Mysterious case of the eight-cylinder V-6

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I purchased a 2002 Dodge Dakota with a 30-day warranty and two-year extended warranty in September 2007 from a dealership. The first day I had it, the engine light came on and the salesman said they would fix it.

Within a week, I noticed the truck seemed to be using up gas quickly. A friend told me it was because the truck had a V8 engine, but it was sold to me as a V6. Everything I signed was for a V6.  I went back to the dealer to complain but I was told by the salesman there was nothing they could do — it was a clerical error. The dealer did agree to try and sell it for me, so I left it there and made my monthly payments on top of getting another car.

I finally took the truck back in July 2008 and sold my second vehicle. But the truck still was not completely fixed, and I still could not afford the gas nor the repairs to the remaining problems.

I was no longer able to make the payments and it recently was repossessed.

Now I have no vehicle and bad credit. I am a single mom with three kids. The car salesmen was a childhood friend of my brother that I’ve known all my life and really thought he might still help me out all the way up until the end.

I’m thinking now there really is not much I can do. Do you have any suggestions?

First of all, your brother needs to make a better class of friends. This guy didn’t exactly have your back. If the truck was sold to you as a V6, and the contract you and dealer signed says it is a V6, it sure seems like intentional misrepresentation to me — a polite way to say fraud. Because the truck is no longer in your possession, obtaining some satisfaction will be more difficult, but not necessarily impossible.

The dealer sounds like a tote-your-note dealer where you finance and pay at the lot. There are some very reputable tote-your-note dealerships, but more than a few play fast and loose with legalities. If this is such a dealer, contacting the Better Business Bureau probably won’t accomplish much, but it’s a start. At the same time, I’d contact your state’s attorney general. You can make the initial contact online. Among other efforts, that office specializes in protecting citizens’ rights in matters of fraud. Be sure you have all the paperwork involved in this transaction, including any finance agreements. Some of this will wind up being a “she said/he said” situation, but it’s difficult to argue with the paperwork. Also, I suspect you won’t be this dealership’s first customer to contact the attorney general.

Your state’s DMV also offers a feature for airing complaints against dealers. If all that fails, many communities have free legal aid clinics. Get online and find one in your area and tell them your story.

And the next time you think about buying a car, take someone along who can tell one engine from another.