Few feelings can be as gutting as realizing the car you just bought is a lemon. After spending countless hours researching vehicles, test-driving, and securing your finances, the last thing you want is for your car to break down the second you drive it off the lot.
This blog from consumer protection attorney Jeff Mehalic breaks down red flags that could indicate that a car you're looking at is a lemon. Jeff has more than 30 years of experience helping everyday people assert their rights against powerful interests. If you have been a victim of auto fraud, he will pursue your claim.
Uneven or Mismatched Tire Tread
If a car is maintained correctly, the tread on the tires should be worn evenly. If some tires are more worn than others, it could be a sign that the car has not been adequately maintained. It may indicate that the previous owner never rotated the tires.
Uneven tire tread could also be a warning that something is far worse with the car, such as that it needs an alignment. That would be an expensive fix that you don't want to deal with after investing so much in your vehicle.
Suspension repairs can be among the most expensive that you have to deal with. There is a relatively easy way you can examine a car's suspension when you're shopping. As you walk around the car, stop to push down on the front and rear bumpers.
If the car has a good, working suspension, it will bounce up and down once or twice when you press down on the bumper. If the vehicle bounces more than that, or if it doesn't bounce at all, its suspension might be worn down and in need of replacement.
Loose Steering Wheel
When you test drive a car, pay attention to how the steering wheel feels. It should be responsive, tight, and controlled.
If a steering wheel is loose, it could indicate serious problems with the vehicle. It may be a sign that the car is misaligned or has a problem with its power steering system.
Pulling and Shaking
Never buy a car without test-driving it on the highway first. A car may drive well on city streets but demonstrate other problems at high speeds. When you get the car on the highway, make sure to drive it at or above the highway speed limit to see how it performs at high speeds.
As you accelerate, pay attention to whether the steering wheel starts to shake or if the vehicle starts pulling to one side. Both of these issues indicate a problem with the alignment of the car.
Low Fluid Levels and Poor Fluid Color
It's critical to check the fluids of a car before you buy one. First, check the oil level. Bring oil yourself and add it if the level is low. Then wait to see if the oil level drops quickly. If it does, that could be a sign of an oil leak, which is a major red flag. Even if there is no leak, low levels of oil indicate that the car's previous owner did not properly care for it.
Oil should also be brown or black. If it's gritty or gelatinous, it may not have been changed for a long time. Oil that is too thin or frothy, or the color of chocolate milk, could indicate a blown head gasket.
You should also check the transmission fluid after your test drive, while the engine is still hot. It should be bright red or a light reddish-brown. A dark brown or black color could mean the car has serious problems with its transmission.
Lemon Law in West Virginia
If a car you're looking at demonstrates any of these issues, you should see them as massive red flags and move on to another vehicle. However, if you bought a car that turned out to be a lemon, you're not out of options. West Virginia's lemon laws protect you if you buy a vehicle with a defect or condition that:
- Substantially lowers its value or your ability to operate it
- Occurred within 12 months of purchase
- Cannot be fixed after three repair attempts at an authorized dealership
In West Virginia, consumers have additional protection if:
- The vehicle is in the shop for 30 or more days during the first year after purchase. Those 30 days do not have to be consecutive.
- The defect can cause severe injury or death and is not fixed after one attempt.
Additionally, federal lemon laws protect consumers if the defects occurred more than a year after purchase, but while the vehicle was still under warranty.
Contact Our Morgantown Lemon Law Attorney Today
Jeff Mehalic has more than 30 years of experience protecting consumers like you from powerful interests that want to take advantage of you. He practices alone, which means that your case will never be passed off to an assistant or junior partner. Jeff will handle every detail of your case personally.
If you feel you've been defrauded by a car dealer who sold you a lemon, Jeff can help. He serves Morgantown, Wheeling, Martinsburg, and nearby areas of West Virginia. Call (304) 346-3462 today to schedule your free consultation.