By Kurtis Ming

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A filthy sponge soaking up leaking engine fluids wasn’t what Shantel Hawkins expected to find in the 2002 Ford Explorer she’d just purchased.

“If you look at the engine from a front view, you wouldn’t even think nothing was wrong with it,” the mother of two told Call Kurtis.

She said the engine stopped working two days after buying the car, the first time she took the vehicle onto the freeway.

She said the car started smoking and suddenly shut off, requiring her to steer the car to the shoulder of the road.

She said the dealership wouldn’t do anything for her. She said she now suspects the used car dealership sold her a car a leaky car.

“I feel like it was a shady business,” she said.

Hawkins admits she never saw the sponge stuffed into the engine when she bought the SUV for $3,400.

An auto shop found parts of her car being held together by zip ties and even a shoelace, and said that sponge was “wedged” in “to hide leak.”

When Call Kurtis contacted the the dealer, she insisted it wasn’t them, pointing to the agreement Hawkins signed saying the car was sold as-is: “If the vehicle is found to be defective after the purchase, the buyer … will assume responsibility for repair and service costs.”

“I think that they had their mechanics falsely manipulate the car for it could be sold to make a profit,” Hawkins said.

In California, you have the right to take a car to a mechanic of your choice to be inspected, but Hawkins never did.

Consumer attorney Stuart Talley looked at shantel’s as-is agreement and said if sellers don’t disclose the problems with a car before selling it, they may be committing fraud.

“I think a lot of companies have no problem misleading consumers,” he said. “If there’s something obvious like sponges being used to plug holes, the dealer should know about that.”

Now planning to sue the dealer, Hawkins is stuck bumming rides from people.

“Nobody should have been driving that car,” she said.

Hawkins contacted both the DMV and the Bureau of Automotive Repair about this. She’s told they’re looking into her case.


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