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Auto shop is ripping me off

I live in Tyler, TX I was moving my sister to Austin, and on the way back my 1998 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 broke down, so I had it towed to Oliver Brothers Transmissions in Waco, because the tow truck driver recommended it and said that it was a good shop. Then I called my brother and he picked me up and I went back home without my truck and trailer. Four Days Later The Mechanic called and said that I need a new transfer case. A new one was $1700 or he could look for a used one for $1400 installed and everything out the door. I asked If I can get one from the junk yard and just have him install it. No Absolutely not was his comment, he would not guarantee that part. So I had no choice and I told him to put in the one for $1400, he assured me that there would be no problems (remember I’m 200 miles away) another six days went by, and he called and said that it was ready. I couldn’t get a ride down there for another 3 days. By the way he would not except payment by credit card, he said that his machine was broken, and wouldn’t take my check. Must Be Cash. whatever, when I picked up my truck and trailer I paid him $1400 cash, the lady typed something in the computer handed me a piece of paper and said that my trailer was in the back. 40 Minutes later my truck was vibrating so much, I knew something wasn’t right. When I pulled over and took a look, there was oil all over the transfer case and transmission and tires. I called him from the side of the road, and said my truck’s vibrating and it’s leaking, What do I do? He said look to see if anything is loose, and we got cut off or he hung up. I waited for about an hour, got me something to drink and was about to drive back to his shop when he called and said Marty when you get it to Tyler take it to Dunn’s Transmission and those boys will fix it for you. Ok I thought, I started it up and drove it at 45MPH all the way to Dunn’s Transmission, it didn’t vibrate as much at this speed. I was thankful to get there. I dropped it off and went home. three days later, they finally looked at it and noticed that none of the transfer case bolts were tightened, so they tightened them up and gave me my truck. It seemed fine until I got up to 65-70MPH it was vibrating the same way. So I called Oliver Brother’s and he said well take it back to Dunn’s. Two Days later Dunn’s was able to look at it, I called but they wouldn’t tell me anything about my truck other than when It’s ready We’ll call you. So they called and said that they had taken the transfer case out and had found two broken bolts, which they rethreaded, and a hairline crack which they welded, and it’s ready come get it. Finally my truck’s done, I go down there after work, They are about to close they give me my keys and shut the gate and I start driving home. I get about 2miles and I notice that it’s in 4-Wheel Drive, I put it back into 2-Wheel drive and It broke down right there. I was so tired, I had to pay $65 to get the truck towed right back to Dunn’s. It’s Friday night so I couldn’t call Oliver Brothers until Monday. Monday came and I couldn’t get a hold of anybody. Finally I went down to Dunn’s Transmission and they told me that Oliver Brothers told us to tell you to get your truck back down to Waco. So I called him and asked "What you want me to get it towed back down to Waco, 200miles, which I was quoted $600 for a tow that far. That’s not my problem, he said, I will not help you get it down here. I couldn’t believe it! At this point I was tripping, but remained calm. I asked him you sound upset, he said yeah I’ve done this for 27 years, and I’ve paid Dunn’s $500 already.

I told him to put himself in my shoes, I just paid him $1400, to get this fixed, along with the $65 tow fee, and the $35 additional every week to watch my son an extra hour after work at daycare. Until The wife picks him up. Plus the hassle of getting a ride back and forth to work, and now I have to be responsible to get it back up there to you, and your the one upset! Well to make a long story short, My friend was going to give me a tow and his U-Joint broke 80 miles out of town. Which I paid and fixed, but it took us All-day. So he didn’t want to tow it anymore, which is understandable, I was glad to get his up and running, at least. So I bought AAA, and it took another 7 days before we could use the extended 200mile tow package. So that was Monday, and today I called him, he said that he’s rebuilding the damaged transfer case. Which didn’t sound right to me, but what do I know, I’m not a mechanic. It sounds like my truck is really messed up and I need advice. I think my transmission may be messed up, and there may be other things, but it’s all because they didn’t tighten the Bolts to the transfer case. I read that It may have done damage that they’re not telling me, What do I do? I feel like I’m being ripped off, this started a week before Thanksgiving '08, and I still don’t have my truck or any money. This has all been a Big Headache. Advise please, he said that he’ll have my truck ready by Saturday and he’ll leave my truck out front, because there open for only a little while on Saturday. What do I do?

The first thing that comes to mind is try to cut your losses,the old good money after bad comes to mind. Get out of there don’t ever go back.

This is about as tragic as it gets. It appears the reason he did not want to take a credit card is fear of a CC chargeback.

Considering the problems (loose bolts, stripped threads, welded cracks, etc. my opinion is that this transfer case should probably be on the scrap pile. A salvage unit would be much better.

Now he wants to leave the truck out there on Saturday? You just KNOW what’s about to happen here. He has no intentions of being around when you come in to pick up a cobbled togther piece of scrap iron more than likely. He knows that you won’t camp out by the door until Monday so he’s counting on you disappearing and never coming back.

