Despite what some may believe, a lemon car is not just an automobile that has proven unreliable. There are certain criteria that must be met before a car can be called a ‘lemon’ per the California Lemon Law.
The most important point of contention will be whether the defect or problem with the automobile is recurring. For example, if your car has a particular issue (e.g. inoperative door lock) that is resolved, and is then followed by other but dissimilar problems during subsequent weeks or months, then this may not be a cut-and-dried lemon case. On the other hand, if there is a specific problem with your vehicle which occurs despite continued attempts by the dealer to fix the issue, then a stronger lemon case could be made.
The number of repair attempts are also important, since the law states that the manufacturer must have adequate opportunity to address the problem with the vehicle, so if your sunroof does not open after one repair attempt, it may be necessary to continue providing the manufacturer repair opportunities before a lemon case can be made.
Important Things to Keep in Mind
If you suspect that you have a lemon car on your hands, it is important to retain (or obtain copies of) all the paperwork related to repair attempts provided to you by the manufacturer. Ideally, you should take your vehicle to a different authorized dealer after the first or second attempt at the original dealership so that you can get a second opinion.
After each repair attempt make certain that the details of the repair or parts changed are included on the invoice. Often, the problem cannot be duplicated at the time of the service appointment. If this is the case, ask if a technician can ride along to duplicate the issue. If necessary, schedule an appointment for the test drive.
If there is a check-engine light on, and the dealership is insistent that the car is safe to drive, make certain that this wording is placed on the invoice, since you should not be driving a car with a check-engine light on. It is worth repeating that documentation of repair attempts and detailed descriptions of what was done or parts that were changed should be included in writing as part of your invoice.