Consumer Protection

How to Protect Yourself: Chronic and Persistent Car Trouble

Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office


Dealing with chronic and persistent automobile repairs can be frustrating. Consumers who have experienced chronic problems with their automobiles may be experiencing a substantial product defect or condition and might be entitled to reimbursement or another remedy. Your car repair could be covered by a company product recall, a warranty or possibly a safety recall from the National Highway Safety Administration. If you are having a chronic and persistent problem with your vehicle, consider the following:

Search for possible safety recalls or manufacturer’s defects.

There are at least three ways to determine if your vehicle has been subject to any safety recalls or manufacturer defective product recalls. The first is to contact the manufacturer and request the company’s Product Service Publication index. Once you receive the index, check for your particular problem. If it is listed, request a copy of that technical bulletin from the manufacturer. Your vehicle’s manufacturer contact information can be found in your owner’s manual or by contacting the dealership from which you purchased the vehicle.

The second way to determine whether your vehicle has been the subject of a recall is to look up your vehicle on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at www.NHTSA.gov. There you may search for recalls or investigations related to your vehicle. You may also file a complaint related to your vehicle and any chronic issues you are experiencing.

The third way to determine whether your vehicle has been the subject of a recall is to look up your vehicle on the Center for Auto Safety website at www.autosafety.org. If your vehicle has been reported to the center, the center will have materials listing defects reported along with information on how to proceed with your complaint.

Determine if your vehicle is affected.

If you receive information on any manufacturer’s defects, review your repair bills to determine if a possible defect could be responsible for your problems. If so, you might be eligible for compensation. If you discover that your vehicle has been subject to any safety recalls, check with your dealer to ensure your vehicle has had all necessary recalls handled. Most safety recalls are performed at no charge to the owner.

Work to resolve the problem.

If you believe your problem is the result of a defect, write to your car manufacturer’s Director of Consumer Relations. You can obtain the address from your owner’s manual or in the Consumer’s Resource Handbook, which is available online at www.usa.gov/handbook. You also can follow the advice in the handbook on how to write a letter of complaint.

If you have a new automobile and are having a problem, it may be covered by Florida’s Lemon Law. The state’s Lemon Law covers defects or conditions that substantially impair the use, value or safety of a new vehicle. These defects, called nonconformities, must be first reported to the manufacturer or its authorized service agent (usually the dealer) during the “Lemon Law Rights Period,” which is the first 24 months after the date of delivery of the vehicle to the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to conform the vehicle to the warranty after a reasonable number of attempts to repair these defects, the law requires the manufacturer buy back the defective vehicle and give the consumer a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle. The law does not cover defects that result from accident, neglect, abuse, modification or alteration by persons other than the manufacturer or its authorized service agent.

Consumers should keep records of all repairs and maintenance and keep all receipts or invoices for payment of expenses related to the purchase or lease of the vehicle and any repair. For information on the Lemon Law program, call the Lemon Law Hotline at 1-800-321-5366 or visit the Attorney General’s Lemon Law Division online at www.myfloridalegal.com.

File a complaint.

Report safety problems with your vehicle to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration online at www.safercar.gov or by phone toll-free at 1-888-327-4236. Ensure you include your vehicle’s year, make, model, VIN and any documentation of the problem when filing a complaint. If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with Florida’s Lemon Law, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at www.myfloridalegal.com or by calling the Lemon Law hotline toll-free at 1-800-321-5366.