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Experienced attorneys here to help you recover costs associated with persistent automotive problems.

Is it a Manufacturer Defect, Repair Shop Negligence, or User Error?

mechanic checking the oil level of an engine at an auto shop.

When you get a new car, driving it should be an enjoyable experience — the last thing you want to do is bring it back to the dealership for repairs. If you feel like you're stuck in a cycle of endless vehicle repairs, you might be questioning whether your car has a manufacturer defect, the mechanic was negligent, or if the problem is related to user error.

Here are some ways to help tell the difference between what is a manufacturer defect, a negligent repair job, and driver error to help you determine whether your car is a lemon.

What is a Manufacturing Defect?

Manufacturing defects in cars can occur in any vehicle. These are flaws that that occurred during the manufacturing process — they can range from minor annoyances like a faulty radio to problems creating substantial safety issues such as:

  • Defective brakes
  • Transmission problems
  • Airbags that fail to deploy
  • Seat-belts that fail to lock
  • Poorly manufactured tires
  • Ignition switch issues

Not to be confused with design defects, which are issues with a vehicle’s original design, manufacturing defects in cars occur during the vehicle's production phase.

A manufacturer defect can cause collisions, fires, or other types of accidents, resulting in severe injury or fatality. If you suspect that your car may not be running properly due to a manufacturing defect, it is critical to bring it to the repair shop right away for a diagnostic to determine the cause of the problem.

Does a Manufacturing Defect Make My Car a Lemon?

Many cars that have manufacturing defects are lemons. However, before you can invoke the California Lemon Law, the manufacturer or an authorized dealer must make a reasonable number of repair attempts.

If the vehicle still cannot be repaired after several attempts — or has been in the shop for thirty days or more — the vehicle owner may be able to invoke the Lemon Law for a refund or replacement, as long as the car is still under warranty.

Sometimes, a car manufacturer discovers that there is a defective part in their vehicles. In these cases, owners are typically notified that the car has been recalled. The owner can usually bring the car to an authorized dealership at no cost for a replacement part to resolve the issue.

How Can a Repair Shop Be Negligent?

If you brought your car to the repair shop for maintenance or a manufacturing defect repair, you should be able to expect that work will be completed in a satisfactory manner — if your car is returned with more damage than it had before, the repair shop may have been negligent.

Repair shop negligence can arise if the mechanic installed a part incorrectly or carelessly, allowed unlicensed mechanics to perform the repairs, or made repairs to the wrong part of the vehicle. If a mechanic or repair shop failed to exercise reasonable care and you suffered financial loss, you may be entitled to compensation from the repair shop for your damages.

Negligent repairs can be costly and significantly impact the value of your vehicle. They can also cause the car to be a safety hazard to the driver, passengers, and others on the road. If your warranty has run out and you're planning to bring the car to a different repair shop, it's best to do your diligence before using its services to avoid negligent repairs.

What Are California's Automotive Repair Laws?

California has strict laws that are imposed on auto repair shops to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices. California's Automotive Repair Act, requires that repair shops must be registered with the Bureau of Automotive Repair and meet certain safety standards. California also has specific licensing laws for mechanics.

California law also ensures that consumers have certain rights when it comes to getting a car repaired. Under the Automotive Repair Act, car repair shops must be transparent and act in good faith. When you bring your car to a shop for repairs, you are entitled to a written estimate before any work is performed, a detailed invoice, and return of the replaced parts if you request them. The repair shop must abide by the agreement you entered into with them — if work was done that was not authorized, you may not be required to pay for those specific repairs.

What is User Error?

User error is responsible for the majority of car accidents. In many cases, these kinds of mistakes can be avoided. When you purchase a new vehicle, it's a good idea to take some time to review the user manual and get familiar with your car's functions to avoid any problems that could arise related to driver error.

Although many cars today have computer systems that can assist drivers and alert them about engine problems, worn brake pads, alleviate blind spots — and can even allow a car to drive on its own — drivers shouldn't rely too heavily on these tools. Since computers can malfunction, drivers should continue to exercise independent judgment about driving safety issues and only use technology to assist their driving. Whether a warning light appears on the console or not, you should take your car to the shop for repairs if you think something is wrong with the way it is performing.

When Can I Invoke the California Lemon Law?

Under California Lemon Law, a lemon car is a vehicle that fails to conform to its warranty. If you've ruled out user error, repair shop negligence, and the car can't be repaired after several trips to the mechanic, you may have purchased a lemon.

California Lemon Law can be applied to new cars, SUVs, trucks, RVs, and other types of vehicles in which defects arise within the first eighteen months after delivery, or before the vehicle hits 18,000 miles. The statute can also be invoked for used cars which are still under warranty.

Contact a Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

If your new car has a substantial manufacturer defect or persistent problems that affect its value or safety, it's important to know your legal rights. A California Lemon Law lawyer can determine whether your car rises to the level of a lemon and guide you through the Lemon Law Claims process. If you think you purchased a lemon, it's critical to understand that a 4-year statute of limitations begins running from the date you found out about the defect.

The California Lemon Law lawyers at the Ledbetter Law Firm help people in Southern California who have experienced irreparable manufacturing defects and 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 used car attorney today.

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