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. rjparker

    rjparker Tu Humilde Sirviente

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  2. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    @rogerthat If he got a part like this, a toyota oem without the part that you marked as muffler in your red markings picture, can’t he just plug it inside the existing muffler hole assuming the muffler is a separate part, wouldn’t it be a straight fit (unless the part he installed was stolen, and since the thieves cut it, it’s not a straight fit anymore, thus that’s why a weld is needed?)? Why would he need to weld it to the muffler hole, and it could potentially be some sort of evidence or proof that it’s used?

    Some videos for reference I found:






    I guess maybe what you meant to say is what @mr_guy_mann said on page 2 (specifically the part in bold):

    “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.

    Or in my case, if he used an original oem part, any of the things mentioned in the bold part would indicate a used/stolen original oem.

    Thanks!
     
    #62 pri4u, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  3. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    You've already established that the mechanic did not use aftermarket parts - the mufffler (silencer) is oem and the cats are oem. Just in case you didn't realize, the part I'm referencing as the muffler is the part marked Futaba. There is also an exhaust muffler, but it should be obvious that this is not part of the Cat assembly. Check out the link Elektro genie posted from the Toyota parts catalog.

    Now go to your car and take a few photos of the section I referenced (red rectangle area in the photo I marked up). If you can't reach, go to Youtube and learn how to safely jack up your car. Or find a suitable section of pavement so that you can position one side of your car on a curb so you'll be able to get under it to snap some photos - just use common sense. Alternatively, go to a muffler shop and see if they'll jack up the car to inspect.
     
    #63 rogerthat, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  4. Elektroingenieur

    Elektroingenieur Senior Member

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    As shown in parts catalog Figure 17-02, Exhaust Pipe, Toyota offers two separate service parts, each of which can be replaced on its own: the front exhaust pipe assembly, 17410-21500, which includes the two catalytic converters and the sub muffler, and the tail exhaust pipe assembly, 17430-21580, which includes the main muffler at the rear of the car. If the front assembly was replaced with a new or used Toyota part or with MagnaFlow’s direct-fit part, the only welds in it should be those made at the factory—but the main muffler, part of a different assembly, wouldn’t have been replaced and would still show its age.

    (It would be acceptable to have shop (field) welds in the front exhaust pipe, by the way, if the catalytic converters were replaced with MagnaFlow’s CARB-approved front and rear converters. This isn’t what was listed in the insurance estimate in #56, nor is it what you’ve described that others have reported finding on your car.)

    Since the P0420 diagnostic trouble code—unlike used-but-original catalytic converters, if that’s what was installed—will cause the car to fail a Smog Check test, I’d suggest getting this fixed first, either by the original shop (especially if they made a warranty on their work that’s still valid) or by someone else.

    Keep in mind that it’s a 14-year-old car, and even if the front exhaust pipe assembly, gaskets, and oxygen sensor assembly were replaced perfectly with brand-new Toyota parts, the current malfunction could have another cause, such as a defective air/fuel ratio (lambda) sensor.
     
  5. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    @rogerthat @mr_guy_mann @Elektroingenieur

    UPDATE: I went to another muffler shop just now, he lifted the car and said that the mechanic installed a used original oem catalytic converter. I asked him if we can look for any "clamps, welded joints, or "regular mild steel" pieces", he said he doesn't see any, he said it was the original oem catalytic part, but it looks used just by the color of it, the rust and that it has some dents on it and some broken pieces it seems and no stickers that come with the new part.

    @rogerthat Here is the part/area you asked to see, which is the connector between the cats and the muffler:

    IMG_2732.JPG

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    Here is the dent that the muffler shop technician has pointed out:

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    Here is the broken piece the muffler shop technician has pointed out:

    IMG_2744 - circled.JPG

    Here is the rust/old piece the muffler shop technician has pointed out:

    IMG_2734.JPG

    Then he showed me the new catalytic converter for that's on his wall for comparison:

    IMG_2736.JPG

    IMG_2738.JPG

    Here is the sticker that should come on a new catalytic converter:

    IMG_2737.JPG

    The muffler technician also refuted the claim by my insurance appraiser who said that the catalytic converter loses it's shininess as soon as it gets heated, he said that it doesn't work like that, that you can still tell if it's new or used just by looking at it regardless if it got heated after you drove off the mechanic lot.

