Lemon Law Checklist

Under the California Lemon Law, a vehicle may qualify for a refund or a replacement if it meets just one of the following criteria:

1) The vehicle has the same problem repaired FOUR or more times;
2) The vehicle has the same problem repaired TWO or more times if the problem is a major safety defect likely to cause serious bodily injury or death;
3) The vehicle is out of service for THIRTY or more days, total.

The problems with the vehicle must substantially impair the use, value and safety of the vehicle, and must have occurred at least partially during the original vehicle warranty.

Auto-ServiceMajor safety defect defined:
“Major safety defect” has yet to be explicitly defined by the courts. However, we know that it must be a potentially life threatening problem with the vehicle or the vehicle’s failure forces the owner into a dangerous situation. These failures include, for example, stalling, failures to start, overheating, significant braking issues, fuel issues, air bag and seat belt issues, transmission failure, instrumentation failures, and the like.

Calculating the days out of service:
If you bring the vehicle in for repairs on a Monday, and the repairs are completed on Wednesday, it will count as three days. Likewise if the vehicle is inoperative on a Sunday, but cannot be brought in for repair until Monday and is repaired on Monday, it will count as two days.

Use, value, or safety defined:
Just about anything wrong with a vehicle will affect its use, value, or safety. “Minor” or “cosmetic” problems, such as a moldings, a cigarette lighter, an outside thermometer, a change holder, coat clips, and the like will likely not count towards use, value, or safety problems.

Other considerations:

Vehicle purchased from a private party:
No lemon law recourse.
Vehicle purchased or leased:
Both can qualify as a lemon
Vehicle purchased outside of CA:
Cannot qualify as a lemon in CA
Vehicle is used:
May still qualify as a lemon
I no longer own my vehicle:
May still qualify as a lemon
All repairs made on extended warranty:
Cannot qualify as a lemon
Some repairs made on extended warranty:
May still qualify as a lemon
I have not gone into arbitration:
Not necessary
I don’t have all of my repair orders:
Ask dealership for a “repair history”
My dealership can’t find a problem:
Go to another dealership
My problem is intermittent:
Try to record the problem when it occurs
My vehicle is unsafe to drive:
Tow to dealership immediately, don’t drive
I received a recall notice:
Take to dealership to address the recall issue
My independent mechanic can fix my car:
SWill probably not count towards a repair