Could I sue my mechanic for potentially installing an aftermarket catalytic converter?

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Main Forum' started by pri4u, Nov 21, 2022.

  1. Elektroingenieur

    Elektroingenieur Senior Member

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    If you have questions about your legal rights, I’d urge you to ask a lawyer.

    Just as general information, in California, it’s unlawful to install an aftermarket catalytic converter, unless it’s been approved (exempted) by the California Air Resources Board for specific make-model-year applications, and it’s unlawful to install any used, recycled, or salvaged catalytic converter. I explained these regulations in 2020, before any aftermarket catalytic converters had been approved for Prius cars. As of 2021, one manufacturer has a line of approved parts, which generally cost as much, if not more, as those from Toyota.

    If you’re not sure what your mechanic installed, why don’t you ask him, or as @rjparker kindly suggested, pay a Smog Check station to look? It’s allowed to get a Smog Check test at any time, even if it’s not needed for registration, and Smog Check technicians are required to be able to identify original and aftermarket catalytic converters. You could ask them to do the test as a “pre-inspection,” so you’d get a written report, but the vehicle’s status with DMV wouldn’t be affected.

    If you’re not satisfied with the situation, you could complain to the Bureau of Automotive Repair, the California state government agency that regulates auto repair shops.
     
  2. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    Any recommended SMOG/private shops in LA that do a good job of identifying an original and aftermarket catalytic converter? I called few places today, I wasn't very fond of the people I spoke with, some said they couldn't check that, some said they look at some number below the car that starts with a "d" and then google it... now that I think about it might refer to the executive order number?

    Pre-OBD II Catalytic Converters Verification List | California Air Resources Board

    unfortunately the incompetency continues to run even at the smog shops level when it comes to verify a catalytic converter. I wish it was an easy check to do and not too expensive.

    My understanding, is that only a new original OEM or a new approved aftermarket catalytic converter can be sold, is that right?
    And yes, about what you said that new approved aftermarket catalytic converter cost as much if not more, I spoke with some muffler shop owner today and he told me the same thing...
    But where do you see that it costs more than the original Toyota part? So I went to this website:

    Aftermarket Catalytic Converter Database

    I put toyota prius 2008 in the criteria, I'm getting some results from one manufacturer:
    "Car Sound Exhaust System, Inc." with couple of executive order pdfs attached such as
    "D-193-151" and "D-193-152", but I don't see the price for them anywhere? Neither I see any results on magnaflow website for it

    And here is the million dollar question: Other than being able to distinguish an oem from aftermarket (which has to approved only by the board) - How any smog/shop can tell if the catalytic installed is unlawful meaning it’s used, recycled, or salvaged (It’s not like there is some mileage odometer on it like an engine or a pink slip/carfax for it)?

    Thanks again!
     
    #22 pri4u, Nov 22, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2022
  3. mr_guy_mann

    mr_guy_mann Senior Member

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    It SHOULD be fairly easy to tell if the cat assembly came from Toyota or not. Besides the letter stampings on the shells of the actual converter (there are pics somewhere in the forum), AFAIK only Toyota sells the system as a stainless steel assembly that's one piece from the exhaust manifold back to the muffler inlet pipe. And the whole thing should be bright shiny new.

    Any clamps, welded joints, or "regular mild steel" pieces means aftermarket parts.

    Posted via the PriusChat mobile app.
     
  4. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    OK but you didn’t answer the million dollar question: Other than being able to distinguish an oem from aftermarket (which has to approved only by the board) - How any smog/shop can tell if the catalytic installed is unlawful meaning it’s used, recycled, or salvaged (It’s not like there is some mileage odometer on it like an engine or a pink slip/carfax for it)?
     
  5. mr_guy_mann

    mr_guy_mann Senior Member

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    If the cat assembly is very recently installed OE, then the outside is going to look "new" - very bright and shiny. After a couple years even stainless gets dull and aged - moreso in the rust belt. Compare it to the (original) muffler & it will be obvious.



    Posted via the PriusChat mobile app.
     
  6. SFO

    SFO Senior Member

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    An OEM set has Gd3 or Ea6 printed on the respective metal housing. Most CA smog techs will look for these markings before anything else.
     
  7. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    UPDATE: I went to my mechanic today, I showed him the check engine yellow light, he wasn't very happy to see me, almost borderline ignored me. I eventually stepped up at his office door, and he took the device to check the code. He said it's related to the catalytic sensor that the thieves damaged, and it has to be fixed. But then he surprisingly said that he's very busy today and this week, and that I should come to see him in couple of weeks. I asked him is it safe for me to drive with the check engine light? He said he removed the code, I shouldn't worry about it and that I can drive (when the check engine light came the first time, he said that I shouldn't be driving as he doesn't want me to damage the engine, so he's basically contradicting himself). I asked him what kind of catalytic did you install original oem or aftermarket? He said it's an original oem, and said come to my office, I'll give it to you in writing as you don't seem to understand, and basically he wrote on a piece of paper "Original OEM".

