• Report: #102352

Complaint Review: Meineke Car Care Center

  • Submitted: Thu, August 05, 2004
  • Updated: Sat, August 07, 2010

  • Reported By:Vancouver Washington
Meineke Car Care Center
2300 E. Fourth Plain Blvd Vancouver, Washington U.S.A.

Meineke Car Care Center dishonest Vancouver Washington

*Consumer Suggestion: Some information on brake jobs

*Consumer Comment: Mechanical issues aside...

*Consumer Comment: Opinion of an ASE Certified Mechanic

*REBUTTAL Owner of company: The Truth... suggest an unbiased 3rd party opinion from someone with at least some rudimentary understanding of the situation

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The week I moved out of the nest, into the real world, (three hours away from my parents) I discovered my car was making a funny grinding noise. My parents came up to visit and my dad told me to have my brakes checked. I took my small car to a local place for a free brake inspection.

I got a price promise from the mechanic and had him write down all of the things he wanted to do to my car. He quoted me $264 plus tax. I had done a small amount of research before taking my car in and noticed a few things that sounded a bit superfluous. So, I called my dad. My dad called the mechanic. The mechanic wanted $264 for the back and $99 to do the front brakes. My dad called me back and told me to take it to a Meineke or Midas. He, of course, had heard their ads for cheap brake jobs.

The next morning, I called both Meineke and Midas for price quotes for a complete brake job. Meineke immediately said something like, we can't really give you an estimate until we've had a look at it. Upon my insistence, he quoted me $85.95 plus tax. Midas quoted me $89.95 per axle plus tax, or $179.90 plus tax for front and back. It sounded a little odd to me that Midas would charge double what its competitor was charging. So, I called Meineke back. Sure enough, it was $89.95 for the front AND $89.95 for the back. So, there's a little dishonesty right off the bat. Against my better judgment, I made an appointment for the following day.

I made it to Meineke for my appointment and waited in the office for over an hour while they did the brake inspection. The wait didn't bother me so much, I expected it. While I was waiting, I noticed a nice big listing of their prices on the wall. However, the cost of a brake job was $85.99 rather than $85.95. No big deal, I thought, four cents. While I was waiting, though, I also got to watch the guy at the desk (Meineke-guy) interact with the customers.

Customer #1 seemed to work for a company who was a regular client. He wanted his entire exhaust system (for a personal vehicle) ripped out and replaced. Meineke-guy quoted him $200 plus tax; in writing.

Customer #2 was a college aged kid with a BMW. His muffler was making a rattling noise and he wanted someone to look at it. Meineke guy immediate suggested that a mechanic would have to get it in the garage and raise it up just so they wouldn't miss anything. Customer #2 persuaded Meineke-guy to go outside and have a look. Meineke-guy came back in and quoted Customer #2 $400 plus tax. I'm no exhaust expert, but twice the price for half the work?

When the inspection for my car was finished, Meineke-guy came out to babble off a slew of things the rear of my car needed. The grand total came out to $399 plus tax (rear only). I refused to pay that much and gave him the quote from the last place I had gone to. He offered to match the price and asked if I had the quote with me. What luck, I did. He looked at the quote and told me the guy wouldn't be doing a complete brake job for me. He started to use the word shoddy a few times but settle for partial. How exactly does one do a partial brake job? Will only two of my four brakes work? When I said, no thanks, I'll take it back to the last place, he let me know he would put it back together for me and get me my keys.

A few minutes later, he came rushing back in to let me know, for my own future benefit, that the guy at the other brake place would only be doing ONE rear brake. That's the biggest load of BS I've ever heard. Why in the world would a brake shop replace only ONE bad brake? The guy at the other place walked me around the car and showed me exactly what was wrong and what he would be replacing, anyway. It definitely included fixing both rear brakes.

Meineke guy was making a last ditch attempt to justify doubling the cost for half the work. I could only imagine what he would decide to charge for the front brakes. My options: $800 for a complete brake job at Meineke or a $363 complete brake job somewhere else? Difficult decision.

By the time the mechanic pulled my car up, I was happy to leave. To top off the whole event, however, the guy smugly wiped his greasy hands all over my keys and steering wheel cover and put some grease spots on the carpet of my car with his greasy shoes. And changed my radio station!

