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Auto repair bill turns up much higher than anticipated

Auto repair bill turns up much higher than anticipated

Q: I took my 1999 Volkswagen Jetta to Western Auto Home & Garden Center in Hudson to have some repair work done.

The initial estimate of $1,144.07 was for a long list of recommended repairs. Within the first week I was informed that it would take longer to get the correct parts and cost much more than the original estimate, but I did not receive a copy of the new invoice until I picked up my car. That was 19 days after I brought in my car; the total cost came to $1,844.07.

When I picked up my car the "check engine" light was on. The mechanic told me that it would take a week or so for all the engine and exhaust gaskets that he replaced to reseal and I should return the car to reset the engine and make final adjustments.

After returning the car I was told it needed additional work to the exhaust system at the cost of $755.79.

I took it to two other shops for second opinions and it was determined the exhaust system was fine but I ended up paying $392 in labor to the Volkswagen dealership to readjust the timing of a belt installed by Western Auto. Additional repairs were necessary for a total of $1,066.15.

I returned to Western Auto with invoices from Volkswagen and asked for a refund of just the labor costs of $392. The owner of Western Auto said it was not its responsibility, that it was the mechanic's, who had left its employment a few days after I got my car back. I asked if Western Auto would honor its 30-day warranty on labor and was told no.

I do not understand why Western Auto will not honor its warranty, why there were such changes in the estimates or how Western Auto missed so many things that it wound up costing me an additional $1,066.15 at a separate auto shop.

I would also like to know which brands of parts Western Auto used and how long they are under warranty.

Bradford Paul Bennett

A: Barbara Horvath, co-owner of Western Auto Home & Garden Center, said it will reimburse you the $90 labor charged to put on the timing belt, in the interest of customer satisfaction. She said "the only thing that shows any responsibility to what we did is Volkswagen readjusted the timing belt to try to put the engine light out . . ." It failed to do anything, which meant the timing belt was fine, she added. "The engine light was still on after they readjusted it."

In regard to the adjusted estimate, Horvath said Western Auto called to let you know the bill was going to be higher and you gave the okay. The Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act requires approval if the final repair cost is going to exceed the estimate by $10 or 10 percent, whichever is greater. Oral approval is fine.

Horvath explained the reason the job took so long was that the parts had to come from Volkswagen. The mechanic special-ordered parts from the manufacturer, she said, but the wrong ones were delivered. He ended up having to go to Holiday and show what he needed, Horvath said.

The parts used are Fel-Pro, the best brand in gaskets, according to Horvath, and the other parts are Volkswagen original. All the parts have a one-year warranty.

Auto repair bill turns up much higher than anticipated 02/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 11:09pm]
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