I immediately called Mike at Pep Boys. I told him everything that my mechanic had just told me and stressed that he had not touched anything on the car and would send notes as to what they saw when they put the car on the lift. Mike said “We did not touch any part of your hydraulic braking system when we worked on your brakes last week, so there would have been no reason to put any brake fluid in your car. However, I will pay for the tow from there to here and take a look at it.”
I told my mechanic what Mike said. He laughed and said, “If he changed out the brake pads and rotors he had to remove the calipers and when doing that he would have lost brake fluid and would have automatically added to replace it. He also should have bled the brakes to make sure the new system was working properly.” He explained that it was standard procedure and no other mechanics would tell me otherwise. Turns out he was right, I called several other shops while waiting to hear back from Pep Boys and was told by all of them that if Pep Boys was trying to say otherwise, they were hiding something. I also checked my detailed receipt for my Silver Service Brake Job I was charged for after Pep Boys had preformed a full brake inspection (which includes hydraulic fluid inspection). Pep Boys claims to perform the following for a Silver Brake Service:
Just replacing pads or shoes may not ensure your vehicles braking system is working as originally designed. Hardware wears down and degrades over time. Attaching hardware is critical to the efficient operation of the braking system. Includes:
Machining of Drums/ Rotors
Complete Brake Fluid Exchange
When Mike called me back 4 hours later he insisted: “After inspection of your car by our Master Auto Technician we found that there is indeed a foreign substance that is contaminating your brake fluid. We took a look at the film that we recorded of your service that day and it shows that no one added any fluid to your brake system. We can’t explain how it got there, or what it is, but it has caused extensive damage to your car. We can start by changing out the master cylinder and go from there, but that will run you $1,300.00.”
I was stunned! “Wait a minute, you’re telling me that you looked closely at 6 hours of video and can prove that at no time did anyone add fluid to my car? What about the fact that you performed a complete oil change while it was there? What about the fact that you told me that you removed the calipers to lube them? You would have needed to bleed and replace brake fluid for that alone.”
He denied removing the calipers. I said “Yes, you did and the mechanic himself told me he did.” After a brief pause, he replied, “Well he never had to unhook the hose to do that, so he didn’t lose any fluid and therefore had no reason to touch your brake fluid.”
Completely outraged I asked “So how do you suppose this happened? Are you saying I contaminated the brake fluid?”
He replied “I don’t know how it happened, you admitted to having someone else work on the brakes in November, so that alone says it’s not our responsibility.”
“Prepare everything you have, cause I am sending my brother over there to see you and discuss this and then I’m calling a lawyer, this is complete bull shit and you know it.” I hung up.
My friend’s husband Bob drove to Pep Boy immediately. Bob has been working on cars for years. Bob said the tape they were offering as evidence was 2 minutes long and showed a young man working on the car. He opened and removed the cap to my brake fluid but did not add anything, however the brakes where still on the car at that time, so the tape proved nothing. Bob argued with them for an hour, told them they caused the issue and they were trying to take advantage of me. The service manager agreed to every one of Bob’s points about the dos and dont’s of mechanics and changing brakes, but still stayed firm that Pep Boys would not be held responsible for the brake system failure, for the leaking front caliper or the contaminated brake fluid. They would not agree to bleed the brakes in front of Bob and let Bob test drive it because it was way too dangerous for anyone to drive and they could not take that responsibility. They would, however, tow the car back to my home for free.
Bob left exasperated and very upset. His final words to Mike where “You did a break job on a car you knew was being driven by a teenage boy, you inspected those brakes, certified your work and let that boy leave this service station in a vehicle that very well could have killed him because of your poor work, and you are taking no responsibility for that at all.”
Bad Experience with Pep Boys Corporate
I contacted Pep Boys Corporate Office. They told me someone would contact me within 48 hours with a solution. Of course 48 hours came and went, so I called back. I was given a case number and told it was still pending and I needed to contact the store manager for an answer. I called and spoke to the Regional General Manager, Hope. Hope told me what I had already heard, they had reviewed the tape, and nothing was added. Their master mechanic, whom she said had no reason to lie, told her I was lying about the front right caliper leaking. I ended the conversation with the facts. “Fact is you had my car in for a break job, you performed a full brake inspection, fixed my brakes, inspected it again and sent it home with me. The next time I got in the car to drive it there was a major brake issue that totaled my car. Common sense says that Pep Boys is responsible, end of story. Now you’re either going to fix your mistake or tell me to go to hell. Which is it?” Her reply was that risk management had to review the case and I should have an answer by Friday, maybe. Something tells me I’ve been given the brush off.
Pep Boys claims they stand behind their work. Unless they break something. Then you get the shaft. This is why women cringe when their car breaks down, this is why the little American guy hates corporate America, this is my David and Goliath story of a single mom trying to save the only car her son has to get to work until he completes high school and heads off for the United States Navy. This is what Pep Boys Customer Relations really are about, profit, plain and simple.