Shop should be held accountable for cut brake lines

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray: My local repair shop is trying to get me to pay almost $900 for a new brake line on my Volvo S80. The brake line failed because the transmission cut it. I lost my brakes and ended up hitting a bush in my driveway -- thank goodness that was it! A month prior, the shop had forgotten to put back four large bolts that hold the engine, transmission and front suspension to the unit body. I think that while the transmission was clunking around from them leaving the bolts out, the line was damaged. But they aren't up. So who do I call for a professional opinion? I have pictures of the loose sub-frame. What's your opinion of who should pay for the brake line?


Tom: The shop should pay for it.

Ray: I don't think Volvo even made the S80 until 1999 or thereabouts, so the car can't be more than seven years old. I can't remember seeing a Volvo in the shop with a bad brake line after only seven years. Fifteen years, maybe.

Tom: Besides, when the brake lines do fail, they fail because they corrode. So you can see the stainless-steel line rotting or rusting away -- you don't see it cut.

Ray: I think it's pretty clear that their negligence in forgetting to tighten the sub-frame is what led to the rupture of the brake lines. Now, if they deny that they left the sub-frame loose, that's another matter. But if you have photographic proof that the bolts were missing and a repair order that shows that they had reason to remove those bolts a month earlier, I'd say you have pretty darned good circumstantial evidence.

Tom: You can always take them to small-claims court. But before you do that, go to a Volvo dealer and ask for his opinion. Ask him to examine the car and tell you whether the damage appears to be from normal wear and tear or from some sort of repair-shop error. Get his opinion in writing. And offer to pay him his regular labor rate for his time -- that's only fair.

Ray: Assuming he agrees with us, take your written "evidence" from Volvo, along with your 6-by-9-inch color, glossy photos of the loose sub-frame with the circles and arrows on the back to your local shop, and see if you can persuade the owner to do the right thing.

Tom: He won't like the idea of eating the cost, but tough. He screwed it up. When you screw something up, you have to make it right. Trust me. This is something with which I have extensive experience!

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