How to File a Complaint Against a Mechanic

April 3, 2021
How to File a Complaint Against a Mechanic
People Clerk helps you with your small claims court lawsuit.

Took your car to the mechanic but they failed to repair it or did a terrible job?  You have several options including submitting a complaint to the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs (also known as "BAR").

This article outlines the following ways to resolve your dispute against a mechanic:

California Bureau of Automotive Repairs ("BAR")

What is the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs?

The Bureau of Automotive Repairs is a California government agency that regulates mechanics.

They issue licenses, investigate consumer complaints, and enforce the rules that mechanics have to follow.

Don't forget to always check a mechanic's license before getting work done!

What types of complaints does the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR) handle?

The Bureau of Automotive Repairs handles a broad range of complaints against mechanics. Here are some examples:

  • When a mechanic damages your car.
  • When you took your car to be repaired but your car is still having mechanical problems
  • When a mechanic doesn't provide you with an estimate prior to doing the work on your car
  • When you feel you were overcharged for the work the mechanic did
  • When a mechanic won't issue a refund
  • When you took your car for smog inspection or repair

They also handle complaints involving motorcycles and motor homes.

The Bureau of Auto Repair has outlined your rights as a consumer when dealing with mechanics, read the guide here.

How to File a Complaint with the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR)

Online:  Click here to go to the California Bureau of Automotive Repair's complaint form


Print and mail option:

  1. Click here to print a PDF of the California Bureau of Automotive Repair's complaint form.
  2. Mail the completed form to:

Bureau of Automotive Repair

10949 North Mather Boulevard

Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

What to Expect Following Submission of your BAR complaint

BAR will conduct an investigation of your complaint against the mechanic. Here are the steps the BAR takes:

  1. Once you submit your complaint to the BAR, you will receive a postcard within 10 days as confirmation that BAR has received your complaint. The postcard will contain your case number and your assigned BAR representative.
  2. A BAR representative will review your complaint and determine whether the mechanic may have violated the Auto Repair Act or other laws regulating mechanics.
  3. Your BAR representative will contact the repair shop on your behalf and try to come to an agreement. During this process, your representative may reach out to you several times as they work with you and the repair shop. The BAR representative will also obtain documentation if the mechanic has violated the law.
  4. Once the investigation is complete, you and the mechanic will receive the outcome. Sometimes an agreement is reached and other times, no agreement will be reached.

If you decide to sue the mechanic in small claims, you can request (subpoena) that the Bureau of Auto Repair submit their records to the court before the hearing.  


To learn more Click Here

What to do if no agreement is reached after a Bureau of Auto Repair complaint? You may want to try suing in a California small claims court or filing a complaint with the BBB.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Complaints Against a Mechanic


What is the BBB?

The BBB is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between mechanics and consumers.

Reasons Why Some Mechanics Respond to BBB Complaints

  • If the mechanic is accredited with the BBB and they don't respond to a BBB complaint, their accreditation may be revoked and the complaint becomes part of their BBB profile.
  • If the mechanic is not Accredited with the BBB, the complaint will become part of their BBB profile.
  • BBB reviews provide other consumers with confidence when engaging with a mechanic. Mechanics do not want negative BBB complaints.

What types of complaints against mechanics does the BBB handle?

The BBB handles a broad range of complaints against mechanics. Here are some examples:

  • When a mechanic damages your car.
  • When you took your car to be repaired but your car is still having mechanical problems
  • When a mechanic doesn't provide you with an estimate prior to doing the work on your car
  • When you feel you were overcharged for the work a mechanic did
  • When a mechanic won't issue a refund

They also handle complaints involving motorcycles and motor homes.

Read More: How to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)


How to file a complaint against a mechanic with the BBB

  1. Click here to go to the Better Business Bureau website.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the button “Start Your  Complaint.

What to Expect Once you Submit your Complaint to the BBB

  • The BBB will forward your complaint to the mechanic within 2 business days.
  • The mechanic will be asked to respond within 14 days, and if a response is not received, a second request will be made.
  • You will be notified of the mechanic’s response when the BBB receives it (or notified that they received no response).
  • Complaints against mechanics are usually closed within 30 business days.
What to do if no agreement is reached after a BBB complaint? You may want to try suing in a California small claims court

California Small Claims Court

Suing a mechanic is a very common type of small claims lawsuit.


What types of lawsuits can be filed against mechanics in small claims?

Many types of lawsuits can be filed against mechanics, the most common ones are over:

  • The final bill a mechanic provides you with
  • Failure to provide you with an estimate before doing work on your car
  • Failure to repair your car after you paid them to repair

Read: 4 Tips for Suing a Mechanic in Small Claims


Small Claims Court Limits

To be able to file a small claims court lawsuit in California, you are capped at the amount you can sue for, also known as "small claims court limits."


How much can you sue for in small claims

If you are owed for more than the amount you can sue for, you can still sue for the maximum amount allowed, but you will need to waive any additional amount over the limit.


What are the California Small Claims Court Filing Fees?

The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in California depends on how much you are suing for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.  


How much does it cost to sue in small claims court?


What are other costs for Small Claims Court?

In most small claims cases, you can expect to pay:

If you win, you can request that the losing party pay for your court fees and serving costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need a lawyer to go to court? No, in fact, California does not allow lawyers to represent you at the initial small claims hearing.
  • What are small claims hearings like in California? The hearings are quick and on average are 10-15 minutes. Learn more here.
  • How long does small claims take? A court usually schedules the small claims hearing no later than 70 days from when the lawsuit is filed. Learn more here.
  • Subpoena the Bureau of Automotive Repairs. If you filed a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repairs before filing a small claims lawsuit, you can request (subpoena) their records be sent to the court before the hearing. Learn more here.

People Clerk helps you with your small claims court lawsuit.

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