What Happens When A Mechanic Breaks A Part on A CAR

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You have heard the horror stories,

I took my car to a mechanic and they broke this part.

Today I want to dive in a little deeper into what goes on behind the scenes when a mechanic breaks something. Generally you read about the situation from a customers point of view. That is the one that counts. But it is not all hearts and flowers from your mechanics point of view either. I am sure that the owner, or dealer is not too pleased. Basically it is lose lose all around.

When I had first planned to write this post, I was going to tell you all a story about something that happened to another mechanic in the shop. As luck would have it, I broke something yesterday, and I want to tell you guys about it.

I was replacing a front differential in a 2007 VW Touareg. This is a job that I have done before, but not something that I do often. Replacing this part takes a fair amount of finesse. There is about 5mm of extra space needed to remove the part. It’s a hard job, just one that needs care.

Just about the time I had the differential out, it slipped just a hair. Next I see a connector swinging near the steering rack. It seems that when the differential slipped, it hit the connector on the steering rack, and broke it. Now just a broken connector is not a big deal. I can totally fix that. The bad part is, the part that broke is part of the steering rack.

I got to a good stopping point and evaluated the damage. Knowing how VW builds parts I was pretty worried. I got with one of my parts guys and we confirmed my fear. The part I broke was not a spare part. Even though I could remove the part, it is not available separate. We even emailed VW parts headquarters with no luck. 🙁

So what happens next? Well, first things first, I get to go and tell my boss that I potentially damaged a $1000 steering rack on a Touareg. I don’t break things that often, but when I do I go big. That is the part price only. After the shock of possibly buying a $1000 part pasted, we brain stormed on an alternative.

  • Repair the part
    This was built into another part. I tried to find a way to make a repair, but no such luck. It was just a mass of copper inside the sensor. Repairing the part is a no go
  • Shop aftermarket
    We spend a good amount of time trying to find just the part I broke. Unfortunately there was no luck in this department either
  • Just get a new one
    This is definitely the easiest option.  But we are not talking about a $10 part. This would require a little more thought that just “Go order it”
  • Junk yard part.
    Odd are this is the route we will take. It will save a ton of money over a new part. This can be a slight dice roll. It may take a few tries to get a good part.

Once we have a solution for the part, someone needs to install it. Since I am the lucky one that broke the part, I get to install it. One of the worst parts about breaking something is having to install it for free. When a mechanic breaks something, they have to replace or fix it. The bad part is they will not get paid for it. That is only fair, you break it you fix it. Only seems fair right?

 So let me just sum up how much breaking stuff really stinks, 

  1. Customer is not happy, and may be with out their car for a while
  2. Service department might be buying a really expensive part.
  3. Not only will the mechanic have to replace/fix the part for free, they feel really bad about it.
This doesn’t even go into what happens when a mechanic is shady and “fixes” things. That I will have to save for another day. 😉
If you are an mechanic in training, or still fresh, don’t worry. These things happen, I don’t care how good you are. Even the top techs make mistakes. Remember “A Bad Day For A Mechanic“? It can and will happen to anyone!

33 replies
  1. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    that definitely sucks…. but it makes me feel better it happens to the pros too. i always liked the saying “if it breaks, it needed replacing anyway” of course a customer who needs a new steering rack probably wouldn’t share the same sentiment. at least on your/my own cars it can be bandaid’d back together 🙂

  2. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Don’t feel too bad about the part you broke, a technician at the dealer I was at backed an RV into my car. Was I mad? No.
    The paint on the trunk lid was messed up from a cheap dealer sticker being left on for years by the previous owner. Service dept was floored when i was calm when they made the dreaded call to me. They de-badged it when they fixed it for me though. Things happen for reasons, I guess. 🙂

  3. D
    D says:

    I had transmission replaced on my car and now they are saying the axle needs to be replaced. I’m 100% sure it was broken during trany replacement. Shop is charging me for the parts & labor. I can’t prove they broke it – what should i do?
    Northeastern Transparts Co., Inc. is the place i’m referring to.

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      This is a tough spot. What are wrong with the axles that they need to be replaced? I have seen guys just let axles hang when doing similar work. The joints come apart and wreck the axles. If it is a bigger company, I would recommend calling the general manager and having a talk with them.

      Would you mind keeping us all posted on what happens?

