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Better Business Bureau: Buyer beware on road trip repairs

PHOENIX -- If you're planning a road trip anytime soon, make sure anyone who is working on your car before you go is doing the job right.

I recently learned that the hard way.

My family and I started on our summer road trip to Yellowstone National Park on a Saturday a few weeks ago.

We were traveling north on I-17. We were eager to hit the road, so I decided to wait until we got to Flagstaff before stopping for a while to get an oil change. After all, the Tucson-based car repair chain where I normally take my car in Phoenix also has a location in Flagstaff.

I was wrong to assume the work there would be as good.

"It's important to know that with a lot of the different franchise repair shops, there are different owners and different managers," said Felicia Thompson of the Arizona Better Business Bureau. "Sometimes the work will result in a different result."

She said being on a road trip is not the time to try out a shop that you're not familiar with.

The mechanic in Flagstaff told us the oil change was complete and the car was ready for the long trip to Yellowstone. We paid the $51 bill and we were back on the road, unaware there was something wrong with the car.

When we reached Kanab, Utah, the oil pressure light came on.

I checked the dipstick and found the car was completely out of oil. We called Triple-A, which sent out a tow truck. The driver got under the car and said it appeared to him that the oil change had not been done properly and all of the oil had leaked out of the car. Because it was Saturday night, and everything in Kanab is closed on Sunday, we would not be able to have the car completely checked until his repair shop opened on Monday morning. Fortunately, we had already planned to spend the weekend with relatives in Kanab.

On Monday, the mechanic's diagnosis was confirmed. It took $33 to pay to have everything "tightened up," and a car diagnostic showed there were no other problems. We were able to continue our long-planned Yellowstone vacation.

I kept all of the repair receipts. On our way back to Phoenix, we returned to the shop in Flagstaff. I calmly explained all that had happened, presented the paperwork, and told the manager, "I don't think I should have to pay for this." He agreed. He apologized and reimbursed all expenses.

Thompson said I was right to insist the company that did the oil change pay for all of my repairs.

"We always advise... let the company know there's an issue to see if they're going to take care of it, and how they'll take care of it, and then go from there," she said.

In my case, the repair shop did make things right. We were staying with relatives, so we did not incur any hotel expenses in Kanab.

Thompson said things could get complicated if you try to get the mechanic to reimburse you for lodging.

She said if you're not happy with the way a company treats you, call the Better Business Bureau.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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