What line of work are you in? I can't imagine any mechanic wanting to get involved with this, and given the history, that adds more reason. It would be different if the mechanic died, but first of all, no one is going to know what was taken apart, where each bolt goes, or even what the original diagnosis was. This isn't just an issue of one shop vs. Another. It would be an issue between two mechanics in the same shop. I had to put a steering column together from a basket full of parts after the first guy went on vacation. It took me three times longer than if I had taken it apart myself, and I had the benefit of having the service manual in front of me.
The next problem is you have a relatively uncommon car brand. If you're familiar with a few Chrysler products, you can work on any of them. Same with GM. Many of us go a lifetime without seeing a Jaguar, and I don't ever recall working on a transfer case on a car. Even a conscientious and experienced mechanic is likely to be lost.
In the case of my steering column, I would put three parts together, then take two of them off to install the part I overlooked or forgot. That's why it took me so long. Fortunately my understanding manager realized that. That brings us to the next problem. No mechanic or shop is going to be able to give you an accurate estimate of the time and dollars it will take to put the car back together. They could give you a low estimate in hopes of undercutting their competitors so they get the job, then when they're half done they have to tell you it will be more. You'll be mad and they know it, but they got the job. Some shops will give you a really high estimate to cover any surprises, then hope to surprise YOU will a lower bill than expected. They run the risk of not getting the job because their estimate was higher than their competitors'. Some shops will just tell you "time and material" but then first of all there's no incentive for the mechanic to pick up the pace and work faster, and you will almost always be surprised and unhappy with the final bill.
The fourth problem is that your husband "had words" with the previous mechanic. There ARE a few mechanics known within the industry to be shady, and if your husband had been dealing with one of them, other shops will be more inclined to want to help you out. The problem is there are a lot fewer unscrupulous shops and mechanics than the industry is given credit for. Most mechanics will be thinking if that last guy couldn't make your husband happy, what chance do they have of doing so? Why invite an angry customer and a bad experience? There is enough misunderstanding among car owners about the machines they trust to get them back home. There is enough misinformation about how repair shops operate and the huge expenses they incur when they work on your car. Just as doctors order too many tests because lawyers love to sue, mechanics have to be conscious of all the things that can land them in a courtroom. Now you're paying for that. No one is going to want to risk their reputation, risk making another customer angry, or risk a lawsuit.
I will never defend a dishonest shop or mechanic, but in the numerous times I've been asked to sort out a disagreement, or explain a misunderstanding, the shop has been right about 80 percent of the time. Many of the misunderstandings wouldn't even evolve into a complaint if they didn't involve such high repair bills. That too is a result of owners demanding all the toys and gimmicks on new cars that need computers to operate. It is unbelievable to me that cars don't break down way more often than they do.
You didn't say what your husband's disagreement was about but I can only imagine it was bad enough for the mechanic to give up on the project and throw in the towel. Of course he had to charge you to put the parts back together. Who else do you know who works for free? I'll bet your husband doesn't.
There's two potential solutions I can recommend. Obviously after this long you have another car so this one doesn't have to be finished right away. Get a copy of the manufacturer's service manual, (not one of those Haynes or Chiltons books), study the disassembly section, then use the diagrams to put everything back together. That will be the same learning experience my students went through but without the instructor nearby to offer advice. The special tools needed will cost a lot less than what you would have paid the mechanic. People do this all the time when they find project cars that never got finished.
A second possibility is to find a community college with an Automotive program and make it a student project. The problem here is they will only work on it the one or two times of the year they're studying transmissions or drive trains, and since part of their time is spent in the classroom or in other classes, they can only work on it a few hours per day. It may take a year or two to get it back, but that's better than letting it sit.
The other concern with both of these ideas is you never said what the original problem was, why it was diagnosed as something to do with the transfer case, and whether that problem has already been diagnosed and resolved. All we know is the parts aren't put back together. Imagine how a mechanic or a few students are going to feel when the put everything back together and the original problem is still there? At that point you owe them for the work they agreed to do but the car isn't fixed. THEN who will you be angry with?
Friday, January 11th, 2013 AT 10:18 PM