Know your rights when car wash damages your vehicle

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What do you do if a car wash damages your car? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) What do you do if a car wash damages your car? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)

Your car is dirty, you decide to take it to a car wash, but it comes out looking a lot different from what you expect. It's damaged. What do you do?

Time and again we hear from viewers who say a car wash damaged their vehicle but refused to take responsibility and pay to fix the problem. If certain circumstances exist, in most cases, that's dead wrong. The business should pony up, but that doesn't mean it will.

Pam Moore says she took her 2007 Cadillac through the Fast & Friendly Car Wash in south Phoenix. She says as she pulled it over to vacuum, she noticed the casing of her rear tail light falling off.

"I haven't had any problems with it, it's never been in an accident or anything, all I did was get a $10 car wash," Moore said.

Moore says the part was factory installed and in good condition, just like the opposite casing, but the Fast & Friendly general manager didn't agree. She says he felt it was a non-factory part that showed signs of being repaired after an accident.

"I thought, well, maybe we should get a professional opinion because you're not a Cadillac dealer," Moore said.

Moore says Fast & Friendly refused to let an expert determine if she was telling the truth and instead denied responsibility. She asked me to get involved because she doesn't know what to do next.

"I think most people just don't bother to do anything about it and so right now, it's all just the principle of it," Moore said.

Moore says according to her dealer, she needs to replace the casing and the light. She thinks that's Fast & Friendly's responsibility and she wants them to do the right thing.

"That's it, I don't want nothing more and I don't think I'm being unreasonable," Moore said.

The bottom line on this issue is that, according to many attorneys I've spoken to, if it's a third-party, after-market part, like a spoiler, the car wash is rarely responsible for the damage. But if it's a factory-installed part, in good condition, then the car wash should take responsibility, unless it can prove otherwise. Customers should consider small claims court if the business won't pay the estimate.

After CBS 5 News brought this matter to their attention, Fast & Friendly did meet with Moore and an auto repair expert. The company says they had agreed with Moore from the start to have the meeting. Afterward, the company owner offered to pay half the estimated repair but Moore says she'd rather take the matter to small claims court.

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