Have you been told that your car is a lemon? That means it has a serious flaw that needs to be fixed. Lemon law can seem overwhelming if you’ve just started learning what you need to do to have your vehicle repaired. You might even be tempted to ignore the problem entirely.
Getting a lemon fixed is important, though, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep reading to learn what it means if your vehicle is a lemon, why you should always get lemons fixed, and how to simplify the claim process to get your car repaired, replaced, or refunded as quickly as possible.
What Does It Mean If Your Car Is a Lemon?
Some people take pride in driving “beaters,” or old cars in moderate or poor condition that they keep running by themselves. Lemons aren’t beaters, though. A lemon is a car with a manufacturing defect that impacts its use somehow. Lemons aren’t well-used cars showing signs of age; they’re defective, usually new vehicles that the manufacturer didn’t build correctly.
According to California law, a car is a lemon if:
- It’s under warranty, either from the manufacturer or from a used car dealership
- It has a significant defect caused by the manufacturer that affects its safety, utility, or value
- The manufacturer has failed to repair the defect in a “reasonable number” of attempts, or the vehicle has spent more than 30 days in the shop for manufacturer defects.
- The defect was noticed within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of purchase.
By definition, lemon flaws aren’t your fault as the owner. Under California law, they are the fault of the manufacturer. That means the manufacturer is responsible for fixing the problem at no cost or otherwise living up to its warranty promises by replacing or refunding the vehicle.
If you suspect your car has a manufacturing defect, you must attempt to get it fixed as quickly as possible. If you don’t allow the manufacturer to try to repair it, your car may never meet the official definition of a lemon. You’ll be responsible for any repairs your vehicle needs to remain safe and drivable instead. That’s not the only risk of failing to get your potential lemon repaired, either.
The Risks of Keeping Unrepaired Lemons
Some owners take the path of least resistance and ignore the issues with their vehicles. However, that’s not smart or safe. If your car is a lemon, that means it was built with a flaw that affects its:
- Safety: Defects that impact how safe the vehicle is to drive, usually involving core systems or safety features like the transmission, brakes, or airbags.
- Utility: Flaws that impact how the car can be used, such as ignition flaws that prevent the vehicle from turning on or anti-theft features that prevent owners from unlocking it.
- Value: Problems that may not affect the vehicle’s safety or utility but impact its value as an investment, such as peeling paint, flaking leather, or leaking doors.
If you think your car is a lemon, you must get the manufacturer to repair, replace, or refund it, or you could be in danger. Continuing to drive lemons as-is leads to three significant risks:
Potential for Dangerous Accidents
The most obvious risk of driving these vehicles is the potential for accidents. If your vehicle’s flaws make it difficult to control or prone to sudden failures, then continuing to drive it unrepaired puts you and everyone else on the road in danger. For instance, driving a vehicle that tends to automatically turn on the emergency brakes on the highway for no reason is likely to get you rear-ended at the very least.
Depending on the accident, you may even be considered at fault. Suppose you know about a dangerous flaw in your vehicle and don’t get it fixed before continuing to drive it. In that case, insurance companies may argue that you’re partially responsible for any damages that result from an accident.
Possible Additional Flaws
If your vehicle has one manufacturing defect, there may be more than you don’t know about. Many flaws can cause cascading problems. That’s why you shouldn’t ignore seemingly “minor” defects. A leaky gasket can lead to corrosion in other parts of the engine, and peeling paint can lead to significant unseen rust.
These problems will only worsen if you own a potential lemon and don’t pursue proper repairs. If you ignore a minor flaw and it spirals into larger issues, you’ll need to fight harder to get the manufacturer to repair everything under warranty.
Significantly Reduced Resale Value
Since a lemon is a car that’s still under warranty, you have a limited period to get issues fixed. In most cases, you have until the end of the warranty period to get the manufacturer or warranty issuer to respond to your claims. If that deadline passes and your car is still unsafe or otherwise damaged, you could lose a significant investment.
Manufacturer issues are a serious drain on your car’s value. After all, there are plenty of used cars on the market that don’t have serious manufacturer flaws. Most people will prefer to buy one of those vehicles instead of one with defects. If you don’t get the issues fixed before the warranty expires, your ability to resell your car and recoup your investment. If you still have a loan, you could even end up “underwater,” owing more on your car than it’s worth.
Make the Most of Your Lemon’s Warranty
So, what are you supposed to do if you think your car’s a lemon? The best option is to reach out to experienced California lemon law attorneys for help. The experts at Johnson & Buxton can help you figure out your options for getting it fixed for good.
If your car is still under warranty, you don’t have to accept that it has dangerous flaws. California lemon laws give you the right to request that the manufacturer repair, replace, or refund your vehicle, depending on the issue. See if you qualify, then schedule your consultation to discuss your situation and learn what to do next.