Common Vehicle Defects in California

Close up of the mechanic is checking the car condition in the car service center concept.

When you purchase a new vehicle in California, you expect it to run smoothly and be free from flaws. Unfortunately, a defective car will sometimes leave the manufacturing facility and make its way to the dealership with substantial defects that impair the vehicle’s safety or value. While there are any number of defects that can make a car a lemon, some may be more common than others. If you have found yourself financially burdened and inconvenienced by a car with unrepairable problems, it’s important to be aware you may be entitled to a remedy under California’s Lemon Law.

What is a Vehicle Defect?

There are many types of defects that can affect a vehicle, ranging from minor paint flaws to major issues such as transmission problems. But in order to assert a lemon law claim based on a defect, the defect must be “substantial.” Specifically, the defect must be one that a reasonable person would believe makes the vehicle unsafe to drive or it impairs the vehicle’s value.

If a defect poses a safety risk to a group of vehicles made by the same manufacturer, the automaker may issue a recall. In such cases, the choice of remedy is determined by the manufacturer. They may either repair the issue free of charge, replace the car at no cost to the owner, or refund the owner’s purchase. It’s essential to distinguish a vehicle defect that triggers a recall and one that is covered by the lemon law — to invoke the lemon law, the defect must make the vehicle fail to conform to its warranty.

Common Types of Vehicle Defects

Vehicle defects and safety hazards can impact any part of a vehicle or its mechanical system. Depending on the issue, a vehicle defect can cause serious safety risks to the driver, their passengers, and others on the road. Common defects reported in vehicles that give rise to lemon law claims include the following:

  • Airbag defects — Airbag defects can take many different forms. Whether a defect prevents an airbag from inflating or causes it to deploy dangerously, an airbag issue can cause serious safety risks.
  • Seatbelt malfunctions — Properly working seatbelts are critical to the safety of the occupants in a vehicle. If any part of this safety equipment is not effective, it can have a significant impact on the driver and passengers in the event of a crash.
  • Transmission issues — There are a wide variety of problems that can occur in connection with a vehicle’s transmission. Common signs that there is a transmission defect include shaking, clunking sounds, stalling, leaking fluid, and rough shifting.
  • Electrical problems — The electrical system in a car controls many of its features, from power steering to the navigation system, cruise control, and driver assist functions. If there is a flaw in the electrical system due to a faulty design, manufacturing defect, or issue with the wiring, the safety and value of the vehicle can be impaired.
  • Faulty brakes — When brakes fail to work properly, a driver, their passengers, and others can be at risk of serious harm.
  • Unintended acceleration — There are various issues that can cause unintended acceleration, including electrical defects, computer glitches, and mechanical flaws. Regardless of the reason, sudden unexpected acceleration can result in safety hazards.
  • Steering wheel problems — Steering problems in a vehicle can be extremely dangerous to those in the vehicle and others on the road. When a steering wheel does not turn properly, the driver may lose control of the vehicle, leading to a collision that results in property damage, injury, or fatality.
  • Stalling — A car might stall for any number of reasons. But if stalling happens consistently and the problem cannot be repaired, the issue may be a substantial defect.

If you’ve experienced a defect in your vehicle and have made several unsuccessful attempts to repair it, you may have a lemon. Notably, in the event your vehicle rises to the level of a lemon, you may be eligible for a replacement or refund from the manufacturer.

When is a Defective Car a Lemon?

Not every defective car is a lemon. There are strict criteria in California that must be satisfied to bring a lemon law claim in court. Importantly, in order to be a lemon, a vehicle must fail to conform to its warranty, and still be covered by it at the time the defect arose. In other words, it must have a defect that substantially impairs its safety, use, or value.

Not only must the owner establish that the vehicle has a “substantial defect,” but several repair attempts must have been made before it will be deemed a lemon. Four repair attempts for the same defect are usually considered sufficient. However, only two are necessary if the defect gives rise to a safety issue that could result in serious bodily injury or death.

There is also a presumption that a vehicle is a lemon if the nonconformity arose within 18 months of its delivery, or the first 18,000 miles driven.

Contact an Experienced Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

Buying a defective car can be financially draining, emotionally stressful, and inconvenient. If you have purchased a vehicle that qualifies as a lemon, it’s best to have a knowledgeable lemon law attorney by your side who can advise you regarding your rights and help you navigate the legal system. The attorneys at The Ledbetter Law Firm are dedicated to helping clients secure positive outcomes in their lemon law cases.

The Ledbetter Law Firm provides clients throughout Southern California with reliable representation to help ensure they secure the refund or replacement vehicle they deserve from the manufacturer. With offices conveniently located in Torrance and San Diego, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (310) 878-0067 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.