California Lemon Law Glossary
“As is” Condition: A car that is sold “as is” is likely sold with no warranty, thereby usually imposing no duty on the dealer or seller to make any repairs, regardless of the vehicle’s condition, unless there are other legal concerns such as a misrepresentation or fraud.
Arbitration: Arbitration is an informal legal process that consumers may use to obtain a resolution of their lemon law case. The decision of the arbitrator is not legally binding on the consumer, but it is binding on the manufacturer. It is a dangerous tool to use, however, because a decision against the consumer may be used by the manufacturer in any future legal proceeding, and that decision has the same weight as if made in a court of law even though the arbitrator may have no legal experience or automotive expertise. In California, arbitration is not a prerequisite for filing a lemon law claim or filing a lawsuit against a manufacturer. Finally, before resorting to arbitration, ask yourself “Who is paying for the arbitration?”
Demand Letter to Manufacturer: A written demand sent to the manufacturer which describes the motor vehicle, its defects, and the attempts made to repair such defect(s) by a manufacturer’s authorized repair facility.
Express Warranty: A written warranty, issued by the manufacturer of a new motor vehicle. The express warranty provides certain promises concerning the vehicle’s condition, fitness for use, and the manufacturer’s obligations to repair the vehicle.
Incidental Charges: These are reasonable costs which may have been incurred by the consumer as a result of the vehicle’s defect(s). These may include towing charges, car rentals, and other related out of pocket expense, but do not include loss of use, loss of income, or personal injury claims.
Lemon Laws: The California Lemon Laws provide that any new or used vehicle covered under the manufacturers express warranty will be replaced or repurchased by the manufacturer if they are unable to repair problems within a reasonable number of repair attempts. This includes four (4) repair attempts for substantial manufacturing defects and two (2) repair attempts for safety related problems. A vehicle can also be considered a lemon if it has been out of service at an authorized repair facility, for more than 30 days within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles.
Magnuson Moss Warranty Act: A federal Act, which is a group of laws, which provide legal rights for consumers.
Mediation: Mediation is an informal procedure for dispute resolution. It does not require that you hire a lawyer nor that you go through the court system. It is a flexible procedure allowing for more creative settlements. Both parties must agree to use the resolution process, but it may be less effective in getting a manufacturer to agree to a refund or replacement vehicle.
Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts: Most state laws count “repair attempts” as occasions when you make the vehicle available to a manufacturer’s authorized repair facility, regardless of whether the dealer verifies the defect or makes an attempt to repair it. In California only two (2) safety related repair attempts, if unsuccessful, is “reasonable.” Non safety related defects, however, require four (4) or more unsuccessful attempts of a substantial defect to establish a reasonable number of attempts, or 30 days out of service for any combination of repairs if they occur within 18 months or 18,000 miles from the date of first delivery.
Repair Order: The Repair Order is usually the final document prepared by the service department cashier after work has been completed on your vehicle. This document is usually more comprehensive than the original work order and should be retained by you for your records.
Replacement Vehicle: In California the consumer has the option of electing either a replacement vehicle (typically same year and model with the same accessories) or reimbursement (getting your money back). In almost every case, we recommend our clients opt for reimbursement and then use that money toward the purchase or lease or another vehicle.
Safety Defect or Safety Non Conformity: This is a manufacturing defect which creates a risk of a life threatening malfunction. Substantial defects such as steering or brake system failures may be examples of safety related defects.
Service Contracts (Extended Warranties): Service contracts and extended warranties are basically insurance policies. The consumer pays an additional amount to the seller or a third party for protection against defects beyond those covered by the manufacturer’s express and implied warranties. But such contracts are not manufacturer’s warranties, and they do not apply to, or extend your rights under California’s Lemon Law statutes. The manufacturer is not required to reimburse you for these contracts, although most may be cancelled if your vehicle is repurchased and the full or partial premium may be separately recovered from the seller of the contract.
Substantial Non Conformity: This is a manufacturing defect that significantly impairs the safety, use, or value of a vehicle. Whether a defect is substantial is a decision for the arbitrator, judge, or jury, but minor or cosmetic problems are not considered to be substantial defects.
The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC): In addition to your rights under state Lemon Laws, and the federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, the Uniform Commercial Code is a set of state warranty laws, which may be used in limited circumstances in dealing with the manufacturer or dealer.
TSB: Technical Service Bulletin: The TSB is a bulletin issued by the manufacturer to its dealers and service departments, usually pertaining to a problem commonly found in vehicles of the same make and type. When bringing your vehicle in for repairs, ask the service technician if the manufacturer has issued any TSB’s relating to your vehicle for the same or similar problem.
VIN (Vehicle Identification Number): This is the manufacturer’s number which you can find on your vehicle and on your title. It is also included on each repair order.
Work Order: The initial document given to you by the service or technical representative at the dealership when bringing your vehicle in for repairs. Be sure to check the work order for correct date, odometer mileage, and very important, that the items you complain of are as you described them.
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If you are in California call our Lemon Law Offices:
Anywhere in California (free call): 1.888.ExLemon (395.3666)
- California Lemon Law in Los Angeles: 310-475-1700
- California Lemon Law in San Francisco: 415-285-5366
- California Lemon Law in San Diego: 619-229-6900
- California Lemon Law in Orange County: 949-856-4333
- California Lemon Law in Palm Springs: 760-395-1000
- California Lemon Law in San Fernando Valley: 818-837-0500