Car Fire After Repair Work Leaves Man Asking Questions

A South Florida man reached out to NBC 6 Responds after his car caught fire and was destroyed.

Cell phone video captured on April 5 shows Alvin Williams' 2014 Mercedes-Benz C250 on fire. According to Williams, he smelled smoke during his drive after getting service work done at the Mercedes-Benz Palm Beach Service Center.

"I smell the smoke stronger and I saw some brown smoke from the hood," Williams said.

Soon after, he said flames started shooting several feet into the air.

Williams told NBC 6 Responds Sasha Jones he felt lucky to be alive.

"Yes, very lucky to be alive," he said.

His car, however, was a total loss.

Williams had just picked up his car from the Mercedes-Benz of Palm Beach Service Center. He had purchased the used car six months earlier at a different Mercedes dealer for around 23,000 dollars.

The car was at the shop to have its high pressure fuel pump replaced. He said the service was covered under the car's limited warranty. But on the drive home, it caught on fire.

"At least tell me why the car caught on fire, a car doesn't just catch on fire like that," Williams said.

His car was towed right back to the dealership that had done the repairs and he hoped they'd make things right.

Instead, they told him they didn't know what started the fire.

An inspection report states, "When the vehicle arrived, the service director and service manager performed a visual inspection of the vehicle. We noted that the rubber fuel hose that we removed and reinstalled while replacing the mechanical fuel pump was intact on both ends including the hose clamps. The rubber hose between the two ends was burned and missing."

Then, the carmaker Mercedes Benz USA looked at the car. They told NBC 6 Responds, "We've checked with our customer assistance team and can confirm that MBUSA has been in constant communication with Mr. Williams. I can also confirm that MBUSA evaluated the vehicle, and communicated to Mr. Williams that it found no defects in the vehicle from a manufacturing or design standpoint that could have caused or contributed to the fire. The issue appears to relate to repair, performed by Mercedes-Benz of Palm Beach, an independent dealer that worked on the vehicle for the three months prior to the event. We've advised Mr. Williams to work directly with his insurance provider on this matter."

When we called the dealership, a representative declined to comment.

"If the manufacturer nor the dealership have an interest in assisting him, well that's why we have a court system," said attorney Patrick Cousins.

Cousins says there are steps consumers can take to protect their money if this happens. He says the first step is to hire your own expert.

"Get that kind of documentation early, then it puts the consumer in a position to figure out who is at fault in that situation," Cousins said.

Next, he says to read your purchase agreement. Find out if it includes an arbitration clause.

"If you take your car from the dealership being serviced and it catches on fire, then the arbitrator is gonna find somebody responsible, and it clearly isn't the consumer," said Cousins.

Finally, he says, be persistent.

"That frustration factor kicks in and them people say forget about it. But stick to it. And if you can't stick to it, then hire someone," Cousins said.

Williams told us he doesn't plan on giving up until he gets answers.

"If they are the best, they should at least take care of the problem that they create," Williams told us.

Mercedes Benz USA advised Alvin to work directly with his insurance provider to resolve this issue but he says his insurance provider offered him thousands less than what he initially paid for the car and he still wants either the dealership or the maker to take responsibility.

Florida's Lemon Law does offer some protections for new car owners. If you can prove your car has recurring issues within the first two years then the law provides you with arbitration. In some cases, you may be eligible for a full refund or replacement vehicle.