I may be young and female, but I am not stupid and will not be screwed over by some middle-aged, sleaze-ball Meineke-guy.

An Unhappy Person
Vancouver, Washington

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/05/2004 07:16 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/meineke-car-care-center/vancouver-washington-98661/meineke-car-care-center-dishonest-vancouver-washington-102352. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 Consumer Suggestion

Some information on brake jobs

AUTHOR: J. s. - (U.S.A.)

Without defending or blaming anyone, it is important to note that there are a lot of different aspects to even simple brake jobs.  Understanding the basics of an automotive system is important to being able to distinguish between good and deceptive recommendations.

I'm not a mechanic, but brakes are a fairly simple job, which I have personally done, many times.

$90 per axle is a very inexpensive price for basic brake work.  Some places it may be common.  Where I live (NY metro) I doubt you can find that price anywhere.

In any case, this is almost certainly not a price for a "complete" brake job -- not even a routine "complete" brake job.  And it is correct to say that one cannot tell you what a complete brake job consists of, for any given car, without inspecting the brakes to tell you what needs to be done.  That's because one never does a truly "complete" brake job -- i.e., replacing every single component of the braking system.  One deals with the issues that need to be dealt with, some of which are very common and basically always done, others of which are less common, and are done only when needed.

The core braking components include:

Friction material (pads or shoes, for discs or drums)
Discs/rotors or drums that the friction material engages
Calipers (discs) or wheel cylinders (drums) that control whether and how hard the friction material engages the disc or drum, as the driver presses the brake pedal

A typical per axle basic quote will include replacing pads (disc brakes) or shoes (drum brakes), adjusting the brakes (drums), bleeding any air out of the brake lines after reinstalling everything, and usually will also include repacking the wheel bearings, assuming they are unsealed bearings.  (The wheel bearings are not part of the brakes, but unsealed bearings are typically serviced when the brakes are done.)

A typical basic brake quote will not include turning the rotors or drums.  They definitely won't include replacing them.  Drums often don't need to be turned or replaced.  Rotors usually do need to be turned or replaced when the pads are changed.

Turning is machining the metal so that it is even, so that it is fully and properly engaged by the pads or shoes.  If you have ever felt your brake pedal pulse as press the brakes under normal conditions (not anti-lock brakes kicking in), then almost certainly, you have rotors that are warped.  Turning the rotors machines them so that they are flat.  You can only turn rotors a limited amount, before they become too thin to be safely used (can't dissipate the friction heat well enough, and warp very quickly, or potentially lead to failure).  So often the rotors can't be turned, and instead need to be replaced.

The cost for brake components can vary wildly.  One car/brand may use rotors that cost $50 each, while another may use rotors that cost $150 each.  So it's always hard to compare costs from car to car.  (And the same goes for mufflers/exhaust systems, btw.  Though frankly, I think you misunderstood if you thought they quoted anybody just $200 to replace any entire exhaust system.  Usually a catalytic converter alone costs that, or much more.)

So almost any shop quoting a low per axle cost is going to end up telling you that you ought to do additional work (turning the rotors), over and above the blind-quoted price.  (A reputable shop will warn you of such when they give you the low quote.)

Once disassembling the brakes, the mechanic will also assess the condition of the calipers or wheel cylinders.  These are parts that move under hydraulic pressure, and if they don't move freely ("hang up") then the brakes don't work properly and wear evenly.  If there's an issue, the calipers or wheel cylinders may need to be rebuilt or replaced.  Wheel cylinders are typically not expensive.

Calipers can be quite expensive to replace.  They are normally much cheaper to rebuild -- which is an easy job.  BUT, most cut-rate shops won't offer to rebuild calipers, and probably won't do such even if asked.  They'd much rather just sell you a replacement, with a smaller time investment and high profit margin.

When repacking wheel bearings, the bearing should be inspected to insure it's in good condition, and on rare occasion for older vehicles, may need to be replaced.  (Note, you don't want to mess with wheel bearings.  Replace it if it needs to be replaced.  Failure is catastrophic.  You don't want to be on the highway and suddenly have a wheel seize.  You would normally hear the bearing making a growling noise prior to complete failure.)

