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PLEASANT HILL, Mo. — You know life isn’t going well when three police officers show up while you’re trying to get your truck back from a repair job.
The mess started about two months ago when Derek Dixon noticed on his way home from work that his 2006 diesel pickup truck was having trouble.
A trusted mechanic told Dixon he had a split piston and would need his engine rebuilt by a diesel expert.
It was a blow to Dixon, a young business owner, who said he relied on the truck to haul equipment for his lawn and garden business.
No diesel repair shop could take the truck for more than a month. So Dixon said he felt lucky when he found Lunsford Auto Care on Highway 7 in Pleasant Hill. He said the store had promised to complete the job in two weeks for around $11,000.
“It consisted of pulling the engine, taking it to the machine shop and putting it back together,” Dixon said.
The shop wanted $10,000 down payment — an unusual request since most repair shops don’t require a deposit because they have your vehicle under warranty.
Dixon paid the bond but never received a statement indicating what the repair would entail.
This turned out to be a big mistake.
After more than a month passed and Dixon still hadn’t gotten his truck back, he got worried.
“He kept coming in with issues,” Dixon said, referring to store owner Derek Bartholomew. “It needs a new turbo. It needs new head studs in the engine. He said he didn’t realize what he was getting into.
Dixon said he repeatedly asked how much he still owed, but weeks passed before he got an answer. When he did, it wasn’t good.
Instead of $11,000, Lunsford Auto Care wanted $16,000. Bartholomew insisted that Dixon had approved additional parts that significantly increased the price. However, the truck was still not in working order and has an oil leak.
“So he wants me to give him $6,000 for a total of $16,000 for a truck he doesn’t think he can get off the lot,” Dixon said.
Dixon said Bartholomew told him that if he didn’t dump the money, Lunsford Auto Care would sell his truck.
It’s something Lunsford Auto Care denied, but it’s just another reason Dixon called FOX4 Problem Solvers.
We visited Lunsford Auto Care, which has no business sign and received a C rating from the Better Business Bureau. We met Bartholomew’s mother, who told us her son wasn’t there and wouldn’t be back until late at night.
Ten minutes after we left, we got a call from Bartholomew telling us he would talk to us as long as we didn’t record anything he said.
Bartholomew said he had paperwork proving every job he did on Dixon’s truck and every part he bought. But the documents he showed us had no client names and were not dated. He did not allow us to make copies.
He did, however, offer to reduce the total price of his bill by $1,500 so that Dixon would stop complaining. Dixon declined the offer.
A few days later we were back at Lunsford Auto Care with Dixon demanding that he receive an itemized invoice from Lunsford Auto Care. He planned to turn the bill over to Pleasant Hill Police as part of a complaint he had filed.
“Will you give me an itemized bill for my truck?” Dixon asked as FOX4’s camera rolled.
Instead, Lunsford Auto Care called Pleasant Hill Police, who had visited the store twice before trying to resolve the same dispute.
A lieutenant arrived and told the men he wanted this problem fixed. He told Bartholomew to hand over an itemized receipt, which Bartholomew did.
Dixon claimed he included charges for items he paid for himself — like $600 for an injector — or didn’t approve, including a water pump and air filter.
The lieutenant told Lunsford Auto Care to reduce the bill by $3,000, release the truck and settle any remaining disputes in court.
It seemed that this problem was about to be solved.
But then the lieutenant left, another officer came and everything changed. The new officer told Dixon to pay the full bill or leave the store without his truck.
Reluctantly, Dixon paid.
So let’s add that up, including the money Dixon has already paid, it cost Dixon $16,000 to recover a truck that’s still not running and leaking oil.
Dixon took the truck to a diesel mechanic who told him the engine had been installed incorrectly. He fixed the problem for $500, but it will cost Dixon another $1,000 to fix the oil leak.
So what can Derek Dixon do?
This is not an easy problem to solve. Pleasant Hill police said they plan to refer the case to the county attorney for possible violations of Missouri consumer protection law.
Bartholomew continues to insist that he did nothing wrong. He said he treated Dixon fairly and that it was not his repair shop’s fault that Dixon’s truck had serious problems.
As you can probably guess, Dixon disagrees.
But he said he learned a costly lesson: never pay for a repair job up front and always get everything in writing.
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