WINK News Investigates: Woman hits the brakes on car repair runaround

Published: April 29, 2022 4:08 PM EDT
Updated: May 12, 2022 10:40 AM EDT

Brittany Zaldin took her car in for simple repairs more than two months ago. After that, she says her car got worse. It wasn’t until she took it to another shop and they looked under the hood, that she realized the disaster that she was dealing with.

“That’s how it all started,” Zaldin explained, “with a traction light, and a check engine light.”

A small beginning to what turned into a huge nightmare for Zaldin, who is an ICU nurse in Naples and needs her car.

She is a lifelong Firestone Complete Auto Care customer, so when she saw her dashboard flash warning lights a couple of months ago, that’s where she took her car, to the location on Pine Ridge Road near Collier Boulevard in Collier County.

Zaldin said, “At this point, I’m worried about how to get to work and how to make sure that I can get there on time.”

The vice president of communications for the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, Trish Serratore, said Zaldin was smart to go with a shop she felt comfortable with and recommends drivers to do research before getting work done on their cars.”

“Check with friends and neighbors,” Serratore added. Saying you should ask, “Who’s had good experiences? Who has cars that are similar to yours? Do your research before you need the shop and do a little research in your neighborhood.”

Records show Firestone re-attached skid pads and replaced a spark plug, battery, and radiator, but Zaldin says the issues continued weeks after she took her car home.

Zaldin said, “They checked the car again and they said, ‘oh yeah, I can feel that something is wrong.'”

This is where she said the real issues began. Records show Zaldin took her car back to Firestone three more times until she realized the issue still wasn’t fixed, so she took her car to a different Firestone shop.

“He was so embarrassed,” Zaldin recalled. “He used the word egregious. He said ‘I’m so ashamed.'”

Her boyfriend Scott Burton walked us through the work:

Scott: “It’s just being held together by zip ties.”

Scott: “They showed us this metal bracket. During the initial service, they stripped a bolt off and broke it. Instead of telling us, they just cut a piece of scrap metal and bolted it to hold this coil in place.”

Zaldin said the second Firestone location told her they couldn’t do any work and that she had to file a claim with Firestone corporate.

She said the second shop claimed her car had been damaged by the initial repair job with scrap metal attached to the engine. Zaldin said they told her “At this point, because of all the damage that was done, you need a whole new motor.”

We reached out to the second firestone location for more information about the car’s condition but they declined to comment.

Serratore said it’s rare for shops to do damage during repairs but it can happen. “We are all human. Mistakes are made. Doctors make mistakes, and technicians make mistakes too … Cars are complicated, right?”

Zaldin said her engine was leaking fluids and not functioning properly. Even worse, a new engine would cost more than $10,000 and she had to drive a rental car for weeks.

“My car was fine before the engine light came on. If they hadn’t perpetuated the damage, then I wouldn’t have a problem.” Zaldin claims. “It’s been a horrible ordeal.”

She filed a claim with Firestone corporate but couldn’t get anyone on the phone or find any progress to follow up through email.

“I didn’t get a timeline, nobody was reaching out to me, nothing. And I thought that was really weird,” she said.

That’s when WINK News stepped in.

We visited the initial Firestone location but the manager wasn’t in and didn’t call after we left our information.

However, just a few hours later we did get a call from their corporate team.

Within a day, Firestone and Zaldin were in contact. By the end of the week, they’d reached a settlement.

“Most facilities, because they want to keep your business, they don’t want a bad review … They’re gonna do what they can to make it right,” Serratore explained. “That’s what good shops do.”

Zaldin isn’t allowed to discuss her settlement, but Firestone sent me a statement saying:

“We aim to be the most trusted provider of tire and automotive care in every neighborhood we serve, and customer service is one of our top priorities. We are pleased to have partnered with the customer to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.”

As for the initial Firestone location, we never heard back from their manager.

ASE recommends you look for their Blue Seal of excellence before you get work done. You can click here for a Blue Seal shop locator.

The seal means that means your technician has been certified for quality care.

According to ASE’s database, the initial Firestone location did not have this seal at the time they worked on Zaldin’s car.