(WSVN) - She bought a Tesla and she loved it. Then her battery failed and the love affair ended, which is why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When the electric cars came out, they were a ‘gotta have’ for many people, like Susan.

Susan Dachille: “Like I love Tesla. I bought the Tesla car because I wanted to do something good for the environment.”

Susan got a 2013 Model S. No engine, just a battery to power your drive.

Susan Dachille: “I thought it was great that there was really no repair bills and no gas bills.”

But then.

Susan Dachille: “And I drove through a big puddle that was in the street and then right after that, the car shut down. It said electronics issues.”

Susan assumed her high voltage battery had been damaged by the water. At the Tesla dealership, she was told what it would cost to replace it.

Susan Dachille: “The price of a new refurbished battery from Tesla was $18,000.”

Eighteen thousand dollars stunned her, but she felt OK because she had car insurance.

Susan Dachille: “I called my insurance company. They had an adjuster that supposedly came out.”

Two things then happened. Tesla installed the $18,000 battery and after inspecting her old battery, her insurance said it wasn’t water that damaged it.

The 11-year-old battery failed from wear and tear.

Susan Dachille: “‘We are not covering this. It’s too old. The car is too old.'”

Susan’s next thought; she couldn’t afford an $18,000 repair bill on a 11-year-old car.

But then she found a company that said they could repair her old battery for $2,500.

Susan Dachille: “I call Tesla, ask for my battery back. They said that they no longer have the battery.”

Again back to Tesla, after the repair shop told her that her damaged battery was worth about $10,000.”

Susan Dachille: “So I asked Tesla for $10,000. I said, ‘If you can’t give me my battery back, then I am entitled to $10,000.’ And they said that they weren’t giving it back.”

Tesla has told her if she doesn’t pay the $18,000 repair bill, they will sell her car at auction.

Needless to say, Susan feels powerless with her electric car.

Susan Dachille: “I don’t even know what to say. How can you take the battery out of my car and say that it’s their battery?”

Well, Howard, if you take your vehicle, gas, diesel, or electric to a repair shop, can they take a part out and say, ‘We aren’t returning it to you?’

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “It depends. While you have a right to inspect your old part, you don’t have a right to get it back unless you request it up front. And in this case, Tesla’s repair agreement specifically says they keep all your old parts. In some cases, that’s good for the customer because they recycle the parts and that should lower the cost of your bill. Unfortunately, that leaves Susan in a bad spot because if she doesn’t pay the $18,000 repair bill, they can sell her car.”

Even though the Tesla agreement says any parts removed or replaced by Tesla during service will become the property of Tesla, we tried to get Susan’s old battery or at least her car back without the new $18,000.

Tesla would not talk to us. Then, Susan, told us she could no longer talk to us.

Normally, that means she signed a non-disclosure agreement where both sides settle but neither side can talk about it.

However, from her prior interview, we know how she feels about her electric car experience.

Susan Dachille: “It’s just, it’s been horrible, a horrible experience.”

You learn something new every day. I didn’t know a repair shop could keep your used parts, even a battery from an electric vehicle that might be worth thousands. If you want those parts, make sure you write “customer gets to keep old parts” or something like that in the estimate.

A problem draining your energy level? Can’t seem to get charged up? Plug into the Help Me Howard network. Sometimes our results are electric.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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