  4. kristin
    kristin says:

    My saturn wouldn’t start so had it towed to the dealer I use for all my repairs. Turns out the ignition switch failed, fuel pump went bad, and flooded the engine with gas. They fix this, and in the process they somehow snap the brake line. After fixing this, they break a wheel cylander. They repair THIS and as they’re backing it into a parking spot, they blow the transmission (don’t ask me how). At this point I’m at my wits end. A $400 repair has turned into them saying I owe $1000 for all the current repairs and $1500 for a new transmission. Does this sound correct? Am I being ripped off? Why do I have to pay for all these parts they broke? I could see maybe going halvsies and paying for some while they pay for some, but they’re charging me the full price.

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      Hi Kristin,
      WOW! Let’s try and break this down a little.

      You brought the car in and they replaced the fuel pump and ignition switch. If those were the things that were causing the no start, Then we are good there.

      Them breaking the line may not be your responsibility. I would want to know how it broke. Were they working in the area of the line? Was the wheel cylinder a result of the line getting broken? Is this an issue because your car is older?

      I am not sure what the heck is up with the transmission!

      I don’t think charging you full price is right.

      Is this a small shop or a big dealer or chain type place?

  5. Kat
    Kat says:

    Please help!
    I’m in a bind, situation similar to Kristen. I brought my car in because it was running rough and sometimes stalling at idle.
    Shop replaced fuel filter and pump, bill was $453.
    I get in my car to leave and the car makes a horrendous sound. I haven’t even left the lot, I’m in front of the shop. The mechanics come over and try starting it, pop the hood and tell me I need a engine. I think they told me it’s the valve, 1 is shot and 2 are strong. I was too upset at this point to remember exactly what he said. I am a regular customer there.
    And you should know it’s an old car, but it was reliable and well maintained 95 Buick. I knew sooner or later I would have to replace but my question is does the shop have any responsibility?
    Partial refund? Anything?
    I have quite a few new (less than 2 years) parts radiator, tires, battery, alternator. I have a really great stereo in it. Should they charge me to pull it? What would you do? What should I do? Thank you for any advice.

    • Patricia
      Patricia says:

      I have a buick 2005 check engine soon came on so I took it to aamco for code reader so when I get my car back they tell me the drivers window won’t go up they want to charge me to put in a new regulator the mechanic broke it why should I be charged190.00 for them to fix it ,doesn’t seem right it was working fine

      Should I pay them?

  6. Blake
    Blake says:

    Are you kidding??? U go to a wrecker and buy a used part to fix something you broke! How has no one else caught on to this!
    I would be furious ! This is why we take it to the pros , so we don’t break parts fumbling around our selfs.
    I’m in appliance repairs and would at least have the customer the option of paying a partial amount for the new part or a free used 1& fit it for free which you would do reguardless.
    People are pretty understanding but it’s shit like that , that makes us all doubt car mechanics and feel like we are getting taken for a ride!

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      I would go to a junk yard for a part if I had to. Would I do it without tell the customer? HELL NO!

      I may not have been clear about that in the article. If so, I am sorry about that.

      As you know in a repair field, sometimes things break. You can be all kinds of careful and go to hell on you.

      I agree with you 100% that keeping a customer informed and letting them know what happened and what you are doing to make it right is vital. It is something that I make a point to do when things get stupid on a repair.

  7. Katie
    Katie says:

    I took my 2001 Kia Sportage to a mechanic shop for an oil change, ac check, spare tire and to fix the tail pipe. After 1200 bucks, I was told it was all good. My daughter (16) got in the car, drove it about 2 miles to the house (while I was still at the shop) and turned around to come to the shop when it left her stranded at an intersection. The shop illegally towed it to the shop (about 1/5 mile) and have been working on it ever since. They sent it to the dealer who told them that the computer was shot due to the rewiring and all they would do is put in the new computer and rewire according to factory. They don’t know I called the dealer. They are telling me they checked EVERYTHING and if they don’t have it fixed in a couple of days they will have to come up with some “resolution”. What does that mean? It’s my daughter’s ONLY mode of transportation. She can’t drive my car as I am “on call” all the time with my chronically ill youngest child and can’t always take her to work or pick her up.

