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How to avoid getting burned by auto repair shop

A reader: My 2009 sedan started making a noise when I came to a stop. I took it into a local auto repair shop close to my office, and they told me it was my front brakes and that they needed to be replaced. So, I had them do the repairs.

The car was still making the same noise so I took it back. Then they told me it had to do with my transmission and it was going to cost another $600 on top of the $300 I already paid for the brakes. I didn’t want to pay them more, so I took my car to another repair shop. The problem turned out to be my alternator, which I had repaired. Now the noise is gone. I feel as if the brake job was an unnecessary repair. The first repair shop refuses to refund my money. What do I do?

Action Line: I sympathize with you. Although there is no guarantee that you can get your money refunded, you do have options.

First, I hope you kept your estimate and receipts so you have proof of the repair. Contact the company that did the repairs the first time to see if they will work with you on a refund. You should always give the company a chance to resolve the problem before you file a complaint.

If they do not want to work with you, then go to and file a complaint. You can also file a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repair at 800-952-5210. BAR is the agency in the state of California that licenses and regulates auto repair companies.

For future reference, BBB always recommends that you check the Business Review of a company on our website or call us to get background information that will help you make a wise buying decision. You can check to see how long they have been in business, if they have any complaints, check to see if they have any Customer Reviews posted, etc.

You can normally find information on their BAR license as well. Also, check with people you know and trust to see if they would recommend a repair shop.

You can also use the BBB’s Request-A-Quote program. Go to, click the Request-A-Quote button and enter your information. Within 24 hours, you should receive free estimates from auto repair shops in your area. This service is available for all industries.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or