Can auto repair shops in Minnesota hold an unsafe car?

The wording on the subject needs work, but hopefully you got the idea if you are reading this. I’m wondering if auto repair shops in Minnesota have any legal means to declare a vehicle unsafe for driving and refuse to let the owner drive it away?

To give you some back story, about a year and a half ago a female friend of mine in Minneapolis went to get new tires on her car. She had wanted to purchase two snow tires for the front for the upcoming winter. The auto shop (a Sears) took the car in to replace the tires and then told her that her rear tires were unsafe and that they wouldn’t let her leave with it until she replaced all four tires. She replaced the tires.

Fast forward to yesterday, the same friend took her car to a Nissan dealership to have a clunk in the front end diagnosed. They informed her that she had a broken spring on a strut and that they would have to replace both front struts for about $1200. They told her that they could legally keep her from driving away with her car, but that she could call a tow truck. She again agreed to have them do the work.

To me both places are using scare tactics to gain work. In the case of the tires, the thread depth was fine on the rear tires. I had checked them with a depth gauge only a week prior. In the case of the struts, I agree that the spring needs to be replaced, but I disagree about it needing to be done on the spot. So, did the shop actually have legal basis to hold her car?

Doing some searches with Google, I’ve found mention that Sears was either sued or had a class action suit against them in the past for that practice. I did not find specific mention of Minnesota. I did find mention that New York state used to have such a law, but removed it due to abuse and fraud from the repair shops. I’ve read through the Minnesota Attorney General’s site. They have a quite a bit of content regarding purchasing and repairing cars, but I could find no mention of a repair shop having the right to hold a car.

Was my friend a victim of scare tactics like I suspect?

The shop has no authority to declare a vehicle unfit to drive, they could however call a cop that might do so.

Regarding the snow tires. I assume this is a front wheel drive car since she wanted the snow tires on the front. The local NW tire store chain where I buy all my tires will not put snow tires only on the front of the car, they have to be on all four. The reason being that the front will get better traction during braking or turning and the rear end, without good traction tires, will spin out, slide, loosing control. Many tire shops have been preaching this for several years, snow tires on all 4 wheels. They should have explained this before they ever put the first 2 tires on the car, if they didn’t and only told her after the first 2 were mounted, then yeah, that’s pretty shady. The “wouldn’t let her leave” is a bit of a problem but we don’t know what was really said.

Same with the broken spring. They have no authority to say you can’t drive away, but if it is serious they could have a cop declare it unsafe equipment.

In both instances, was she being bullied or was she being firmly told that these things need to be taken care of, and she was too meek to stand up to them?

Seems like a failure of customer service skills, but they weren’t necessarily wrong about the issues.

It was relayed to me that in both cases she was informed that they could legally hold her car. The Nissan dealership specifically told her that her only recourse other than having them repair the car was to have it towed. They would not give her the keys to allow her to drive it away.

I should also note that I don’t want to get into a debate on the merits of snow tires on the rear of a front wheel drive car or if a car with a broken spring is unsafe to drive (at least until the question of legality is answered). I really just want to find out if Minnesota actually has a law allowing repair shops to seize vehicles.