Lemon law in California seems fairly straightforward on the surface. But the law is jam-packed with small, game-changing details when you look under the hood (pun intended). The most important distinction is what does and doesn’t qualify as a lemon.
In short, a vehicle can be ruled a lemon if there are factory defects that the manufacturer is unable to repair. Moreover, the defect(s) must be reported while the vehicle is still under warranty. Most manufacturer warranties offer “bumper-to-bumper” coverage. This means everything is covered from the front bumper to the back bumper – with a few omissions.
While most warranties offer comprehensive coverage, there are a handful of exceptions. In this post, we go over five defects NOT covered under California lemon law. Let’s dive in.
1. Defects Caused by Driver Abuse
Lemon laws are intended to protect consumers from mistakes made in the factory.
A defect must impair the vehicle’s safety, functionality, or value to be ruled a lemon. A key stipulation of lemon law in California is the defect must not have been caused by driver abuse. Driver abuse refers to an action taken by the consumer that causes damage to the vehicle.
Manufacturers will commonly argue that the defect was caused by driver abuse – not their own mistakes. This is where matters get complicated; driver abuse is an ambiguous term. A defect can be attributed to many factors, including (but not limited to):
- Reckless driving
- Harsh acceleration
- Hard braking
- Failure to keep up with routine maintenance
- Taking the vehicle off-road
It’s vital to report defects to the manufacturer as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the easier it will be for them to pin the issue on driver abuse.
2. Defects Caused by Accidents
Defects caused by accidents are not covered under the lemon law in California. This would likely fall under the umbrella of driver abuse. However, if you can prove there was a manufacturer defect that caused the accident, you may have a claim.
For instance, say a sticky accelerator pedal caused a crash. You would need to have your insurance company investigate the problem. If it’s proven that the accident was caused by a manufacturer defect, the automaker could be held responsible.
These cases are more common than you might think. You will need to hire a lemon attorney – and possibly a car accident attorney – to negotiate a settlement.
3. Defects Caused by Unauthorized Repairs
This is a big one that many consumers overlook.
Say you’re experiencing issues with the steering. It may seem like an obvious move to take it to your mechanic. Or you might try to fix it on your own – if you’re good with cars. Unfortunately, the steering defect keeps coming back. Now you take the vehicle to the manufacturer to receive warranty benefits.
The manufacturer will likely argue the defect was caused by unauthorized repair attempts. It will be extremely difficult to prove otherwise. Taking matters into your own hands while the vehicle is under warranty can ruin a lemon claim.
If a defect occurs while the vehicle is under warranty, you MUST take it to a manufacturer-certified facility for repairs.
4. Defects with Aftermarket Installations
Lemon law California only covers defects to factory parts. Aftermarket parts refer to any components that were not produced by the manufacturer. These usually include alterations like wheels, exhaust, hydraulics, or enhancements to the aesthetic.
Aftermarket parts can also affect a lemon law claim. Now, California lemon law prohibits manufacturers from voiding warranties if the consumer adds aftermarket parts. However, they can void the warranty if the aftermarket part damages another part of the vehicle.
Say you added aftermarket air filters. These filters ended up causing damage to the vehicle’s air conditioner. If you file a lemon claim for the AC, the manufacturer will argue the aftermarket filters caused the defect.
5. Any Defects Not Reported Under Warranty
This is the barebones rule of all claims under lemon law California. A manufacturer defect MUST be reported within the terms of the warranty. Otherwise, the claim will not be valid.
But what if the warranty expires while the vehicle is getting repaired?
As long as the defect was first reported to the manufacturer within the terms of the warranty, it is eligible for lemon law California benefits.
Time is everything in a lemon law claim. It’s imperative to report any signs of a defect the moment you notice them. Under California lemon law, a vehicle is presumed a lemon if it meets the state’s qualifications within 18 months of the purchase date or before 18,000 miles accrue on the odometer.
While there are no guarantees in lemon law, meeting the state’s qualifications within these limits will make things much easier. The longer you wait to start the repair process with the manufacturer, the harder it will be to win the claim.
The Next Step
Most consumers have (hopefully) never dealt with the lemon process before. Knowing what does and doesn’t qualify isn’t always clear. Hopefully, this piece provided some good insight to help you manage your claim.
Now, even if you’re 99.9% sure you’ve got a lemon, earning the full buyback boils down to legal assistance. Manufacturers have extremely high-powered legal teams on their side. Achieving justice without a seasoned lemon law lawyer in California is nearly impossible.
As soon as your vehicle meets the qualifications of lemon law California, hire an attorney right away. Your lawyer will manage all the negotiations with the manufacturer moving forward – making sure you get the maximum buyback.
For any questions about lemon law California, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Cline APC. Even if you don’t have a valid claim, we’re happy to steer you in the right direction. Call our office at 888-982-6915, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out a free case evaluation.