Yes, it's true your car didn't have any leaks before this one. That is true of 100 percent of the cars sold. Every car starts out with no leaks, and every car develops leaks sooner or later. Yours is no different.
What is at issue here is the chain of events. A shredded serpentine belt had a cause. They don't shred on their own. That is caused by the belt being forced against the lip on the side of one of the ribbed pulleys, and that is caused by a pulley that is tipped or turned, always due to worn bearings or a worn pivot on a spring-loaded tensioner pulley. It's rare for a belt to take out a driven item like the power steering pump or the generator, but not unheard of. What's much more common is a failed power steering pump that ruins the belt. What most likely happened is the bearings failed in the pump just enough to cause the belt damage, but not enough to let the shaft move away from the rubber seal and allow it to leak fluid. That could go unnoticed when the belt was being replaced. It wouldn't take long for the bearing to develop more play which would result in fluid leakage. An experienced mechanic knows there is some cause for the belt failure, but if he had known at that point a pump was going to be needed, you would be accusing him of selling you unneeded parts.
Also, there is nothing the mechanic could have done to cause damage to the power steering pump. They just aren't that good. It would be extremely difficult to purposely cause one to leak too. I would question the amount of the bill but on a lot of smaller cars the pumps are very hard and time-consuming to replace, and import parts are often rather expensive. From what you've shared so far, it doesn't sound like the mechanic did anything wrong, and to tell your credit card company to not pay the bill is pretty obnoxious. I bet you don't work for free. A mechanic should always be given the chance to correct any mistakes he makes, but from what we know so far, your vehicle suffered a normal breakdown that can happen to any car.
You didn't say which engine you have so I looked up the pump for both of the V-6s. The pump for the 3.3L costs three times the cost of the pump for a 2.7L, and a rebuilt one is not available, most likely because they have a very high failure rate. The shop has to get a new one from the dealer or send your old one to a specialty shop to be rebuilt and sent back. Either of those options will be expensive. That COULD explain part of the bill, but if you want to question anything, look at the charges on the bill, then ask to see the listing in their "flat rate" guide, if they use one. Most shops do so they all charge the same number of hours for each procedure. The book will list the number of hours to replace the pump when the vehicle is out-of-warranty, and additional tenths of an hour for any applicable items like air conditioning parts that are in the way, or other brackets that have to be removed. If your bill reflects an hourly labor charge that is significantly higher that what is shown in the book, they will need to explain what else you were charged for. There may have been some diagnostic time but that is normally listed separately.
All states have different laws and regulations, but in most of them you have the right to receive a written estimate for repairs before those repairs are started. Here in Wisconsin we have three places to sign on the repair order stating 1) you want an estimate, 2) you want to be notified if the bill is going to exceed..., And you fill in the dollar amount, or 3) you don't want an estimate; just fix it. Very few people sign box number three unless the car is under warranty. If you signed box number two and the bill is higher than the dollar amount listed, you should be able to hold them to that unless they called with a revised estimate after they diagnosed the cause of the problem. That can be a problem for the mechanic because often he has to spend considerable time figuring out what is wrong and what is the best way to solve it, and that alone eats up part of the dollars you allowed. The remaining dollars aren't enough to cover the repair. Shops hate calling with revised estimates just as much as owners hate getting those calls.
Monday, December 16th, 2013 AT 10:18 PM