AAMCO's "Repairs" Imperil Motorist

Justin took his Taurus into AAMCO for transmission repairs, only to endure a month of repairs that left his car in no better shape, and it ended up endangering his life.

When Justin finally took the 1994 Ford Taurus home from the mechanic’s twenty-four days later, the car made strange new noises. It also was missing its front disc brakes.

He had the car towed back and repaired. When driving the newly repaired car, it stalled in the middle of a freeway intersection. He took it back for further repairs. Driving it afterwards, the transmission once again slipped out.

Justin contacted AAMCO corporate, who told him that the franchise owner refused the refund.

Initially, Sunflower Bank approved Justin’s chargeback, but later refused it, saying…

UPDATE: Justin writes, “We spoke to a rude lady who kept changing her story. First, she said that we can’t have a dispute if they put a new transmission in (working or not). I told her that made absolutely no sense. After 10 minutes of going back and forth, she changed her story to: “take it to another mechanic, pay them to look at it, and have them send us something saying it’s not working right.” My concern with this: Could Aamco could blame another mechanic for opening the transmission (possibly voiding the warranty)?”

When Justin asked his bank to do a chargeback, Sunflower Bank said,

By signing the sales receipt you authorized the merchant to bill your account for the transaction and agreed to the terms and conditions of the sale. Since the transaction was face to face, the cardholder is responsible for determining what they are agreeing to prior to accepting the transaction. We cannot dispute verbal quotes or promises in situations involving a signed document.

Our advice to Justin is to shake the contact tree at Sunflower Bank and try to kick his issue up to a more senior representative. Their reason for refusing the chargeback makes no sense and we’d like to chalk it up to an inexperienced employee working in a tiny bank. If that’s fruitless, small claims court may be the way to go.

Justin’s official letter of complaint:

December 27, 2006
Aamco Transmissions
Attn Franchise Owner
6144 Merriam Lane
Shawnee Mission, Kansas 66203

Dear Aamco Franchise Owner,

This letter is in response to service rendered at the Aamco, located at 6144 Merriam Lane in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. The services were performed on a 1994 Ford Taurus, in accordance with invoice number 127117.

On the morning of October 16, 2006, I initiated a service call to Aamco to have our 1994 Ford Taurus towed into your shop. Two days passed before I received a call about the condition of our automobile. Your shop manager, John, told me that the vehicle needed a new transmission. John let me know the transmission would cost between $1100 (if it was only the transmission) and $1500 (if the torque converter needed replaced). After I received the pricing information, we spent the next two days discussing the investment in the automobile. I called John again on, or about, October 23, authorizing him to begin work on the automobile.

Throughout the next ten business days, I called five or six times to inquire about the status of our automobile. Each time I was told by John that he would call me by the end of the business day with an update. In those ten days, we never received a telephone call.

On the morning of Friday, November 3, I received a call from John. While I was expecting to hear that the car had been finished, he told me that the price was going to be $500 more than what he previously quoted, giving us a total of $2000 to repair the transmission. John assured me that he would have the automobile finished in two business days if we decided to accept this new price. At this point, we had been without our car for eighteen days. I told John that I needed to discuss my options with the rest of the people involved.

On Monday afternoon, November 6, I called John and authorized him to begin work on the car. Two days came and went, and once again I received no telephone call. On the afternoon of Thursday, November 8, I called John to inquire about the status of the car. John told me the car was being worked on, and he would do his best to get it done that day. He told me he would call me by noon the next day with an update. On Friday, 12:00 p.m. came and went, with no call from John or Aamco. I called John around 3 p.m. to find out if the car was going to be held through another weekend. He assured me the transmission was being put in as we spoke, and that he would try his best to have the vehicle ready by 5 p.m. At 4:45 p.m. I called John again, to see if the vehicle was ready. He told me that he planned to stay late to finish up the automobile.

