|A Brief Overview on Remedies Available from the North Carolina Lemon Law|
Do I Qualify to have My Vehicle Branded as a Lemon?
North Carolina Lemon Law permits the first owner of a brand new, never before titled motor vehicle weighing less than 10,000 pounds purchased or leased in North Carolina to petition the manufacturer for a replacement vehicle or a full refund if one of three conditions are met during the first two years of ownership, or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first:
1) A single defect or any kind has been presented to the manufacturer or its authorized agent for repair at least four (4) times and the same problem continues to exist;
2) The vehicle has been out of service for twenty (20) or more business days during any one year period for a single defect or series of defects; or
3) Any defect or condition or series of defects or conditions substantially impair the value or the safety of a vehicle.
There are remedies available under the Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Act and the Uniform Commercial Code for those consumers who do not fall into the Lemon Law category.
Sadly, many lemons in North Carolina miss the branding process and are resold as 'local trades.'
Try pointing out your problem directly to the mechanic who will be working on your vehicle. Sometimes repeat repairs are due to a breakdown of communication between you, the service advisor, and the mechanic.
If You Do Not Yet Qualify for the North Carolina Lemon Law But Wish to Simply Repair Your Problem
If you are having difficulty getting a particular problem repaired properly, speak to the dealership service manager first. Describe the problem in great detail, including any noticeable patterns such as weather or time of day. Ask if there are any applicable technical service bulletins (TSBs) available. Often, there is a documented repair available for a common, hard-to-diagnose problem.
Always keep records. Even if your vehicle is successfully repaired, any mileage incurred by the dealership during testing of the vehicle and any time where the vehicle was at the dealership is supposed to be added back to to warranty. If you have a major breakdown one day past your warranty expiration, providing records to show that your vehicle sat in the shop for five days at one point during the warranty period may be enough to cover your repair.
The dealer can contact their dedicated technical assistance line, which is a direct line to the manufacturer's engineers who can offer more insight into a particular problem.
Ask the dealer to flash your control modules with new software, such as your powertrain control module, body control module, ABS control module, radio, climate control or navigation system, door modules, etc. An undocumented software upgrade might be the solution to your problems as more and more vehicle components are controlled by computer software, not the traditional rods and levers.
If the service manager cannot resolve the situation, consider another dealer. If that does not solve the problem, consider contacting the manufacturer directly in writing, noting specifically your problem and the current date and mileage of your vehicle. Doing so helps preserve your legal rights.
Common Tactics Manufacturers Use to Push Consumers Aside
Manufacturers sometimes tell consumers that the defect is insignificant. The Lemon Law does not state that a defect must be of a particular type, but that it must be the same defect presented a 'reasonable number of times' for repair. A 'small' defect can be insignificant, such as significant wind noise around seals, but it is not precluded under the Lemon Law.
Consumers should use the same wording each time they go to a dealership requesting repairs. A manufacturer will sometimes claim that the defect has not been presented the correct number of times or that a repeat defect never existed simply due to wording variations on repair orders, even though the consumer knows differently. Also make sure that the repair orders list the dates the vehicle was present in the shop, such as the 'date in' and 'date out,' and complete mileage records.
Manufacturers may also try to claim that a defect was due to misuse or abuse. If you have tampered with your vehicle or have abused it, the manufacturer is not obligated to work with you for your claim. However, do not be pushed away if someone tells you that you don't qualify under the Lemon Law because your off-road vehicle was taken off-road. Such use is considered normal and expected, especially if the manufacturer's own advertisements show this type of use.
We have heard all to often that 'they all do that.' Dealers will justify the issue as normal simply by comparing it to another defective vehicle or by dismissing the claim. We worked with a consumer who had issues with his mirrors moving themselves on the highway. We knew they weren't supposed to do that and so did the dealer. The dealer, instead of trying to fix the issue, showed the consumer another vehicle that did the same exact thing and dismissed his complaint as 'working as designed.'
Another consumer had a problem with broken grids in the rear window defogger / defroster. In showing the service manager the issue, the service manager stated on the paperwork that a defroster was not designed to remove fog on the inside of the window so it was 'functioning as designed." Of course, that statement was ridiculous and only an attempt to force the customer to accept the defect. A subsequent visit to that dealership resulted in a new window that removed all of the frost in addition to the inside fog.
A manufacturer may also try to appease you by giving you an extended warranty, which is useless if they can't fix the problem, or may try to give you a 'trade assist.' There is no need for consumers to resort to a low valued trade-in as a means to get a functioning vehicle. Usually, a consumer can gain substantially more by going through legal means than by falling for one of these tactics.
If you think you may have no choice but to apply for relief under North Carolina Lemon Law, feel free to contact us. We may be able to help you amicably resolve the situation, assist you with your repairs, or refer you to free legal advice. In any case, document your repairs and don't hesitate to contact a private attorney. In most cases, the attorney's fees are paid directly by the manufacturer for these claims, not the consumer.
Consumers may recall that NCCC authored and pushed through revisions to the North Carolina Lemon Law in 2005 that made the law more fair to consumers. Included in these changes were new limits on vehicle weights, an updated mileage deduction formula, and caps on mileage deductions after the third repair attempt or twentieth day out of service.
This article stems from a rise in the number of complaints surrounding automobile repair. It is not meant as legal advice; instead, it is meant to guide you in your search for answers. As such, you should consult a private attorney for assistance in your particular situation.