This fact sheet contains some general information that will assist you in choosing a repairer and avoiding disputes. 

It also provides guidance on dealing with repair disputes and explains some of the technical terminology, concepts, and issues you may encounter.

Motor vehicles are technically complex pieces of equipment, and like any other complex machine it’s a fact-of-life that repairs to them don’t always go according to plan, or in the way their owners think they should. Quite simply, repair disputes can arise in even the best run workshop.  

  • In our experience, many repair disputes are due to simple misunderstandings or poor communication on the part of one or both parties.  
  • But there can also be genuine deficiencies in the work that will need to be corrected. 
  • We’ve found that in most cases repairers are more than willing to work with the customer to resolve a dispute, so if you have an issue or concern the first thing to do is speak to the repairer.  
  • Be polite but clear about what the problem is and what you believe needs to done to resolve it.
  • Most repairers will happily put things right if they’ve made a mistake, and if it’s just a simple misunderstanding, it’s their opportunity to set the record straight and keep you as a customer.

Where a dispute can’t be resolved amicably between the parties you have several options.

  •  If the repairer is a member of the RACQ Approved Repairer scheme we can assist in investigating the matter and negotiating a resolution with the repairer. 
  • We can also offer advice and information if the repairer is not part of our scheme, however our ability to negotiate an outcome in such cases is limited.
  • If the repairer is a member of an industry body, such as one of the Motor Trades Associations, that body may help negotiate a resolution, but assistance from such bodies is not guaranteed.

In cases where a resolution can’t be negotiated, there are some official options.

  • Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading will investigate such matters and may be able to assist with a resolution.
  • Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) http://www.qcat.qld.gov.au/ has many of the powers of a court and offers a low cost legal option for resolving common consumer disputes. 
  • There are other legal options but they are generally high cost and would probably not be warranted for the vast majority of repair disputes.  You should seek independent legal advice if you plan to go this way.  

Finding a repairer you are comfortable with and trust will go a long way towards avoiding disputes, or at least resolving them quickly and relatively painlessly.  Personal recommendations and the experiences of family and friends can be a good starting point. Look for repairers who are members of the RACQ Approved Repairer Scheme or industry associations. While this association may not necessarily prevent a dispute arising, the repairers generally have to abide by codes of practice and such bodies will often assist in resolving disputes should they arise. 

And don’t be afraid to ask a repairer if they have the necessary tools, information and experience to repair your particular vehicle.

If your vehicle is covered by a new or used warranty it’s important to understand the warranty requirements and how the repairs or servicing could affect the warranty cover.

Major repairs can easily overstretch your budget, or in the case of an older vehicle, exceed its value. So it’s important to get a repair quote so you know how much it will cost in order to make an informed decision and / or manage your expenditure.

But there’s a big difference between a quote and an estimate and this is a common source of conflict. Estimates are usually verbal, approximate and may change.  A quote on the other hand is fixed and binding unless varied by mutual agreement, such as when unforeseeable additional work is found to be needed, that’s why it’s vital to get it in writing.

Quotes don’t have to be free. If the repairer has to dismantle parts or carry out investigations they are entitled to charge for their time, so it’s important to ask if there will be a charge for the quote – before it’s prepared.  In many cases the cost of a quote may be absorbed into the cost of the repair if you choose to go ahead with it.

If you’re concerned about the cost or scope of work suggested, get a second quote from a different repairer – but to ensure a proper comparison is being made make sure the second repairer fully understands what you need to have repaired.

Be clear when describing your vehicle’s problems to a repairer. This is particularly important if the problem is intermittent and the repairer can’t experience it personally. The more he / she knows about the issue the easier it will be to find and fix it, which in the long run will save you time and money.


With intermittent faults it’s a good idea to keep notes of the circumstances leading up to the problem becoming evident. Note things like road speed, how long you’ve been driving, whether it happens when the engine is hot or cold, in hot or cold weather, on start up, etc as well as any other symptoms. Every bit of information could ultimately be important to identifying the cause.

Also in such cases it’s important to have reasonable expectations. In fact it could be completely unreasonable to expect a repairer who hasn’t had the opportunity to experience the problem to make a correct diagnosis first time based solely on your description of the symptoms.

But remember too, if you diagnose the problem yourself or request specific repairs that don’t resolve the issue, the misdiagnosis, and costs, will be your responsibility, not the repairers.  It’s best to accurately describe the symptoms and let the repairer make the final diagnosis.

Few repairers will carry out work unless it’s been properly authorised. This usually means you will need to sign some form of authorisation – often it will be what’s called a Repair Order. It’s in your best interests to ensure you understand the scope and likely costs of the work you are authorising as you will be legally committed to pay for it. If you haven’t asked for a written quote you should make it clear that you must authorise any extra expenditure / work that is in excess of that initially agreed to.

This is also the time to request the return of any parts replaced during the repair if you want them (some exchange parts can’t be returned) and to confirm payment arrangements.  If you haven’t come to an arrangement about the preferred method of payment the repairer may legitimately hold your car until payment is affected.

