Do Your Car’s Electrical Problems Make it a Lemon in California?

repairing the wiring on a car

Purchasing a vehicle is a big investment, and a new car shouldn't have problems. Unfortunately, some vehicles leave the manufacturer or dealership with issues that you may not find out about until you've driven it for a few days or weeks. If your car is still under warranty and continuously has trouble starting, regularly stalls, or doesn't operate properly, it may have electrical problems — and it could be a lemon.

Electrical problems in modern cars are not uncommon, but they can be extremely dangerous and increase the likelihood of accidents, vehicle malfunctions, or even car fires. Over the last few years, thousands of vehicles across many makes and models have been recalled due to problems with electrical components. Since the electrical system in a vehicle controls most of its operation, problems with it can cause cars to stall while on the road or prevent windshield wipers from functioning during a storm.

While some problems can be fixed, others may be persistent despite the number of repairs that have been performed. Here are some ways you can tell if your car's electrical problems make it a lemon in California.

What Does A Vehicle's Electrical System Do?

Modern vehicles are equipped with complex electrical systems that it relies on for its operation. A car's electric system is primarily made up of the alternator, battery, and starter. These parts all work together to make the vehicle function.

The alternator charges the battery of the vehicle. The battery then supplies the vehicle's electrical components with power, including the starter. These parts are all connected through wiring and communicate by sending signals through the vehicle's computer. Defects to the alternator, battery, or starter can affect how most mechanisms function in the car.

How Do I Know If My Car Has Electrical Problems?

Electrical problems in cars, SUVs, trucks, or other personal or family vehicles can create serious safety hazards and should be addressed immediately. When a car's electrical system is faulty, it may have trouble running, emanate an unusual smell, or fail to start at all. Certain electrical issues can cause accidents and substantially impair the value of a vehicle. After the vehicle's warranty has expired, the expenses you could incur for problems and repairs can be significant.

Since the electrical components affect so many parts of the vehicle, any number of issues can arise as a result. Some common indications that your car may have issues with its electrical components can include:

  • Failure to start or stalling
  • Slow startup
  • Malfunctioning brake lights
  • The battery won't charge
  • Headlights or taillights that don't work
  • Radio fails to work
  • Windows do not operate
  • Blinkers do not function
  • Warning light indication
  • Blown fuses
  • Faulty horn

Electrical problems can also affect airbag deployment, steering, and the vehicle's GPS. They may be caused by faulty wiring, software issues, or other malfunctions. While older vehicles can experience problems due to wear and tear, problems with the electrical system in new cars may result from manufacturing defects or flawed design.

By bringing the vehicle back to the dealership or manufacturer, the mechanics can perform a diagnostic to determine what exactly is causing the problem in your car and how it can be repaired. If your vehicle's problems cannot be resolved, you may be able to invoke California Lemon Law.

When Do Car Electrical Problems Rise to the Level of a Lemon?

Not all problems in vehicles make them rise to the level necessary to pursue a claim under The Tanner Consumer Protection Act of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act — also known as the lemon law. Sometimes, a vehicle may need a replacement part or can easily be repaired. However, some electrical issues cannot be fixed and create serious risk of harm to the driver, passengers, and others on the road if the vehicle is driven. In these cases, you may have purchased a lemon.

If you suspect your car has electrical problems, it's critical to bring the car back to the dealership or manufacturer for a diagnostic to determine the cause of the issue.

If you’re experiencing electrical issues with your car, you might be able to apply the California Lemon Law if:

  • The vehicle is a new or used car still under warranty
  • The electrical problems arose within the vehicle’s warranty
  • The vehicle was purchased in California
  • Several repair attempts for the electrical problems were made and unsuccessful

It is on a case-by-case basis how many times a consumer must present their vehicle to an authorized dealer for warranty repairs when there is a defect. Usually, four attempts at repairs must be made before you can apply the lemon law. However, if the problems with the electrical components would be likely to cause death or serious bodily injury — such as stalling while driving — only two repair attempts must be made.

Under the lemon law, if the dealership can't repair the car electrical problems, you may be entitled to receive a replacement vehicle or a refund.

Contact a Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

If you've purchased a vehicle in California that has persistent electrical problems and rises to the level of a lemon, you may be able to recover for your damages. An experienced California Lemon Law attorney can advise you of your legal rights and help ensure you receive a replacement or refund if you meet the lemon law criteria. If your car shows signs of electrical issues, it's important to know that you only have 4-years in California to commence a lemon law claim. The statute of limitations begins running from the date you found out about the defect.

The Ledbetter Law Firm helps people in Southern California who have experienced lemon law issues with their vehicles obtain a vehicle replacement or the refund that they deserve. With offices conveniently located in San Diego and Torrance, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (619) 374-0252 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.