What You Need to Know About North Carolina Lemon Law if You Are Having Repeat Car Problems
Image: Pexels

What You Need to Know About North Carolina Lemon Law if You Are Having Repeat Car Problems

If you meet certain criteria, your vehicle may be eligible for a buyback or free replacement from the manufacturer under North Carolina Lemon Law

December 4, 2021

North Carolina Lemon Law gives the first owner of a brand new vehicle purchased or leased in North Carolina weighing less than 10,000 pounds certain legal rights when there are serious defects or defects that can't be fixed. The manufacturer may replace the vehicle or give a refund minus usage if the vehicle qualifies during the first two years of ownership, or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

North Carolina Lemon Law Qualifications for qualifying vehicles

  1. A single defect of any kind has been presented to the dealer 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 any number of defects; or
  3. Any defect(s) or condition(s) substantially impairs the vehicle's value or safety.

There are NO used vehicle lemon laws in North Carolina

If you have purchased a USED vehicle in North Carolina, you can't ask a manufacturer to classify your vehicle as a 'lemon' under North Carolina Lemon Law. This right is reserved solely for the original owner of the vehicle. There is the Magnuson-Moss Federal Warranty Act that may be used in some cases to conform a vehicle to the warranty or to qualify the vehicle for refund or replacement. If you have a problem with a vehicle, you should consult an attorney for legal advice.

working with the dealership

If you are having trouble getting a problem repaired, speak to the dealership service manager first, describing the problem in detail. Technical service bulletins (TSBs) may be available, which give guidance on fixing common yet hard-to-detect problems. The dealer can contact their dedicated technical assistance line to the manufacturer's engineers who can offer more insight into a particular problem. If the service manager cannot resolve the situation, consider another dealer.

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, navigation system, door modules, etc, if your problem appears to be related to software. Undocumented software updates might be the solution to your problems as more and more vehicle components are controlled by computer software, not the traditional rods and levers.

Keep Good Records to support a Lemon Law legal claim

Even if you think they are not necessary, keep records. Your Lemon Law lawyer will want to see all service records, as well as any communications between you and the dealer or manufacturer. Keep a record of any phone calls you make, even if it's just the date, time and the name of the person who spoke with you. Without these records, your Lemon Law lawyer may have trouble negotiating your legal claim or may not be able to get you the compensation you deserve.

You should get a time and mileage credit, even if your vehicle is repaired.

Even if your vehicle is repaired, you will want to have any mileage your vehicle incurred during dealership testing credited back to your warranty. This amount is determined by your 'mileage in' and 'mileage out' numbers on your repair invoice and the number of days it sits in the shop. Make sure that your repair invoices accurately reflect these amounts. If you suffer a major breakdown four days after your warranty expires and your vehicle sat at the dealership for twenty days awaiting repairs, you may still be able to have your vehicle repaired under warranty.

your defect 'does not qualify' for the Lemon Law

Manufacturers often try to get consumers to think that a particular defect is insignificant in order to keep them from consulting a Lemon Law lawyer. North Carolina Lemon Law doesn't classify problems according to significance. North Carolina Lemon Law is written so that any defect a manufacturer can't fix entitles the owner for remedies under the Lemon Law. A defect can seem small, such as a rattle that won't go away, but you're still entitled to use the Lemon Law.

you must have 'abused' the vehicle

Manufacturers sometimes claim a defect was due to misuse or abuse. If you tampered with your vehicle or abused it, the manufacturer is not obligated to work with you on your Lemon Law claim. But don't 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.

functioning as designed or they all do that

We hear all to often that 'they all do that.' Dealers will justify a problem as normal simply by comparing it to another defective vehicle. We worked with an owner who had issues with mirrors moving themselves on the highway. The dealer, instead of trying to fix the issue, showed the owner another vehicle that did the same exact thing and dismissed his complaint as 'working as designed.' After all, they all did that. In the end, his vehicle was repurchased under the Lemon Law and the manufacturer issued new software later that year to fix the problem.

Here's an extended warranty. Go away And take your Lemon Law claim with it.

A manufacturer may try to appease you by giving you an extended warranty, which is useless if they can't fix the problem. Extended warranties can be helpful if you intend to keep the vehicle for a while and think you can get it fixed or think you can live with the problem. But you can get fair compensation under the North Carolina Lemon Law. Consulting a Lemon Law lawyer quickly can get you much better resolution.

Here's a 'trade assist' because you don't have a problem or your problem isn't a Lemon Law problem.

Manufacturers or dealers may try to give you a 'trade assist,' which is basically an offer to come down a very small amount of money on a new vehicle. There is no need for you to resort to a low-ball trade-in with the promise of a slight discount on a new car in order to get a functioning vehicle, especially when they should be fixing your problem under the warranty. You can definitely do better by working with a Lemon Law lawyer.

If it's the same problem, describe it the same way each time you go for repairs.

Use the same wording each time you go to a dealership requesting repairs if the problem is the same. A manufacturer may 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. If the vehicle stalls, each time say the vehicle stalls. Don't say the first time that it's stalling, the second time that it shuts off by itself, and the third time that the engine shakes before it finally quits. It may mean the same thing to you, but it may means something different to the person handling your Lemon Law legal claim.

You Need a Lemon Law Attorney to get resolution under the Lemon Law.

You don't want to navigate the Lemon Law legal process alone. Not only do you not know the legal process, you need someone who has experience. A Lemon Law lawyer can help you. A manufacturer won't even take you seriously until you have a Lemon Law Lawyer, even if you file a lawsuit yourself. In North Carolina the manufacturer is responsible for paying all attorney fees if you have a valid Lemon Law legal claim and most Lemon Law lawyers won't ask you for any money unless your claim falls through and you wish to pursue other action. We encourage you to check out our online North Carolina Law Directory to find a Lemon Law attorney.

changes to the North Carolina Lemon Law

We authored and pushed through revisions to the North Carolina Lemon Law in 2005 that made the law fairer to consumers. Included in these changes were new upper 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.