Your Vehicle’s Warranty Book…

When you purchased or leased your new vehicle, it came with a warranty book or other printed pamphlet on what steps to take in resolving complaints you have with your vehicle. These “steps” are designed to “assist” the consumer in resolving their complaints.

Consumers should be aware, however, that these “steps” are often what the automobile manufacturer suggests, and not a full representation nor description of what consumer rights protection the California Lemon Law provides. These warranty books will also mislead the consumer with wording like “within 18 months or 18,000 miles”, suggesting a “lemon law” claim must be filed within this time frame. This is not true, and very misleading. You have the entire warranty period (usually 3 years/36,000 miles or 4 years/50,000 miles) in which to institute a “lemon law” claim. With many automobiles, there is also a “powertrain warranty” that often brings warranty coverage out to 75,000 or 100,000 miles. Many used vehicles are sold as “Certified Pre-Owned” by the automobile dealer, and come with their own limited warranty that is provided by the automobile’s manufacturer. These are all potential “lemon law warranty miles”.

Consumers should note that manufacturers warranty books “inform” that arbitration is “the next step” in the consumer dispute resolution process. It is not. No requirement exists for a consumer to involve themselves in arbitration. California has very distinct rules and regulations in the dispute resolution settlement process, and they are contained in our California Lemon Law statute. In certain situations a valid lemon law claim can be filed after the warranty has expired if the vehicle is still suffering from the same non-conformity.

Sometimes the “instructions” on “your responsibilities as a consumer” were printed in these books before important recent consumer protection amendments to California’s lemon law were enacted. Keep in mind that these warranty books are written by the automobile manufacturer to best serve the manufacturer. They are not without important content, but a consumer should get a “balanced” view of their individual procedural requirements from a legal standpoint from a qualified lemon law attorney.