  8. Shirley
    Shirley says:

    have a 98 Honda Odyssey, took it in for oil gasket/valve replacement, flush transmission, reseal power steering. Wrong gasket was used for the oil pan, took van back. Correct gasket “supposedly” installed. Still leaking, took van back…was told there was a “bubble” on a valve and the leak was coming from the power steering pump so they were going to reseal it. When they went to do that, was told a “hose” broke and that part is no where to be found in the Denver metro area. Part being overnighted but NO guarantee this will be the right part since the van is so old. I have been furious with them…was told I have NOT been INCONVENIENCED! That increased the “furious” level. I am a senior citizen, have some physical issues BUT MUST work..this is NOT an inconvenience??? Excuse me!! They did loan me a vehicle on visit #2…which was way to big for me to drive. Visit #3 they loaned me a different car and yesterday was scolded by the owner for NOT BEING A NICE person! I could not pay for the original repairs…took 6 weeks to raise the funds. I know there are other things wrong with the van and will have to raise $$ for those repairs but will NOT go back to this place. TOP repair is the driver’s window stopped working…told it will be roughly $1300 to fix it.

    Any words of wisdom or encouragment are greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

  9. Bridget
    Bridget says:

    Hey! I read this article and found it very interesting! My partner has two ute. His 1988 ford Courier (engine on has 180k on the clock!) failed its warrant so it was sent into the maniacs, and He said can you fix what you need to so that it could get its warrant. They found that it needed to new turbo (2k) and they put it and fixed the rest and they told him it will need a new piston as it has one small broken part. They said the piston would be fine for now but would eventually need fixing. He then got it back and it was running like shit and took off on him and he had to wait for it to roll to a stop and was very very lucky he didn’t crash into anyone! so he took it back. They have just come back to him saying, the air pressure from the tubro didn’t fit in with the semi broken piston and Now the ute won’t start at all and need a whole new engine! They hadn’t matched the turbo to the pressure correctly when they installed it, is it partly there fault? What should he do?

  10. Karolina
    Karolina says:

    Hello! This article made me more confident about my situation. The mechanics that worked on my car did a poor job in the first place but few months later I’m finding out that there are issues with my car that were most likely caused by them. One part is completely missing, having been replaced by a pipe that was so badly welded on that it was pushing exhaust into my car. A break pad broke off almost immediately after I left their shop. I wasn’t compensated or even talked to about what was happening, but language barrier. Is it too late to try to get my money back? I’m been upset thinking about this for a while.

  11. Byron
    Byron says:

    Just leased a 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX turbo from a dealership back home. Twelve hundred miles later my clutch went out…Being a used vehicle I was ok with replacing it right away! Went to a local mechanic who agreed to replace it for me..i didn’t do it myself due to harvest time hours being so crazy n long. Go pick up the car and pay for it. Drive not even 200 miles and the worst and most annoying sound screeching from my transmission….ThrowOut Bearing I thought instantly. Take it back to the shop. Car sits for 4 days without being touched. so I reschedule. take the car back and sits for two days and Finally they pull it in. Long story short, they pried the transmission away by the point of prying on my turbocharger…get the bill and its over 1000.00 and more broke. Replaced flywheel and need starter now.Driving home which was only 5 miles away and half way there and my turbo blows! Mechanic says he isn’t responcible for any of the damage caused at his shop and still wants me to show up and pay my bill..Havent paid a dime to the shop until my vehicle is in te same condition as when I drove into the shop minus the clutch that was paid for. Any info on how to go about getting info on what I can do in this situation??

  12. klara
    klara says:

    Great article. I guess its really hard – from my customer point of view – at least you admit it and either fix it or discuss. Today I picked up my car from a regular check (WOF) and when they want to back it up from garage – it wont start. Fuel pump leaking or broken, but they didn’t touched it they say. Many times I just wish I knew more about cars, but that’s why we all have different professions… unfortunately many car mechanics are cheeky (in many countries) and that’s why people being suspicious. I guess, in your instance it would be good to be insured, if any type of insurance like this exists. I am a designer – if I send files to print with a mistake which I made, i have to pay a correct reprint, cant go secondhand print:) and It can be more expensive then $1000… but accidents happen. We just need to acknowledge them, be honest and learn from them… Cheers for post

  13. Alicia
    Alicia says:

    This is great when the mechanics will actually fix what they have broken. I’ve been getting nothing but the run around. So what do you do when the mechanic has refused to have the part shipped in. Makes a big deal about going to pick it up in another state? I’m beyond frustrated.