Express Warranties

An express warranty is one that is clearly stated. For example, a car repair may be guaranteed for 3 months or 5,000km.

While this is a common offering, there is no standard warranty period for repairs and it can vary.  You should discuss warranty details with the repairer involved.

But regardless of the warranty, there are some other factors to consider.

  • A part, assembly, or service (such as a sublet repair) may have a longer or shorter warranty period than the repairer normally offers.
  • The warranty period and the parts affected should be noted on the repair invoice.
  • There could be cases where there is no, or limited warranty on a repair. Examples are where you instruct the repairer to not repair certain faults, or to make repairs that the repairer believes are dangerous, un-roadworthy, or will not provide a satisfactory outcome. These exclusions should be recorded on the invoice.
  • You will probably be asked to sign the repair order acknowledging that you understand the implications of the proposed repair.  However, the repairer can only remove their responsibility for problems that arise as a direct result of not being allowed to carry out the full extent of the work. If for instance the job failed because of a problem with the workmanship, the repairer would still be responsible.
  • Note also that the repairer could refuse to carry out such work.

Implied Warranties

An implied warranty is somewhat more nebulous in nature. Unlike an express warranty, implied warranties do not have to be stated and have no defined time or distance limitations. They cover things like the quality of workmanship and the suitability of parts used in the repair.

Second-hand parts are commonly used to keep the price of repairs to an acceptable level or because replacement parts from other sources are not available.  However you should be aware that in many cases these parts will have little warranty cover. Often the only warranty on offer may be the replacement of the part with another used component. Depending on the purchase and repair arrangements the removal and refitting costs will either be your, or the repairer's, responsibility.

There are many potential sources of replacement parts so it’s worth weighing up all the available supply options and costs. But remember if you source and supply the parts any problems that arise become your responsibility. In this case the only responsibility the repairer has is provision of an appropriate standard of workmanship. 

This is a term used to describe the standard industry practice of sending a component or assembly to another specialist repairer.

Example:

A vehicle suffers an overheat and is taken to a repairer (the primary contractor). The primary contractor diagnoses the problem and removes the cylinder head, which is sent to a specialist cylinder head repairer (the sublet repairer) for overhaul.


In this case the vehicle owner has a contract with the primary contractor to do the work. The primary contractor has a contract with the sublet repairer to do the specialised work involved with the cylinder head overhaul.

From a legal perspective if there is a dispute about the quality of the repairs (including the head repairs) then the vehicle owner should only have to deal with the original repairer i.e. the primary contractor, not the sublet repairer.

Legally, in the event of a dispute between repairers, it is the original repairer’s (the primary contractor) responsibility to sort out the problem. You should never be expected to negotiate a resolution with a sublet repairer, unless you organised that part of the repair.
Disputes do arise, but in most cases repairers are more than willing to work with the customer towards a resolution. So it’s in your best interest to first try to settle the matter yourself.


If you have an issue or concern about a repair the first thing to do is speak to the repairer. Be polite but clear about what the problem is and what you believe needs to done about it.

If the complaint is genuine, most repairers will appreciate the opportunity to put things right. Even if it’s a simple misunderstanding it is their opportunity to set the record straight and keep you as a customer.

If the vehicle develops a problem that you suspect is related to an earlier repair it’s important to return to the original repairer. But this may not always be possible, so you should at least contact the original repairer first before authorising further work.

If you have to deal with another repairer it’s worth asking him / her to contact the first repairer as they may be able to shed some light on the history of the fault, or if it’s found that they have contributed to the problem, negotiate to have it corrected.

Where there is no option but to involve another repairer, it’s important to keep any parts that have been replaced and to get a clear and detailed statement, in writing, as to what the problem was. This will assist if a third party needs to investigate and try to negotiate an outcome. Plenty of clear and detailed photos may also help.

Where a dispute can’t be resolved amicably between the parties you have a number of options. 

  • If the repairer is a member of the RACQ Approved Repairer scheme our Technical Advisory department can assist in investigating the matter and negotiating a resolution with the repairer. In addition we provide independent opinions on faults and failures. We can also offer advice and assistance if the repairer is not part of the scheme, however our ability to negotiate an outcome in such cases is limited.
  • If the repairer is a member of an industry body, such as one of the Motor Trades Associations, the body may be able to assist in negotiating a resolution.
In cases where the repairer is unwilling to negotiate there are some more official options.

Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading will investigate such matters and may be able to assist with a resolution.

Alternatively, as a last resort the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has many of the powers of a court, but offers a low cost legal option for resolving common consumer disputes.

Keep all invoices for work done. Not only is it your service record, it will be vital in the event of a dispute.

In the event of a dispute, keep a record of all phone conversations – times, dates, who you spoke to, the subject etc. as this information may be needed either by a third party engaged to negotiate a resolution, or in the worst case, by a court.

More information

Should you require further assistance please contact our Motoring Advice Service or email us your details now.