So you just bought or leased a new car in California and are stuck wondering, “What if my car is a lemon?” While the best case scenario is that your car is not a lemon, approximately 150,000 vehicles in the U.S. each year are lemons so we recommend being prepared should you end up with a lemon. Here are some tips to follow from the start in case your vehicle does become a lemon:

GET TO THE DEALERSHIP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

When you notice a problem, get your car to a dealership as soon as possible. “I have had people call me because they have been having problems with their car for a number of months or even years, yet they have not taken it to a dealership for repair,” says California Lemon Law Attorney, Liz Gayle. California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, or what is commonly referred to as the “Lemon Law”, is a warranty statute. All new vehicles come with warranties.  The warranties entitle a purchaser or lessee to take the vehicle to a dealership for repair of a problem at no cost. You only potentially have rights under the Lemon Law if you give the dealership a reasonable number of attempts to repair your vehicle and it remains broken. Thus, if you do not take it in for repair, you are out of luck under the Lemon Law.

WRITE A LIST OF THE PROBLEMS

Make a written list of all of the problems (no matter how small) that your vehicle is currently experiencing before you get to the dealership so that you do not forget any while you are there.  Make sure that you give thorough descriptions of each to the service writer while you are there and that they document each of your complaints and does so accurately. Do this by watching the monitor while the service advisor inputs your complaints into the computer. To do this at my dealership I have to stand behind the service advisor as the monitor is facing away from me.  Although uncomfortable, this is necessary as it is the only way that I can confirm that my complaints are being accurately documented before the paperwork is printed out. If a complaint is left out it will be impossible to prove later that the dealership had the opportunity to fix it.  If a complaint is written down incorrectly, not only will it make it more difficult for a mechanic to repair your vehicle, but it also may make it impossible later on to link the complaints for Lemon Law purposes.

ALWAYS GET A REPAIR ORDER AND WORK INVOICE

When you drop off your vehicle get a repair order, and when you pick it up get an invoice.  You are legally entitled to this paperwork.  Don’t leave the dealership without it.  Dealerships often tell customers that they have special ordered a part for their car and will “leave the ticket open” until they bring their car back in for repair when the part comes in.  By doing this, the dealership has cut down the number of repair attempts from two to one.  Make sure that every time you leave a dealership with your car you also have an invoice.  Never let them “leave the ticket open.”

KEEP ALL DOCUMENTATION & STORE IT IN A SAFE PLACE

The documents created by car dealerships/repair services are extremely important in California Lemon Law cases yet often the most overlooked by consumers. Most of us pay little or no attention to what is actually being input into the computer by the service writer or advisor. Often inundated with paperwork, some choose to throw away the paperwork that they are given upon exiting a dealership.

Keep all of your paperwork and store it in a safe place, not in your vehicle where it can “mysteriously” disappear while your car is in the shop. Set up a file or large envelope for all of the documents that you receive which concern your car. Keep it at home or at work. Save all of the documents that you were given when you purchased or leased the car as well as all of the paperwork that you are given when your car goes in for maintenance or repair work. Hopefully your vehicle will never be a lemon, but if it does you will have the documentation to support your case. The documentation also comes in handy if you later choose to sell your car.

Think you might have a lemon car? Call California Lemon Law Expert, Liz Gayle, for you free consultation today.