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Repairs and maintenance 

A car or motor cycle is a big investment for most people and a large responsibility. Owners should regularly maintain their vehicles to protect their investment and to keep them safe and roadworthy.

Every repairer must be licensed 

In NSW vehicle repairers must be licensed to work on your car and employ only certified tradespeople to carry out repairs.

Repairers who carry out repairs below an acceptable standard or who operate in an unfair or dishonest manner can be disciplined and their repairer’s licence suspended or cancelled.

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Repairs and service 

Vehicles under warranty

If you have a problem with a new car or motor cycle that is still under warranty, refer to your warranty and talk to the motor dealer who sold you the vehicle.

Maintenance schedule

Whether new or second-hand, your car or motor cycle should have come with a logbook or owner’s handbook that sets out when the vehicle should be serviced and what maintenance needs to be done. To keep your motor vehicle in top condition and to avoid the possibility of breakdown or expensive repairs in the future, you should follow the maintenance schedule. If the vehicle is still under warranty and you don’t have it serviced to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, you may void your warranty. As long as the service is carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, any licensed repairer can do it, not just the dealer from whom you purchased the vehicle.

Type of service

When booking your motor vehicle in for a service, clearly explain to your repairer the type of service you require. Different costs are associated with the different types of services you can have. Don’t ask for a service if all you require is an oil change. There is a great deal of difference in the cost.

Whether you require a specific kilometre service or a general service, ask the repairer to be specific as to what is included in the service and what it will cost. If you don’t have a logbook or handbook and are not sure what your vehicle needs, ask the repairer to explain what is involved with each type of service, when they are required and the associated cost for each service. If you are still uncertain, it is wise to follow the manufacturer’s service schedule.

Explain the problem

You will help the repairer find the problem if you describe all the symptoms. For example, ‘The car won’t start. When I turn the key, nothing happens.’ With this information the repairer can search various avenues for the reason, possibly the battery is dead; perhaps a wire has become disconnected.

Explaining the symptoms is far better than telling the repairer what to do. For example, ‘I need a new battery, this one is dead.’ The reason for a flat battery may be as simple as a loose connection that requires tightening – a much cheaper repair than the cost of a new battery.

Go for a test drive if necessary to demonstrate the symptoms, for example, if a rattle only occurs at a certain speed.

Ask for a cost and time estimate

Always ask for a cost estimate or quote to fix the problem and get it in writing so there are no surprises at the end. Make sure it includes the cost of parts and labour. The repairer should be able to explain any minor increase in the cost

Ask how long the repairs will take and when your car will be ready to be collected. Ask to be contacted if additional time is required.

Extra work required

Sometimes when a vehicle is dismantled additional problems are detected. Leave clear instructions for the repairer to either proceed with all necessary repairs or contact you first.

People acting as your agent

If someone else is taking your car to the repairer for you, ensure that they fully understand and can explain the problem to the repairer. Remember, as your agent, the person will bind you in contract and the responsibility to pay the account.

Diagnosis

Where a repairer spends time carrying out and providing a detailed diagnosis but you decide not to carry out the repair, the repairer is entitled to charge a fee for the diagnosis.

Paying for repairs

If you are not able to pay cash, make sure an alternative method of payment is agreed with the repairer before the job is commenced.

The repairer may retain your vehicle until the invoice has been paid (possessory lien).

TIP: When a repairer applies a lien the owner may sue the repairer in the local court for the return of the vehicle. The repairer may retain the vehicle until the court orders its return to the owner. The police cannot order the vehicle’s release.

Warranty

For a warranty to be enforceable, it must form part of the repair contract. This means the owner must agree to its conditions and limitations. Ask the repairer to write down the warranty conditions on the invoice.

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After the repairs 

Have the repairs and cost explained

You can ask to see the old parts that were replaced. If reconditioned or exchange units are used this should be noted on the invoice. Note that these generally cost less than new parts.

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Industry licensing and certification 

NSW Fair Trading administers the licensing of motor vehicle repair businesses and certification of tradespeople working in repair businesses.

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Courtesy vehicles 

There is no formal requirement for a dealer to provide a courtesy vehicle to a customer while they are conducting warranty work, unless it advertised or promised to the client.

In some circumstances, a dealer or repairer may provide a vehicle while the repair is carried out.  It is important to note that you should ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy, registered and insured, as you may be held liable for anything that may happen.

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Obligations of repairer 

A motor vehicle repairer has a responsibility, as with any other trade to ensure that the work carried out is done in a ‘workmanship like manner’. This is a responsibility brought under the Fair Trading legislation, other similar legislation, and common law.

If a part fitted by a workshop is defective, substandard or unfit for its intended purpose, and if it is the ‘cause’ of an accident, a customer (but not another person such as a passenger, pedestrian or subsequent owner of a vehicle) can bring a contractual claim against the workshop under section 74 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

A claim could also be brought under section 74 if the workshop did not exercise due care and skill in carrying out repairs or testing.

Section 74 implies a non-excludable warranty into contracts for the supply of services by workshops to customers:

  • that services will be carried out with due care and skill and
  • that any components supplied in connection with those services will be reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are supplied.

Similar warranties are implied by common law into contracts for the supply of services by workshops.

For example, if a customer could establish that a workshop did not exercise due care and skill in fitting a disc brake calliper, or if the customer could establish that a disc brake rotor fitted by the workshop was below recommended minimum operating thickness, the workshop could be held liable to the customer under section 74 or under common law.

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Loss/damage to vehicle 

A dealer or repairer may be liable for loss or damage when this occurs while the vehicle is in the dealer’s or repairer’s, or a sublet repairer’s custody waiting for repairs under warranty.

If you believe that the repairer has acted in a dishonest or fraudulent manner you should report it to Fair Trading, who will investigate your complaint.

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Role of NSW Fair Trading 

The role of NSW Fair Trading is to facilitate a fair and efficient motor vehicle repair industry in which repairers are appropriately trained to achieve effective and safe repairs at a reasonable cost to the consumer.

As part of this role Fair Trading promotes improvements in the standard of motor vehicle repair work and assists in the settlement of disputes between motor vehicle owners and repairers. 

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Complaints about fair cost 

Fair Trading can investigate a complaint about the fair cost of a repair.  However, there is no price control on vehicle repair costs. A repairer in one area, where operating costs are low, may charge less than another where costs are high and skilled staff are in short supply. Some repairers may charge more because of their level of skill and service.

If the owner and repairer agree on a price before the job is started it forms part of the contract. It is generally binding on both parties whether the repairer’s costs exceed the quote or the owner discovers later that the job could have been done cheaper. Be clear on parts and labour costs before the work commences.

TIP: If there is a disagreement about the repair, payment of the account to obtain possession of the vehicle does not prevent the owner lodging a dispute to seek reimbursement.

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Report dishonest repairers 

If you believe that the repairer has acted in a dishonest or unfair manner you should report it to NSW Fair Trading, who will investigate your complaint. Repairers which are found to have been dishonest or unfair or who perform repair work that is below the usual trade standard can be disciplined and their repairer’s licence may be suspended or cancelled.

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Motor vehicle definition 

A vehicle which is constructed or adapted to carry passengers or goods over public roads is a motor vehicle.  It does not matter whether it is registered or not.  A tractor or fork lift which may be registered is not constructed or adapted for the carriage of passengers or goods over public roads and is therefore not a motor vehicle.

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Listen to information about your car and car maintenance and repairs

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