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Can A Mechanic Keep Your Car If It's Unsafe

Can A Mechanic Keep Your Car If It’s Unsafe?

The mechanic tells you that your car has some problems and he can fix them for you. But you have to drive now. Then you may ask, “Can a mechanic keep your car if it’s unsafe?”

The short answer is no. As the car owner, you can decide to leave the car for repair or use it now. However, the real story will be more complicated.

We will discuss some scenarios where mechanics refuse to release your car in a legal concept. Let’s learn more about the responsibility of the repairmen!  

Can A Mechanic Keep Your Car If It's Unsafe

Can A Mechanic Keep Your Car If It’s Unsafe?

No. In fact, the responsibility of a mechanic is to check your car for any issues and warn you of the potential danger. It’s your choice to leave the car for him to fix or continue driving. 

For example, you take your Ford to the garage to change the oil. However, while performing this task, the mechanic notices an engine issue. Then, he can test and explain the condition of the engine for you. You can now let him fix it or ignore it. 

Mechanics must not keep your car without your permission. If they refuse to release the car, you can sue them. 

What To Do If Your Mechanic Refuses to Release Your Car

What To Do If Your Mechanic Refuses to Release Your Car?

If the mechanic refuses to release your car because it’s unsafe, here are some steps to take: 

Understand the reason

First, let him explain the meaning of “unsafe car.” Often, it’s associated with safety and mechanical issues regarding the brakes, engines, tires, steering, suspension, or transmission. They may happen to all cars, even yours come from famous brands, like Ford

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After knowing the reason, find a way to address it. The mechanic can explain how he will make your car safe to drive. 

Drivers usually follow the mechanic’s advice as they prioritize safety. However, if you are in a rush and think that the issue won’t cause much trouble on your way, you can reject the mechanic’s recommendation. 

Seek legal advice

You can call the police when the mechanic keeps the car deemed unsafe to drive. The case here is about the violation of personal property rights. 

The mechanic may give your automobile back. He will also send you a document proving that you have refused his recommended repairs. This document can help protect his garage in case you get into trouble later. 

File a report 

You can seek the local court’s order for the garage to return your car by filing a lawsuit there. Yet, the problem is that it can take weeks to approve your request. 

When Can A Mechanic Refuse To Release Your Car

When Can A Mechanic Refuse To Release Your Car? 

Can a mechanic hold your car until you pay? According to common law, a service provider may refuse to return your car if you can’t pay for the repair. Some may keep it for months or years. 

However, with a close relationship with the mechanic, you can get your car sooner. It’s about trust. Yet, you should learn the payment laws, and we are referring to a mechanic’s lien.

According to this legal claim, auto repair shops and mechanics can keep the vehicles of their customers to ensure payment for their services. 

You will receive a mechanic’s lien if you can’t pay the fee. The mechanics now have the right to possess your car until you pay the debt. 

The mechanic’s lien is different from state to state. In some areas, mechanics must notify the vehicle owners before filing liens. However, in other states,, they can file the liens immediately. 

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Of course, the mechanics must follow the timelines and procedures to enforce their liens. Again, the regulations differ depending on the location. 

How To Avoid A Mechanic’s Lien?

The mechanic’s lien protects the repair stores. If you are a car owner, you can avoid it by following these tips:

Complete the payment with join checks

This method guarantees that subcontractors and suppliers can get paid. But, the beneficiary must complete the paperwork before turning the checks into cash.  

Get a waiver

Another solution is to request a waiver of liens from the contractor. It frees you up from having to make payments. Nevertheless, the payment must get done for the waiver to be valid. 

Pay subcontractor yourself

You can pay the subcontractor or supplier first. Then, they deduct the payment from the sum of the general contractor’s agreement.

However, the problem with this method is that you have to work with taxes. For example, you must withhold the income for taxes. 

What To Do When The Mechanic Does The Repairs You Didn’t Authorize?

When visiting a garage, you may ask the mechanic to do some repairs, depending on the condition of your car. Often, he will check your car thoroughly before recommending the remedies. 

Then, you leave your car at the garage, and the mechanic is in charge of all the repairs. However, he may discover and fix some issues without informing you. And when you come to pick up your vehicle, the repair fee is higher than expected. What should you do now?

Check your order

Confirm if you have authorized the repairs. If not, the repair order will be the evidence when you talk to the mechanic about the unexpected cost. 

Find the solution

Contact the mechanic and let him explain the case. You should know why he did that without your authorization. If possible, he may undo the repair, and you two can act as if nothing happened. 

However, if the mechanic can’t undo his repair, discuss the payment with him. Since it’s a mechanic’s fault, he may reduce the fee for you or give you a generous discount the next time you visit. 

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Take legal action

If the mechanic refuses to cooperate, you can take legal action. Contact your lawyer or send a complaint to your local legal agency for help. 

How Long Can A Mechanic Legally Keep Your Car To Fix?

The answer depends on several factors, such as:

Difficulty level of the repair

Some repairs require more than others. For example, replacing a transmission is time-consuming because the mechanic will remove many components to access the transmission system. Hence, he has to keep your car longer. 

Availability of the replacement parts

Many of the issues with your car demand a replacement. Some components are rare, and you have to order from the manufacturer. 

Garage policies

Some garages have policies that dictate the length of time they have to keep your car for repairs. Yet, the repair time will be longer if they are too busy with other cars before yours. Of course, they will inform you of the exact time before you authorize them to fix your car. 

What Should You Not Say To Your Mechanic?

Being honest and clear about your car’s condition is good. However, avoid saying to the mechanic something that can give you a disadvantage when solving problems related to his service. For example:

  • I don’t know anything about cars“: Not all drivers are experts, so they visit the garage for help. However, admitting that to the mechanic will make him think you are an easy target to overcharge. 
  • You can fix any issues you find“: Remember when the mechanic fixed something you didn’t authorize? If you said it to him, you just allowed him to undertake unnecessary repairs. Then, the repair cost will be much more than you could think. 


Can a mechanic keep your car if it’s unsafe? No. Instead, he will explain the errors in your car, and you are the only one to decide whether to let him fix it for you. 

The machine’s responsibility is to do the repair that you authorize. Other cases will violate the law. Hence, you can take legal action. 

However, when you know your car is no longer safe to drive, it would be best to fix the issues as soon as possible. Safety is not something that you can delay.

Thank you for reading! 

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