Wendy Saltzman, CBS Atlanta Investigates
ATLANTAA CBS Atlanta undercover investigation is exposing how some brake shops are using fear tactics to scare customers into unneeded and costly repairs. Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman caught some shoddy shops on camera, up selling customers a bill of goods, by telling them their safety could be on the line.
"He said this is dangerous, you need to have it repaired right away," Atlanta resident Bob Souvorin told us.
Souvorin took his car to Menieke on North Druid Hills because he had a coupon for a free oil change. But he walked out with a list of expensive recommendations after they told him his brakes were in danger of imminent failure.
"He says I suggest you leave the car here, take a cab home, that's how dangerous," Souvorin said.
Souvorin declined the repairs and went to his own mechanic who said his brakes were fine. 14,000 miles and 18 months later, Souvorin said he hasn't had a single problem with his brakes.
"This was ridiculous. A year and a half later the car stops perfectly," Souvorin continued. "I think the guy is a crook. It was scare tactics."
So CBS Atlanta News rigged an unmarked car with hidden cameras and took it into 10 area repair shops for a basic brake inspection. Our station mechanics inspected our car in advance and said our brakes were working 100% perfectly.
We wanted to know if these shops would up-sell us and scare us into believing our car was unsafe to drive. And half of the stores we visited up-sold us on unnecessary repairs.
First our female producer took our car into the same Meineke Souvorin visited on North Druid Hills to see what they would sell us.
"You can hit the brake pedal, and the pads will be so hot it will be like putting two pieces of glass together," the technician told us.
He said there were heat cracks in our brake pads.
"This will make the vehicle harder to stop," he warned.
And he claimed our brake pads, that were nearly new, needed to be replaced.
Our producer asked, "Is it dangerous?" The technician replied, "It can be."
Meineke also recommended new calipers which hold the brake pads, a brake fluid flush, and new shocks on all four wheels.
"Like I say, it's not stable," the technician cautioned. "And if you go around a curb too fast, the car is going to tip over."
That sounded pretty dangerous, so we took our car back to our station mechanics for a second opinion.
"Do we need our shocks replaced on our car?" Saltzman asked the Mechanics at WT Standard. "Absolutely not," they replied.
The total estimate from Meineke on north Druid Hills was $995 dollars.
And down the road at Meineke on Duluth Highway in Lawrenceville we were also up-sold.
"You need the back rotors and pads changed," the technician told us.
We were again recommended new brake pads as well as a brake fluid flush, caliper service, and new rotors- the metal disks that are attached to the wheel.
The total up-sell this time was $353 plus tax.
And Pep Boys on Piedmont Road also made a slew of recommendations, including resurfacing our rotors.
"What will that do?" our producer asked. That will make the brakes stop a little firmer."
We were told our rotors had irregular wear. And again we were recommended new brake pads. Add to that a wheel balance and alignment our mechanics said we didn't need.
"The only reason I can see is to make money. Is to simply up-sell the vehicle," our mechanics told us.
We were up-sold a total of $519 in unneeded repairs at that Pep Boys.
And at the Firestone on Howell Mill we got a different sales tactic.
"They have hot spots on them. And if you don't turn them there is a chance they could ruin and you will have to replace them down the road which is pretty expensive," the technician warned.
This time they used the fear of costly repairs, and not safety, as the basis for recommending a rotor resurfacing, a fuel system tune-up, and a brake system flush.
"If you don't do this you could end up damaging the brakes," the technician told us.
The total up-sell was $237.
Again our mechanics said, "I just see everything as basically just an up-sell, just trying to sell you something."
And our last stop was the National Tire and Battery on the Northeast Expressway.
The technician there said, "Your brakes look fine."
We went in for a brake inspection, but walked out with all sorts of other recommended services on other parts of our car-- including new shocks, new struts, and a fuel system cleaner. It totaled $792.37 in what our mechanics said again, were unnecessary repairs.
"I don't think they are being very trustworthy there," our mechanics said.
The shops who did not overcharge us were:
- Just Brakes, 1678 Howell Mill Road Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30318-3116 (404) 367-0101
- AAMCO Transmissions & Total Car Care, 806 Northside Dr NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 (404) 418-7563
- Just Brakes Three Zero Seven, 2081 N Druid Hills Road Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30329-1845 (404) 638-6513
- Goodyear, 1921 Howell Mill Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
- Midas Duluth, 3632 Satellite Boulevard, Duluth, GA 30096(770) 476-8770
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