I have no answer for you but considering the situation I’d get the truck out of there, find a good used unit for it (not optimistic it wiil be fixed when you get it back), and probably sue the beejeezus out of him in small claims court.

is there a law against this

When you car is not working properly or maybe not running at all, you may feel at the mercy of your mechanic. How do you know that every repair is necessary, or being carried out truthfully?

The most important step in avoiding getting ripped off is finding a good mechanic. In fact it is so important, an entire link category on this topic page is dedicated to the subject. To get started, ask for recommendations from friends and family. Compare the warranty policy each mechanic offers. What kind of certification does the mechanic have? ASE certification is available in 8 different specialties, so make sure the certification applies to the work you need done. Is the shop AAA approved? Have there been complaints lodged with the local Better Business Bureau? When you are in the shop, how are other customers being treated? Do the mechanics listen to the customer?s auto symptoms, explain all recommendations and take the time to answer questions?
Get everything in writing. This includes estimates, work orders and the warranty policy. Surprises may be pleasant at birthday parties, but rarely so at a mechanic! If a mechanic tells you he can?t provide a written estimate, take your car elsewhere. For major work, be sure to be quoted a maximum possible charge. An estimate should identify the condition to be repaired, the parts needed, and the anticipated labor charge. It should also state that the shop will contact you for approval before they do any work exceeding a specified amount of time or money. State law may require this. Work orders should never be signed if they are blank. Make sure you are able to describe your car?s symptoms and they are reflected in orders clearly and specifically. A good order might read ?Diagnose loss of all electrical power including lights, radio, automatic seatbelts; problem occurs only when engine is cold? instead of vague orders such as ?Repair electrical system?. Remember to verify the shop?s warranty policy, and get this in writing as well.
Before you allow the work to be carried out, ask yourself if the recommended work applies to the problem. This may require some very basic automotive knowledge on your part. The time invested in educating yourself is worth it! While a good mechanic will tell you of other potential problems, he should also define which problems are a ?must fix? and which are ?recommended fixes?. Even then, it is your decision as to what work actually gets done.

It is advisable to request that any old parts from the car be returned to you. If there is any question that the alternator was indeed broken or that a frayed belt has actually been replaced, you will have the part to verify this. This makes it more difficult for a dishonest mechanic to rip you off, not to mention you will look like more of an auto expert. When work is completed, take the car for a test drive to verify the problem has been solved. Get a completed repair order describing the work done, listing each repair, parts supplied, the cost of each part, labor charges, and the vehicle’s odometer reading when you brought the vehicle in as well as when the repair order was completed. Keep all paperwork. Not only will you need it if the car is returned to the shop under warranty, but service records will help if you eventually re-sell your car, as many used car buyers request them.
The majority of auto mechanics are honest and competent businessmen and women. When you find a mechanic with whom you can build a relationship, hang on to them and remember to spread the good word. But if you feel you are dealing with a dishonest shop or mechanic, trust your gut instinct and find another one. Even if you have to pay to have your car towed elsewhere, it is a small price to pay to keep from being taken for a ride.

A problem like you have would likely not be considered a violatio of the law; which infers a criminal matter. This would be considered a civil matter to be ironed out between you and the shop; in court if necessary.

As mentioned, often when there is a complaint made one never knows if the entire story is being told, etc. but in your case I sincerely believe you’re the victim of a crook, an incompetent, or both.

No idea what to advise you to do at this point but I know what I would do if in your shoes. I’d get the truck back (fixed or not) and send that shop a certified letter explaining very briefly why you want your money back. They will likely refuse to do this.

I’d sue them in small claims court. A quick look at TX law shows the system is designed to be simple with no requirement for a lawyer. You simply fill in the forms, pay a filing fee, and wait for the mail to advise you when to appear. The defendant will also be notified. Small claims in TX is good for up to 5000 dollars and I would ask not only for the repair costs back, but also every penny expended on this truck because of their negligence. Travel expenses, etc. and the law states that the judge can also order the defendant to pay your filing fees if they lose.

From being in the auto business a while, I’ve been involved in several small claims courts cases and no, I’ve never been sued! In one case I was appearing as an “expert witness” for the defendant.

If you have to go to court, do this.
Keep an orderly stack of repair orders, receipts, or an itemized list of expenses.
Write down a VERY brief synopsis of what happened. Use as few words as possible.
When talking to a judge, do NOT get too emotional. NO getting mad, ranting, etc.
Just be factual and briefly to the point. Judges do NOT want to hear long winded stories, etc.

The TX law states that if the defendant loses the case he must pay you IMMEDIATELY, so that’s a plus. If he does not show, he loses of course and there’s a possibility that once he’s notified of a suit he may try to settle this with you rather than appear in court.
My feeling is that he will not want to go to court because he would surely lose this one.

That’s a bit lengthy, but hope it helps and good luck.

How did it turn out?

Small claims details often vary from county to county so be sure to check that out. The ability to file by mail is certainly a huge advantage if you live elsewhere. If you can, attend a session of that court before your date, preferably with the judge assigned to your case.

If you get lucky, the defendant might not show up and you win by default.