• The People Clerk Team

How to file a complaint against a mechanic

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

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 or an auto repair shop:

Ready to sue in California small claims? We can help.

or click here to get started.



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 and auto repair shops.


They issue licenses, investigate consumer complaints, and enforce the rules that auto repair shops 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 auto repair shops. Here are some examples:

  • When an auto repair shop damages your car.

  • When you took your car to be repaired but your car is still having mechanical problems

  • When an auto repair shop 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 auto repair shop did

  • When an auto repair shop 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 auto repair shops, 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 auto repair shop or 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 auto repair shop may have violated the Auto Repair Act or other laws regulating auto repair shops.

  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 auto repair shop or mechanic has violated the law.

  4. Once the investigation is complete, you and the auto repair shop will receive the outcome. Sometimes an agreement is reached and other times, no agreement will be reached.

If you decide to sue the auto repair shop or 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.

or click here to get started.


Read More: Complete Guide on how to file a Los Angeles Small Claims Court Lawsuit


The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Complaints Against an Auto Repair Shop


What is the BBB?

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


Reasons Why Some Auto Repair Shops Respond to BBB Complaints

  • If the auto repair shop 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 auto repair shop 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 an auto repair shop. Auto repair shops do not want negative BBB complaints.

What types of auto repair shop complaints does the BBB handle?


The BBB handles a broad range of complaints against auto repair shops. Here are some examples:

  • When an auto repair shop damages your car.

  • When you took your car to be repaired but your car is still having mechanical problems

  • When an auto repair shop 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 auto repair shop did

  • When an auto repair shop 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 an Auto Repair Shop 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 Auto Repair Shop Complaint to the BBB

  • The BBB will forward your complaint to the auto repair shop within 2 business days.

  • The auto repair shop or 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 auto repair shop’s response when the BBB receives it (or notified that they received no response).

  • Complaints against auto repair shops 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

or click here to get started.


California Small Claims Court


Suing an auto repair shop or a mechanic is a very common type of small claims lawsuit.


What types of lawsuits can be filed against an auto repair shop in small claims?


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

  • The final bill an auto repair shop 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

How Does Small Claims Work?


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."


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.



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.



Use our interactive cost calculator to learn more:


or click here to learn more about pricing.



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.

Ready for People Clerk to be your small claims assistant?

or click here to get started.


Check out our other articles:


How to File Your California Small Claims Court Case

Quick List of Forms for California Small Claims Court

What to do if Landlord improperly withholds your Security Deposit


Small Claims Courts by County:

San Francisco Small Claims

Los Angeles Small Claims

Monterey Small Claims

Mercedes County Small Claims

Riverside Small Claims

Orange County Small Claims

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