Complaints and delays

Unhappy with garage repairs?

Work should reach the standard of competent motor engineers

Work should reach the standard of competent motor engineers

Work should reach the standard of competent motor engineers and the correct materials, free from defect, should be used, but bear in mind that garages can't work miracles and that things will go wrong from time to time.

If a repair has fallen below that standard, the garage may be in breach of contract or negligent. Strictly, you would then be entitled to take your car to another garage to have the faults put right and then claim the cost from the original repairer. In this event it would be essential to notify the garage of your intentions in writing and obtain several quotes along with expert evidence to support your claim.

In practice you should aim to keep the cost of any claim as low as possible so it is usually wise, at least initially, to discuss the position with the original repairer. If reasonable to do so, allow them an opportunity to rectify their mistake at no further cost to you.

New problem?

You may receive your car back after repair only to find that the garage has caused a new problem. Generally, in law, the garage would be responsible for any additional fault or damage, although it would be up to you to prove that this happened while the car was in the garage's care. It is possible that the new fault could be completely coincidental and unrelated to the original fault or repair.

As with all complaints, it is important for you to raise the matter as quickly as possible with the garage. Rights can be lost through delay.

Do your best to resolve any issues with the original repairing garage as legal procedures can be very difficult and time consuming.

Motor industry code of practice

Choosing a garage that has signed up to the Motor Industry Code of Practice for service and repair should ensure that you get an honest and fair service.

If things do go wrong, Motor Codes provides a free consumer advice and conciliation service along with access to legally binding  independent arbitration.

More about Motorcodes »


If you and the garage clearly agreed a completion date for the work but they have missed it then you may be able to:

  • Agree a new deadline with the garage for completion
  • Ask the garage for a courtesy car until the work is completed
  • Take your own car back and use it, if still roadworthy, until the garage is in a position to complete the repair
  • Get the car repaired by someone else, if it can be taken away safely, and claim compensation from the original garage.

Generally, work should be completed within a reasonable time but delays can arise if parts are hard to obtain, if the problem is difficult to diagnose or if the repair turns out to be bigger than was first thought.

If you didn’t agree a specific completion date and you think that any delay in completing the work is unreasonable then you will need to discuss this with the garage and agree a new, and reasonable, completion date. A second opinion from another garage might help you establish how long is reasonable.

Can a Garage Retain your Car?

A garage that has repaired your car has what is known as a 'lien'. This is the right to keep the car until payment has been made for the work done.

If you remove your car from the garage without authorisation you risk not only civil proceedings but also (except in Scotland and Northern Ireland) criminal prosecution.

The only alternative open to you, apart from legal proceedings or leaving your car while any dispute is sorted out, is to pay the amount demanded, marking the invoice as 'paid under protest'.

(14 January 2013)