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The Lemon Law: How Many Repair Attempts Before a Car is a Lemon?

Lemon Car.jpgConnecticut's Lemon Law gives important protections to consumers who bought a new car or truck.  If the manufacturer is unable to repair a defect   after a "reasonable" number of repair attempts, then it must either replace the vehicle or buy it back.  So, a common question that arises with respect to lemons is "How many repair attempts is reasonable?"   The Lemon Law, which applies to new cars in Connecticut, "presumes" that if a manufacturer fails to fix a defect after it has been given four opportunities,  it must replace or buyback the vehicle.  If the defect could cause death or serious injury, then two repair attempts will usually be enough.  Depending upon the circumstances of the case, a consumer might be able to prove that fewer attempts are reasonable.  Under other circumstances, a manufacturer might be able to prove that it is reasonable to permit more attempts.  Generally, though, four repair attempts will be enough.   There are a number of things that a consumer can do to help prove that a manufacturer should buy back or replace a vehicle:

1. When you have a problem with your new car, it is ok to let your salesperson know, but do not rely upon the salesperson to contact the dealership's service department.  Call the service department yourself.

2. Keep a written log of all problems with the vehicle.  Be sure to include a description of the problem, any dashboard indicator lights that illuminated.  Be sure to write down the date and mileage.  The lemon law applies if the manufacturer is given an opportunity to repair the defect  within 24 months or 24,000 miles of purchase.

3. Do not delay in bringing the defect to the dealer's attention.  Bring the vehicle in as soon as you are able.   Many dealers give loaners, but they are not required to do so by law.

4. Every time you discuss the problem with anyone at either the dealership or the manufacturer, make a written record of the date and time of the call, the name of the person with whom you spoke, and a detailed description of the call.

5. Before you bring the car in for service,  prepare a written description of the problems that you are having.  Keep a copy for your records and give a copy to the service department.  Ask them to keep your description as part of your file.  If they refuse, ask them to sign your copy.

6. Insist on getting a copy of the service record for EVERY time you bring the car to the dealership.  Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicle regulations require that they generate and give you a copy of the record.  Look the record over to make sure that they accurately described the problem that you reported to them.  If they left something out, send them a letter pointing out the missing problem.

7. If a problem has not been fixed after two repair attempts, call the manufacturer's representative.  Tell them about your problem and describe the past repair attempts. Follow their instructions on how to get the problem fixed.  Remember  to include this discussion in your log!

8. If the problem has not been fixed after four repair attempts (or if the Vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 days), call the manufacturer and tell them that you want a replacement or a buy-back of the vehicle (the manufacturer, at this point, gets to decide which to give you).  If they attempt to persuade you to bring the vehicle back in for another repair attempt, be persistent and ask whether they are willing to buy the car back or offer a refund.  If they want someone to inspect the car, you can agree to that, but insist that they do nothing but the inspection, and make it clear that you want to stay with the car at all times.

9. If you want to consult with a lawyer, make that call BEFORE you give a 5th opportunity.  If you leave the vehicle with a dealership, then you probably need to wait to see if the problem is finally fixed.

Dealing with a lemon can be incredibly frustrating and inconvenient.  But, with persistence, most consumers are able to either get the problem fixed or obtain a refund or replacement.    

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