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Vehicle Problems Not Covered Under Lemon Law

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  November 15, 2022

California lemon law offers consumers protection against persistent problems after the purchase of a vehicle. While many vehicle defects are covered under lemon law, there are still a few exceptions. 

Vehicle problems that are not covered under lemon law include: 

  • Any defect that does not substantially impair the car’s use, value, or safety 
  • Defects caused by owner negligence 
  • Defects caused by accidents 
  • Defects caused by unauthorized repair or alterations of the vehicle  

Our experienced lemon law attorney breaks down the types of defects that aren’t covered under lemon law, as well as some common ones that are.

Vehicle Problems Not Covered By Lemon Law 

OWNER NEGLIGENCE

If a vehicle’s defects are sustained due to owner neglect, abuse, or lack of proper maintenance and care, then the problem would not be covered under lemon law. 

Example: A consumer drives their car for 25,000 miles but never changes the car’s oil. The manufacturer instructed the consumer to have the oil changed every 10,000 miles, but that was completely ignored. Because of the consumer’s failure to properly maintain their vehicle, the engine overheats and stops working properly. The fault for the engine failure is now on the consumer, not the manufacturer.  

DEFECTS CAUSED BY ACCIDENTS

Car accidents tend to cause problems with vehicles, even if they’re fully repaired. If the driver of a vehicle under warranty gets into a car accident that causes a defect, then this will not be covered under lemon law

Example: If the vehicle is under warranty, electrical car problems are covered under lemon law. However, should the vehicle be involved in an auto accident, and then begins to have electrical issues, it will not be covered under lemon law.

UNAUTHORIZED REPAIRS OR ALTERATIONS OF THE VEHICLE

If your car is under warranty and starts having problems, you should only take it in for service at a dealership or to another agent authorized by the manufacturer. If you try to repair the car yourself or take it to a local mechanic that isn’t authorized to perform the work, you could void your warranty and claim under lemon law. 

Example: Let’s say a consumer’s vehicle starts having engine problems and they decide to replace their fuel injectors at home in their garage. 

Unfortunately, that repair doesn’t fix the issues the car is having so the owner takes the vehicle into the dealership. Because the owner performed their repairs, they have voided their warranty and lemon law no longer applies. 

WHAT IS A VEHICLE DEFECT? 

For a car to qualify as a lemon under lemon law, it must have been sold with a warranty and have a significant defect. A defect is considered anything a vehicle does (for example, the engine makes a knocking sound) or does not do (as in, the car doesn’t start). 

Most lemon laws consider an issue a defect when it substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle, all of which can be very subjective. This doesn’t mean a car has to be completely immobile to be considered defective, but it does have to have a substantial impact on the car. Here’s what that means. 

Impairs the Use of the Vehicle

The defect must impair the use of the vehicle in some way. This doesn’t mean the vehicle has to be completely undrivable to qualify, though.

For example, let’s say a consumer purchased a vehicle with the intent to take it on long road trips multiple times per year to visit their family in another state. However, the vehicle has transmission defects that make them uncomfortable driving for extended periods of time. This defect has impaired the driver’s use of the vehicle even though they are still able to drive it around town just fine. 

Impairs the Value of the Vehicle

Impaired value doesn’t just refer to the cash value of a car. If a car’s defects cause it to lose value in the eyes of the vehicle owner, it likely qualifies under lemon law.  

Imagine purchasing your first brand-new vehicle with your own money right after college. You absolutely loved the car when you saw it at the dealership, and you feel like an accomplished adult making your first big purchase.  

However, after only a week of owning it, the car rattles and belches thick black smoke as you drive down the street. You’re now embarrassed to drive your brand-new car down the street, and it’s lost value to you because you can’t take it anywhere without hating every moment of your drive. Even if the car can be fixed easily and hasn’t lost any monetary value, it’s still lost value in the eyes of the owner. 

Impairs the Safety of the Vehicle

Anything that makes a driver or passenger feel less secure can be a substantial impairment in safety. If your vehicle has defects that impair its safety in any way, and the dealership has been unable to fix these issues, it’s best to ask for a replacement or refund. 

The most common safety defects include: 

  • Brake failure 
  • Vehicle stalling while driving 
  • Unresponsive steering 
  • Broken seat belts 
  • Intermittently defective headlights 

VEHICLE DEFECTS THAT ARE COVERED UNDER LEMON LAW

If your car is under warranty and you are experiencing any of the following defects, you may be eligible to file a claim under lemon law.

  • Airbag defects
  • Mold from the air conditioner
  • Anti Lock brake system failures
  • Body problems/ paint defects
  • Brake pedal failures
  • Defective seat belts/seat belt failure
  • Electrical problems
  • Malfunctioning engine computer
  • Engine fires
  • Engine failure
  • Fuel injection system leaks
  • Fuel line defects that can cause fires
  • Power steering loss
  • Premature brake and rotor wear
  • Steering pull
  • Stalling
  • Sudden and uncontrolled acceleration

Wondering If Your Car Is a Lemon?

If you are encountering persistent problems with your vehicle after repeated repair attempts by the manufacturer, you may have purchased a lemon. You have the right to recover damages under lemon law. 

Contact Norman Taylor & Associates at (818) 244-3905 for a free case evaluation today.

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