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Thread: Dealing with a Lemon

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Dealing with a Lemon

    If your steak isn't cooked right, you can always send it back - or at least get a refund. But if the new car or truck you just bought turns out to be a lemon, sending it back - or just getting satisfaction - can be more complicated.

    In the first place, it takes a lot, hassle-wise, for a car to be officially acknowledged as a "lemon" insofar as the law is concerned. You usually have to wrangle extensively with the dealer who sold it to you - and after that, the manufacturer who built it - before you can get out from under. The process can take a year or longer - and repeated service calls, breakdowns and pains in the rear in the meanwhile.

    Once they've got your money, it's very hard to get it back.

    So, what to do?

    The first thing to know is how your particular state defines a "lemon." Laws vary, but most have a few general provisions in common:

    One, the problem(s) must be objective - for example, a constantly failing head gasket vs. you don't like the way the car feels.

    Two, it must be an item covered by the manufacturer's original new car warranty. For example, if your six-month-old car suffers a transmission failure (or has a sunroof that leaks) that would be an objective, warranty-covered repair. If the transmission fails a second time -- or the leaky sunroof still leaks - you've got the makings of "lemonade."

    The third lemon qualifier is if, despite repeated attempts (typically no more than three or four) the dealer has been unable to fix the problem - or the car has been "out of service" for a given period of time, typically, more than 30 days during the first year of ownership.

    In a nutshell: You've taken it back for the same thing several times, but the transmission (or whatever) just keeps on acting up. They can't seem to fix it. The car's in the shop more than it's in your driveway, etc.

    But there are several catches to be aware of.

    The first of these is that many state lemon laws have a so-called "presumptive period" - for example, 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever comes first, as in California - during which there must be tangible evidence of an abnormal, recurrent problem(s) in order for the full force of a lemon law's protections to be available after the manufacturer's new car warranty has run out.

    This is why it is critical to bring any problems that crop up to the attention of the dealer as soon as they are discovered, and to document them. Keep records of every service visit - and to make sure the work order/receipt clearly lists the reason why the car was brought in, as well as the date and the odometer reading at the time of service.

    The longer you wait - and the shorter the paper trail - the more the odds are stacked against you.

    The second catch is that the dealer/manufacturer may acuse you of having "abused" the vehicle. Most state lemon laws do not apply if the problem is deemed to be the result of "abuse" - and that includes such things as failure to maintain and service the vehicle according to the factory recommendations. This is why it is so important to adhere to the factory-recommended service protocols and keep detailed records of all work done, the date the work was done - and the mileage at which it was done.

    It's still ok to change your own oil and filter - or to do other service work - but for lemon law purposes, you must be able to produce proof that you did, in fact, change the oil and filter as per the factory time/mileage interval - and with the correct weight and American Petroleum Institute (API) service specification (e.g., API specification SE, CD; 5W-15) oil and an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or equivalent "approved" brand of oil filter - not a generic or unapproved "off-brand" part. That means keeping receipts for everything you buy (with dates stamped on them) and a log book of the dates/mileage readings when you performed the work. If you can't produce such records - or use generic brand parts not specifically approved by the manufacturer - you could be left holding the bag should a problem arise. The above is true as regards any home maintenance performed on the vehicle - so be forewarned.

    The moment you suspect you have a lemon on your hands - unusual, recurrent problems, peeling/fading paint, leaks, "unfixable" electrical problems, premature failure of major components; constantly having to bring the car back to the shop, etc. - it's a good idea to consult with an attorney who specializes in this type of consumer law. Most will not charge you for an initial consultation to determine whether you, in fact, have a valid cause of action.

    Don't "learn to live with" a balky, unreliable car - or accept blarney from the dealer that it's "normal" (as an example) for a car to need a new transmission at 12,000 miles. Remember: If there is in fact a defect with a component such as a transmission, it may recur - even if a "new" unit is installed. The basic design could be flawed - and the "new" transmission probably won't last any longer than the first one. And once the warranty period (or lemon law coverage "window") has expired, you could be out of luck - even if you're on your third transmission in less than 40,000 miles.

    If you do have a solid case, you and your lawyer should be able to get the dealer/manufacturer to either "buy back" the lemon (less an "adjustment" for the mileage on it), or replace it with another vehicle of equivalent value - if that's acceptable to you. Sometimes, the dealer will offer "unlimited free service" for the life of the car - or something along those lines - instead of a buy-back or replacement offer But it's up to you whether the "free" service will compensate you for the hassle of owning a car you feel you can't trust or depend on.

    For a state by state listing of lemon laws and their provisions, see www.123car.com/lemon/lemonbystate.html or www.lemonlawamerica.com.


  2. #2
    DonTom
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    "Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or equivalent "approved" brand of oil filter not a generic or unapproved "off-brand" part. "

    Who decides what brand an "off-brand" oil filter is?

