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Garage is asking me to pay for a new rod that THEY bent. What can I do?

Dear Tom and Ray:

On Sunday after church, my wife and I got into our 1994 Thunderbird and started the car. It idled roughly and began missing and backfiring. On Monday morning, I nursed the car to my local Ford dealer. It diagnosed the problem as a bad fuel injector at the No. 2 cylinder. Later, I called to pick up the car, and I was told not to come in because the car had a miss that the mechanics wanted to investigate. The next day, they would not return my calls. The following day, they told me that they had the engine out of my car and that the No. 2 connecting rod was bent. They told me they would replace the rod and the piston for $1,000. Apparently, when they changed the fuel injector, the mechanic allowed the fuel to drain down into cylinder No. 2 and then hydro-locked it when he tried to start the car. What should I do? -- Raymond

TOM: I'd laugh at them, Raymond. I'd say, "That's funny, guys. YOU bent my connecting rod; YOU took my engine out without my permission, and you want ME to pay for it?! Good one, fellas!"

RAY: It certainly sounds like they're the ones who bent your connecting rod, Raymond. When you went in, you complained of missing and backfiring. A bad connecting rod would not have caused those symptoms. It would have caused an intense vibration. So unless it was vibrating badly when you went in, my guess is that after they changed the injector, they accidentally bent the rod and then panicked.

TOM: That's when they weren't returning your calls. Every time the phone rang, seven of them would run into the men's room and lock the door. We had to expand our men's room at the shop last year for this very reason.

RAY: But they don't have to hide from you. Repair shops carry insurance for bonehead mistakes like this. Why? Because mistakes happen. And these guys are going to have to make a claim on their bonehead policy and fix this for you for nothing.

TOM: If they don't offer to do that, tell them not to touch the car, and have it towed to an independent mechanic. Have him look at it for you, so you have a witness. Then I'd take the dealership to small claims court. Based on your description, you'll almost certainly win.

RAY: But I don't think it's ever going to get that far. I think they were just trying it to see if you'd bite. Once you say no, I think they'll just say, "Oh, OK. We were just kidding." Especially after you drop the words "witness, lawyer and small claims court." Good luck, Raymond.
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