Of course, on rare occasion, there could be more extensive problems, e.g., requiring the master cylinder to be rebuilt (also a fairly inexpensive job) or replaced (usually not terribly expensive).

The entire brake system should be flushed (all fluid removed and replaced) every 2-3 years, to eliminate any water that has been absorbed into the brake fluid, to avoid rusting out the brake lines.  On rare occasion, on older cars, if the brake lines are already in poor condition, then they will need to be replaced.

This pretty much covers a "complete" brake job.  A truly complete job would replace everything: pads/shows, rotors/drums, calipers/wheel cylinders, master cylinder and brake lines.

Naturally, one normally doesn't do this, yet it wouldn't be considered a "partial" job.

One certainly can do a partial brake job, however.  That wouldn't normally consist of doing just one, rather than two opposing brakes.  It would consist of something like replacing shoes or pads, but not turning or replacing the rotors/drums, and possibly not servicing the calipers/wheel cylinders (if they require servicing).

So when inquiring as to rates for brake work, and comparing two different quotes, one should ask and understand exactly what is and isn't included.

Good luck!
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#2 Consumer Comment

Mechanical issues aside...

AUTHOR: Robert - (U.S.A.)

No mention from David about the grease on the keys or the grease on the interior carpet and the radio use.

I guess we lowly customers aren't qualified to comment about sloppy inconsiderate workers dirtying up a customer's vehicle. I guess only Miss Manners is qualified enough to recognize RUDENESS to a customer.

The better run shops lay paper down on the carpeting to prevent grease/oil stains on the carpeting and some of them even (gasp) wash their hands once in a while so as to not dirty the keys, inside door panels and such.

Then there's the discourtesy of using the customer's radio and not returning it to the station the customer had it set too.

These alone, are enough for me not to visit this shop. There are too many other places, franchises and private, that show a customer these types of common courtesy.
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#3 Consumer Comment

Opinion of an ASE Certified Mechanic

AUTHOR: Unbiased Professional Opinion - (U.S.A.)

The next morning, I called both Meineke and Midas for price quotes for a complete brake job." Meineke immediately said something like, we can't really give you an estimate until we've had a look at it."

Meineke is right to want to look at a job like "K"'s before giving a quote on the job. The consumer admits that the vehicle was making a "grinding noise". A Brake grinding noise is something that happens when a consumer has neglected their brakes past the point of squeeling and squeeking and to the point of grinding. Grinding is the final point before total brake failure, it is a metal to metal condition. This condition will cause friction heat to occur that can melt steel and cause irrepairable damage to brake components that wouldn't be repaired or replaced in a normal "complete brake job" service. It's disturbing that this consumer obviously doesn't know even the basics of a vehicle then tries to disparage the "meineke man" when he tried to give her information to help her. Remember, your brakes are no joke. You can search around and find the "cheapest price" and that may include not changing the proper parts or having a certified mechanic perform the work. Each of these can lower an estimated price while causing a possible life and death situatuaton. I have nothing to do with Meineke (past or present) but I do applaud them for approaching this job in the right way. Remember the lesson, "You get what you pay for". Good luck "K".
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#4 REBUTTAL Owner of company

The Truth... suggest an unbiased 3rd party opinion from someone with at least some rudimentary understanding of the situation

AUTHOR: David - (U.S.A.)

Unfortunately ignorance and misconception have dominated complaints made against the auto repair business for years as evidenced by the content of this complaint. Communication, understanding, and trust are of the utmost importance when making a decision about something of which you have little expertise.

I would suggest an unbiased 3rd party opinion from someone with at least some rudimentary understanding of the situation. Someone other than a competitor out to steer you away from a shop to theirs. Maybe Dad in this case.

We are truly disappointed that we were unable to either communicate properly or at least instill some level of trust with this young lady during her visit to our store.

We, as a 25 year old family business take extra measures to insure consistent superior customer satisfaction. We have based our business not on today's sale but tomorrow's relationship with our customers. We apologize for any inconvienence we may have caused this customer.
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