How To File a Mechanic’s Lien on a Car?

Updated October 11, 2023
10 min read
How To File a Mechanic's Lien on a Car?


A mechanic's lien on a car offers a safeguard for auto repair shops, ensuring that they get paid for their services. But what is a mechanic's lien on a car from a legal point of view, and how can you file one? This article answers these questions and gives a clear overview of the entire process.

When Do You Need To File a Mechanic's Lien on a Car?

You might find yourself in a situation where you need to file a mechanic's lien on a car if you're an auto repair shop or mechanic who provided services or parts for a vehicle yet has not been compensated. This may include situations such as repairing a vehicle, furnishing parts, or performing routine maintenance, with the vehicle owner failing to pay for these services.

As per U.S. law, this legal safeguard helps ensure that you are able to recoup the money you're owed, thereby offering you legal protection within the scope of your professional dealings. 

Comprehensive Guide on How To File a Mechanic's Lien on a Car

Gaining a solid understanding of how to file a mechanic's lien on a car is pivotal in protecting your rights and legally securing your financial claims. This process, however, can significantly vary depending on the state you're operating in due to differences in state laws regarding mechanic's liens.

At its basic level, the process of filing a mechanic's lien on a car involves delivering a preliminary notice that expresses your intent to file a lien to the car owner. This notice should be comprehensive, detailing the services you've provided, the parts you've supplied, and the total amount the owner owes you. This initial step aids in enhancing transparency and fosters open communication between you and the car owner before escalating to filing the mechanic's lien on the car.

Following the stage of issuing the preliminary notice, you'll need to complete the necessary paperwork for filing the mechanic's lien on the car and submit it to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or an equivalent state agency. For instance, if you operate in California, you're legally bound by the California Civil Code § 3068, which stipulates that a mechanic's lien must be filed with the DMV at the latest 31 days following the completion of repair work. 

Therefore, to navigate this complex process successfully, it's important to conduct thorough research about your state's specific laws and procedures concerning a mechanic's lien on a car or get professional legal advice. This knowledge will ensure you adhere to all the legal stipulations and deadlines set pertaining to a mechanic's lien on a car, thereby safeguarding your claims effectively and efficiently.

Important documents needed

When you're filing a mechanic’s lien on a car, it's crucial to gather all necessary documentation as part of the process. Here's a bullet list of the essential paperwork that is typically needed:

  • Repair authorization form: This is the formal agreement between you and the car owner that authorized the repair services and should be part of your mechanic's lien on a car filing.

  • Itemized bills: Clear, detailed, and itemized bills help establish the work done and the associated costs. These bills constitute an important part of your claim when submitting a mechanic's lien on a car.

  • Communication records: Any records of communication regarding the payment with the car's owner can be vital. Emails or recorded phone calls discussing the payment issues can bolster your mechanic's lien on a car.

  • Mechanic's lien form: You'll also need to complete a mechanic's lien form. It must include specific information about the car, the services provided, and the amount owed. Getting this form right is a key part of establishing a mechanic’s lien on a car.

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Scenarios for Filing a Mechanic's Lien on a Car

A mechanic's lien on a car can be useful not only for those who own cars but also for people whose professional activities are connected with cars. Here are the three most common cases when you may need a mechanic's lien on a car:

  1. Private vehicle owners: In instances where the owner has failed to pay for repair services, the mechanic is within their rights to file a mechanic’s lien on the car. This action ensures that they can recover their costs and prohibits the sale of the vehicle until the debt is settled.

  2. Auto repair businesses: For businesses operating in the automotive repair sector, there are situations where filing a mechanic’s lien on a customer's car may become necessary. This usually occurs when invoices remain unpaid after multiple collection attempts, prompting the business to take the legal route of implementing a mechanic’s lien on the car to safeguard its profits.

  3. Storage facilities: Storage facilities, like public garages or impound lots, can also leverage the mechanic's lien on a car. This is specifically useful if the car owner has defaulted on the agreed-upon storage fees. By placing a mechanic's lien on the stored car, the facility can assure compensation for their services.

What Happens After Filing a Mechanic's Lien on a Car?

Once you have filed a mechanic's lien on a car, and it's approved, the lien becomes part of the car's title. This means that the car cannot be sold without addressing the lien. In extreme cases, you may be able to sell the car to recoup costs, depending on the laws in your state.


Understanding the mechanic's lien process is vital for anyone in the auto repair or storage industry. Knowing both what a mechanic's lien on a car is and how to file this essential document can safeguard against non-payment and protect your business.

For additional insights and resources about this process, feel free to explore the business templates provided by Lawrina, a reliable legal tech ecosystem, or consult with one of their experienced business lawyers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to file a mechanic’s lien on a car and get results?

The timeframe for filing a mechanic’s lien on a car and obtaining the desired outcomes can vary depending on the specific laws of each state. As a general guideline, the process might take between several weeks to a few months. This includes the time required for informing the car owner, gathering necessary documentation, completing the lien form, and filing it with the appropriate authorities.

Can a mechanic's lien be disputed or removed from a vehicle's title?

Certainly, a mechanic's lien on a car can be disputed or removed under certain circumstances. If the vehicle's owner believes that the lien has been unjustly applied or if they have fully paid the due amount, they can appeal to have the mechanic's lien contested. In such scenarios, one would generally need to provide evidence of payment or other supporting documents that demonstrate the lien's inaccuracy or irrelevance.

Can I sell a car with an active mechanic's lien on it?

Under normal circumstances, it is not permissible to sell a car with an active mechanic’s lien on it. The presence of an active mechanic’s lien on a car means that a debt related to the vehicle is still outstanding. As such, clear ownership cannot be transferred to another party until the lien is fully satisfied or effectively removed. 

In some instances, however, the car could potentially be sold if the proceeds from the sale are used to satisfy the outstanding debt. But this may require certain legal procedures and largely depends on the rules set by each state.