Before I go into great detail about my most recent experience at the Franklin, Indiana, Meineke shop (Store #1898), I need to explain a few things. First, I cannot PROVE that this Meineke location diagnosed or quoted me for unneeded repairs, but I strongly SUSPECT they did. I am simply writing this report to see if anyone else has had anything similar happen to them at this particular Meineke so I can try to determine whether I want to continue patronizing this business. Second, I have gone to this Meineke for numerous oil changes, a brake job and an exhaust job and they have done very good work to my satisfaction the first time each time, so I don't have any kind of longstanding grudge against them. To restate, the purpose of my report is to share my suspicions about being quoted for unneeded repairs on my latest visit and to determine if anyone else has had similiar experiences visiting Meineke #1898.
About four weeks ago, my wife and I received a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan (sport model) from my parents. To make a long story short, my parents seldom drove this van and we needed a second vehicle since I sold my old car. Buying a new or even a new-used vehicle was NOT in our budget, so we accepted my parents' gift gratefully. Another thing that needs to be said before I get into what happened with Meineke is that my dad takes meticulous care of his vehicles, inside and out, and this van was no exception. My dad is not a licensed mechanic, but grew up doing his own car repair/maintenance and still does most of his own maintenance work (brakes, oil changes, etc.) when he has time, so he is VERY knowledgeable about vehicle maintenance. Also, my dad is good friends with my wife's brother-in-law, Randy, who is a certified mechanic, and he always has Randy double check his car work if he's unsure about something or just takes his vehicles to Randy (or a dealer) if the job is too advanced for him to do by himself. So even though this is an older vehicle, it has been incredibly well maintained, both by my dad and by the previous owner (who bought it new).
Several days after we got the van, I noticed there was not a sticker in the window that showed the last oil change date/mileage, so I called dad and asked when it was due for an oil change again. He knew exactly the mileage the van had had on it when he'd last changed the oil, and it had just under 3,000 miles put on it since then, so dad recommended I get it changed ASAP. Because my wife and I both had off work on Friday, March 16, I called Meineke of Frankin to make an appointment to change the oil. Kevin, the main mechanic, answered my call and said they had a busy day but that he could "work me in" if I dropped the van off and left it - which was fine. So we left the van with them between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m. and took off to meet my wife's mom for lunch in our other vehicle.
After lunch, about 12:15 or 12:30 p.m., we decided to take our two-year-old son to the park since it was such a nice day. We soon realized his stroller was in the back of the van, so we returned to Meineke hoping they either hadn't started working on it yet or were done so we could retrieve the stroller. When we arrived at Meineke, Kevin had the van raised and was already working on it. The back tires were off when we pulled in, which I thought was odd since I had told the desk person I did NOT need a tire rotation (dad had done that a few days before he gave us the van), but since I had paid for the preferred oil change with the 24 point inspection, I assumed he had the tires off as part of that process. Anyway, while I stayed in the car with our son, my wife got out and asked Kevin if he could lower the van so we could get the stroller out and he was kind enough to do so. He then proceeded to show my wife what looked to be a problem with the rear brakes.
After loading the stroller, my wife got in the car and proceeded to brief me about what Kevin had told her about the brakes (my wife is actually more knowledgeable about car-related things than I am) and said Kevin told her they would call when the oil change was done and give us an estimate on the rear brake repairs. About two hours later, the desk guy (whose name, I believe, is also Kevin) from Meineke called and said they had finished the oil change, but that there were several "significant" problems with the rear brakes, and quoted me a price of just over $400 for the repairs. He asked me right then if I just wanted to have him go ahead with the brake repairs, and I told him I'd need to make a quick phone call first. Kevin then proceeded to tell me he "would not drive the van with the rear brakes in the condition they were in." I told him I lived less than half a mile from the Meineke shop (which he already knew) and that it would be no big deal to drive the van home from there without them fixing the brakes.
I thought it was odd that they found such "significant" problems with the rear brakes since I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my dad would NEVER have given us the van with the rear brakes as messed up as Kevin said they were. Immediately after ending the call with Kevin, I called my dad. After explaining as best I could what Meineke had told me, dad explained that about a week before he'd given us the van, he'd removed the rear tires (to rotate them) and removed the drums to check both the front and rear brakes since "he knew his grandson would be riding in that van." He assured me the back brakes were in fine shape when he checked them and that there had been no major issues at all that he could see. Dad then asked if there were any visible indicators of brake problems that I'd seen or heard (such as grinding, squeaking, brake fluid light on, etc.) and I told him there were not. He told me not to have the repairs done, that the van was fine to drive at least temporarily, and to drive it the next time we visited them and he would look at the brakes and fix them himself, if necessary. He also added that he didn't understand how the rear brakes could have deteriorated that much in the four weeks between when he'd last checked them and our Meineke appointment.
I also never received a written estimate for the quote Kevin gave me over the phone, which I also thought was odd. Again, these are the same guys who've been working on my vehicles for quite a while now and I find it hard to believe they'd try to swindle me out of 400 bucks for totally unneeded repairs, but their story about the condition of the rear brakes does not jibe at all with what my dad told me, and I am willing to bet he knows as much or more about car maintenance, brakes, etc. as most Meineke mechanics. Again, I could be wrong about them trying to rip me off, and I can't prove they did, but it sure seems like it. Has anyone else out there had a similar experience with this particular Meineke location? I am simply trying to determine whether I should continue to trust these guys with my vehicles.