    In case you didn't know it, if they say to only use certain brands of oil or filters than they have to supply the stuff for free during the warranty period, by law. I read that somewhere years ago and I assume it's still true.

    Ever wonder why none of the owner's manuals will say to only use their own brand? The best they can do, without giving the stuff away free, is to say to use their own "or equivalent".

    -Don-

  3. #3
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    Magnussen-Moss should apply in that case -- if you have a broken seat that they can't seem to fix, your oil-change habits shouldn't apply to returning it as a lemon.

    The MINI Cooper S I used to have was one return to the service department to become eligible under NC's lemon law. 5 trips to Winston-Salem (95 miles one-way) and 28 days out of service, and they barely got the airbag light to stay off.

    I spoke to them about doing a buy-back (and /maybe/ ordering a replacement vehicle), and the dealer offered me $3000 below wholesale. Uhh, hell no. I ended up selling it to CarMax and they (surprisingly) gave me a good price on it.

    About a month later, I got a phone-call from the new owner, saying she loved the car, but that the airbag light was on...

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  4. #4
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    "This is why it is critical to bring any problems that crop up to the attention of the dealer as soon as they are discovered, and to document them. Keep records of every service visit - and to make sure the work order/receipt clearly lists the reason why the car was brought in, as well as the date and the odometer reading at the time of service."

    Keeping records was crucial to get my 77 Caprice fixed. After many, many service calls I got one dealership to look carefully at all the paper I'd accumulated. They never did tell me exactly what they found wrong, but I got the car back with one cylinder head new.




  5. #5
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    Posted this article on the main site:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...5&Itemid=10898


  6. #6
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    Speaking of lemons, the Dutch word for lemon is:

    "Citroen".

  7. #7
    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    One way to deal with a dealer that won't honour your warranty is to drive around with a lemon plastered on the side of your vehicle. Don't put the name of the dealer on it for legal reasons. But when asked, you can always tell them, or say that you can't recommend said dealer. I saw this unfold in Portland a few years back, in the 70's I think, where a family couldn't get their vehicle fixed under the warranty. And had the vehicle in there many times for the same problem. That was one of the cases that brought out the Lemon Law to be passed in this state. He then painted a lemon on the side of his car, with the dealers name, address and a bunch of other things. Calling him everything but a human being. The dealer took them to court for slander. Since they could not prove the names, so to speak, they were able to prove their case with the nonrepair part of it. The judge must of had some dealings with this kind of headache, he dismissed most of the charges against the people, and told them to remove the wording from their vehicle. He said nothing about the lemon. By the way, he didn't say anything about the little license plate frame either. Oh yeah, he also dismissed the case from the dealer as well. And that is how the lemon law got started in this state by U of O. 8)

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    Quote Originally Posted by J. ZIMM
    One way to deal with a dealer that won't honour your warranty is to drive around with a lemon plastered on the side of your vehicle. Don't put the name of the dealer on it for legal reasons. But when asked, you can always tell them, or say that you can't recommend said dealer. I saw this unfold in Portland a few years back, in the 70's I think, where a family couldn't get their vehicle fixed under the warranty. And had the vehicle in there many times for the same problem. That was one of the cases that brought out the Lemon Law to be passed in this state. He then painted a lemon on the side of his car, with the dealers name, address and a bunch of other things. Calling him everything but a human being. The dealer took them to court for slander. Since they could not prove the names, so to speak, they were able to prove their case with the nonrepair part of it. The judge must of had some dealings with this kind of headache, he dismissed most of the charges against the people, and told them to remove the wording from their vehicle. He said nothing about the lemon. By the way, he didn't say anything about the little license plate frame either. Oh yeah, he also dismissed the case from the dealer as well. And that is how the lemon law got started in this state by U of O. 8)
    That's pretty inventive - and savvy, too!

  9. #9
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with a Lemon

    Quote Originally Posted by J. ZIMM
    One way to deal with a dealer that won't honour your warranty is to drive around with a lemon plastered on the side of your vehicle. Don't put the name of the dealer on it for legal reasons. But when asked, you can always tell them, or say that you can't recommend said dealer. I saw this unfold in Portland a few years back, in the 70's I think, where a family couldn't get their vehicle fixed under the warranty. And had the vehicle in there many times for the same problem. That was one of the cases that brought out the Lemon Law to be passed in this state. He then painted a lemon on the side of his car, with the dealers name, address and a bunch of other things. Calling him everything but a human being. The dealer took them to court for slander. Since they could not prove the names, so to speak, they were able to prove their case with the nonrepair part of it. The judge must of had some dealings with this kind of headache, he dismissed most of the charges against the people, and told them to remove the wording from their vehicle. He said nothing about the lemon. By the way, he didn't say anything about the little license plate frame either. Oh yeah, he also dismissed the case from the dealer as well. And that is how the lemon law got started in this state by U of O. 8)
    Driving around with a lemon sign on the car requires that the car be capable of moving under its own power.

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