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Valencia Lemon Law Blog

How to get the most out of a test drive

The test drive is one of the more enjoyable parts of car shopping. Some look at it as a chance to stomp on the gas, perhaps drive a car out of their price range, or just have a little fun, but the test drive addresses some important considerations. Here are some tips from experts about how to make the most of it.

Pick your own test drive route

Protect yourself against odometer fraud

Many will remember the scene towards the end of Ferris Buellers Day Off where the vintage car crashes through a garage wall and lands on the ground below. This was after the kids who took dad’s prized car for a joyride tried to rollback the odometer. The characters were unable to change the mileage, but there are fraudsters in real life who can and do change the mileage readings on cars.

It is hard to detect these mileage changes, but not impossible. Below are tips from the National Highway Safety Administration that used car buyers can use to avoid being taken advantage of:

Class action involving Ford touchscreens ends in settlement

Many complain about drivers looking at their devices or texting when they should have their eyes on the road. However, modern day cars have a variety technological bells and whistles in the dashboard to look at, none larger, more important and distracting than the ubiquitous touch screen used to operate the stereo system, climate control, navigation and other functions in today’s cars.

Unfortunately, Ford manufactured one that was prone to freeze up. This can be safety hazard if one is driving down the street and the defrost will not go on. And while other devices with screens can easily be rebooted, that is not possible in a moving vehicle. 

IKEA recalls defective bicycle

IKEA recently announced that it was recalling 5,100 SLADDA bikes sold in the US and Canada. The reason for the recall is that the belt this bike used in lieu of the traditional bike chain can break. Depending on the circumstances of the break, this could potentially lead to injury from falling or another type of accident. According to the company, it has received 11 reports of the bike's belt breaking, including two that led to minor injuries. None of these incidents was in the U.S.

The models of the recall are the 26-inch and 28-inch SLADDA bikes. These bicycles are light grey in color with an aluminum frame and have the IKEA brand stenciled on the seat tube near the pedals and bottom bracket. Manufactured in China, the bicycles are sold exclusively by IKEA for $400 to $500. The recalls are for bikes sold between August of 2016 and January of 2018.

Diagnosing a steering problem

The Ford Fusion and certain other models have become infamous for problems with their steering. For the safety of the driver, passengers and fellow motorists, it is advisable to address a steering issue as soon as possible. However, it is not a bad idea to gather a little information before going to the mechanic. These from experts may be easy fixes, or at the very least provide you and the mechanic a certain level of information when you bring the car in for work to be done.

Check your power steering fluid: There should be a light on the dashboard for this, but it does not hurt to check under the hood. The power steering fluid cap will be well marked on newer cars. Look at the owner’s manual if you do not see it. Unscrew the cap and check the level. If it is not full, buy some power steering fluid from your automotive supply store and fill the reservoir. There is likely a leak if it needs to be filled regularly.

New study announces vehicles with most lemon complaints

The highly respected Autowise.com announced its list of eight recent vehicle models with the highest number of lemon complaints. Compiled by the site's staff, this is the first annual list. The site defines "lemon" as cars that have been out of service at least three or four times. Along with the staff's picks, Autowise.com also crunched complaint data from the 500-plus forums it maintains.

  1. Chevrolet Cruze: This car has had a number of issues in recent years. These include the steering wheel detaching from the column and oil leaks in the 2011 models. Those manufactured from 2009-2011 had steering issues, transmission shift linkage problems and fuel tanks coming loose in crashes.
  2. GMC Acadia: This model has a number of electrical issues, including loss of power and faulty dashboard warnings (including "service engine soon" and "check engine"), fuses burning out and headlights not turning on. It also has repeated problems of engines surging and stalling, transmission problems, traction control issues and suspension issues. The cooling system overheats and leaks.
  3. Chevrolet Silverado: The manufacturer of this popular pick-up recalled the 2016 model because the location of the mounting stud for the air bag sensor and diagnostic module. The location leads to fractures that allow water to enter the system, which leads to malfunction and faulty deployment.
  4. Dodge Challenger: Dodge recalled the 2015 edition of this classic muscle car because of instrument panel malfunction, which causes gauges to wildly fluctuate. The airbag light also remains lit. Driver's side airbag may have issues involving the mounting bolt. The radio software is vulnerable to third party access to certain vehicle control systems.
  5. Ford Focus: The model years 2008-2013 have problems with check engine light and other warning lights as well as loss of power. The engine stalls or does not start. There can be brake, suspension, alignment and power steering problems.
  6. Ford Escape: The model years 2008-2013 also have check engine light malfunctions and loss of power. The engine stalls or does not start. There can be brake, suspension and alignment issues as well as transmission problems.
  7. Jeep Wrangler: This model has ongoing issues with leaks through doors, windows, vents and roof. There is vibration and noise at high speeds and while braking. Dashboard lights sometimes do not turn off.
  8. Jeep Cherokee: There are concerns about reliable airbag deployment. The power liftgate short circuits due to water leaking into the controls. Software issues enable third parties to access control systems. There is an air conditioner design flaw that may cause vehicle fire.

How does lemon law buyback work?

Lemon law buyback vehicles are usually so badly flawed that manufacturers deem them unfit to be on the road. In their eyes, the vehicles are unsafe and not of sufficient value, so manufacturers “buyback” these vehicles from the consumer.

While the vehicle makers may initiate the buyback after a reasonable number of attempts to fix it, the consumer may need to prompt them to do so. Minus fees for mileage driven between first repair attempt and final buyback, manufacturers must refund the consumers’ payments (and full amount of a car loan), prorated registration, taxes or fees, as well as incidental expenses like rental cars or tow expenses. Buybacks even include money to cover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

Spotting a car with flood damage

The used car market is inundated by flood cars damaged by major storms and hurricanes. While Southern California has not been hit by hurricanes like our friends on the Southeast and Gulf Coast, there is still reason to be vigilant. The fact is that 50 percent of cars damaged in floods and/or heavy precipitation end up back on the road, and not necessarily in the same state where the initial damage occurred.

Scenarios that should cause red flags

Where to take your car for repairs

No one mechanic or shop is the best solution for all vehicle repairs. Obviously, there are people who do body work verses ones who fix that weird sound your car makes on the highway. Warranty-related work is best handled by the dealership, but an oil change does not need to be. Sometimes you even find a good local mechanic or a neighbor that works on cars.

The general goal is to get the work done in a timely fashion, for a reasonable price and, of course, in a way that effectively resolves the problem. The issue may dictate where it goes, but here are general guidelines for the three main groups of mechanics.

Can lemon law claims be made for used cars?

California's lemon law provides important protections to individuals who buy new vehicles in the state. What about used vehicles? Can individuals who buy used cars that end up having serious defects make lemon law claims?

It depends on the situation. There are certain circumstances in which the state's lemon law does apply to used cars. In these situations, lemon law claims can be a possibility when serious mechanical problems arise.