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Probe: January 4, 2001

January 03, 2001

QUESTION: I took my car to a garage to have the transmission rebuilt. It was in the garage a month. The charge was $1,350.

The repair seemed to be fine for a month, then the transmission quit shifting. I took it back to the garage. Six weeks later it was still not repaired.

Having my car sidelined was a nightmare. I had to beg rides or call a taxicab. I live in Calexico and work in El Centro.

Finally I told the repairman to refund my money so I could take the car to another shop.

He gave me $800, telling me he would give me the remaining $550 later.

I took the car to another garage where the mechanic replaced the transmission for $1,200. I am still trying to collect the $550 from the first mechanic.

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Help. I am so broke I couldn't come up with $5 if I broke my piggy bank, cleaned my purse and looked under my sofa cushions. — Single Woman, Calexico

You're going to have more trouble shaking money out of the mechanic who rebuilt your transmission.

He said you invalidated the "warranty" when you took your car to a second garage to repair the transmission.

Anyway, he said, he could not return your money because it was a computer problem that kept your transmission from shifting after he rebuilt it.

He said you signed a statement that you would be responsible if you took the car out of his garage. He said he would bring us the document so we could look it over but he didn't.

He had a better argument but he didn't use it. Most warranties have a clause giving a manufacturer or a repairman the option of repairing a guaranteed product.

We didn't see his warranty so we don't know if he gave himself that loophole.

You gave him plenty of time to repair the transmission. The second shop made the repair by replacing it with a rebuilt transmission for less money than rebuilding it.

You may have to take this to small claims court and let a judge decide.

QUESTION: Last weekend a man came to my house and asked some personal questions.

He showed me a "badge" but it looked so sleazy it aroused my suspicions. It looked like it had been made on a computer and laminated in plastic.

I wrote down his car license number. I called the sheriff's substation in Brawley. About an hour later a deputy came to my house.

He said he traced the driver's license to a Brawley address. He didn't tell me anything more. Can you check this out? — Worried, Niland

A spokeswoman at the Brawley substation said she didn't know of other reports of a house-to-house surveyor asking personal questions.

Maybe our PROBE readers will know more. We intend to pursue this further.

GOOD LISTENERS — We are pleased the woman with a Christmas dilemma found someone to listen when she called the SURE Helpline center at 6:45 p.m. Saturday before Christmas.

The helpline takes calls 24 hours a day from such persons in distress. We refer them to appropriate agencies. …. Many of our calls come in the middle of the night and the caller may have to wait for assistance until other agencies open. — Helpline Director, El Centro

We don't think there was any implied criticism in the woman's reference to the helpline.

Her call to you was an indication of her despair after she realized her kids were facing Christmas with empty bellies and no presents.

You helped her get through it by listing possible options if she could make it through the holiday weekend.

We're pleased because PROBE readers helped her "make it through December" and maybe through January.

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