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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.