Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

common car problemsPicture this situation: you are driving along on the freeway in your new car that you purchased just two months ago.

It still smells new, the seats and steering wheel are unworn, and you’re enjoying all the latest safety and comfort features the car market can offer. Suddenly, you feel your vehicle lurch forward.

Lights on the dashboard start flashing, little icons backlit in red and orange. You pull off into the shoulder and come to a stop, waiting for your car to settle itself. It finally does, and you continue driving, more stressed than before.

Situations like the one above are scary and stressful for a number of reasons. Vehicles are supposed to be safer than ever in the modern day, but they can still present to be very dangerous when they malfunction.

Dangerous vehicle defects are thankfully not too common, but smaller defects that still impact the function and safety of a vehicle are much more commonly discovered by consumers.

These defective parts can lead to accidents, the worst-case scenario for many drivers and others on the road. Because of how dangerous these accidents can be, consumer protection laws exist to keep consumers safe from improper behavior from manufacturers.

For vehicles specifically, states have lemon laws that consumers can use to hold the manufacturer accountable for defective vehicles by getting either a replacement vehicle or a refund.

The Dangers of Defective Car Parts

Vehicles, before anything else, are ultimately heavy machinery. Like any other heavy machinery, defective parts can be catastrophically dangerous when they are present.

Vehicles are complex networks of hardware, software, and interactions between the two. A defect in one part of the car can have significant impacts on other parts of the car that one might not think are connected at all. As technology develops, we can expect to see more and more packed into vehicles, meaning that defects have the potential to be even more impactful.

8 Common Defects Leading to Accidents (or Making Them Worse)

most common car problems

  1. Transmission Issues: One of the scariest defects to have in a vehicle, transmission issues impact the ability of the driver to either begin or stop acceleration or switch gears. While being unable to accelerate might not seem unsafe, it significantly impairs a driver’s ability to match the flow of traffic. Obviously, an accelerator which forces acceleration is very dangerous as it can result in unexpected lurching and speed increases. General transmission issues are dangerous because they keep the driver from effectively controlling the vehicle, such as preventing it from being able to stay in park or keeping it in drive.
  2. Faulty Airbags/Seatbelts: Seatbelts and airbags have been some of the best safety innovations in the world of automobile manufacturing, which is why it is so significant when they malfunction. Airbags and seatbelts play vital roles in keeping the driver and passengers safe in a collision. When either is defective, it can worsen the injuries sustained in the event of an accident. Unexpected deployment of defective airbags can also cause accidents.
  3. Electronics/Wiring Problems: Wiring and electronics problems describes a very wide range of problems a car can experience, all dealing with the electronic parts within the car and how they connect. Defects in these parts can result in anything from car batteries starting fires to rearview cameras not displaying an image. The variance in the severity of these problems makes them some of the most dangerous, and if detected, should be taken to be repaired immediately.
  4. Defective Brakes: Like defective accelerators, defective breaks are obviously dangerous. They impair the driver’s ability to control the vehicle, either to keep it from moving from standing or to slow it down from moving. Defective brakes are likely responsible for the most accidents out of everything on this list. Additionally, most modern vehicles have automatic emergency braking systems which can display problems and unexpectedly initiate braking, which can also be very dangerous.
  5. Steering Wheel Problems: Since almost all cars sold today have some version of power steering to assist the driver, steering wheel problems can create significant issues in effectively driving a vehicle. Without good control over turning, a driver can quickly find themselves in a bad situation that could easily lead to an accident. Also bad is a steering wheel locking up unexpectedly, preventing the driver from exercising any control at all.
  6. Engine Issues: Engine issues are some of the scarier issues for a vehicle to have because of how important the engine is and how many moving parts it has within it. When engines are manufactured poorly, they can leak fluids like oil or coolant into the rest of the car or onto the road beneath it. Engines that overheat run the risk of combusting, which is extremely dangerous for both the people in the vehicle as well as for the vehicle itself. Overall, engine issues are to be taken extremely seriously and should be addressed as soon as they are noticed.
  7. Fluid Leaks: Fuel and other fluids like oil are moved through cars through a series of tubes or lines. These lines can be defective, like when connections between lines and other parts are weak or the material the line is made of is susceptible to deterioration. A leaking fuel line is dangerous because gasoline is a combustible and flammable material, so it leaking can result in fires or explosions. If this happens during an accident, the accident can be significantly worsened. The same is true of oil leaks, which can result in a car running poorly or create hazards on the roads for other drivers.
  8. Tire Blowouts: Tires are another vital part of a vehicle. Like other parts, they can be manufactured improperly and contain defects. These defects typically weaken the integrity of the tire in some way, which can lead to it being more easily punctured or more likely to experience blowouts. These can make a driver spontaneously lose control of the vehicle and are therefore very dangerous.