  14. Robert
    Robert says:

    I own a 2002 Subaru that had the head gaskets water pump timing belt all that good stuff done less then 20k miles ago. I was driving it and the trans line blew off and I didn’t run again I pulled over immediately and turned off the car. I didn’t want to damage the transmission. Turns out it needed to be replaced. It was replaced and that trans blew up according to them on a test drive. After the told me it had a misfire in the motor which it never did before going into the shop. The motor didn’t do much as knock tick nothing. It ran perfect. They then told me I have a bad motor. Do they need to replace it saying it ran perfect before it went into the shop for the trans?

  15. Tammy Naulls
    Tammy Naulls says:

    I have a 2007 Mini Cooper. While traveling across the country it lost power and warning lights came on. I stopped in Amarillo since it was Sunday and took it to get serviced on Monday. They needed to order a new pulley and would complete the repairs on Tuesday. When they went to remove the old pulley the bolt broke and fell into the crank shaft. I had to rent a car (one way)to complete my trip to Denver. Thank goodness they were finally able to remove the bolt, so I didn’t need a new engine, but labor to remove the bolt is $600. I still have to rent another vehicle to return to Amarillo. I am thankful I don’t have the expense of a new engine but I’m not sure I should have to pay for the additional labor. The authorized repair was $1200 to begin with and the rent a cars will run around $500. What do you think?

  16. Maria Brown
    Maria Brown says:

    took my eos in to a shop to have the seals lubricated and the drains cleared. 115 at the dealer. Asked if they could do it. they said they could. the also checked leak in trunk and carpets behind both seats. 178 dollars worth. Big rain the next day had water in the trunk. took it back to the place. they said they would water test it. while they were finding more drains that were blocked they said the motor to the roof blew. now the car won’t close if opened again.not sure what to do but really not happy.

  17. Josh Foster
    Josh Foster says:

    I took my car in to have couple repairs done. When the shop called the next day, they said the driver side interior handle had come off. Nothing was wrong with it to begin with, but they’re acting like they barely touched the thing. I have no way of proving it wasn’t broken before, so I agreed to pay for the fix and they said they would order the part and get it taken care of.

    Today they’re saying I have to find the part myself and they’ll fix it whenever I get it. This can’t be a thing that’s allowed right? How should I proceed??

  18. Tk
    Tk says:

    I just found your post and don’t agree with you at all. If you broke a part you should replace it with a new oem part. There is no way to tell if the salvage part you find is the same quality, shape, or ware status. This is befor I star talking about the after market parts you suggested about putting in there car….I would be so pissed if you put a china made part in my car after making a mistake. And breaking my good German part. I know vw but I got a audi. Made in Germany. I’d say that’s the cost of doing businesses. And do the right thing and get a new oem part and fix it better than it was. I’m dealing with the same thing I need cats put in my b8 audi s4. Not a easy job. You have to lower the motor and tran. About 3″ well the shop I guess went four. Because now I got new faults.
    P18900, and p172400. One is for triptronc and other ground. But both could be caused by ground. This all happend today. I’m hoping then can just find the loose wire. But we all know electric wiring in audis fml. I really did like your vids but the idea that you would put a savage rack in a car when you broke there forsure good working rack don’t sit well with me Sir.

  19. brake cleaner
    brake cleaner says:

    I loved your blog about what happens when a mechanic damages a car and thanks for publishing this!! I am really happy to come across this exceptionally well written content. Thanks for sharing and look for more in future!!

  20. Nate
    Nate says:

    I recently took my sl500 to a big o tire for brake pads a rotor and caliper I asked the mechanic if he was sure he could do the job with out. Hesitation he said ya . He said he’d have to order the parts and it would be a few days gave me a estimate of 600$ I was fine with that price. Left a few days go by i call and he says hes stumped doesn’t mo what’s up getting 3 codes from his computer master cylinder brake pump .I ask what my car is doing he says it’s not allowing me to move it brakes r not working.it needs to be towed to the dealer to teset computer. I tow it 60 miles the mechanic looks at it and says who ever replaced the pads and rotor and caliper didnt bleed the brakes on order causing ur master cylinder and brake pump to go out. Now its turned into a 1500 $repair +tow+the 640 I already paid. What should I do please help

