternators. So it still needs another alternator which is being done tomorrow.

Vallhala Thu 08-Sep-11 21:40:52

I would be questioning HIM about replacing a part which he presumably diagnosed as being the problem rather than just taking your word for it - or at least he SHOULD have - then charging you for it yet the car still doesn't start.

You pay a garage mechanic to diagnose and repair satisfactorily, not to misdiagnose and/or not repair. They are in a rather dodgy position.

Call Trading Standards in the morning before you say another word to the garage and get their take on it. If the garage hassles you in the meantime tell them that you are taking legal advice and that as a result you want to have their complaint in writing with their diagnosis of the alleged - and use the word ALLEGED - damage and the circumstances leading up to it. Sign nothing and agree to nothing... NOTHING! smile

<<bossy emoticon>>

Without seeing the car it's impossible to say much more. You may need to consult your breakdown company and/or get another garage (preferably a dealership relevent to the make of vehicle) to "check and report" which should mean just that and not cost you anything, just so you can get a written diagnosis of the problem and a written quote for the repair, to see whether the alternator is indeed the problem or if the mechanic has screwed up there, but cross that when you come to it, depending on what TS say. I'm a former service manager to a dealership, which is why I am suggesting this course of action, btw.

ChickenLickn Thu 08-Sep-11 21:43:39

just say no.

Vallhala Thu 08-Sep-11 21:43:49

X posted - definitely a case for TS, both re the damage and the original repair. The mechanic should have identified the wiring problem and not merely replaced the alternator and so should be taken to task about it.

And you never know, this garage might already be known to TS, which could help. It wouldn't be the first, if so.

aldiwhore Thu 08-Sep-11 21:44:54

Vallhala is a wise one.... I just remember a problem with my car that took a long time to diagnose, and a lot of money in the process....!!

TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 21:46:32

Its not a garage - he is a mobile mechanic, one man buisness. The garage who are fixing the car now are my regular garage who have been fixing my car for years. I trust them, and am happy with their diagnosis. x

TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 21:47:55

And its more difficult as its a friend of a friend, and I sometimes see him at social occasions, and don't want any tension, but neither do I want to pay for something that was not my DF's fault. If indeed it wasn't.

Vallhala Thu 08-Sep-11 21:57:27

Sorry, my mistake. Have had a crud day, brain not in gear, but the advice still stands. One man band or dealership, either way he misdiagnosed, you asked him to REPAIR your car - ie get it working - and he charged you yet failed to do it.

You may have to decide, sadly, which is the moost troubling to you, the cost or the possible social embarrassment. Either way if you haven't the money to pay for the alleged damage it's going to be difficult and could end up with you having to say "So sue me!", in which case, on the face of it, I think he would be UNLIKELY to win BUT I'm no expert, haven't seen any vehicle concerned and am no lawyer either. I really do feel that you need the advice of TS, even to merely run it by them, and if you have free legal advice through your insurers or breakdown company as many do, DO please call them too.

FabbyChic Thu 08-Sep-11 22:28:41

Am I the only one sittiing here wondering why the fuck you paid for a second alternator to be fitted> Did you not say no hang on a minute mate just paid for one of those it is not that. Do you not have a brain?

Im going to get seriously slated here but no one pays for two alternators, if he told you it was that, you get on the phone to the first place and say hang on a minute you fitted an alternator which is faulty you don't get another one fitted and pay for that.

No wonder its costing you so much you are not having it fixed by reputable companies/people just people who are having you on.

Why you ever got a learner driver to steer your car I have no idea, that also beggars belief. You use a qualified experienced driver because it is not easy to steer a towed car, you do not use someone who is inexperienced and has no road sense.

No wonder you are skint you have no idea at all.

MadamDeathstare Thu 08-Sep-11 22:44:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 22:49:04

Its not worth involving insurance, its only £30, but when you're stone broke, its a lot of money to find!

