My nightmare repair story

Jim Boyer
33 years ago (dates me I know) I took a trip with my sweet wife and 2-month old daughter from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas for a seminar. It was August, and my air conditioning quit in my old Plymouth. Couldn't roll down the windows because it made the baby suck air, so we completed the 6-hour drive in an oven. Before returning home, we drove into a random repair shop, and got ripped off. Here's how it happened, and yes I was young. Boy, did they see me coming. The mechanic popped the hood, and asked me to start the car. When I was looking the other way he grabbed a bunch of wires and placed them on the exhaust manifold. When I started the car, poof! All the wires burned through from the heat. I saw the smoke, and jumped out of the car. Now the car wouldn't even run. Before I left I paid for both an A/C fix - and for a wiring job. Mark Miller posted this about how a dealership in Colorado builds trust through transparency. Contrasted with this memory in Las Vegas, in August, with my wife and baby and a 6-hour drive ahead through the desert, what a refreshing idea!
Tony Wood
I have a nightmare repair story as well! My wife and I were living in Kentucky and my brother-in-law had just enrolled in a college in Tempe, AZ. We offered to take him down there. It was 2005, my wife and I hadn't even been married a year and had our first of 6 children whom was 2 months old at the time. The trip was going just fine until we were about 6 miles outside of Santa Rosa, NM. Our 2002 Chevy Malibu was overheating. After sitting in the desert heat for awhile, a gentleman kind enough to give us a ride to the nearby town of Santa Rosa showed up. We got some much needed water and that put my wife and daughter in the A/C at a truck stop. I found a tow company willing to use my grandfather's AAA gold membership to pull the car into the local repair shop...the EXAC. The EXAC was a Texaco missing its T and O. Being young and dumb and I didn't have any real money set aside for this kind of situation. So, I get the car into the repair shop and the local Motel 6 is kind enough to go against protocol and use my mother's credit card to secure us a room. The diagnosis comes back, the thermostat is bad...whew, bullet dodged. They replace the thermostat, say we're good to go. So, I drive less than a mile down the road, it overheats. I bring it back in. Oh my, it's the water pump, not sure how we missed that. So, they order the part, another night put on my mother's credit card, another day of frustration. The next day we go down and the water pump is installed, we're good to go. I take off, less than a mile down the road, it overheats. I bring it back, oh my Mr. Wood, it's your radiator. Knowing absolutely nothing about cars at this time, I had let this go on. At this point, even I was thinking something was up. So, my brother Western Unions me some money because I'm all tapped out at this point. I think I want to have it towed somewhere else, but the nearest shop beyond the Exac is in Albequerque, NM over 100 miles away. That's an expensive tow and the local tow company is also the EXAC so they won't allow me to use my grandpa's AAA gold membership again. So, the radiator gets replaced, I'm finally done with these people. I take off, less than a mile down the road, it overheats. I go BACK to the EXAC and they tell me that it's overheated too many times and now I need to replace my engine. At this point, I need my mother's assistance on that. She goes ape and calls the Motel 6 to explain that I'll need a continued stay and begins to rant and rave to the Motel 6 manager about the (inappropriate terminology for latinos) who are taking advantage of her son at the EXAC. Little did she know that the latino Motel 6 manager is married to the owner of the EXAC. So, because of this we are not allowed to stay in the Motel 6 anymore even if we use cash. The owner of the restaurant across the street from the Motel 6 where we had been eating will not allow us to eat or sit in there as the owner of the EXAC is his cousin. My dad gets involved and checks into renting a uhaul car carrier and is willing to come all the way from KY to hook it up and get me out of there. The U-haul provider is also the local EXAC so they aren't willing to help us out. Meanwhile, the quote to replace my engine has doubled due to the "grievance" caused by my mother. So, I'm in a state of panic. I call 3 different tow companies in Albequerque and give them my sob story. The 3rd one (which is why I only called 3) decides to use my grandfather's AAA gold status to give me his second tow of the year. We get it into a local Chevy dealership. 15 minutes later they pull us back and let us know that the seal on our coolant was bad and it'll take $15 to replace the cap. I did some research and found out that the experience I had is very common for individuals whom are ignorant when it comes to auto repairs when breaking down in small towns in remote areas. Especially small towns where one family has control of multiple businesses. I spoke with a lawyer and he said there is no way to recoup the expenses because of me signing off on documentation to do the work and that by the time I proved my case and won damages, it would cost me just as much in lawyer fees. That's how they get away with it. So be careful!
Jim Boyer
Tony, That's quite a story! I got stiffed for a wiring job. You really got hammered. Thanks for sharing.
Mark Miller
When I take my car in I preface every initial conversation with "I've spent 20 years in the automotive repair industry". I don't do it to sound arrogant, but to make sure they know I can sniff out BS in an instant. I have luckily never been a victim of this, but have known so many, that's why I never wonder why the repair side has such a bad reputation and has to work so hard to build trust. Thanks for sharing Jim and Tony, those stories validate why a handful of shops muddy the waters for an entire industry.
Tony Wood
Yep, a couple bad apples ruin it for the whole bunch.
mark rask
Those are nightmare stories! I will never be able to visit service again without questioning them

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