My name is Joni and I own a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse this is my story :)
On January 17, 2009 at 8am I took my car to Meineke Car Care Center, #1440 (15510 E Mill Plain Blvd Vancouver, WA) for my 90,000 mile service. I was told when I dropped my car off that they would need to keep it for the majority of the day, which I told them would be fine. I left my phone and cell phone numbers with them so that they could call me when they were ready for me to pick it up. Just before 5pm I asked my husband to take me over to the shop as I had not heard from anyone and was getting concerned. When we arrived, as I was walking towards the shop entrance, the mechanic came walking toward me and said that he had tried to call me. I asked him what number he had tried calling me at because I had not received any calls from them. The mechanic then says, "We have an issue". I asked him if it was an issue that I did or something that they did. [continued below]....
..... He tells me that he's not sure. We continue walking into the shop where my car was at with the hood opened. The mechanic tells me that he has been there for 5 years and has never had anything like this happen. He proceeds to tell me that he had performed the service and everything had checked out great. He says that he took my car for a test drive after the service (remember this it will be important later in my story) and upon returning to the shop he left the car running for a minute and all of a sudden he heard this loud BANG so he ran over to my car to see what was going on. He says he turned my car off and looked around to see if he could figure out what happened. He then shows me what seems to be metal shavings in an oil content in the engine compartment. I tell the mechanic that I have never had any problems with my car; I kept outstanding records of all of the services I had done on my car and followed my owners manual from the first day I bought my car (brand new) and that it was running just fine when I dropped it off. He then says "Yeah I know. It ran well while I drove it too." He then tells me that he cannot allow me to take my car because of them not knowing what is wrong with it. He says with the next day being a Sunday and Monday being a holiday that he wouldn't probably get a whole lot done on it until Tuesday morning. I inquire about a rental car and he says that sometimes they do offer one but that I would need to talk to the owner and manager of the shop. I would like to point out that while we are there and the mechanic is talking about the car, he is smoking and swearing inside the bay area. He did not come across professional at all. It seemed like this was the "norm" for them. When I leave the shop I am sick to my stomach. Upon arriving home I get online and do a search for Meineke Car Care Center and a ton of complaints come up, which makes me feel even worse. There was one story very similar to mine except the guy had just taken his car in for a new thermostat and water pump, and they broke his timing belt as well. $8,000 later for the repairs (which I don't know who paid) but the guy does say do not take your car to any Meineke Car Care Centers. This is just one of the many complaints/stories on the internet. Tuesday afternoon comes and I have not heard from anybody. When my husband gets home from work I send him down to Meineke to see if they know anything on my car yet. He speaks to the manager who tells him that he has been trying to get in touch with the mechanic all day and has not been able to do so. At that point they still don't know what is wrong with my car. My husband calls me and tells me what the manager has said to him. I tell my husband to go back in to the shop and ask for the owner's name and number. My husband calls me back with the general manager's number. I call him and leave a message and ask for him to call me. Wednesday morning comes around and I still have not received a call from the GM or the shop. I call the GM again around 9am and leave another message stating that if I don't hear from somebody by 11am I am going to seek legal counsel. At 10:30am the manager of the shop calls me and says they know what happened to my car. He proceeds to tell me that the timing belt broke and my engine is ruined. He then tells me that I should have replaced the timing belt at 60,000 miles. I tell him no; it is supposed to be replaced at 100,000 miles according to my owner's manual. He says that he called Mitsubishi in Milwaukie and spoke to a Scott in service (which I later found out upon taking my car there, that there is nobody by the name of Scott that works there and they had no record of Meineke calling them). He tells me that he has gone ahead and gotten a quote for me on a new engine as well as a used engine. He says that the used one has around 60,000 miles on it but that he can't be exactly sure how good of an engine it is because of now knowing how hard it was ran. He says that a new engine will be approximately $10,000 and the used one would be $3,000. By now I am in tears and all I can think of is how am I going to pay for this. I tell him that I need to make some calls and that I will let him know what I am doing as soon as I can. I place a call to the owner at Louie Lube on Mill Plain, as he has done some work for me in the past on my car (Louie Lube actually did my 60,000 mile service and the owner remembered the owner's manual as well stating to change the timing belt at 100,000 miles). I explain to him what happened and asked his opinion as to what I should do. He suggested that I have it towed to another shop over off of Fourth Plain to have it looked at. I called that shop and spoke to the owner. He said that he could look at my car but could not guarantee if he could pin-point what they had done over at Meineke. This was critical for me because Meineke was refusing to admit fault. I then called Mitsubishi in Milwaukie and spoke to Jerry who I had spoke with earlier when I called to ask about the replacement of the timing belt (Jerry also confirmed that for the year and model of my car, the timing belt would need to be changed at 100,000 miles). Jerry told me that if I can have my car towed to Mitsubishi he would be able to see what Meineke had done and he could make a precise analysis for me to give to my insurance company. I called my insurance company to get a tow truck to meet me at Meineke. I called Meineke to let them know that I was going to have my car towed to Mitsubishi and I would see them shortly. When I arrived at Meineke I went inside to gather my owner's manual and a discount card that I had purchased for $69.99 from a marketing company that was selling them on behalf of Meineke. The card allowed you so many oil changes for free, discount on labor and many other services at a discount. The owner's manual and an estimate