A man in Washington state bought a used BMW that he thought was in good working order, only to have the engine completely fail on him three days later. Turns out he never saw the check engine light because that was covered up with duct tape.
According to local NBC affiliate King5.com, John Thomas purchased a 2000 BMW 5 Series from a dealer called Car Craft Auto Sales for $4,500. At the time of purchase, he did what most buyers would do: he took the car out for a test drive, checked the oil, and examined the dash to see if any warning lights were on.
A few days later the BMW’s engine gave out and left him, his girlfriend and his daughter stranded on the road. When Car Craft refused to take the car back he took BMW to a mechanic and found out that the engine needed to be completely replaced for an estimated cost of $18,000, the TV station reported.
While the mechanic was diagnosing the problem, he found something curious. From the story:
Mechanic Dave Eames of Pittman Automotive in Seattle reviewed that inspection and questioned the why vehicle’s check engine light never appeared. He suspected the check engine light had likely tried to signal a warning but for some unexplained reason was not visible.
“The check engine light will usually come on and tell someone there is something going on that should be corrected before you have catastrophic damage,” Eames said.
At Eames’ suggestion Thomas opened up the dash and quickly discovered the problem. Duct tape had been placed over the check engine light, blocking it from view and causing Thomas to miss the warning about a dangerous problem with his car.
When King5 news tried to reach out to the dealership, they were told that the owner Gaston Trefault was out of town, and would not return for several weeks. However, the owner did respond to a letter from the Attorney General’s office saying that he denied the return because Thomas did not call the dealership immediately, but rather had a family member call in.
Trefault also indicated that he would have gladly refunded taken the car back, but that is not the message that Thomas and his girlfriend received.
“They were like, ‘No. Cash purchase, not our problem.”
This is not the first time Car Craft has been involved in some shady business, the station reported. The Department of Licensing has cited the company four separate times in the past three years for misrepresenting the mileage on a vehicle, charging illegal fees, misusing dealer plates, keeping inadequate records, and failing to transfer a vehicle title on time. The local police department has opened an investigation on the dealership.
As of now, Thomas has a BMW that is no better than a paperweight and no resolution with the dealership that sold him the car.
This is an important reminder to get any used car inspected by a trusted mechanic before you purchase, especially if you are buying European hardware that doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability. A good inspection will run you about $100, but can save you thousands by flagging a car that is a money pit waiting to happen.