On Your Side: Local auto repair business inspects car to find out what caused fire

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A PT Cruiser caught fire just days after the owner picked up her car from the repair shop. She blamed the shop mechanic but later realized she needed more than a gut feeling. She needed proof the mechanic is liable for damages caused by negligent repair work.

Mark Smith, owner of Midas of Central Virginia agreed to help Eugena Willis by inspecting her burned car for free. Smith and his mechanic have a few theories, but they say, a definitive cause burned up in the fire. Midas of Central Virginia owner Mark Smith says the PT Cruiser is a total loss and because it's so badly burned pinpointing an exact cause isn't possible.

"The things we would normally look at... they're all covered with charcoal now, so a lot of that we can't break off. It's literally hard as rock." Smith says he's not a trained investigator but says the melt pattern could indicate the fire started on the back left side of the engine near the firewall.  Why? He's not exactly sure whether it's related to a leaking fuel line or something else. "I can't say that's the cause of the fire. I'd certainly put it on a short list of possibilities." he adds.

Willis blames Robert Tyler of Tyler Automotive Inc. for her car catching on fire, nearly two weeks after she paid him to fix her overheating problem. Tyler says the car was not running hot when it left his shop. Tyler says he believes it had problems unrelated to the coolant repairs he did and adds overheating issues don't cause fires. Midas says it's partially true. "Just because a car is overheating doesn't mean it's going to cause a fire. There's some accuracy in that but can a coolant problem cause a fire? Absolutely."

Willis filed papers to sue Tyler for $2,019.17 but not to pursue any legal action.  Glen Nuckols 24 Hour Wrecker Service towed the car round trip and returned it to her home for free.

"You can't prove what happened. This could have been a very unfortunate coincidence," Smith says.

Willis' favorite car is gone but she's glad she has a resolution. "We would have never gotten the car to a shop, for one thing. We had to get it towed home. That cost me. To file the paperwork, that cost me, and I would be no where right now. So, I thank 12 On Your Side a lot for at least taking my statement so people can know."

Smith talks about why he didn't hesitate help, "You guys do good work. You've worked with us for years. Credibility goes both ways. When you find media that you enjoy working with, when you find media that's credible to work with, we'll always do what we can to help out."

If you ever purchase a used car, contact the manufacturer and let them know you are now the current owner and ask about any recalls on the car. The manufacturer will place your car's VIN, your name and home address into a database for all future notices. It's just another way to protect yourself.

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