They don't know how the damage was caused. My friend who advised him to put footbrake on was actually helping the guy do the work on the car. He works for him from time to time, as help, he's not a mechanic, but does help with various jobs. Casual agreement as far as I am aware.

Plus had DF not put the footbrake on, the car would have crashed into the van - a lot more damage than a bent tow bar! Friend told me there was only 2 inches between the tow bar and DF's car when they got out, sending DF into the garage.

Vallhala Thu 08-Sep-11 22:51:24

Agreed, Fabby, a bit harsh but a fair point. But the damage is done now, excuse the pun and the bottom line is that the OP and DF are not mechanics and thus cannot diagnose and fix, they employed one to repair their car and he misdiagnosed and charged them for a repair which didn't solve the problem.

FabbyChic Thu 08-Sep-11 22:51:32

You are aware that an alternator charges the battery. Your battery should have been replaced if the alternator did not fix the initial problem.

Pay the guy for his tow bar you let a learner driver drive the car and they are not qualified to drive a car when towed.

aldiwhore Thu 08-Sep-11 22:53:58

Fabbychic I don't disagree at all... bluntly it was a bit stupid, politely it was niave, and I've been there too!

I guess if I rewrote your post it would be full of 'I'm not being rude but...' and 'sweety' this and patronising guff that and I'd then be in trouble!! wink

lisad123 Thu 08-Sep-11 22:59:03

Well of his the mobile man who sold us dh car, his an arse and so I wouldn't pay him a cent! Not in herts are you?

TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 23:02:03

Oh, sorry FabbyChic I missed your post somehow.

To bore you with the full story.... bought car, went flat, replaced battery, went flat again, greenflag out to tow home, diagnosed faulty alternator, DF got friend to put new alternator in, worked, took out for drive, went flat while out refusing to start, greenflag back out to jump start as in middle of nowhere. Friend of friend who is mechanic contacted (saw number in yell originally) who diagnosed that this alternator was broken (reconditioned alternator), took alternator back to shop bought from, got new one, put in, still not working, mechanic says electrical problem, auto electrician says yes wiring problem, we will fix it. They also say new alternator has been damaged by the wiring fault. Hence why it needs a third alternator. I suspect first alternator was working and it was electrical all along. But as advised by mechanic had alternator replaced second time as 'most likely diagnosis'. Phew!

TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 23:02:36

And yes I know how the alternator and battery works!

TheDetective Thu 08-Sep-11 23:04:41

And I didn't let anyone drive, as I was in work. We arranged for mechanic and friend to come out, I assumed friend would be in towed car. Well he was, but not in drivers seat. DF wasn't aware he was doing anything wrong. They told him to get in, and he was covered as L plated and companion over 21 and had licence 3+ years.

SDTGisAnEvilGenius Thu 08-Sep-11 23:28:25

I think that the people who told your DF to get in and steer the car whilst being towed, are at fault, and should pay for the damage. I'm not sure it's legal for a learner to do this, but frankly that's irrelevant. Steering a car that's being towed and that has lost its power steering, is bloody difficult to do, even for an experienced driver - and anyone telling a learner to take on this responsibility, is an idiot. And their reward for this idiocy is the cost of the damage caused.

MJHASLEFTTHEBUILDING Thu 08-Sep-11 23:32:29

Message withdrawn

mummytotwoboys Fri 09-Sep-11 10:03:22

pay the man, sell / scrap the car and start again - some cars really arent worth the money x

SDTGisAnEvilGenius Fri 09-Sep-11 11:34:47

Why should she pay, when the experienced drivers put an inexperienced learner in charge of the towed car? To my mind, this makes the experienced drivers responsible for the damage.

slavetofilofax Fri 09-Sep-11 11:44:58

I don't think it's the fault of experienced drivers that put your df in the car, surely he could have said no if he didn't feel comfortable doing it or didn't want to take the risk because of his inexperience! He is a grown man with a voice ffs!

I think you have to pay for that reason. Your df took on the responsibility of driving the car that was being towed, so paying for the accident is his responsibility.

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