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 numerous ways to determine if your vehicle has been subject to any safety recalls or manufacturer defective product recalls. For example, a relatively easy 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 or at www.safercar.gov. There you may search for recalls or investigations related to your vehicle. You can also file a complaint related to your vehicle and any chronic issues you are experiencing.

A second method is to contact the manufacturer about your car’s particular problem. 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. If your vehicle’s problem is listed, request a copy of that technical service bulletin from the manufacturer. You can also search technical service bulletins for your car at www.NHTSA.gov.

A 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 Action 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 the manufacturer fails to repair the same problem after three attempts, the vehicle owner or lessee must provide written notice to the manufacturer of this fact by registered or express mail in order to give the manufacturer a final opportunity to fix the problem. If the manufacturer is unable to fix the problem within a reasonable number of attempts, the law requires the manufacturer to replace the defective vehicle or refund the purchase price. 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.