AAMCO Repair Disaster
This statement describes the 2 year repair history, and list of attempted repairs by AAMCO Transmission repair center in Raleigh, NC, and how AAMCO avoided resolving our problem.
The original repair on this vehicle, a 1984 Olds Cutlass, was done on 2-12-98, for problems with no 3rd gear and difficulties with reversing. They rebuilt the transmission and put in a rebuilt torque converter for $862.16. I have receipts for two of the returns in 1998, but not for two others that year. On 5-28-98, we brought the car back for not shifting gears. On 6-22-98, it was towed in because the rear wheels locked up while driving. I was told that the rear gears broke inside the transmission. It was returned two other times that year. Once, my wife, a home health nurse, pulled into a patient's driveway and was unable to put the car in reverse to leave. The car had to again be towed back to AAMCO, and they replaced the valve body while my wife waited for 3 - 4 hours. Another time during 1998, the car was kept for adjustments during the followup check after a repair, as it was staying in 2nd gear too long. For these last two repairs, I was not given any receipt.
On 1-5-99, the trans failed again. It had the same problem that it had originally been repaired for - it was getting stuck in low gear. I was told that they were unable to to repair the transmission they had put in, and had to replace it with another rebuilt transmission. I brought it back again in March/April for slipping again, and was told that it was necessary to replace the torque converter again.
The most recent problem was on 1-19-2000, about 8 months after the last repair. I was driving down US 1 in Youngsville, where the traffic lanes merged into 1 lane due to construction. I was going about 45, when the transmission made a loud clunking noise and the car bucked a few times. I could not pull over until I reached the end of the construction zone, so I slowed down and went to the end of the construction zone, with the car making clunking noises, and sounding like something was being dragged under the car. Then it started slipping intermittently. It stopped making noises while it was idling on the side of the road. I pulled back onto the highway and turned around to go home, driving half on the shoulder and half in the slow lane. The trans slipped badly and I had to make my way home slowly, and had almost no power to the rear wheels by the time I reached my driveway. Our local mechanic came to the house to give us an opinion on the problem with the car. He went back and forth on the driveway a few times, and said it brobably had broken gears again because of the clunking noises it was making. He and I checked the trans fluid, which was full, but did have metal flakes in it.
When the car failed on 6-30-98, where the rear wheels locked up, I had only gone 1000 feet out of my driveway, and was only traveling 20 - 25 mph, so was able to pull over quickly without harm to my family or the car. When I spoke to Mike at AAMCO, I was very concerned about the failure, as nothing like this had ever happened to me, and this failure struck me as particularly DANGEROUS. When I picked up the car after the repair, I asked what had caused the wheels to lock up. He said the rear gear assembly just broke - this usually doesn't happen. When the trans failed simmilarly the last time, and the car started bucking, I was lucky the wheels didn't lock up again on the highway. Not only would my family have been injured, but also the cars behind us and the construction workers behind the orange cones would have been at risk. This concerned and frightened me that the trans failed again in such a dangerous manner.
I called the AAMCO 800 number on Friday, 1-20-99, and spoke to Barbara (1-800-523-0401) about this, expressing my concern about the manner of failure again, and how it was the seventh time. She said she would contact the service center the next day her office was open, but she had to go because they were closing the office due to a snowstorm. Because of my concern, I couldn't wait an indefinite period of time for answers, and contacted the service center myself. I asked to speak to Mike, who I usually dealt with, but he was not there. The owner, Joe Pake, was on the phone, so I described the problem to him. He said, It worked for you the rest of the time, didn't it?. I told him I was concerned about the maner of failure, and that a previous time it had failed similarly with the wheels locking up while I was driving. This is getting DANGEROUS, why are parts breaking like this??? Instead of offering to tow the car in and examining the reason for failure, he said I was obviously not happy with their service, and have no confidence in them, so I need to go elsewhere for help, and then hung up on me. After having been told to get lost and then being hung up on, I assumed that they had no interest in helping me with this ongoing problem.
The next morning, Barbara from the main office called back, and told me she had talked to the service center, and that they didn't want to work on my car again because I wasn't satisfied with their service, and that the transmission was out of their six month warranty anyway, so they weren't obligated to do anything about it. I told her that I had spoken with a local TV station about the problem, and had also contacted the state Attorney General's office for complaints. She then said I could bring my car to another AAMCO center in the area and we could work something out. I told her I would think about it and call her back.
