California Lemon Law Attorneys

The Gayle Law Group PC has over two decades of experience resolving Lemon Law cases on behalf of consumers in Freemont. Our attorneys have successfully dealt with all brands, makes, models of gas, electric, and hybrid vehicles; motorcycles; trucks, and RVs. 

Our founding attorney, Liz Gayle, has worked on both sides of the consumer products fence. She spent the first 12 years of her career representing major product manufacturers, including a major automobile maker, before devoting herself to consumer law.

It is impossible to think of California without thinking of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. They are a big part of our identity. For most of us, they’re also an absolute necessity as well as a substantial investment.

Vehicles do us no good when they’re in the repair shop. When a new car doesn’t start, or breaks down in the middle of the highway, or is disabled because of a faulty computer it is annoying, inconvenient, and stressful.

When it happens once.

When it happens repeatedly, and it seems your vehicle is always in the shop, you may think you’re wasting your hard-earned money on a lemon. That’s truly a scary thought. It conjures images of cash being thrown into the ocean. The ocean you can’t get to because . . .  well, you get the point.

When this happens, it’s time to talk to a California Lemon Law attorney. It’s time to call the Gayle Law Group PC.

The California Lemon Law

For as long as cars have been mass produced on assembly lines, there have been lemons: cars that were poorly designed, slipped through quality control, or had a defect. Until 1970, about the only thing a driver could do was to threaten to never buy a Ford, Chrysler, Pontiac, Rambler, or AMC car again.

Not much of a threat when the car companies were selling thousands of cars a week.

In 1970, California became one of the first states in the nation to rectify that. The California Lemon Law was enacted to provide drivers with relief from persistent problems with their vehicles.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions revolving around our Lemon Law. To be fair, it can be somewhat complicated – just as vehicles manufactured over the last decade are incrementally more complicated than any that came before.

What exactly does the Lemon Law do? The simple answer:

If you purchased or leased a new or used vehicle in California that is under a warranty and has had an ongoing problem or problems that a dealer has unsuccessfully attempted to fix over multiple repair visits, you may qualify for compensation.

The California Lemon Law applies to cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, RVs, motorcycles, some business-owned vehicles, and boats. For the most part, the vehicle must be under warranty.

It applies to purchased or leased new vehicles. It also pertains to used vehicles that are certified pre-owned and/or still under a manufacturer’s warranty.

Warranties

About warranties – to be eligible for relief under the Law the vehicle must be under a manufacturer’s warranty. There is always some confusion over this requirement. Simply, cars, trucks, and the powertrain portions of motorhomes are covered by the Lemon Law if:

  • Th vehicle is new, used, pre-owned or certified.
  • You bought or leased it.
  • When you bought or leased the vehicle it was covered by the manufacturer’s warranty (or portion of), or a manufacturer’s extended warranty.
  • The vehicle might qualify out of warranty, if it had an ongoing problem that required it to be in the shop several times before the warranty expired.
  • You discover the defect before the warranty expires.
  • The manufacturer has had a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect.
  • Or the vehicle has been in ‘the shop’ for thirty or more days, cumulatively.

Motorcycles, the coach portion of a mobile home and towables (fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop-up campers) are covered as consumer goods and have the same protections as any consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Th defect still must be discovered before the warranty expires. You still must give the manufacturer the opportunity to repair the defect.

What is a Lemon?

The big question, of course, is ‘what makes a vehicle a lemon?’ 

There is no single or easy answer. The Lemon Law requires both a substantial defect and either that the vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts to get it fixed or it has been at the dealership for many days cumulatively.

Substantial defects impair the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.”

The definitions:

  • A defect that affects a vehicle’s use is one that prevents you from driving the vehicle as it was intended to be driven.
  • A vehicle’s value is diminished when the defect means the vehicle won’t sell for the price it normally would bring – if the defect wasn’t there.
  • Safety defects are defects that put the driver, passengers, and other drivers in danger.

A heater that never works, an air conditioner that intermittently blows hot, or a door handle that doesn’t function despite repair after repair all qualify as substantial.  Your problem does not have to be safety related to quality. Most safety issues are obvious – at least to the driver. Stalling on the highway, vibrations from the brake pedal, a transmission that ‘catches’ or ‘lags,’ and an engine that keeps running hot would all be considered to be safety related issues.

The vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts is exactly what it sounds like. You have a problem with your vehicle, you bring it to the dealer or manufacturer, and continue to have the same problem.  It can seem like an endless cycle. There is no need for you to put up with it for long.

