How to Document and Report Lemon Law Issues in California

Discovering that your recently purchased vehicle has persistent defects that affect its safety, value, or performance can be a frustrating experience. Fortunately, California’s Lemon Law provides consumers with a way to seek relief when they find themselves with a “lemon.” Properly documenting and reporting Lemon Law issues in California is crucial to asserting your rights and potentially obtaining a refund or a replacement vehicle. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process of how to document and report Lemon Law issues effectively.


Step 1: Keep Detailed Records


The first and most important step in documenting Lemon Law issues is to maintain detailed records of everything related to your vehicle’s defects and repair attempts. Here’s what you should document:


  1. Repair Visits: Record the dates of every visit to the dealership or authorized repair facility for the same issue. Note the mileage at the time of each visit.


  1. Description of Problems: Document a clear and concise description of the problems or defects you’re experiencing with your vehicle. Include any unusual noises, warning lights, or malfunctions.


  1. Repair Orders: Request and keep copies of all repair orders, invoices, and work performed by the repair facility. Ensure that each repair order includes a detailed description of the issues reported, as well as the work performed.


  1. Communication: Keep records of all communication with the dealership or manufacturer. This includes emails, letters, and phone calls. Make a note of who you spoke to and the date and time of each interaction.


  1. Loaner or Rental Cars: If you were provided with a loaner or rental car while your vehicle was in the shop, document the dates and details of these arrangements.


Step 2: Understand the Lemon Law Rights Period


To qualify for relief under California’s Lemon Law, your vehicle must be within the Lemon Law rights period. This period typically lasts for 18 months from the date of delivery or until your vehicle reaches 18,000 miles on the odometer, whichever comes first. Make sure you are aware of your rights period, as any defects reported after this period may not be covered.


Step 3: Give the Manufacturer a Reasonable Opportunity to Repair


Before you can pursue a Lemon Law claim in California, you must give the manufacturer (or authorized dealer) a reasonable opportunity to repair the defect. What constitutes a reasonable number of repair attempts may vary depending on the severity of the issue:


– For serious safety-related defects, such as brake or airbag problems, two or more repair attempts may be considered reasonable.

– For other non-safety defects, such as persistent engine or transmission issues, four or more repair attempts may be required.


Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended repair procedures and give them adequate time to address the issues.


Step 4: Notify the Manufacturer


If the defect persists after a reasonable number of repair attempts or if your vehicle has been out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days during the Lemon Law rights period due to repair attempts, you must formally notify the manufacturer in writing about the problem and your intention to pursue a Lemon Law claim. Your notification should include:


– A detailed description of the defects or issues.

– A request for a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price, minus a reasonable allowance for vehicle use.


Sending this notification via certified mail with a return receipt requested can provide proof of delivery, which may be important if you need to pursue legal action.


Step 5: Consult with an Attorney


While you can navigate the Lemon Law claims process on your own, it is highly advisable to consult with an experienced California lemon law attorney. An attorney can provide essential guidance and support throughout the process, ensuring that you meet all necessary requirements and helping you negotiate a resolution with the manufacturer.


Step 6: Seek a Replacement or Refund


If your vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon,’ you have the right to request one of the following remedies:


  1. Replacement Vehicle: You can request a replacement vehicle of comparable value to your defective one. The manufacturer is responsible for providing a vehicle that is free from substantial defects.


  1. Refund: Alternatively, you have the right to request a refund of the purchase price, minus a reasonable allowance for vehicle use. The refund should include the full purchase price, including taxes, registration fees, and any other applicable charges.


Your attorney can assist you in presenting your case and negotiating the best possible outcome with the manufacturer.


Step 7: Pursue Arbitration


In some cases, the manufacturer may have a certified arbitration program in place to resolve Lemon Law claims. You may be required to participate in arbitration as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit. Arbitration can be an alternative way to resolve your Lemon Law claim, but it’s essential to consult with your attorney and carefully evaluate whether this is the best course of action for your situation.




Properly documenting and reporting Lemon Law issues in California is crucial to ensuring that you can assert your rights as a consumer and potentially obtain relief for a defective vehicle. By following the steps outlined in this guide, maintaining detailed records, and seeking legal advice when necessary, you can navigate the Lemon Law claims process effectively and work toward a resolution that provides you with a vehicle that meets safety and performance standards or a refund for your defective purchase. California’s Lemon Law exists to protect consumers from the frustration and financial burden of owning a lemon vehicle, and proper documentation is key to achieving a successful outcome.