At 5:45 p.m., Friday evening, John called to tell me the vehicle was ready to go. He then informed me that “the car needs brakes all the way around” and “it is leaking engine coolant.” He then offered to put brakes on it. I declined this offer for two reasons: 1) there was nothing wrong with the brakes when we brought it in and 2) I didn’t have much trust in Aamco’s service at this point. I arrived at the Aamco shop around 6 pm to pick up the vehicle. I had John run the credit card payment through, and I signed the necessary papers. When I started to pull away in the automobile, it was making noises that it had never made before. The car was grinding and squealing as if metal was rubbing against metal. I drove the car home and got to my driveway. My driveway has a slight slope to it, and I was unable to stop the vehicle (as there were no front brakes). The vehicle slammed into the curb and finally came to a stop.

The next day, I jacked the car up and took off the tire to look at the brakes. Another witness, Larry McLary (whose notarized statement is available upon request) was with me as I looked at the braking system. The entire braking system was loose, and the caliper was grinding into the rotor. The brake pad, which was still relatively new, was not even close to the rotor. While we were looking at the brakes, we noticed they had left one of their bungee tie downs in the car, proof the work was done quickly and poorly. We put the tire back on, and lifted the other side of the vehicle. Before we even took the tire off, we noticed that the entire wheel moved back and forth without loosening the lug nuts. I took some video of the braking system with my camera phone, as further proof of the sloppy work.

On November 13, the Schmelzle’s and I called Sunflower Bank to dispute the credit card charge Aamco had put on Friday night. I recounted the events leading up to that day with the representative, who approved the dispute on the charge. I then left a message with the Aamco corporate office, to let them know what had happened. Within a couple hours, I received a call back from a representative of Aamco corporate office. They recorded the incident, and told me I would receive a follow up call shortly. At that point, I received a call from you. You informed me that John would be calling me to have the vehicle towed back to the shop.

Two more days passed, and I received a call from John to let me know that the vehicle had been repaired. He told me the braking and wheel system had been replaced. I thanked him for taking care of the situation, and picked up the car that afternoon. I drove the car for a week, and determined the services paid for had been satisfied. The bank was then notified that the dispute could be removed, and payment could be released.

On Monday, December 4, my fianc

e Sara and I were attempting to cross the freeway. As we went to cross the freeway, the car stalled. It sounded as if the vehicle was in Park and it did not move. After a short period of fear, the car shifted into gear and we made it across the dangerous intersection. I immediately drove the car over to Aamco and let them know the vehicle was still not fixed. After another two days in the shop, I received a voicemail from John. He told me he had figured out what was wrong, and that I should call him to pick up the vehicle. I called him and he let me know that they had forgotten to hook up the “power steering switch”. I was unsure what this exactly meant, as my knowledge of the inner workings of an engine is foreign to me. I picked up the vehicle, and drove it back to work to make sure everything was working fine. As I was crossing the intersection of 95th and Quivira, the vehicle’s transmission once again “slipped” and I was stuck again. After a few seconds the vehicle jerked hard, and began to move. This was the final straw for me. I called Sunflower Bank to have them reopen the dispute case, and begin the chargeback process.

This whole experience has not only been a nightmare financially, but has also put our lives in danger due to the poor work performed. Twice, Aamco admitted to, and fixed, things they had neglected to do right the first time. Having no front brakes on the vehicle could have endangered me, or my fianc

e, and whoever else would have been unfortunate enough to come into contact with this vehicle. Having the transmission slip while we were crossing a busy freeway could have caused serious harm or death, due to improperly hooking up the power steering. I will not allow my life, or the lives of my loved ones, to be put in jeopardy over careless work. We have been lucky nothing has happened to us so far, but I will not wait until I am about to be run over by a semi to find out what new Aamco mistake will be found. We have been without an automobile for almost a full month, though I will admit that we took five of those days for decision making. This has caused thousands of miles, wear and tear, and gas to be used on other personal vehicles as a result of the vehicle being out of commission.

As a result of this, we refuse to make payment on services rendered. The bank has been informed of the dispute, and has taken the necessary steps to begin the chargeback procedures. We do not authorize any further work to be done on this vehicle. Please let us know what steps you would like to take to rectify this situation.


William E. and Judith A. S.
Justin R. R. and Sara J. S.