    The muffler technician said that the check engine light that's showing ("catalyst system efficiency below threshold bank 1" - P0420), is because of the used catalytic converter that my mechanic has installed is no good and unlikely to pass a SMOG test. Also he said that my mechanic probably bought the used part for $1000, and he is taking the difference (3k - 1k = 2k) that my insurance paid for a new one to his own pocket. @ccna101 He also said that the cat shield that I have is no good (which is what my mechanic recommended to install for $200 after it got stolen for the first time), and that he keeps seeing catalytic converters getting stolen with a cat shield like mine - so don't get what I have (see pics above), and he pointed with his finger to 4-5 cat shields like mine that were laying on his floor.

    The muffler technician said that I should go back to my mechanic, being nice to him, and tell him that I know that he put a used catalytic converter (it's illegal to sell used catalytic converters in California), and that I want him to put a NEW Toyota OEM original catalytic converter, or I will fill a complaint with BAR and sue him.

    At this point, there are two muffler shops and one mechanic shop that all said it's a used catalytic converter.

    Let me know what do you think guys...

    Thank you!
     
    #65 pri4u, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  6. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    I was hoping he'd be dumb enough to just weld a used cat section to the muffler (Futaba part), but it appears that he installed a complete intact oem cat assembly (it looks like the welds in the rectangle location are factory made). At worst he didn't even change anything out and simply reset the fault code - impossible to tell. When did you have your first cat replaced?

    He likely bought a used assembly from a junkyard and installed it, passing it off as new. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for you to prove this, unless you can get a muffler shop (maybe more than one) to put it in writing that the installed cat assembly is obviously used.

    Your best bet is, as the muffler tech suggested, to go back to the mechanic and tell him you've taken the car to multiple muffler shops and every one of them has stated that the installed cat is a used unit. Offer him a chance to make things right.
     
  7. alftoy

    alftoy Active Member

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    Also the mechanic may have bought a stolen cat assembly from a seller on Craigslist, lots of possibility.
     
  8. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    If it was stolen, wouldn't he need to weld it because it wouldn't fit easily with it's cut pipe that the thieves did when they stole it? Since there is no evidence of welding, I believe he just got a used part from a junkyard or from somewhere, but everything is possible like you say...
     
  9. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    When you ask when did I have my first cat replaced, are you referring to when it got stolen the first time? That was back in August 2021, and I believe he did put a new original oem one as even showed it to me and it looked the same like hanging on the muffler wall with the stickers on it. The second time it was stolen back in October 2022, but as I mentioned in the thread above, I had to wait a month to pick it up from him, so I basically picked it up on 11.10.22, had the check engine light first time, went back to him, he kept the car for two more days, picked it up on 11.12.22, drove that day, no issues. Then drove to run some errands on 11.20.22, that's when I got the check engine light the second time, went to him on 11.22.22, and that's when he said I should come back to him on 12.6.22 because he's very busy these two weeks, just removed the check engine light and said it's safe to drive. I tried to drive again yesterday, and the check engine light is back now (same code: "catalyst system efficiency below threshold bank 1" - P0420).

    These couple of muffler shops don't want to get it to me in writing because I think they don't want to get involved or don't think they should be. So yes, it's a little tricky, I could try to fail the SMOG test and use that as evidence and/or try to schedule an appointment with SMOG referee and maybe he will be able to get it to me in writing...
     
    #69 pri4u, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  10. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    Yes - more likely it is a unit from a scrapyard or purchased used elsewhere. However, not impossible for it to be stolen. I think your best bet is to take it back to your mechanic and give him another opportunity to make things right. Politely explain to him that multiple shops have told you he installed a used unit. See how he responds.
     