I thought about it for a few hours, and decided that, although they had made 7 unsuccessful attempts to repair the vehicle, I would hear what they had to offer. I called Barbara back, and she said that she would arrange a discounted repair with another AAMCO service center because of all I had been through. She gave me a list of 3 repair centers within 1 - 2 hours of my home. I said that the Smithfield location sounded the closest, and she said she would contact them and explain the situation. I was called later by Alicia from the Smithfield center. I explained my situation to her, and stressed how the trans had failed those two particular times. She agreed that I had been through a lot with all these repairs, and that they should be able to work out something that would not be costly to myself, and that I would get a quality repair that would last. She then asked if this is what I wanted. I said that I needed to get my car repaired , properly and dependably this time, and that after all the inconveniences I had experienced already, I wanted a guarantee that this time the trans would last the 5 years I had reason to expect. Also, I had quotes from other places that were less than their price I had originally been charged , and that I expected this discounted price to be less than half of that. She then offered to send a tow truck to get my car, so they could start working on it right away. I said, Hold on! Before you take the car, what exactly are you going to offer me? What is this discounted price going to be? She said she needed to call Barbara again, and that she would call me right back.
About an hour later, she called back. Her offer was $900 for another rebuilt transmission with a 12 month warranty, plus over $200 for a torque converter!!! The original repair price was $862 including tax. How was over eleven hundred dollars a discounted price fron $862??? I had to ask her to repeat her statement - not because I didn't understand what she said - I just couldn't believe she was saying it!!! I thought : These people don't want to help satisfy me, they don't have any concern that the manner in which these transmissions failed put my family in danger, or that these inconveniences cost me and my wife time away from work. They just want to get more money out of me!!!
I told Alicia that that was just ridiculous, and so far out of the ballpark that I couldn't see us working anything out. She suggested I call Barbara. I tried, but was only able to leave a message on her answering machine to call me back. I did not hear from her on Friday.
I am glad that I questioned Alicia before letting them tow my car away. It would have been over sixty miles from my house, in pieces, when they called with that absurd offer. I would have been stuck with my car disabled at their service center, with this ridiculous repair offer to get my car back. I'm sure that if I refused the offer under those circumstances, I would have been considered unreasonable, and there would have been a hefty service charge to put my trans back together and tow the car back.
At this point, I needed to get my car somewhere I could trust to get it repaired properly, I needed the use of the car. That absurd offer from AAMCO eliminated ALL trust in them, I also want my money returned for the repairs they attempted to make. I contacted the Attourney General's Office with a copy of this statement to look into the multiple failures of these transmissions that put my family and others at risk.
I didn't receive any responce from AAMCO the following week, and brought my car to a local repair shop. I explained to the repair shop exactly what had been happening with my car during the last two years of repair attempts by AAMCO. They told me that this was not usual, and that there had to be a reason for all the failures. Upon removing the last failed transmission, it was found that the trans lines to the radiator were almost completely clogged with clutch material and debris from the transmissions. This blockage would cause the trans to run hot, and the dirt would eventually run back into the trans and cause it to fail. Since this seemed to be the likely cause of our repeated problems, the mechanic was uneasy about rebuilding a trans with all this debris throughout, and suggested that he obtain a similar trans, rebuild it, and replace the old one. In order to clean the lines carrying the trans fluid, he had to force 6 cans of cleaning solvent through the lines and the radiator, and then install a special in-line filter to catch any dirt loosened to protect the transmission. I was instructed to bring the car back after 2 weeks and then once a month to change the filter.
The first 2 filters did show some more dirt that had come loose when it was cut open, but the third was virtually clean. It is amazing that seven repairs were made, and this problem wasn't noticed. This should have been cleaned during the first repair, and they should have caught it when the failure happened. I have receipts for the replacement transmission and for the filters that were necessary to solve the problem. I have had no further problems with the car, and believe that it has now been properly and dependably repaired.
A month after I called Barbara the last time, on February 17, 2000, I received a phone call from her. She asked if I had done anything about my car. I told her that I had it repaired at a local shop. She replied, That's too bad. The original repair shop was going to offer to do a no-charge repair. I told her that could have been a possible solution a month and a half ago, but my car needed to be fixed and I couldn't be expected to wait that long to get it repaired. I also asked why she hadn't answered my last phone call. She told me she was busy and had many other matters to take care of. I informed her that I have tried several times now to allow AAMCO to resolve the matters themselves, and that now, I wanted my money back for the attempted repairs. She said that she would contact the service center to see what they would do.
I recently received the responce to my complaint from the Attorney General saying that AAMCO stated that they had offered me a no-charge repair, and that I had refused it. I don't feel that That's too bad. They were going to offer you a no-charge repair, constitutes an offer.
I have been advised that persuing this through court would probably take alot of time on my part, and on the part of any witnesses, and I have not decided whether or not to take this course of action. However, it is not right that the public not hear about the manner in which this large company handles its customers. It is not right that they continue to offer such poor work and get rich on their failures. It has been 2 years of aggravation on the part of myself and my wife. I hope that advertising their carelessness will cause them financial damage, and demonstrate that they must change their practice to keep their customers. If they were a decent company, their discounted repair would have been a genuine offer, instead of an insult. It cost me $300 less to have the repair done by an independent center compared to their quoted discount. That's alot of money to pay for a name.
If this incident has influenced you, I advise you to steer clear of the AAMCO Transmission Service Centers, especially in Raleigh. Please check with local, independent shops to avoid spending prime dollars on empty names.