on a used engine were given to me but the discount card was not given back to me (not that I was ever planning on coming back to Meineke anyway). I also wondered if they were going to charge me for the service they had done as I was not going to say anything. Ryan (the manager) didn't say a word and I thought that he must know that since they messed up my car it would be hard for them to charge me for the 90,000 mile service. I then proceeded to the shop area and saw that my car was up in the air. The tow truck driver arrived and told me that my insurance company had authorized the first $75 but that I would be responsible for the other $75. The total charge to tow my car from Vancouver to Milwaukie was $150. Once my car is on the ground, the tow truck driver looks in my engine compartment and asks the mechanic where my engine is. The mechanic points to a work bench where there are yellow plastic bags. They had dismantled a majority of my engine without my consent verbally or written, and then put it in bags. I now believe that this was done in an effort to conceal what they had done to damage my car. The tow truck driver places the bags that contain my engine in the trunk of my car. Before I leave the mechanic comes over to me and asks if I would call him as soon as I hear from Mitsubishi on what they find with my car because he is just so baffled on what could have happened. My car arrives at Mitsubishi at around 4:40pm later that day. Jerry (from Mitsubishi) calls me and says he cannot believe the condition of my car with the engine literally in bags in the trunk. He says that he was going to take pictures of how the car came in. He says that due to it being so late he probably wouldn't get a whole lot done until the next day. At 11:15am the next day Jerry calls and says that he is 100% convinced that Meineke is responsible for the damage. According to him he said that the timing belt would have easily gone until at least 100,000 miles and maybe even more. It was obvious that they had done stuff to cover up their tracks, thus is why so much of the engine was torn apart. I had a report as well as a statement from Mitsubishi that confirms their findings. Jerry informs me that all of the fluids, spark plugs, etc. (basically everything that had been on my car when I took it to Meineke and the service they had done) had been removed. This would explain why they did not charge me for the service to begin with. They even drained all of the fluids, etc. from my car! Meineke did not tell me this when I was there to retrieve my car. Jerry says that I have an excellent case and if he was me he would get an attorney. I contact my insurance company to see if my policy even covered anything like this. They said it would but that I would be responsible for the deductible and some other expenses that pertained to the service that was originally done but then undone. My insurance company covered me for a rental care for one month and then I was on my own to find other transportation. I had made 3 car payments for a car that I didn't have. I was without my car for more than 2 months. It was a very stressful situation and was a huge inconvenience. I missed some work during that time as well due to having no transportation. Mitsubishi took pictures when my car was brought in as well as the damage that they uncovered while going through the car. I have had no contact with Meineke since I had my car towed. Mitsubishi discovered that while having my car in the shop at Meineke, a mechanic dropped a washer into a cylinder causing the timing belt to break. I decide to sue Meineke for all of the costs associated with my car as well as rental reimbursement, missed work, etc. On July 14, 2009 Meineke fails to appear in court so the judge awards me the entire amount of the claim on default ($3,873.33). The judge lets me know that Meineke has 30 days to either pay me, or to challenge the decision by the judge. On day 30 I get a notice that Meineke is challenging the decision, so it's back to court once again. On September 9, 2009 I'm back in court. This time the owner of Meineke as well as the mechanic that worked on my car, appear to dispute the charges. Because the judge has a few cases in front of us he asks us to step outside of the court room to try and settle this and see if we can come to some resolution and we both agree. I had brought my mechanic from Mitsubishi along with me, so the four of us step out of the court room to discuss things. My mechanic from Mitsubishi proceeds to tell the owner of Meineke exactly what happened to my car. Neither the owner nor the mechanic from Meineke disagrees with what the mechanic from Mitsubishi is saying. The owner then proceeds to tell me that he doesnt know how this is going to get resolved because he has no money. We then go back into the court room. When it was our turn, my mechanic and I spoke first as to the details of the case. Then the judge listened to what the owner and mechanic from Meineke had to say. The owner from Meineke says that he had just learned of the issue with my car a few days ago. His mechanic then says he did do a test drive, yet it was discovered that my odometer never changed from the time it was originally dropped off to Meineke to when I had it towed to Mitsubishi. There is no way my car was driven after the washer was dropped into the cylinder, as the timing belt broke immediately, causing my bar to be un-driveable. The owner announces that he filed bankruptcy so he doesn't know how I will get my money. The judge reviews the amount that I am asking for, and starts deleting some of the amounts such as time lost from work, etc. In the end, I won again and was awarded $2,719. The judgment was to be paid in 30 days. I never saw my money so I decided to do a Writ of Garnishment. Again, that was ignored. I contacted several collection agencies in an attempt to get my money again, nothing. Not knowing what to do next I called the corporate office which I had originally done when I first got the news of my car. Wouldn't you know that they would have nothing on file of me originally calling. The person I spoke to said that they would not be able to help me and that I should have called them first when the problem originally surfaced. I said that I had but was told that because these stores are franchised that I had to deal with the store directly. I then found the rep who is the Franchise Development Specialist for the NW. At first he seemed concerned and very apologetic for the runaround that I had been through. But he came back with an email stating simply - "Joni - it is out of my hands. Sorry." BOTTOM LINE - Don't take your car to Meineke Car Care Center if you don't want your car to be returned to you in pieces with an "I don't give a damn about you" attitude.
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