Can a Mechanic Refuse To Release Your Car?

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Can a Mechanic Refuse To Release Your Car

At some point, you must take your car to the mechanic either for servicing or repair. You expect quality work at a reasonable fee. Unfortunately, not all mechanics are honest. Some may take advantage of the fact that you don’t know much about the car and exploit you. Luckily, the law is there to protect you. You have the right to authorize the mechanic to do certain repairs in your car and know in advance the estimated cost.

Can The Mechanic Keep My Car If It’s Not Safe for Driving?

The harsh economy is making it hard for people to plan for their limited resources. Assuming you go to the mechanic for minor repairs. You are only planning to use less than 100 dollars for the total repair. The mechanic checks your car and discovers that the engine has issues and the brakes are loose. In total, the estimated repair cost amounts to 500 dollars. The only money in your account is supposed to pay rent and school fees. So, can a mechanic keep your car if it’s unsafe to drive?

Place yourself in the shoes of the mechanic. Imagine getting into an accident right after exiting the garage. Who will get the blame? The mechanic could be acting out of good faith since they don’t want to get the blame. Again, knowing how dangerous it is to drive a car with loose breaks, they may be concerned about your life. But does that give them the right to hold your car?

It’s illegal for any mechanic to keep your car for being unsafe to drive. But to remove the liability on their side, they will require you to sign a release document. The document explains that they informed you of all the repairs your car needed, but you choose to go with it. So, even if an accident occurs, the garage will be off the hook. For the sake of your safety, avoid risking your life, and take the right precautions. You can consider towing the car.

Reasons to Why The Mechanic Can Keep Your Car

After taking your car to the garage, you expect to incur some charges. What if the mechanic finishes the repair and calls you to get a car. On your way, you lose the money. Can a mechanic keep your car if you don’t pay on time? Of course, he can obtain the mechanic lien and keep your car. Since your car will occupy space in his garage, he may add daily impound costs. In the worst-case scenario, he may even sell your car to get his fee back.

You can reach an agreement with your mechanic to pay in installment for a particular duration. The mechanic may require you to sign some documents confirming the same. One of the clauses may state that failure to pay on a timely basis; he has the right to repossess the car. So, failure to pay, and you had signed such a clause, the mechanic has the right to repossess your car.

So, how long can a mechanic keep my car? It will depend on you. If he has kept it legally, then it’s upon you to pay the debt faster and repossess your car. You can also reach some agreement faster. If he had kept it illegally, the court should decide. Otherwise, he can eventually sell it.

What If The Charges Are Unreasonable?

Assuming your estimated cost was 100 dollars. But after a repair, the total amount gets to 200 dollars? What should you do? Many states have rules that protect customers against exploitation. They Cleary state that the final cost should not exceed 10 percent of the estimated costs. If it exceeds, the mechanic should notify you in advance.

So, if the mechanic didn’t notify you, you have four options. Pay the amount, get the receipts and your car, and take legal action later. The second option is to involve the police to convince the mechanic to release your car. The third option is to file your case in the municipal court. Remember, the mechanic is still holding your car. By the time the court proceeding drag itself, you may take longer to repossess your car.

Again, the mechanic may also sue you before taking any legal action against him for refusing to pay. Instead of wasting time with legal action, you can reach some agreement, pay the money and retain your good relationship.

Unauthorized Repairs

When driving to work, you realize that the engine is getting extremely hot. You don’t have the time to get a cooler, so you drop the car at the nearest garage for them to service it. By the time you come to pick it, they have done more repairs on your car than your authorized. They slap you with a hefty bill that you can’t afford to pay. Should they keep your car until you pay for everything?

The law protects you from exploitation. If the mechanic didn’t inform you of the additional repair in advance, he should not force you to pay. He can undo the repair and ensure that the car gets to its original condition. He can also assume that it was a discount to the customer. You can also agree to pay within a reasonable period. If he insists on holding your car, you can take legal action. Note that the rules on unauthorized repairs have some exceptions.


If the mechanic can prove that he acted out of good faith and intended to solve the problem, you must pay.

In solving the problem, he fixed something else that provided a solution to the problem; you have no choice but to pay.


Knowing your rights as a customer will protect you from exploitation. Unless you refuse to pay for genuine repairs, the mechanic has no other legal rights to hold your car. Be it unsafe to drive,

or even unauthorized repairs. In case the mechanic keeps your car unfairly, take legal actions, or even involve the police. But if it’s something you can settle outside the court, the better for both of you. Note that the mechanic may act out of good faith and do more repairs than you had authorized. If that’s the case, then you must pay.

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