published Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Laws help motorist unload lemon autos

by Ellen Phillips

Q: My new car has caused me nothing but trouble almost since the day I drove it home. I’ve returned it to the dealer but still things go wrong. What can I do to resolve this frustrating and even dangerous problem? - Al Auto

A: Dear Mr. Auto: Sounds to me like you’ve got a lemon on your hands. Unfortunately, sometimes, despite all our best efforts, we land up with a vehicle that snuck by the quality control fellows. It used to be the consumer just had to suck it up, but today’s “lemon-aide” helps everyone in all states when we get stuck with a lemon.

The best method to find out your state’s lemon law is to contact your state attorney general or the website of the Center for Auto Safety (

As your question didn’t specify the state in which you live, I’ll hit the readership of all three.

In Tennesse, if a vehicle is brought back to the dealer for four unsuccessful repairs or if it’s 30 days out of service within the shorter of one year or its warranty, it’s deemed a lemon.

The owner must send a certified mail notice to the manufacturer plus give them a final opportunity to really repair the dud within 10 calendar days.

Alabama’s lemon law is even more consumer-friendly. It states only three unsuccessful repairs are necessary or 30 calendar days out of service within the shorter of 24 months or 24,000 miles, provided one repair attempt or a single day without service is within the shorter of one year or 12,000 miles. The same certified mail is mandatory, but it gives the manufacturer 14 calendar days for repair.

Georgia’s law is more expanded. In addition to the same time frame as Alabama, a lemon also qualifies as one unsuccessful repair of a serious safety defect. But the manufacturer is allowed only seven days to respond to the certified return receipt, and the consumer must deliver the vehicle to the repair facility within 14 days.

(The latter must repair the problem within 28 days from receipt of the original notice.)

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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