How to Know if a Mechanic is Taking Too Long With Car Repairs

Significant auto repairs can take a while to complete—set expectations with your mechanic and have some idea of how long a reasonable repair takes.
Written by Bellina Gaskey
Most minor vehicle repairs can be done in about a day, but unexpected changes can happen during the vehicle repair process. Get a written estimate from your repair shop early on to get a better sense of whether your mechanic is taking too long with repairs.
  • Before you hand your vehicle off to your auto mechanic for repair work, ask about the estimated repair time.
  • Minor automotive services should only take about a day, but keep in mind that unexpected issues or shipping times for replaced parts could extend repair times.

Reach a clear understanding of the estimated repair time beforehand

Talk to your mechanic about the estimated time it will take to complete the repairs. While this isn't really an issue for
minor checkups
and fixes, it can be a concern for major repairs, when a car could be in the shop for days or even weeks.
Mechanics will usually try to give you an accurate estimate—if the mechanic underestimates the time repairs will take, customers will get upset about having to wait longer than they thought. On the other hand, if they add too much of a cushion, customers may decide to take their business somewhere that can finish the job faster. 
Get it in writing: It can help hold the mechanic accountable if you get a written estimate that includes the anticipated repair time and repair costs. It can also give you more standing in the event that the shop made unauthorized repairs to your vehicle.

Minor fixes shouldn't take more than a day

For a lot of the smaller repairs and fixes, it’s reasonable to expect to have your car back in a few hours. Typically, the shop will tell you to leave and come back later in the day—or they may even have you wait.
That said, questions about repair times and delays may become more of an issue in the case of major repairs and damage.
There is no legal limit on how long a garage is allowed to keep a car. The garage's general level of activity and workload will also affect how long the more exhaustive repairs take.
Also, keep in mind that repairs will naturally take longer if your car is a special or vintage make, as the parts may need to be ordered.
Key Takeaway: Minor issues should be same-day repairs, but it's harder to tell when it comes to bigger problems. Note that special and vintage models will usually take longer as well.

What to do if you think a mechanic is taking too long

If you suspect the mechanic is keeping your car for longer than is reasonable: Consider bringing up the question with another auto repair shop. If you know a friend with professional experience in a garage, that can work as well.
Compile all of the information about the repairs you have and take it to another professional to get a second opinion on it. Although the conditions of each garage will vary, there's usually a clear difference between a reasonable timeframe and an instance where things have been taken grossly out of hand.
If you can get a written professional opinion that the repairs are taking too long, you may be able to contact your state’s consumer protection agency to deal with the issue.

Unexpected issues can increase the time a mechanic keeps your car

While mechanics and customers alike should have a reasonably accurate idea of the timeframe, things rarely follow through perfectly according to plan. 
Your mechanic may have discovered the need for additional repairs. If you need replacement parts, it’s also possible your car repair shop is at the mercy of shipping times.
In addition to unforeseen car troubles, the mechanic may become ill, have a family emergency, or otherwise be out of commission for a few days. 
Asking the mechanic to keep you apprised on any new developments with the car repairs can help your peace of mind, especially if you've been placed at a severe inconvenience without your vehicle.

Find a mechanic who will stick with you

If you
find a good mechanic
you've had consistently satisfying experiences with as a customer, you won't need to worry about mistreatment or undue delays. But even with a mechanic you're not used to yet, it's sometimes worth it to give them the benefit of the doubt if the explanation and delays were within reasonable limits.
For good and bad experiences alike, leaving a comment on business review sites like
may persuade (or dissuade) others from a given shop, based on the way you were treated. Don't underestimate the effect these user-based sites can have on real-world business.
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There is no legal limit to how long a mechanic can keep your car. If you are unsatisfied with your service, you can always take your business elsewhere and try to find another mechanic.
However, if there's a serious defect with your vehicle and the mechanic needs to hold the vehicle for a certain number of days to make the repairs, your warranty may entitle you to a refund or replacement vehicle per your state's
lemon law
It's possible to sue a mechanic if you have given them a down payment and they haven't fixed your vehicle for a long time. This is especially true if you can prove their negligence made your car worse. However, keep in mind that you might not have a case if the repairs did need to take a long time for a good reason. Look into your state’s consumer protection laws to get a better sense of your options.
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