  21. Christine Beasley
    Christine Beasley says:

    I have a Ford F150 V-8 Triton It blow out of my truck.on 95. Found on engine The ceramic was intacked but nut and treads was not on said spark plug. Took to a local mechanic the following day after I made appointment. I asked for a guesstimate I was told me 2 hours was max about $180. NOT GREAT BUT OKAY… I brought to appointment decided to wait for the truck. Have waited longer for Doctors. So after 2 hours I asked any news or updates. He said all he knows is they are working On it. I walked down to where the truck was in the bay. And heard mechanic cussing up a storm. Never mentioned this to them, just it must be a pain the ass. I was told by someone not working on the car. That he was told I shouldn’t wait around. I.said what does that mean he said thats what he was told. I called my sister law for pickup. They called my husband’s phone literally after left. I called them back and he said you need a new head! I was like WHAT?? I Said what does that mean… He said when they were trying to the piece out they pushed they pushed the insert into the head. And can see metal duh. He says its going to $2400.00 to fix. He stated they we not responsible at ALL.. ADVICE, COMMENTS, OBJECTIVE PARTIES TIA

  22. Christopher
    Christopher says:

    Here’s a letter to my mechanic after replacing the shift fork and slave cylinder. He drove right off the lot after handing me the key.

    I would like to inform you that on 00/00/00 I gave my car for repair at your service station with the VIN XXXXXXX and the issue with the car was the inability to switch transmission gears.

    I received the car back today (00/00/00) but the power steering didn’t work at all so the vehicle was left on the premises and key in the drop box. I was informed of a slight turning issue that would subside, possibly related to battery life, but found extreme difficulty turning the wheel and was unable to drive it off the premises. The vehicle is now harder to drive since before the repairs were made. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

    I request you to kindly look into the matter and do take some needful action. I hope to hear from you soon.

  23. Rick
    Rick says:

    I brought my truck to get brakes done but then while trying to get the tires off they striped 16 lug nuts from the tire now they can’t get the tires out n they said that it will cost me additional 600 for them to do it. Now I didn’t think that is fair that I should have to pay for the labor because it wasn’t broken or striped at first. Why didn’t they stop at 2 bolts and now they have to mess with 16 of them..? What can I do now because that’s another issue

  24. KatterKat
    KatterKat says:

    I dropped off my 1997 Nissan at a mechanic in 2004 for a oil change with a note to the mechanic at 7 am. We were to drop off my husbands Mitsubishi truck that evening for a oxygen sensor. They already knew we were doing this on a Monday for that Friday. When I went to pick up my car in the evening they wanted me to pay for the Manifold that they broke. I asked how did the Manifold break during an oil change? They said no it was during the replacement of the oxygen sensor removal. I ask why would you do that to my car. Then I asked where was my note. He retrieved it and I read it out loud. His face turned white.
    He then said he still needed to do the oil change. So I said we would wait.
    A $600 job that was not supposed to be done turned into a $12 job. My Husband’s bill was $253.45 for his sensor job.
    Why do mechanics do this? My car was in and out of that shop every time I took it in for a oil job after that. So every 3 months. It would be $12 for oil and lube. About 3 days later $1,000 for something else. After the 3rd time I started taking it somewhere else. Then again after a year it started back up again. I used up my IRA on these charges. Thank you mechanics for being so honest.
    I had another mechanic put charges on my credit card for $5,000. He did the same to 5 other women. He only spent 8 months in jail. He only had to pay back the amount he put on the cards not the interests, over the limit or late charges while he put us off making the first payment before he went to jail.

  25. justin power
    justin power says:

    As a tech we try to be as careful as possible but some rust buckets we should turn away from the shop and stay away from entirely. They fall apart just looking at them. Unfortunately the customer doesn’t understand and thinks you are incompetent.

    • Rent A Lamborghini
      Rent A Lamborghini says:

      This article provides a rare glimpse into the often overlooked perspective of a mechanic when they accidentally break a part while working on a car. It’s refreshing to see the honesty and transparency about the challenges faced by mechanics, emphasizing that mistakes happen to everyone, regardless of skill level. The detailed account of the author’s own experience humanizes the mechanic’s role, highlighting the responsibility they feel and the lengths they go to rectify the situation, even if it means not getting paid for the additional work. This article not only educates readers about the behind-the-scenes of car repairs but also fosters empathy towards mechanics, showing that they are just as affected by mishaps as their customers. Overall, it’s a valuable piece that sheds light on a topic often shrouded in misconception and misunderstanding. Great job!


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