A Fairfield couple collected their car from a garage less than 24 hours before it caught fire on the freeway.
Julie Carey from Fairfield was driving. Her husband Tim was in the passenger seat.
“We run away and literally within 10 to 15 seconds the car was on fire,” explained Tim, who said he could feel the heat rising through his sandals.
The couple had left a friend’s gathering on a sweltering hot July day and were heading home on Interstate 95 North when passengers from another car rolled down their windows.
“You scream, I mean scream, ‘Your car is on fire, your car is on fire,'” Julie said.
Julie said she pulled over as quickly as possible at the side of the freeway, near exit 17 in Westport.
Her husband and many others called 911 and firefighters arrived to put out the blaze. The car was destroyed.
Over the next few weeks, “Julie was stressed. She had a hard time sleeping,” her husband said.
“You think about the what-ifs, what could have happened. If someone had been behind, would we all have gotten out in time?” Julia said.
The Careys are grateful they escaped unharmed and didn’t have their grandchildren in the car.
Sure, the insurance covered her claim for her wrecked car, but not what was inside. Then there was the headache of finding a new ride.
“I had to go out and buy a new car, which wasn’t in our budget. So now we’re retired and on a steady income,” Julie said.
But what upset them the most – Firestone Complete Auto Care in Fairfield still billed them for the repairs and the Careys wanted their money back.
A month later, the Careys turned to NBC CT Responses to help them resolve the financial fire with the repair shop.
We caught up with the Careys at the exit, not far from where their car caught fire.
“How can you in good conscience charge me for something that a) didn’t work and b) you burned my car?” said Tim.
So, let’s back this story up for a second.
Julie parked her car at the end of June when it just wouldn’t accelerate. According to documentation they shared with us, the techs believed an injector was at fault.
But the Careys say the repair took a long time, nearly two weeks. They were told that wrong parts were part of the problem.
Just days before the fire, Tim said he suggested Firestone take his car elsewhere.
“I said, ‘Look, if you can’t fix it, I’ll come and take the car and drive it to Mazda and have it fixed.’ And the gentleman there said, ‘No, I can’t give you the car because if you drive it, it might catch fire.’ And I said, ‘Oh okay, then you have to fix it.'”
The Careys say they got a call saying the car was being repaired and that they were to pick it up on Saturday. The next day the car burst into flames.
The Careys filed a complaint with Firestone, but turned to NBC CT Responses weeks later when it seemed to be going nowhere.
“We thought we’d give it a try because someone needs to help us get a vote here,” Tim said.
As we reached out, something suddenly moved.
Firestone’s parent company, Bridgestone Retail Operations, has reached an agreement with the Careys and has provided us with this statement.
“We aim to be the most trusted tire and car care provider in every neighborhood we serve. We are glad that no one was injured in the vehicle fire. While our investigation into this matter is ongoing, the incident is highly unusual. We are committed to providing quality vehicle care and we worked with this client to find a mutually satisfactory solution.”
Since our interview with the Careys, they can’t say too much because they had to sign a non-libel agreement to get their money back, but they tell us a resolution wouldn’t have happened without NBC CT Responses.
“What are you doing with the car today? Nobody really knows how these things work. You put your trust in the place that does it,” Tim said prior to the agreement with Firestone.
Two takeaways the Careys want to share: If your check engine light comes on, take it seriously.
Secondly, remember what you have in your car is not covered by car insurance. It is covered by home insurance.
In Carey’s case, they say the high cost of her deductible and the impact on her policy wasn’t worth making a claim.