Coronavirus pandemic causing car repair delays

PITTSBURGH — We’re all just a fender bender or check engine light away from being impacted by a worldwide car parts shortage. Car repair delays are yet another problem being created by the COVID-19 crisis.

Waiting for parts

Krista Miskinis and her husband Brian bought a 2018 Ford Escape this summer. The last thing they expected before even making their first payment was car trouble.

“Check engine light came on,” Krista Miskinis of Connellsville told 11 Investigates. “So, we thought, ‘Oh, a used car probably the sensor went. Not a big deal.’”

It turned into a big deal when her husband was driving home from work.

“The car actually stopped and gave me an alarm that the car was overheated,” Brian Miskinis said.

That engine light turned into needing a whole new engine from Ford, but COVID production issues in Mexico made getting one difficult.

“A month had gone by, five weeks had gone by. My husband gave them a call and said, ‘What’s going on?’” Krista Miskinis said. "It took two full months from the time we dropped it off to the time we got it back.

William Porter of Greensburg experienced similar delays when his 2019 Chevy Trax had piston problems and turbo issues. His car was in the dealer’s garage for 32 days before it was finally fixed.

“It’s crazy!” Porter said. “You’re sitting there waiting on a car. Don’t know when it’s gonna be done, and they don’t know when it’s gonna be done.”

Repair shops frustrated too

Auto repair shops are also frustrated with the delays that started when COVID first hit in the spring.

“Parts are delayed— some 15, some 25, some 30 days,” said Jeff Critchlow, owner of Critchlow’s Auto Repair in Shaler Township. "It’s stressful, but it’s actually gotten better than it was in March, April and May.

Critchlow says the shortage is impacting both mechanical parts and body parts and includes both original manufacturer equipment and aftermarket.

“Wheels are hard to get right now, some grills, some suspension parts. It varies from car to car,” he said. “Some of the aftermarket parts, they just don’t have, and they don’t even have a date when they’ll be available.”

He says a lot of the problem has to do with where parts are manufactured. They’re dealing with production and shipping issues from all over the world.

“We’re seeing them made in Mexico, we’re seeing some of them made in China, Yugoslavia, they came from all over,” Critchlow said. “Unfortunately, it’s a waiting game.”

Consumer Rights

Most places will provide a loaner or rental car to you while you’re waiting for your repair. Even if your insurance won’t cover the cost, be sure to ask for one. If the dealer can’t or won’t provide it, call the manufacturer. They can often make it happen.

“They always want you happy,” said Consumer and Lemon Law lawyer Bob Silverman. “For instance, General Motors, Volvo, Subaru, Ford, they always give you a loaner if you ask for one or if they have one available, and it’s always free.”

Silverman also says COVID-19 is not an excuse for unreasonable repair delays. Pennsylvania’s breach of warranty and lemon laws offer you protection.

“If they can’t fix your vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts; or if your vehicle is in the shop for an inordinate amount of days—20-30 days, they breach their warranty,” Silverman said.

Silverman says in some cases you can file suit against the manufacturer for compensation.

“Once you hit 30 days in the shop in the Lemon Law period, which is the first year or 12,000 miles, you have a presumption under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law that the manufacturer has failed to fix your vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts or days in the shop,” Silverman said.

Silverman stressed that it’s important to document the process, including when you dropped off your vehicle, any updates and when you finally get it back.

“Make sure they give you documentation of when you first dropped it off or had it towed and when they give it back,” he said.

Also, be sure to read over the documents to make sure there are no mistakes in the paperwork before you sign anything.

“If they don’t put the right dates down, you can’t prove the number of days in the shop,” he said. “You take that document and make them amend it or prove it with a rental slip.”

To see more from 11 Investigates Angie Moreschi’s interview with Consumer Lawyer Bob Silverman, watch the video below.