Can A Mechanic Refuse To Release Your Car? If Yes, What’re Reasons?

You have your car fixed by the local repairer. Then you wonder: Can a mechanic refuse to release your car? If he does so, is there any law backing him? What are the solutions?

There are numerous questions regarding this issue. Moreover, an exact answer depends on various elements. And you surely do not want to mess with this refusal along with a lawsuit.

So now, let us help. But first, can a repair shop keep a vehicle?

Can A Mechanic Refuse To Release Your Car?

The common law (not the private law) is that a service supplier can refuse to release your vehicle in a specific case. He can apply this right when you can’t pay for car repair supplied by his services.

Your punctuality of paying the fee will decide the amount of time he keeps your vehicles. The mechanic has had car for months or even years.

That said, the story can be different if you have a good relationship with the repairman. He can allow you to extend the grace sometimes.

can a mechanic refuse to release your car

Generally speaking, the Government considers withholding the vehicles as the mechanic’s lien. So, what is it?

What’s The Mechanic’s Lien?

A mechanic’s lien comes as the closest answer for the question, “Can a mechanic keep your car for non payment“. It is a legal guarantee for justice between suppliers and customers.

This claim is commonly valid in property (especially real estate) cases. In terms of automobiles, the name “mechanic’s lien” turns to repairer’s or artisan’s lien.

A customer can face a lien if they fail to complete the whole payment. And keep in mind that it is not for bad intent. Service suppliers apply the lien as a last resort to get paid for a repair done.

Besides, what are the issues in ethics related to the mechanic’s lien?

Some dishonest guys could ask you to pay a massive additional fee on “unreal” repairs. In other words, you paid for car repair but not fixed.

In this case, can you sue a backyard mechanic? It is a big YES since the law will never leave consumers unprotected.

Any unsafe vehicle release form, unsafe vehicle waiver form, illegal human activities, etc., will need to be in consideration.


There are three basic conditions to obtain a lien.

  • The repairer must show the presence of the vehicle owner in a statement of charges for automobile repairs.
  • The repairer must authorize the owners to repair their vehicles. If the repairer cannot show his authorization, he does not have the right to get your payment. So, the lien will not be available for the case like “mechanic fixed my car without authorization”.
  • It must be an agreement on the service price between the service supplier and the vehicle owners. Then, they sign a document. Any overcharge compared with the signed document will invalidate in terms of the lien.

If a mechanic doesn’t fix the problem or even steal away the vehicle, what will happen?

In such cases, the service supplier could be in charge of embezzlement or illegal conversion. Hence, you – the vehicle owner, can get compensation for that seizure.

Ways To Avoid

If you want to avoid the lien, the following tips can help.

Option 1: Completing The Payment With A Joint Check

We suggest paying with the joint checks all the time. This method can ensure that both suppliers and subcontractors get paid in the end. However, the checks can turn to cash only after the beneficiary endorses the signed document.

Option 2: Getting A Waiver

Another way is to ask the contractor to provide a lien waiver. It allows the vehicle owner to relieve from the responsibility of paying. However, no waiver validates in some states unless the payment gets done.

Option 3: Paying Subcontractors Yourself

In comparison, this option seems to be the least practical one. That said, you can pay the fee to the supplier or subcontractor. And then, they will deduct your payment from the amount mentioned in the general contractor.

The difficulty found with the third option relates to taxes. By this method, you may be responsible for withholding the income for tax.

How Long Can The Mechanic Keep Your Car?

The car won’t start right after turning off, so you have to take it to the local repairer. How long can a mechanic legally keep your car to fix? Or, in case you have not completed the payment yet, how long can a body shop keep your car?


You need to base on several factors to answer these questions. One of them is which type of fixes and repairs your vehicle needs. Besides, the garage workload also plays as a key element.

For instance, it often takes hours to fix minor problems. However, the vehicle requiring further repairs cannot be ready in two days.

Can a mechanic keep your car if its unsafe?

Yes, he can, with your agreement. However, in general, there is no specific limit for this amount of time. And it is a need for you to discuss with the service supplier in advance.

Can The Mechanic Sell Your Car?

The answer is exactly YES. With the signed order of automobile repairs, the service supplier has authorization. If you do not pay him when the job gets done, he could sell your vehicles in the end.

It is illegal for the repairer to sell your vehicles right after he completes repairing. The law commonly requires the repairer to wait 30 days. Then, he will notify the customer about his completed repairs and the upcoming sale.

After making the payment, you can get your vehicle back. But if not, the repairer will legally sell it after the term of 30 days for waiting.

That said, there is no need to worry too much about this issue. If you have good communication with the repairer, it is ok to extend your pending payment.

At the same time, your vehicle is still safe. So, it would be better to take the vehicle to a garage where you are their loyal customer.


For the bottom line, can a mechanic refuse to release your car? Our answer is YES. If you do not want it to happen, be sure that you afford to complete the payment. There are many more things to discuss on this topic. So, stay tuned and wait for us with various upcoming posts.

Leave a Comment