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When is a tuner liable

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Hello guys,

So this is probably a bit more legal, but it did open up quite an interesting topic here on my side of the world. So recently there was an issue with a performance shop (The information that follows is from what I heard and stuff I saw), that did quite an expensive engine build (Fully forge build etc), tuned the car and overall I believe the process took about 6 months.

When the owner finally took delivery of the car, about 30mins-1hour later, the motor seized up, he sent it to an independent party to investigate and it was found due to hydro lock(2 cylinders were fully filled with fuel and bent rods) that the motor failed (unclear at the moment or from what I could see, whether it was a tuning or a mechanical fault).

The interesting part, is that the performance shop is not taking liability (Which is what everyone is being told) and its become a massive legal thing. So as performance shops (Tuning, engine building etc) at what point does your liability end. In my opinion if someone came a year later and all of a sudden the motor failed, it is a completely different conversation to a motor that was just built and seized, surely there has to be a lot of inhouse testing (of course could just have been bad luck that the part failed). I know various parts of the world the laws are different, but surely if you built something, it cant be a case of not taking liability when something like that happens especially in that manner?

Any thoughts?



Car owner is responsible once it leaves the shop. That said, great shops work with customers when these things happen. First, they should discover what the cause of the cylinders filling with fuel (i.e. the root cause of the problem).

- Was the owner testing the ECU injector outputs while the Fuel Pump was running (and the engine stopped)?

- Is the ECU wiring incorrect and the injectors are open in some weird situation when the ECU is back-powered.

If it's clearly a customer caused problem, or the shop caused issue, then the path is pretty clear. The hard part is when it's a little of each. Hopefully each side can make concessions (one reasonable solution - shop will provide free labor for rebuild, customer will pay for parts / outside services needed).

Hello David,

Thanks for the response, since it is a bit hazy of the details it does become difficult to speculate which is why this is such an interesting topic for me. So far the root cause as far as I understand is still being investigated, however essentially in this case the driver was just driving away from the performance shop and when he got to a garage, the car bogged and shut down, so from my understanding there was not even hard driving (All based on here say of course).

I get what you are saying though it becomes extremely difficult for determining who is at fault, it just seems weird to me that the moment a car leaves the shop its not my problem (Even if the mistake was on my side as the shop). Agreed with the above as well, normally the shop would work with the person and have a compromise, however in this case it was quite an extensive build (upwards from 500k) which is where things get a bit more complex I think.

I would have assumed that there would be some form of warranty after an extensive build like that, but of course that is an expense and potentially dangerous thing for the shop itself.

This is why engine builders need dynos, and customers should insist on an engine being broken in on the dyno by the builder before taking delivery. It is the engine builders responsibility if it breaks while on the dyno, because they were completely in control of the parts and procedure used.

Having said that, When racing Sports 2000 almost 20 years ago, I spun a rod bearing with just 15 minutes on an engine rebuild (dyno was used for break-in/tuning). Engine builder was using a smaller dry sump pump section and the bearing clearances didn't work with that combination. I paid for new bearings, and crank reconditioning, but the engine builder covered the labor. He also sent me to another engine builder for future work :)

With these things there will be a lot of people making statements about the 'truth', when it is usually somewhere between the various claims.

However, from what you wrote, it would appear to be a fault with injectors that the builder SHOULD have picked up when testing and the onus should be on them to remedy the problem - the cost shouldn't be an issue. Different thing if the owner was rev'ing the bejesus out of a cold engine and it threw a rod, or 'money shifted' it - those would be on the owner/driver.

Different countries will have different rules and requirements - here, there could be a good arguement that the engine was not 'fit for use', and so the builder would have to rectify the fault. However, there is also a potential issue on the terms of the build, any warranty/guarantee (they're different), etc, that may heve been signed of on by the customer - but even there, we have some legal protection - don't know about other countries.

My personal viewpoint is the supplied product was faulty and it's on the builder to rectify it at their expense - especially as the customer apparently paid a lot of money to make sure it was done 'properly'. If it was a faulty injector, the builder may have a claim on the manufaturers, but it's something that should have been picked up, anyway.

This could have been a really good opportunity for the builder to make some excellent PR, emphasising their backing their products and service, at relatively low cost to them - instead it looks to be a PR nightmare for them as potential customers may now go elsewhere as they're not seen as backing their work.

Heck, when it comes down to it, most (all?) professional shops I'm aware of carry insurance specifically to cover them in cases where something goes wrong - if so, they would actually have even less financial exposure.

Agai, though, that's just my thoughts on the supplied information.

Thanks guys! Definitely interesting points, and hence I thought that I would ask cause it caused some huge debates in some of our car communities when it happened, and most people are blaming the shop and others saying its a owner problem.

In the case of this performance shop they do have an inhouse dyno, but that level of information how the break in procedure was done etc., that I unfortunately do know, my assumption would be that they used it of course. @David, with the above it definitely makes sense and I see where you are coming form as well. In that case I believe the shop did help from their point :)

@Gord, 100% agreed as well, if the owner was driving with no mechanical sympathy and it caused the failure i would also believe 100% on the owner, and vise verse if the shop made a mistake it would be on them. But in this case it becomes a PR nightmare, because this has gone through all the car clubs in the area, and everyone is pretty much seeing at as no go place at the moment, so I do believe that this definitely exploded in the shops face which is sad.

Thanks for the input guys, really found the topic interesting and insightful.

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