You may have heard the term “lemon” when talking about a car with problems. However, it’s not always clear what it actually means. Lemons have a specific definition in the law above and beyond a car that doesn’t work well.
A lemon is a vehicle that has serious factory defects. If your car is a lemon, it’s likely unsafe, impossible to use, or falling apart. These are vehicles that the manufacturer needs to fix under warranty to hold up to the promises it made about its products. Below, we break down the specific definition of lemons in California and signs that your car may be one.
What Is a Lemon Under California Law?
While the word “lemon” isn’t actually used, lemons are defined under California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. This law defines how companies in different industries must provide and honor warranties, including vehicle manufacturers and retailers.
Under the Act, consumers are protected when they buy a vehicle with a warranty. This warranty may be the original one provided by the manufacturer, or it can be a used car warranty offered by the retailer. In either case, the warranty provider is responsible for repairing manufacturing defects identified while the vehicle is covered.
A vehicle may become a lemon if the manufacturer can’t make the necessary repairs. According to the Act, the specific eligibility requirements for lemon claims are:
- The problem was first identified, and a repair attempt was made within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of ownership, whichever comes first.
- The problem significantly impacts the vehicle’s value, safety, or utility.
- The manufacturer can’t repair the issue within a reasonable number of attempts or a reasonable timeframe.
If your car is in the shop for more than 30 days because of a problem, it could be a lemon. Meanwhile, if the manufacturer “fixes” a dangerous issue twice and it returns, you could have grounds for a claim.
Why does lemon status matter? It’s because manufacturers must replace or refund vehicles with these significant flaws. You could get the money you’ve spent on your faulty car reimbursed, allowing you to get a new one without the same defects.
Signs Your Car May Be a Lemon
It’s one thing to know how lemons are defined, but it’s another to determine if your car might be one. Here are some reasons why your vehicle might be considered a lemon in California and eligible for a refund or replacement.
The most critical kind of defect is one that makes your vehicle unsafe to drive. Anything that could lead to an accident, injury, or death is something that needs an immediate fix. Common examples of safety flaws that may be grounds for lemon claims include:
- Fire Risks: Any problem that could cause a fire is immediately dangerous. Whether your fuel tank leaks or your battery sparks, these problems can lead to fires in an accident or even when your vehicle is turned off.
- Transmission Problems: The transmission is responsible for making vehicles accelerate and move. Suppose you notice shuddering or hesitancy when shifting gears after having your transmission repaired by the manufacturer. In that case, the repair may have failed, and you may be eligible to make a claim.
- Brake Flaws: Your brakes are your car’s first and most important safety feature. You may have a lemon if multiple repairs don’t fix issues like hesitant, mushy, or grinding brakes.
While they aren’t as dangerous, problems that keep you from using your vehicle as intended are equally problematic. You purchased your vehicle with the intent to use it, and manufacturer flaws that keep you from using it as intended are grounds for warranty action.
- Failure to Start: The primary purpose of a car is to take you from Point A to Point B. If your vehicle regularly fails to start, that’s a problem the manufacturer needs to address.
- Door or Window Jams: Windows and doors that won’t open are, at minimum, a utility problem and may be deadly in an accident. The maker needs to repair the issue or refund or replace your car.
- Faulty Power Steering: Power steering is critical for many large vehicles. If the steering doesn’t work, you aren’t getting the experience you expected when you bought the car.
Cars are an investment just as much as a form of transport. When you buy a new vehicle, you assume it will retain value over time. Problems that significantly decrease your car’s value should be covered by your warranty. Some issues that may be worth a lemon claim include:
- Peeling Paint: Paint is important for both the aesthetics of your car and protecting it from rust. Peeling paint is a manufacturing defect that deserves repair.
- Flaking Interior Accessories: Your car’s seats, carpet, and dashboard should be able to stand up to regular use without being destroyed. If they’re flaking, cracking, or falling apart, that affects the value of your vehicle and needs to be fixed.
- Glitching Electrical Systems: The infotainment system on modern cars is supposed to help you navigate and entertain your passengers, so glitches or failures can seriously affect how much your vehicle is worth.
Get Help With Your Lemon Claim in California
You shouldn’t have to put up with any of the issues listed above in your new car. If your vehicle is under warranty, severe factory defects are the manufacturer’s responsibility to repair. A failure to make those repairs may be grounds for you to file a lemon claim and have your vehicle refunded or replaced.
At Johnson & Buxton — The Lemon Law Guys, we’re prepared to help you stand up to big car companies. You can schedule your consultation today to discuss your case and learn more about whether you have a claim.