The Memorial Day weekend, just past, is usually the big kickoff for summer travel. Between now and Labor Day, thousands of Utahns will be farming out the dog, leaving on a light, packing the car and taking to the road.
And many may be ripped off by dishonest gas station owners who foist unnecessary car repairs on vulnerable travelers.Consumer groups call them "freeway bandits." These con artists often own service stations near freeway exits, selling gasoline and general car repairs.
When a consumer pulls in for a tank of gasoline, they will try to convince him that something is wrong with his car.
One bandit who used to own a station near a Salt Lake exit on I-15 would pour fresh transmission fluid on the concrete in front of his gas pumps, said Bill Beadle, president of the Utah Better Business Bureau.
When a consumer drove in to buy gas, the man pointed to the fresh fluid on the concrete under the car and suggested putting the car on the rack to see if there was a problem.
"By the time the consumer got under the car, there was fresh transmission fluid all over the transmission," Beadle said.
The station owner would then sell the consumer a new transmission--or what appeared to be a new transmission.
In one case, the Better Business Bureau was able to prove that the man had actually only steam-cleaned and painted the old transmission and then charged the customer for a new transmission.
"That sort of thing goes on across the country," Beadle said.
To avoid being victimized, people planning to travel should have their vehicles checked out before they leave so they know what may need repairs along the way.
If something does go wrong on the road, always get a second opinion before letting a stranger work on your car, Beadle said.
One good way to get a disinterested second opinion is to take the car to a nearby car dealership that sells the same make of car, he recommended.