Don’t Be a Mule: Auto Repair

by David Bakke

pep boysI drive an older car. Truth be told, my car is not older, it is just plain OLD. It is a 1994 Toyota Tercel. It is one of the best investments I have ever made. People have told me over and over again to get a new one, but there just doesn’t seem to be much of a point. I runs fine, and gets me from Point A to Point B.

But of course, some things are starting to go wrong with it as it gets up in years. About two weeks ago, it just plain stopped running. It happened at work, and because of some other scheduling things, I did not have the time to get it towed to my regular shop (and obviously, could not have it towed to my “car repair guy”) because I needed it back in a hurry.

I had heard that Pep Boys recently started offering a towing service, and obviously, they do car repairs as well. Without checking the internet for reviews, or even asking ay friends or family what they knew about Pep Boys, I dove in. Scheduled the tow, told them what was wrong, and went from there. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but this could turn out to be a very expensive mistake.

The towing fee was $39 (which is actually a good price). The diagnostic fee was $89 (which is about twice what my repair shop charges). But, I was in a bind, and I needed my car back fast. After they had my car about three hours, they called back and said that the timing needed to be reset on the engine. This was pretty much what I thought it was. But (and here we go), they also claimed that my head gaskets needed to be replaced at the wonderful cost of $2600!!

Mind you, this is a car with a Kelly Blue Book value of about $500. As soon as I heard this come out of the guy’s mouth, I knew they were trying to take me for a ride. I didn’t even let him finish his line of BS before I told him if that was the case, do no touch the car and I’ll be back in the morning to pick it up. Then, of course, he backtracked off of the $2600, and said I could have the timing reset only, it’s just that the car “might not run right” (nothing more than a scare tactic).

The price he quoted me was I think $385 to reset the timing. Now, this repair involves no parts whatsoever, they just go in and well, reset something. $385 sounded somewhat high to me, but once again, I was in a jam. I authorized the repair.

Got a call the following afternoon saying my car was finished. But (lots of “buts” with these cats), they claimed they had to change the oil and change my air filter to get my car to “run right”. This is just about the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard in my life. Fighting back my anger, at first I just said, “Oh really, could you break down those two charges for me?” I was told that the air filter cost $19.99 and the oil change was $39.99. (A new air filter for my car costs about $7, and I can change my own oil for about $12). After he told me that, I simply asked if the car started after the repair but before the air filter and the oil change. He said yes, just “not right.” I then stated that they just completed unauthorized repairs on my car, and they can either credit them back to me or I can take it up with my lawyer.

The guy said he’d be happy to take the air filter out and drain the oil (do you believe the nerve of these people?) I told him to do what he needed to do, I wasn’t paying for it.

I came and picked up my car and paid the bill-a grand total of $587. They were even nice enough to include a $35 shop fee, which I could never get a satisfactory explanation on when I inquired as to exactly what that was for. By the way, they took the oil change and air filter off, and I checked, and they didn’t drain the oil nor take the air filter out.

Feeling totally ripped off, I called two certified mechanics to ask about how much this repair should have cost. The estimates I got on the repair itself were between $65 and $100. And I paid $385 (they even were nice enough to put on my invoice that I was charged $102 per hour for labor).

I recently wrote a letter of complaint to their corporate offices, and am awaiting a reply. I am not expecting a good result, but we’ll see. The best result I can think of is that they cut this repair in half and refund me the “shop fee”, which would be about $225. I would be incredibly satisfied with that. Something tells me though, that I may never get close to that.

I’ll save all of my “lessons learned” for a follow-up post, because there are far too many on this one. If you Google “Pep Boys rip off” though you’ll begin to see what I am talking about.

Stay tuned, I’ll update you as soon as this plays itself out.


1 Robert J. Fischer March 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Small claims court is a very easy way to get people’s attention. It can be stressful, but useually the judge will let you state your case. Many times the judge will suggest arbitration and this will get the matter settled. If you really think they screwed you, I wouldn’t let them get away with it.

2 David Bakke March 5, 2010 at 7:50 pm


I’ll take a look at that, depedning on what their response is to my initial inquiry.

Thanks for the tip–I’d have no problems doing it. In fact, I think I’d learn a lot from the experience.

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