    When I left, I drove to some muffler shop nearby and asked them to check to see if it's the original oem catalytic, and if it's new part and not used, based on all the advice I got from you guys of how to look at it, what things to pay attention to: They lifted the car, and this time, the technician said that it is the Original OEM, but it appears to be used, as there seem to be some green marker writings on it, along some rust and it doesn't look new and shiny like the new part from Toyota.

    For comparison, this is what they sell at the shop, a brand new catalytic converter:



    And these are the pictures of the one he installed in my car:



    The shop didn't want to get me their findings in writing because they didn't want to get involved lol, so I'm in the process of getting another professional of providing inspection and getting it to me in writing so it can be used as evidence.

    Note: To those who are new to the party, it's illegal to sell used catalytic converters in California.

    Several course of actions I'm considering:
    -Talk to the mechanic directly, tell him I know what's going on, and ask him to get it right - put a new oem (although I don't trust him anymore so I don't know if there is a point of doing that).
    -A complaint to the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) to let them investigate and get him into trouble.
    -Small Claims Court - To get a full refund of the 3k that the insurance paid and any incurred damages.

    Thanks again for all your help!

    I just want to conclude it by saying: It's crazy, it's not enough that we are becoming victims of thieves who steal our precious catalytic converters, but we're also being taken advantage by private mechanics who try to scam us as well to get all the insurance money and giving us low quality replacement. It just shows you how big the whole catalytic converter theft pandemic has gotten and is completely getting out of hand. It's a huge systematic issue and lawmakers are not doing enough to battle this to prevent things like that from happening (I know there are new laws coming into effect soon, but still, it's really not enough, we need it now, and we need strong laws that make these people scared and accountable to their actions).
     
    #27 pri4u, Nov 22, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2022
  8. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    Does anyone know if Bureau of Automotive Repair investigation would lead for them to eventually returning the money from my mechanic? I’m trying to coordinate the sequence of events if I should start with the Small Claims Court, or if i should wait for the BAR investigation to conclude to use it as evidence or maybe start both at the same time?

    Thanks!
     
  9. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    Also could someone look at the pictures please and confirm that it looks like a used catalytic converter? Someone told me that it’s possible that the pictures only show the outer shell cover of the catalytic converter and the actual shiny new catalytic converter is inside that big shell.

    Thank you!
     
  10. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    do you have a local news channel that does consumer affairs exposes?
     
  11. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    possibly we have KTLA
    I’m having issues though to get in writing that my catalytic converter is used
     
    bisco likes this.
  12. alftoy

    alftoy Active Member

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    Why not contact your insurance holder and report that the mechanic installed a used cat, see what they suggest.
     
  13. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    case is closed already they can’t do anything he cashed the check
     
  14. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    1: To verify that it is oem, locate the "GD3" stamp (edited - GD4 was typo) on the cat closest to the engine and EA6 stamp on the other cat. Both will have a Toyota symbol stamped adjacent to these markings. Look online there should be plenty pics of what these stamps look like. Your photos appear to show an oem cat, but verify by locating those markings on the two cats. The muffler has oem markings. Check where the muffler connects to the first cat in case he just welded on a used cats section to your original muffler section. Take some photos of the section between the muffler and the cat and post it.

    There is NO "shiny new catalytic converter" inside that big shell. What I think you are referring to as the "big shell" is actually neither of the cats, that section is your muffler.

    2: Return to the mechanic who installed the cat and tell him a muffler shop told you it was obviously a used cat. See how he responds.
     
    #34 rogerthat, Nov 23, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2022
  15. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    Thanks, I will check those when I visit the muffler shop again and try to get some more photos...
    I went to another mechanic shop today to get some more info/pictures from the cat, and they told me that on the cat that's close to the engine they were able to read: GD3 - not sure if they made a mistake and read 4 as a 3.
    Also they took a picture of the middle part (where I had some blurry etched writings in the pictures above) and it reads: TOYOTA 32119 FUTABA. This apparently corresponds to the Toyota Silencer part (muffler?).

    I spoke with a BAR agent today on the phone, sent them some pics, and they told me that these green markings/writings with the year number along with some white markings next to them don't make sense if it's supposed to be a NEW original OEM catalytic converter.

    The insurance was trying to help me earlier today, to get their appraiser who did the incident estimate report to re-examine my car and get it to me in writing with their findings and whatever it's a used catalytic converter. Eventually it failed, they couldn't do it, and the appraiser said that it's hard to prove that it's 100% used and write something like that, other than maybe saying it looks like it's used. In addition, he said although a new catalytic is new and shiny, as soon you drive off the lot and when the car gets heated for the first time, the catalytic will lose it's shininess. I thought what he said was just a lame excuse what they didn't want to help me out, probably because they don't want to be involved and become a liability.

    Then I called the Toyota dealer, I asked them how much it will cost to install a new original oem Toyota catalytic converter.
    They said:
    new part: $2440
    labor: 3.5 hours * $195 per hour = $585
    total: $3025 (so about the same as my incident estimate report that my insurance provided)
    Oh and the wait time to get a new Toyota oem catalytic converter right now is 6 months because of shortage!