The Importance of Repairing Your Vehicle

If you notice a problem with your vehicle, your best course of action is to get the problem repaired by an authorized manufacturer dealer as soon as possible. It can be difficult for an untrained individual to identify how dangerous a defect truly is, and waiting for it to have an impact is not a safe bet by any means.

If your vehicle is still under the manufacturer’s warranty, the manufacturer will have to cover the cost of repairs. Consumers should also take care to record repair attempts in case they end up needing to bring a lemon law claim, as lemon law claims are based on the vehicle undergoing repeat warranty repair attempts.

Your Rights Under the California Lemon Law

The California lemon law applies to vehicles under a manufacturer’s warranty, or which have been delivered to the consumer within a year of the first repair attempt.

Vehicles are considered lemons after they have undergone a reasonable number of repair attempts. Depending on the severity of the defect, a reasonable number will likely be around two to four.

Alternatively, if repairs cause the vehicle to be out of use for 30 days, which don’t need to be in a row (two 15-day periods or three 10-day periods would work), it may also be considered a lemon.

Once a vehicle is determined to be a lemon, the manufacturer has the choice of either refunding the consumer or replacing the vehicle with one of a similar make and model.

In a refund, the consumer receives all of the money they spent on the vehicle, including their down payment, monthly payments, and fees like interest and taxes.

In a replacement, the consumer’s defective vehicle will be replaced with a similar make and model vehicle. This is commonly a current-year car, though it depends on availability.

With both the refund and replacement, the consumer will be assessed a usage fee, which is a value for when the vehicle was driven before the first repair attempt for which it is considered a lemon.

Also, with both the refund and replacement, the consumer is also entitled to get reimbursed for any incidental expenses related to the lemon such as the registration renewal, rental car and tow car expenses related to the lemon.

If you choose to bring a lemon law claim against the manufacturer of a defective vehicle and win, you do not pay any attorney’s fees. This means that the case comes at no cost to you.  As the prevailing party, the auto manufacturer is responsible for the consumer’s attorneys fees and costs related to a lemon law claim.

How a Lemon Law Attorney Can Assist You

Auto manufacturers have large and experienced legal teams to help them evade liability and avoid having to compensate you for your defective vehicle.

This is why consumers should seek out their own legal counsel in the form of a, experienced and knowledgeable lemon law attorney. These attorneys know the law and know how to best organize your case so that it has the highest chance of being successful.

The law is a complex topic, and having someone who has dedicated their professional careers to understanding it in your corner makes a huge difference in the overall claim process.

Lemon Vehicle? Work with the California Lemon Law Experts!

We understand that dealing with a defective vehicle is stressful, and that navigating a legal situation can be even more stressful. Fortunately, the Lemon Law Experts are here to assist you in bringing your claim successfully.

Our team of attorneys has been practicing since 2009 and are highly experienced in utilizing the California lemon law to get favorable outcomes for our cases.

By hiring a lemon law attorney from the Lemon Law Experts, you are increasing your odds of a successful case exponentially. If you believe you are dealing with a lemon vehicle, contact us today! We are reachable by phone at (877) 885-5366 or through our online form, which can be found here!