Meridian woman takes on Meineke over oil filter

Meridian woman takes on Meineke over oil filter »Play Video
MERIDIAN - Maryann Matthews says she spent $3,500 on a new engine because a Meineke on Fairview put the wrong oil filter on her car.

When Matthews approached the store to get it fixed, she says she was shut down.

“We went from 'I'm a crazy liar,' to 'if we can blame someone else maybe it happened,' to 'we couldn't prove that we could blame somebody else, so you're obviously a crazy liar again,'” Matthews said.

Now she's beyond mad.

“I'm irate,” Matthews said. “I'm shocked, completely shocked... That $9.95 oil change cost me $3,500.”

Matthews has her case laid out on a coffee table in her living room. It includes photos, the offending oil filter, and pages of notes the court reporter methodically took during her month-long fight with Meineke.

Matthews says her experience has been, “The customer is wrong. Customer is completely wrong. Customer is a liar.”

Matthews story began back in June, when she went to the Meridian Meineke on Fairview in meridian for a $10 oil change.

It ended, at least for her 2006 Nissan Sentra, four months later in mid October when Matthews says the oil drained out of her car faster than she could fill it.

Her mechanic told her the culprit was a $4 part- the wrong oil filter.

When Matthews told Meineke about the alleged mistake, she says she got passed around like a hot potato by customer service
representatives who believed her one day and doubted the next.

“It was just so frustrating to have nobody be able to help you and feel like you have absolutely no recourse,” Matthews said.

Matthews says Meineke finally denied her claim after she called every other day for three weeks. She says a spokesperson told her if the shop did in fact put on the wrong oil filter, there was no way it could have stayed on for four months.

But is that true?

2News contacted five different auto repair and part stores in Boise, and even the filter manufacturer Pentius to find out.

They all said the wrong filter will usually pop right off, but sometimes they stay on.

To test the idea, 2News bought two oil filters: the one that should be used for a 2006 Nissan Sentra, and the filter Meineke allegedly put on her car (made for an SUV). Both filters tested by 2News were made by Pentius.

The correct filter screwed right onto Matthews old engine. So did the filter designed for the SUV. The incorrect filter was slightly larger in size, but easily spun onto the bolt and held firm.

An online search found other customers have had similar experiences with the Meridian Meineke. And according to the website of the Better Business Bureau in Southwest Idaho and Eastern Oregon, the shop has had 10 complaints over the last 36 months (nine of them closed after the store failed to respond to the BBB's notice), and an “F” rating.

The Truth Squad called Meineke to ask about Matthew's motor and spoke to corporate lawyer Ted Pearce. Pearce said he was re-opening Matthew's case, and its insurance company would be contacting Matthews to conduct a third-party investigation.

“We have an insurance adjuster who would look at the oil filter and determine if it was the right or wrong application,” Pearce said.

Pearce says if the filter fits, and if Meineke screwed up, the company want to make it right.

“It's unfortunate that we had a problem here and we'd certainly like to rectify it and hope that the customer would come back to the center,” Pearce.

Matthews says she has an attorney and may sue Meineke for the replaced engine plus damages.

2News will follow up with Matthews and the Meineke investigation to see what happens next.

To avoid similar problems with auto work, Boise mechanics offer two suggestions: one, find a mechanic you trust, and two, have that mechanic do all the work on your car.

They say a garage will bend over backwards to help a loyal customer, and if something does come up after a repair there's no question about who did the work.