Car Laws & Safety

Can A Mechanic Refuse To Release Your Car?

Our cars, like other machines, suffer from wear and tear. At times, it could be a regular problem that can be solved by following simple procedures. Other times, the car might suffer problems that require professional help.

This is why mechanics are usually on speed dial for most car owners. There is however one question that comes up frequently when it comes to leaving cars at a mechanic’s workshop. Can a mechanic refuse to release your car?

A mechanic has no right to hold on to your car against your will.  The car is your property. However, you should not try to take out the car from the mechanic’s property without calling the police.  If you owe the mechanic money, call the police so they can explain to the mechanic that he may sue you but he/she cannot hold your car.  

Does The Law Allow A Mechanic to Hold to a Car Till Repairs Are Done? 

There is no law that allows a mechanic to hold on to a car until the repairs are done. So even if the mechanic spots a new problem, as long as the owner of the car wants it back, it has to be released. One thing that the mechanic is permitted to do by the law is to make you sign a release form.

This release form serves as proof that the mechanic notified the car owner that the car was unsafe to drive. This release form also saves the mechanic from having to face charges for damages, in the case of an accident. If you take your car from the mechanic’s workshop even after there was clearly an existing problem, you are liable for any damage caused. 

What Should You Do If A Mechanic Carries Out Repairs That You Did Not Authorize?

A lot of car owners have had to deal with the issue of unauthorized repairs. Unauthorized repairs can be really problematic, as the mechanic and car owner are usually not on the same page. Unauthorized repairs usually occur when a mechanic discovers a new problem after you have been handed a quotation.

If you come for your car and the mechanic informs you about additional cost, this counts as an unauthorized repair. Some mechanics will decide to hold on to your car in the case that you refuse to pay.

You are not obligated by law to pay for a repair that is not authorized. Mechanic’s lien applies only to authorized repairs, so the mechanic has no right to hold your car. 

What Is A Mechanic’s Lien 

In general terms, a mechanic’s lien is a legal claim that serves as guarantee of payment to contractors and construction firms that work on a property. While a mechanic’s lien is commonly used in the real estate sector, it can also be used by automobile mechanics and other artisans. The type of lien that applies to car mechanics is known as a repairer’s lien. 

What Is The Purpose of A Mechanic’s Lien? 

Mechanics file for lien when they are yet to receive their payment for fixing a vehicle. The way it works, liens serve as the last resort for mechanics after they have exhausted every means to get their payment.

A mechanic is however not supposed to obtain a lien with evil intent. This is why it is important that you as a car owner know what the requirements for obtaining a lien are. 

Requirements For Obtaining A Mechanic’s Lien 

These conditions must be met before your mechanic obtains a lien. Be sure to confirm before being made to pay extra cost for unauthorized services. 

  • The car owner must be given a document containing a statement of repairs made.
  • The repairs contained in the statement must have been authorized. This means that you as the car owner are not liable to pay for any improvement or repair that was not agreed beforehand.
  • The price of the repairs contained in the document must have been agreed on before carrying them out. This means that the car owner is not liable to pay for overcharge or other extra costs. 

If the agreement between the mechanic and car owner does not meet any of the conditions stated above, then the lien is invalidated. The mechanic has no right to refuse to release your car. 

What Should You Do If A Mechanic Refuses To Release Your Car?

Some mechanics can be really problematic and might decide to hold on to your car unlawfully. You have two options when it comes to dealing with mechanics, both are discussed below.

Contact The Police

You can contact the police if a mechanic refuses to release your car for non-payment of unauthorized repair. You can also contact the police in the case that a mechanic insists that you carry out a repair. The police will investigate the situation and ensure that you get your car back as soon as possible.

You must ensure to proceed with the statement of your agreement, as this serves as evidence of the authorized repairs. If the case involves additional repairs that you do not want, the police can provide assistance in getting your car back.

The mechanic will issue you a release document detailing the fact that you took the car without necessary repairs. This vindicates the mechanic in the case of an accident. 

Sue For Refund or To Get Your Car Back

The second option available to you is to file the case in a municipal court. You will inform the court of the situation and order that the mechanic returns your car. The problem with taking civil action is that it usually takes a long while before the case is eventually resolved. You might want to pay the cost, get your car back, and then file the case.

This way, you can get refunded while not having to be without your car for a long period of time. Before taking any action, it is important to consider the relationship that you have with the mechanic.

If it is a trusted professional, paying the extra cost is a good option. This is because there is likely to be a lack of ulterior motive whenever extra repairs are carried out. 

How To Know That Your Mechanic Is Ripping You Off

Sometimes, mechanics are not straightforward, using clever tactics to rip you of your hard-earned money. Below are signs that show that your mechanic is ripping you off: 

Early Replacements

There are components of the car that need replacing after a given number of years or mileage. Some mechanics however trick car owners that the replacement is due when it is not.

Carrying Out Unauthorized Repairs

Carrying out unauthorized repairs is another clever tactic used by mechanics to rip owners off. After agreeing on repairs to be carried out and the expected cost, these mechanics carry out extra work thereby increasing your bill. You are not obligated to bear the cost of these repairs, as long as you did not authorize them.

Pressuring You Into Repairs

Pressure is another tool used by mechanics in order to extort money from car owners. They try to convince you into releasing your car, terming it “unsafe” to drive. Your mechanic has no right to hold on to your car, unless you owe them money. Be firm in your refusal, if you do not require a repair at the time.


A mechanic should be willing to thoroughly explain what is wrong with your car when you take it for repairs. A mechanic being vague and unclear is a red flag and could well be a sign that they are trying to extort you. 

How To Avoid Being Ripped Off By A Mechanic 

1.Know Your Car

Just the basics are enough, but it is important to know your car to avoid being ripped off. By understanding the basic components and workings of your car, you will have an idea of the repairs that are really required.

Also, when a mechanic realizes that you are familiar with the components of your car, he becomes less confident of extorting you. 

 2.Hire Using Recommendations

Recommendations always work when it comes to hiring service providers. Talk to your friends and loved ones in order to find a trustworthy mechanic that is efficient and transparent. It is easier to trust a mechanic who has glowing reviews from your friends and family.

3.Get A Written Quote

Always get a quote before leaving your car at the mechanic’s workshop. This way, you can avoid arguments on cost as well as unauthorized repairs. Your quote will also come in handy if the mechanic decides to obtain a lien. 


Your car is one machine that requires professional handling in order to operate at optimal level. As such, you must ensure to always hire the best mechanics around. Be sure to find a mechanic that is reliable, honest, transparent and readily available.

Pay close attention to the signs if you suspect any wrongdoing on the part of your mechanic. More importantly, avoid taking law into your hands. Contact the necessary authorities if you have a problem with your mechanic.

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