You have undoubtedly been told by a relative that if “you bring it in four times, it’s automatically a lemon.” This is not necessarily true. The law specifies only that a ‘reasonable number of repair attempts’ are made. If a defect involves a safety issue, such as faulty airbags, it may only require two repair attempts. If a car remains in the shop for ‘too long’ it also may qualify as a lemon whatever the defect(s).

Vehicle Defects

The average 21st century gas powered car and truck has over 30,000 parts. From nuts and bolts to brake pads to computer motherboards and Wi-Fi routers. There are at least 2,000 moving parts.

Motor Vehicles today are better built, safer, and more integrated than ever. In 2020 8.8 million vehicles were manufactured in the United States alone. It’s inevitable that some things will go wrong somewhere along the way. Design flaws, factory mistakes, faulty computers along with everything else that could and did go wrong with cars and trucks since the first Model Ts rolled off the assembly lines still occur.

Over the years Gayle Law Group, PC has watched as vehicles became ever more sophisticated and complex. With them has come a new generation of defects that ultimately result in Lemon Law claims. We have had experience with all of them.

Common Vehicle Defects in the 2020s (so far)

  • Air bag defects.
  • Air conditioning.
  • Antilock braking system (ABS).
  • Automatic transmission.
  • Computer defects.
  • Electrical problems.
  • Engine fire.
  • Odors.
  • Paint.
  • Power steering.
  • Seat belts.
  • Stalling.
  • Sudden acceleration and surge.

Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Defects

Where gas powered vehicles have over 2,000 moving parts, electric vehicles have less than 20. That, however, does not mean that electric and hybrid vehicles have fewer problems. In fact, because the systems in these vehicles are so integrated, even a ‘minor’ problem can have widespread and lasting implications.
  • Automatic Backup Automation.
  • Battery Failure.
  • Braking System.
  • Computer issues.
  • Electrical System Malfunctions.
  • Failure to Hold a Charge.

Motorcycles

Motorcycles enjoy the same protection as cars under the California Lemon Law but in a slightly different way. Motorcycles are considered ‘consumer goods’ and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.

While the details differ somewhat, the intent is the same: protect motorcycle owners who have bought a lemon.

Every rider knows that what might be considered a minor defect in a car could be a serious safety hazard in a bike. Protections are there for motorcycle owners. No one must put up with a lemon.

What Makes a Motorcycle a Lemon?

Simply, a motorcycle is a lemon if you bought it new, it is under warranty, it doesn’t perform like it is supposed to, and you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful. 

In many ways, the requirements for motorcycles are less stringent than those for cars under the Lemon Law with less room for interpretation.

Your motorcycle may be considered a lemon if:

  • The motorcycle you’re riding isn’t the bike as described in the warranty.
  • There is a ‘substantial defect’ that is a safety issue. Or affects your use of the bike or its value.
  • The motorcycle has gone to the repair shop multiple times and the problem persists.
  • You have not been able to operate the bike for at least thirty days. Note that motorcycle repairs take substantially longer than car repairs. Not being able to use a bike for thirty days or more is not uncommon.
  • You haven’t done anything to cause or contribute to the problem. Modifications, an accident, or neglecting regular maintenance void the warranty.

Common Motorcycle Defects

Some common motorcycle defects that have led to Lemon Law claims:

  • Loss of power.
  • Defective head gaskets.
  • Defective fuel pump.
  • Sway.
  • Stalling.
  • Cutting out.
  • Will not start.
  • No crank conditions.
  • Oil leaks or sprays.
  • Lack of power.
  • Electrical system malfunctions.

Trucks

Trucks are covered under the California Lemon Law.

There are many myths and misconceptions about trucks and our Lemon Law. Myths and misconceptions that cost California truck drivers untold stress and wasted time in repair shops trying to get the unrepairable fixed. 

Most trucks have high safety ratings. They are built to be rugged. They are bought to be ruggedly used. Some of that is business use.

That’s why many – too many – truck owners think the lemon law doesn’t apply to their vehicle.

That’s a misconception that leads truck owners and lessees to assume they have no recourse. Thankfully, the Lemon Law protects drivers who have purchased or leased trucks if those trucks do not meet safety or other performance standards. 

What Makes a Truck a Lemon?