  11. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    The question is how can I even trust him now even if he does agree to install a new oem? How do I know that he will actually install a new oem? What if he installs something that looks like new oem but it’s not and the other shops I went to won’t be able to tell that it’s used anymore although it wouldn’t be really new? That’s my main concern right now, the nature of him trying to scam me makes me think he could potentially scam me again, like the old saying says fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Also he could potentially steal/replace/break other parts in my car as a retaliation (if he hasn’t done so already lol).

    The other thing, he might say that he can’t install a new one because there is a nationwide shortage and I need to wait for 6 months, and basically by the time he can get one, it will go beyond the statue of limitations period of his work and he won’t be obligated to do it anymore, not to mention he could send some thieves to my place to steal the cat/“evidence” in the interim (although in that case, the insurance will just get me a new one, so I will go to a toyota dealer this time or a more trustworthy mechanic - so maybe this is not a big deal if it happens).

    The only way this could probably work is if I see with my own eyes him getting the new part from toyota parts (going with him), or he gives me money to get it myself from them including seeing the toyota parts official new receipt, and he installs it in front of me without leaving the car overnight at his shop anymore, but it’s unlikely he will agree to these terms... If it will be by his terms I’m likely going to have trust issues with anything he does.

    The Toyota shortage of new catalytic converters and backlog of 6 months is complicating the whole situation and making it much more difficult for him to get it “right” for me (although this probably could have been a problem for me/him even if he didn’t try to scam me).

    Does anyone know what’s the statue of limitations period of his work which after he won’t be obligated to do any correction repair work anymore or provide any warranty for his work in California?

    Thanks!
     
    #71 pri4u, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  12. rjparker

    rjparker Tu Humilde Sirviente

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    Just have put on an approved aftermarket
     
  13. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    Yes that’s an option to consider (assuming there is no shortage for those either), but honestly I rather have the original Toyota part, plus I heard (@Elektroingenieur mentioned in my thread) that the approved aftermarket ones could be even more expensive than the original ones, so it’s unlikely that even the mechanic will want that.

    @rjparker @Elektroingenieur
    Any idea how/where to check/see availability and pricing for those?

    Btw, here is a very interesting and educating video I found that covers many things discussed in this thread by an honest seller:

     
    #73 pri4u, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  14. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    I just realized something that should have been obvious. You dropped your car off in October and at that time he didn't have a new oem cat in stock. Therefore, he should 100% be able to produce a receipt for the new oem cat he ordered. The only place that sells new oem cats is a Toyota dealer.

    Regardless, unless you're able to find several muffler shops that are willing to put it in writing that he installed a used unit, it sounds like you have no other choice but to get this resolved through your mechanic. Take it in tomorrow and tell him multiple shops have informed you that he installed a used cat. Maybe he'll be willing to negotiate a fair resolution. However, if he maintains that he installed a new unit, ask him to produce his receipt. At this point, you may need to threaten legal action if he's not willing to work with you.
     
  15. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    I don't know if he had a new oem cat in his stock or not when I first came to him - or more precisely when my insurance towing service towed the car to his place (and obviously I wasn't aware of new catalytic converters shortage at the time to question where he's going to get his from), all I know is that he was waiting to get the insurance check and cashing it out before doing anything supposedly. I don't actually know what he did with my car during all this time: "there was some delay such as he had some health issues that he was absent for a week from work, and later he had an issue to cash out the check from the insurance - they offered a digital payment which he refused, they sent him a check under both my name and his name, which he said the bank couldn't cash out (although that was the same method used for the first time, which he claims the bank changed their policy), and then we had to wait for another check under his name only. While talking to him on the phone all this time, I did mention to him multiple times I want it to be the original oem part again." - And the mechanic kept telling me that as soon as he cashes the check, he probably will be able to get me the car very quickly almost same day or next day (which does seem a little odd or suspicious). Also he has limited parking space inside his shop - So he had to initially keep my car on the street, and had to adhere to street parking regulations (like street cleaning, maximum days parking limit, etc, plus it's not the safest area where he's located) and probably kept moving the car parking location on the street - And once he finished with the job, he had to keep the car at his shop since he doesn't want the original oem catalytic converter that he installed to get stolen again if he puts it back on the street - that's why he wanted me to come pick up the car ASAP when it was ready.

