Investigation: Las Vegas Auto Repair Rip-Offs - 8 News NOW

Colleen McCarty, Investigative Reporter

Investigation: Las Vegas Auto Repair Rip-Offs

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Automobile related complaints top the list of consumer concerns and for good reason. And the Nevada attorney general's office is cracking down on crooked mechanics.

Based on the sheer volume of customer complaints, the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection targeted several Purrfect Auto Service Centers.

Has a car repair shop ever ripped you off? The I-Team wants to know.

The Channel 8 I-Team supplied the hidden cameras and even they couldn't believe what they caught on tape.

The shop: Purrfect Auto on Rancho and Cheyenne.

The service: A 60,000-mile routine maintenance.

The sell: "I'm sure you want to keep this all original, Acura Honda parts, correct?"

Though Rachel, the decoy, had a coupon pricing the service at $149.95.

Purrfect Auto: "That coupon you've got there is for Bosch spark plugs. You can pay for the upgrade of the plugs or don't do it at all. Don't put no cheap ass plugs in there 'cause the car won't run."

A man who introduces himself as Patrick almost triples the price. "If you did it the right way with all Acura parts, you're looking at $395.00. That's with the Acura plugs and the synthetic transmission fluid."

Rachel never receives a written estimate.

According to the coupon, they will replace the spark plugs, change the oil and filter, the transmission oil and filter, the crank case filter, the air filter, the differential fluid, drain and refill the radiator, and conduct a brake inspection.

Patrick also promises to service the battery and flush the power steering fluid.

As Rachel leaves, the mechanic goes to work unaware the Channel 8 I-Team and the Nevada attorney general's office can track his every move.

Hours earlier photojournalists David Suarez and Kyle Zuelke outfitted the bait car with hidden cameras and using low-tech materials like nail polish, paper and paint, investigators with the attorney general's office marked every part.

Two and half hours later, Rachel returns. The bill comes to $407.15. The invoice has a service we didn't ask for -- a fuel injection cleaning -- and it's missing that power steering flush Patrick promised to throw in at no charge.

He says, "This your first time in our shop? What did you think of the service?"

The I-Team reserves judgment until after the play-by-play.

We see the mechanic change the oil and the filter, drain the transmission, but then lower the car without touching the radiator. In a second bay he tops off the fluids and changes the spark plugs and then he closes the hood.

Armed with the invoice, the attorney general's investigators comb the car.

Paper in the gas tank suggests the mechanic never opened it to pour in that fuel injection cleaner. Prior to leaving the wind screen washer fluid was full, yet Purrfect Auto charged Rachel $15 to fill it.

The seal, the nail polish seal, the dark color around here on the white plastic stopper is still intact to the actual drain hole. That hasn't been broken. Marks on the radiator drain support the video that shows the mechanic never opened it.

Final tally: The technician replaced the spark plugs, changed the oil and filter, and the transmission oil and filter. The car doesn't have a crankcase or a differential, yet the invoice reflects charges for both.

The mechanic failed to replace the air filter, drain the radiator and perform the fuel injection cleaning we never requested.

The I-Team returns to the shop. "Hi, I'm Colleen McCarty. We brought a car in here last week and I've got a bill for services we didn't receive."

After some discussion, manager Patrick Yannatone explains a computer problem. "When we do a 30,000 mile maintenance, some of these things aren't on the vehicles but we have no way of taking them out of the program. So what we do, if you go to the discount, you'll see a total of 16 or 17 or whatever dollars."

The numbers don't add up.

So what about the radiator flush and the fuel injection cleaning?

Patrick first insists they were done and then admits they weren't after watching the tape and reviewing his own records.

He said, "I do apologize for whatever got overlooked. It doesn't normally happen. But it was an honest mistake, I believe. I'm more than happy to take care of it."

How he takes care of it will be up to the attorney general's office. The Bureau of Consumer Protection is reviewing its findings and deciding how to proceed.

Civil and criminal penalties are possible.

Purrfect Auto's Nevada franchiser sent this statement, "Each Purrfect Auto Service location is independently owned and operated by an individual in the local area. The events reported by Channel 8 pertain only to those locations portrayed in the report and are being reviewed by the franchiser of the Purrfect Auto Service system.

The franchiser's policy, and the policy of its franchisees, is to make sure that Purrfect Auto Service stores provide honest and quality service to its customers at a fair price and to satisfy all of its customers.

The I-Team did contact this shop's individual owner. He's yet to provide us with a response.

Email your comments to Investigative Reporter Colleen McCarty

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