If you bought or leased a truck with a warranty and for personal use, that truck falls under the California Lemon Law. If you bought or leased it for business, it is still covered provided:
  • The gross weight of the truck is less than 10,000 pounds.
  • The business has five or fewer vehicles registered in its name in California.
Like cars, trucks that fall under the Lemon Law are considered ‘lemons’ if they have a substantial defect that impairs their “use, value, or safety” and multiple attempts to fix it have failed.

RVs and Motorhomes

Recreational Vehicles and motorhomes represent a wide variety of motorized vehicles and ‘towables.’ Motorized RVs refer to Class AClass B, and Class C vehicles. Towables include fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop-up campers. 

No matter what type of RV or motorhome or trailer you have, they are major investments. Owners rely on them when they travel. Sometimes far off the beaten path.  

A lot of things can go wrong. Families stranded in the wilderness, stuck in the desert, suddenly without water or plumbing, exposed to the elements, or, at the very least, forced to cancel vacations. It’s infuriating when your investment is in the repair shop more than it is on vacation.

Thankfully, there are remedies available to RV, motorhome, and towable owners.

RVs and motorhomes are covered under the California Lemon Law . . . but it’s a bit complicated. Towables are covered as consumer goods and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.

What Makes My RV/Motorhome/Towable a Lemon?

The chassis of a Class AClass B, and Class C motorized RV falls under the Lemon Law just as cars and trucks do. The coach is covered much like motorcycles – they are considered ‘consumer goods.’ 

Here’s what that means for your RV:

The chassis – engine, drive train, everything that makes the RV mobile – is a ‘lemon’ if it has a substantial defect that impairs its “use, value, or safety” and multiple attempts to fix it have failed.

Few attempts suffice when the defect is a serious safety issue: anything that puts the driver and passengers in danger. The RV may also be a lemon if it has been in the shop for an excessive number of days – even if the repairs were for different issues. 

In fact, in the first 18 months or 18,000 miles (whichever comes first), if the defect remains despite your best efforts or there’s been a series of unending problems, the RV is presumed to be a lemon. Then, it’s up to the manufacturers to prove it’s not.  

The coach and towables – Simply, if you bought the RV or towable new, it’s under warranty, doesn’t perform like it is supposed to due to defects, you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful, the RV can qualify as a lemon. 

Electrical and plumbing issues, tank leaks, hookups that consistently fail, slide-outs that won’t work, heating and air conditioning failures are all covered. 

What to Do If You Think You Have a Lemon

Call Gayle Law Group PC and . . .

. . . document, document, document.

You are the only one who can document what you are going through with your vehicle. You can expect no help from the dealership or manufacturer. You must be proactive; you’ll need to ask the dealership for the documentation you are entitled to at every visit.

Get the repair order and invoice every time you take your vehicle in and pick it up. Even if they have not or cannot fix the problem ‘that day,’ ask for the invoice.

Never allow them to leave your ticket “open” while a part is being ordered. Get an invoice then and when the part comes in and the work is done. Remember, every visit counts as a ‘reasonable attempt.’ Again, it’s up to you to get and keep accurate documents.

Make sure, even if you must step around to view their computer screen, that the service representative enters a ‘complete and accurate description of your vehicle’s problem’ as you’ve described it.

Don’t keep your service repair records in your glove compartment or center console. We hope the reasons for this are obvious – (they can mysteriously disappear while your vehicle is in the shop.)

Document all calls with the dealer and manufacturer; get the name and title of everyone you talk to.

When a dealer, salesperson, manager, or manufacturer’s rep explain any aspect of the California Lemon Law, pay them no mind. Whatsoever. They’re not lawyers. They are, in fact, potential defendants in a lawsuit.

Remedies

First, foremost, the manufacturer pays all your legal fees and expenses when we bring a successful Lemon Law action. Some lawyers may ask you to pay a retainer fee or tell you that they work on a contingency fee. The Gayle Law Group PC is paid by the manufacturer when your case is resolved. You are never responsible for any legal fees for our representation. California Lemon Law remedies may include:
  • A complete purchase refund (including registration fees, the down payment, and financing costs) AND having the full balance of your loan/lease paid off in full.
  • OR a replacement vehicle.
Again, in addition, regardless of the solution, the manufacturer is responsible for attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses. The consumer pays nothing.

Call Us

The Gayle Law Group has represented a great many Freemont residents over the years. We’ve represented purchasers and lessees of cars, electric and hybrid vehicles, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, RVs, and more in Freemont.