    Then I asked - Are you able to provide me something in writing that the existing catalytic converter is used and that it needs to be replaced, etc?
    They said that they can't commit to get such thing in writing, that supposedly there is no way for them to say that it's 100% used, they said maybe they could describe the condition and look of the existing catalytic converter, but that's about it.

    Here is the dilemma with the small claims court:
    -There is no guarantee that you will win the case, the judge throws cases every day even if the suing party is right and have solid evidence
    -You need to show lost dollar amount and incurred damages (i.e. you couldn't use the car to go to work, you had to get a rental car, etc - but given that I WFH it's unlikely that I could show that).
    -If the evidence I will present to judge will not show 100% that it's a used cat because none of these: insurance's appraiser, Toyota dealer or BAR would commit to give me such thing in writing this will probably hinder my chances to win, and leave it to the judge's discretion to decide if it's used or not and like I said there is no guarantee to win even if I did have a "100% used" evidence in writing from an expert - I'm trying to get such evidence from a SMOG referee but it's not easy to get an appointment with them without proper reasons.
    -To show lost dollar amount, I could theoretically spend 3k for a new cat from the Toyota dealer, but again, since there is no guarantee to win, I'm risking paying this money and not winning it back, so I don't know if I want to risk it with paying it upfront with my own money.
    -If I don't show lost dollar amount, I could maybe argue to the judge that the insurance gave me 3k for installing a NEW Toyota oem catalytic converter, and the mechanic used that money to spend it on a used Toyota oem catalytic converter (which is illegal in California, but I don't know if the judge will care since it's not a criminal case, but a small claims court that deal with claiming monetary loss typically), and therefore I'm asking getting the money that my mechanic got from my insurance so I could install a new Toyota oem catalytic converter as meant by my insurance - Not sure if this would be a sufficient argument to make, but maybe something I could expand on - Feel free to provide any additional ideas or input guys if you got any experience with the small claims court.

    Just a funny take from all this: None of these three - insurance's appraiser, Toyota dealer or BAR could give me in writing or commit to say that the catalytic converter is used - But when I went to the muffler shop or the other mechanic shop, they all were able to identify and say that it's a used cat immediately :D:ROFLMAO:

    Thanks for your help!
     
  16. Roll Eyes

    Roll Eyes New Member

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    Lawyers are expensive. Is it really worth your time and money to file a winnable lawsuit in a court on your own?

    3K is not a lot of money, IMO. Just suck it up, you have picked a wrong mechanic. Let it go. You learn from your experiences. If the mechanic's business is listed on google or yelp or somewhere online, make sure to leave a bad review to let the world beware of your experience with this mechanic and this mechanic's deceptive practices. This mechanic has lost your business. You find yourself another trustworthy mechanic for your future servicing needs. My two cents.
     
  17. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    There are no lawyers in small claims court - you have to represent yourself.

    If it’s a winnable lawsuit? Then yes it’s totally worth it, it doesn’t take much time to fill an application and it costs only $75. The problem is there is no guarantee that it’s winnable and that’s the problem if I decide “to spend money on my own cat to show dollar amount lost to the judge” approach, thus risking not winning that money back.

    lol you think I’ve come this far to suck it up? I’m not a quitter, I’ll continue to weight my options and look for better options...
     
  18. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    Edited my post - typo, GD3 is correct. The likely reason that no one is willing to say they are used, is the entire exhaust system is exposed. Even after a week or two, it's going to look old - of course, how old depends on your local driving conditions. I had preemptively replaced my original cat with an aftermarket version and had written on multiple sections in heat resistant sharpie (up to 500 deg, may not have been enough!). That text was no longer evident a month later. It is also not surprising to see a mechanic apply colored writing to parts, even new, as this allows for quick identification.

    As mentioned before, take photos of the section between the muffler (aka silencer - Futaba part) and adjacent cat section - if he did try scam you and replace with a used part, he may have been lazy and left your old muffler on. It's much easier to ship/handle only the cats section than the entire assembly - so there is a chance he just welded on a used cat section - this is what you need to check before you do anything else.
     
    #38 rogerthat, Nov 24, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2022
  19. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    Do you have some pictures that show/illustrate what it looks like or a diagram? Could you please draw some arrows on them referencing the area that you talk about/want me to check and post them? This will help me a lot and make it easier for me to know where (which direction)/what to look for and/or making sure the technician is checking that for me.

    Note: I have a cat shield below the cat that’s close to the engine, so I hope this doesn’t hide that area (or maybe the shield has to be removed).

    Thanks!
     
    #39 pri4u, Nov 24, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2022
  20. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    It is the section of pipe directly after the Muffler (towards the front of the car) that connects to the first cat. That is the section you should examine. 99% of the time, this is the section thieves will cut when they steal the cat section. Looking at your 6th photo, it looks like you should be able to get your phone into position to take a decent pic of that area.
     
    #40 rogerthat, Nov 24, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2022
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