CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A grandmother in Lenoir is stunned that a rusted out handicap accessible van she bought for her grandson passed its safety inspection. North Carolina safety inspections have no criteria to fail vehicles for issues with rust.
Connie Lainez bought a handicap accessible van for her grandson from JR’s Auto Sales in Shelby. She filed a complaint with the North Carolina Department of Justice claiming the car was falling apart after only her second time driving it.
Lainez bought the van to transport her grandson Malachi Townsend back and forth from Duke Hospital in Durham.
“Today he’s having to go for a heart appointment and pulmonary,” Lainez said.
Maliki has muscular dystrophy and other medical conditions that require specialized care he can only get from doctors across the state. His grandmother Connie Lainez says the trips to Duke are life safe saving.
“The longer we can keep him healthy the longer we’re going to have him,” Lainez said.
Right now she uses a normal van, which requires her son to lift Malachi from his wheelchair into the backseat.
“He doesn’t want to go nowhere, he doesn’t like fishing, he doesn’t want to go because…he has to be picked up and it hurts him to be picked up,” Lainez said.
That’s why they bought the van from JR’s Auto Sales. But Lainez says on her first trip back from Duke warning lights started flashing in the car.
“When we got back here my son saw pieces laying under the van so we took it to the garage and they put it up on ramps and the whole frame rusted out,” Lainez said.
Lainez’s son Derma held rusted parts of the van in his hand and was easily able to chip off pieces.
“It should have never passed inspection the whole frame is rusted,” Lainez said.
WBTV called JR’s Auto Sales and spoke with someone claiming to be the owner.
He told us that the car passed safety inspection but he refused to provide WBTV with the paperwork.
He insisted that he hasn’t done anything illegal.
As it turns out, in North Carolina rust is not a factor in safety inspections.
“It is not part of the inspection, no,” Zac Carter with Mr. Inspection, Matthews said.
Carter says rust only becomes a factor if it impacts other safety elements of the car like brake lines.
He says the pictures of the van raise red flags for him but the rust alone is not enough the fail the vehicle.
“It looks pretty severe, when I see something like that it just means I’m going to go even further with my inspection,” Carter said.
Lainez says she has nowhere else to turn. She says JR Auto won’t return her calls. The company never responded to the NCDOJ complaint and now Lainez is stuck paying for a van she can’t take on the road.
“All I want is something that I can get my grandson back and forth,” Lainez said.
“I’m paying for something now that I can’t use. I used it one time.”
Licensed state inspectors say if you’re buying a car it’s always a good idea to take it an independent mechanic to get it checked out. You can also request the vehicle history report.