    About the part order receipt, I did mention it to him last time but he didn’t give me any proof he ordered it (he barely gave me a receipt for the work he did). Plus how do you know he’s not faking it or giving you proof for someone’s else catalytic that he ordered? He can also get it from a wholesale or got it long time ago so it’s not a guarantee that he has a Toyota parts receipt dated after I came to him first.

    BAR told me that he's obligated to keep all parts orders receipts for the last 3 years, and as part of their investigation, they will ask for that part order receipt, which BAR said he doesn't have to give it to me, but has to give it to them during an investigation. In addition, BAR said that typically once they get the receipt, they will go to the place that issued that receipt, and will try to backtrack/locate the origin of the part that he got based on the part number/serial number/unique number on the catalytic converter itself (not sure if such thing exists?). BAR also said that if he doesn't have the receipt or lost it supposedly, they will just write it in the report, but they still won't commit to say in the report that it's a used catalytic converter lol.

    I can try to find other some muffler/mechanic shops that are willing to get it to me in writing in addition to trying to get the SMOG referee to get it to me in writing as well and also try to get the failed SMOG test report (as a pre-inspection).

    Thanks again!
     
    #75 pri4u, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  16. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    You've got nothing to lose - go in and chat with him again. If it goes south, then you can consider moving forward with legal action as you've mentioned.
     
  17. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    I'm worried he might use the 6 months delay and shortage of the new part as an excuse to buy some more time to himself and try to pass the statue of limitations period of his work which after he won’t be obligated to do any correction repair work anymore or provide any warranty for his work in California and later tell the judge that the part that he installed (which is used) is indeed used since it will be "6 months" old or older when we get to the court since when I got it last from him (11.12.22). Does anyone know what's the length of that period? Tomorrow, it's going to be 2 weeks since I picked up the car from him last time.
     
    #77 pri4u, Nov 25, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
  18. rjparker

    rjparker Tu Humilde Sirviente

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    You have waited six months and have not asked him to simply fix the code? That is what you need! Otherwise you don't have a prayer. Complaining here for a week does not help and no one can legitimately say it was not new six months ago.
     
  19. pri4u

    pri4u Junior Member

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    No, this is the timeline:

    October 2022 - cat got stolen - took the car to the mechanic
    November 12, 2022 - one month later picked up the car from the mechanic (after he fixed the first check engine line)
    11.22.22 - Tried to go to him to fix the check engine light for the second time which he said he’s busy and come back on 12.6.22
    11.26.22 - Today is exactly two weeks since I got the car which I might go to talk to him as was suggested above

    The 6 months refers to the time the Toyota dealer told me they need to get a new original oem catalytic converter because there is a nationwide shortage and backlog.

    So I’m expressing the concern he might use the 6 months delay and shortage of the new part as an excuse to buy some more time to himself and try to pass the statue of limitations period of his work which after he won’t be obligated to do any correction repair work anymore or provide any warranty for his work in California and later tell the judge that the part that he installed (which is used) is indeed used since it will be "6 months" old or older when we get to the court since when I got it last from him (11.12.22).

    Hopefully it makes sense now.
     
  20. rogerthat

    rogerthat Active Member

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    As I'm sure you realize the legal process is not guaranteed to be in your favor. It is also lengthy and could be costly.

    I might sound like a broken record, but your best option is to first try resolve with your mechanic. Just be smart about it. If you're worried that he'll just keep delaying, then have it in writing that the work must be completed within a certain period. Or simply negotiate a cash settlement. Bear in mind that the current unit installed in your car is worth about $1k cash just in scrap.

    I would still try get it in writing from a few muffler shops that the installed cat assembly is obviously old. This will be helpful in getting it resolved with your mechanic and crucial if you go the legal route. Let us know how things work out and good luck.
     
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