Can a shop hold a "defective" vehicle?

Another from the wonderful world of Facebook: if a repair shop determines that a customer's vehicle isn't roadworthy, can they refuse to let the customer leave in it?

As usual, this has generated a lot of speculation and "I've heard" and "f*** the system", but nobody has provided any PROOF of their statements.

Most say they can prevent the person from driving off in an unsafe vehicle but the owner can have it towed; one person insists that they can't stop the person unless maybe it's actually undriveable. Some have experience in the field, most just have something they read on the internet somewhere.

What does the law say?

(I'd link to the original post, but it got too stupid and I had to delete it...)


That's a great question and one that I remember my father having to handle once when a customer brought a pickup truck into his service station for diagnosis and repair. The front drum brakes were so badly worn that one side actually had only the vertical face of the drum (the part bolted to the hub) and the ring at the opening of the mouth of the drum still present. The friction surface was totally gone!

The owner did not have the cash to make the needed repairs and wanted to drive the truck home.

My father marked the work order stating that the vehicle was unsafe to drive and made sure the owner was given a copy.

He solved the dilemma by calling the local RCMP Detachment and having the constable talk to the owner, who then did the right thing and had it towed. This would probably only be an effective solution these days if it was a small town and the constable on duty didn't have anything more pressing to do at the time.

If the repair facility was a designated inspection station, the inspector could put Condemned decal on the vehicle to increase the penalty if the person responsible tried to drive away.

Could one physically prevent a person from taking charge of their property driving away? That's tough for me to anwer. There is no law explicitly granting this right to a repair facility that I am aware of.

Civil law may treat actions out of moral obligations a bit differently than criminal law, but I don't have the education in civil law necessary to comment.

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