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Customers upset with auto shop service complain to state

(KATU Photo)

Last December, Angel Rodriguez took his car to Brake Team Vancouver to replace brake pads and rotors.

Rodriguez asked us to not show his face for privacy reasons.

Almost immediately, Rodriguez says he got a funny feeling because the shop seemed run-down, but he decided to go ahead with the service since he was already there.

"That's really what drew me to them was because they did seem friendly," Rodriguez said. "When I looked them up, they were the first ones up online."

He left his car at the shop for a couple of hours

When he returned, he says something wasn’t right.

"I saw them driving it back-and-forth in the parking lot and trying to move it around," Rodriguez said. "I asked him if everything was OK and they were like, oh, I think your rear brakes are engaged, I don't know why."

Rodriguez says mechanics had trouble with the rear calipers because of the car's computer system.

He claims mechanics didn’t reset the calipers when they installed new brake pads.

He says mechanics told him that he needed to return with his car at a later date once Brake Team ordered the machine used to reset the onboard computer.

Rodriguez paid the $1,200 charge for service and left.

"You just have a feeling sometimes," he said. "It felt that way."

The car seemed to be driving okay, until the next day.

"I felt a weird wobble," Rodriguez told KATU.

It was his tire, hanging on by a single lug nut. Rodriguez took pictures and a video before his vehicle was towed.

"I was very fortunate that the tire didn't fall off," he said.

This time he took his car to another third-party mechanic and the dealership. The dealership told Rodriguez he needed more than $15,000 in new repairs to fix the damage done by Brake Team.

Among some of the repairs, the dealership told him he needed to replace his transmission and a lot of brake components.

“[The] transmission went into limp mode because they test drove the car with the rear brakes engaged," Rodriguez said of Brake Team. "[The dealership] also said that I need a new braking system, the rotors were burnt.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, Brake Team Vancouver scores an "F" rating- with 21 customer complaints in the past 3 years- failing to respond to 19 of those.

The BBB identifies Patrick Walby as Brake Team's owner.

Walby has since sold the Vancouver shop, now called Brake Tech and operating under new ownership.

A records check shows Walby and Brake Team were sued more than dozen times in the last 5 years.

In 2016, Oregon's Department of Consumer & Business Services fined Walby more than $133,000 after they found he did not insure his business and employees, which is against state law.

According to the Oregon Department of Revenue, the fine is outstanding.

We found Walby outside another Brake Tech location in Beaverton- where he told KATU he handles marketing.

When asked about the fine, he said "I don’t have $133,000.”

Another records check reveals Walby rarely shows up to court.

Walby says it's because he does not receive court documents.

"If I'm supposed to be in court, I show up to court," Walby told KATU in an interview. "I don't have anything to hide, I'm not trying to hide anything."

More than two dozen customers in the last decade have filed complaints against various Brake Team shops with the Oregon Department of Justice.

The DOJ could not say publicly if there is an open investigation.

Benjamin Gough also took his car to Brake Team Vancouver last year.

"You see a sweet deal, may be too good to be true," Gough told KATU.

Like Rodriguez Gough says he also had a bad experience.

"I start pulling out and I heard this lurch in the left tire," he said. "I got to the corner and I could feel it vibrating, and I'm thinking, oh God, I got to turn around."

Before he could stop, he says the tire flew off and started rolling down the street.

He says Brake Team mechanics neglected to tighten the lug nuts.

The car appears to chip the pavement as seen in a picture Gough took.

Gough says he and Walby signed an agreement that Walby would pay for the repairs done at a different shop. Gough provided that document to KATU.

Gough says Walby did not follow-through and pay for the repairs.

Gough says he paid $290 at Brake Team. The repairs at another shop set the Navy Veteran back more than $2,000.

"He wouldn't provide insurance information to me," Gough said. "He wouldn't provide anything."

Gough told KATU he was filing a complaint through the Washington Department of Justice.

While Rodriguez, facing a $15,000 repair bill, went a different route.

His insurance company declared the car totaled.

His attorney sent a letter to Brake Team demanding restitution. Rodriguez says it went unanswered.

Rodriguez contacted Washington's Consumer Resource Division, who also sent a letter to Brake Team. However, that wasn't answered either.

Consumer law attorney Michelle Freed says courts can give you judgments for claims and restitution, but there is no such thing as a debtor's jail.

It's not the answer consumers want to hear.

"You have to really look at whether you're throwing good money after bad to continue to chase somebody down," Freed told KATU. "The courts aren't in the business and couldn't take on what it means to try to collect on these individual judgments."

Before you hire a mechanic, the DOJ recommends you do your research.

Check with the state's consumer complaint database. Oregon / Washington

Got to the BBB to ensure a shop has a good rating.

Ask friends and family for referrals before you make purchase goods or services.

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