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How to Determine if Your Vehicle is a Lemon or if Operating Normally According to the Manufacturer’s Specifications

I often receive calls from consumers with chronic problems involving their vehicles where they report various complaints that the dealer states are normal characteristics of the vehicle, or the vehicle is operating according to the manufacturer’s specifications, or there is no problem found (NPF).  Since these situations involve various types of complaints or product defects and many different types of vehicles, there is no one simple answer to this question, but rather the following suggestions should help the consumer or lemon lawyer in determining whether or not the consumer’s complaints are valid and the vehicle is subject to Lemon Law and / or warranty claims, or if instead the vehicle is operating normally and does not have product defects.

Common complaints of this nature include excessive oil consumption, weak brakes or those that require extra maintenance, unstable suspensions or steering with wobbling or other uncomfortable road handling manners, engine vibrations or noises, wind noise, rough idling, and a host of other conditions.

Vehicle manufacturers and their authorized dealers are all very aware of the Lemon Laws and their obligations under various State and Federal statutes as well as their own contractual warranties, and therefore car dealers and their service representatives and technicians are well trained to carefully rephrase consumers’ complaints and to write repair orders and service invoices in such ways as to not admit manufacturing defects and consumer complaints that would subject them to successful warranty or lemon law claims.  In other words, it is quite frequent that the service writer will rephrase the customer’s complaints or omit same or just explain to the consumer that their complaints are normal characteristics of the subject vehicle so as to avoid such written admissions of product defects and dealer failures to repair the problems within the limits of the applicable Lemon Laws and pursuant to the applicable warranties.  Consumers must therefore carefully read repair orders and service invoices before signing same and ensure that all of their complaints are documented and accurately described according to their complaints.

It is undeniable that each type and model of vehicle operates, performs and handles different than other types of vehicles and therefore the consumer needs to be realistic in his or her expectations of their own vehicle.  For example, a consumer cannot expect that a sport utility vehicle (SUV) should handle the same way as a more expensive sports car.  However, their vehicle should be expected to perform safely and without material impairments to its value.  When a dealer states there is no problem found (NPF) or that the vehicle is operating as designed or according to the manufacturer’s specifications, much research and evaluation of that and comparable vehicles could be necessary to answer this question.  One suggestion is for the consumer to test drive other vehicles of the same type or make to determine whether or not his or her own vehicle is operating any differently and to further carefully review the owner’s manual and perform research as well as read expert reviews of the subject vehicle to help determine if there is a real problem with the subject vehicle, and whether or not all similar makes and models are performing normally or if perhaps they all have similar defects.  For example, in excessive oil consumption cases, there have been various successful class actions throughout the country involving particular vehicle models or engines and that alone could readily determine whether or not the subject vehicle is also defective.  Likewise, bringing the subject vehicle to a different authorized dealer or private mechanic may also help to determine whether or not there is a specific problem or defect with the subject vehicle or if the dealer is correct in stating that there is no problem.

Sometimes it is a matter of “you get what you pay for” and a cheap model with standard equipment just will not perform as other more expensive models or those with optional or after-market equipment.  A good example is road handling characteristics, which can be substantially varied by the type and condition of the tires on the vehicle.  Consumers can search the internet, read various reviews or go to to read extensive reports as to the different tire characteristics, and perhaps merely by changing worn tires or cheap tires with new and better ones will resolve handling problems of the vehicle.  Experienced drivers well know from the old days that bias ply tires are substantially inferior to radial tires just like summer only tires are very different from all weather tires in the handling of the vehicle.  There have been tire commercials that remind consumers that the only thing between you and the road is their tires and how important it is to have good tires, and therefore that could be the best cure for road handling complaints and perhaps avoid an accident or collision.

So to recap some of the foregoing suggestions, it is important to determine through independent research and consulting with different mechanics and resources whether or not your vehicle operates, performs or handles any differently then other vehicles of the same make and model to first determine whether or not it is operating normally, and even if it is, then to compare the subject vehicle to other makes and models of a similar type to determine if your vehicle is operating satisfactorily or if there is a legitimate consumer complaint as to the safety, reliability, handling or value of the vehicle that you purchased or leased.  Even though all of a certain model are inferior or lemons does not mean you do not have a valid claim for a refund or replacement under the Lemon Law.

I could go on at length with many more examples and still not cover all of the many different product defects and complaints that plague many different types and makes of vehicles on the road, and therefore welcome the reader to contact my office or local counsel to explore your specific concerns.

As a car enthusiast myself and having owned many different types and makes of vehicles, I wish the reader happy and safe motoring and the successful resolve of your concerns.