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#1 of 122 Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"?
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jul 16, 2008 (4:48 pm)
The term "lemon" has been popularized to describe a very troublesome automobile, but in reality, is it even possible for a modern automobile to be a lemon?
Can a car with 15,000 parts be TOTALLY bad?
I'd like to see the term "lemon" done away with, since IMO it really doesn't get to the root of the problem, and in fact merely confuses the issue at hand.
Isn't a "lemon" a misnomer, a kind of scapegoat term to excuse away the following?
1. indifferent dealer service
2. a few correctable, fixable factory defects
3. owner negligence or ignorance of a developing situation.
4. buyer remorse
5. inadequate parts
6. inadequate training of technicians
#2 of 122 Re: Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jul 17, 2008 (10:23 am)
It depends on what you mean. If a car constantly has different stuff breaking but each item can be fixed, is that a lemon? For purposes of the lemon law, it is more like the same thing breaking over and over. A lot of the time this happens because the mechanics keep replacing a broken part without trying to figure out why it keeps breaking.
#3 of 122 Re: Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"? [lemmer]
Jul 17, 2008 (11:40 am)
A lot of the time this happens because the mechanics keep replacing a broken part without trying to figure out why it keeps breaking.
I think sometimes too, there's just an inherent flaw in the part. So when the mechanics replace a broken part, the new part is destined to fail in short order, too. This might actually be a bigger problem as a car ages though, and you're left to fend with crappy aftermarket parts, rather than higher quality OEM. A few years back, I had an '89 Gran Fury ex police car. Over the four years that I drove it, I think the starter, one of those lightweight things that was really more suited to a little 4-cyl, failed five times!
#4 of 122 Re: Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"? [andre1969]
Jul 17, 2008 (11:54 am)
"...the starter...failed five times!..."
I can beat that. My 1986 Toyota pick-up had the alternator fail seven times. It also blew the head gasket twice and rusted through in just three years. It may not have been a lemon but it was definitely in the citrus family.
#5 of 122 Re: Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"? [oldfarmer50]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jul 17, 2008 (1:05 pm)
Now that's a good example. It obviously is not the car's fault that an alternator blows out 7 times. Someone in the repair shop is not paying attention. Ditto two head gaskets. These Toyota engines were among the best in the world.
As for rust, well part of that is luck of the draw where you live, and how you store and clean the car, etc. and the generally crappy rust protection in the 1980s.
I guess what I mean is---if the dealer can't fix the car after 3 tries, does that make the car a "lemon" in REALITY, or is that just an arbitrary legal term these days.
I think ANY car can be fixed in the right hands.
#6 of 122 fun with google searches
Jul 17, 2008 (1:47 pm)
Maybe someone should update that old classic book "Cherries and Lemons" to expand upon this subject.
#7 of 122 One example...
Jul 17, 2008 (3:13 pm)
of a crappy dealership, IMO, is what happened with my buddy's 1998 Tracker. He bought it new. It had a 5 year/60K warranty. Just like clockwork, that tranny went out about every 20K miles and would have to go back to the dealer. I have a feeling that since it was warranty work, and not very profitable, they just did the bare minimum to get the thing running again to nurse it out of the warranty period. Luckily, the third time was just before the 60K mark.
Well, around 86K, it lost all its gears on the way to work and left him stranded. I used my AAA membership to get him a free tow to the transmission shop I frequent. They got it running for about 60 bucks, but told him they couldn't guarantee how long it would last, and that the next time it acted up it would probably be too late. The next time came around 92K, although it didn't get bad enough to leave him stranded. He took it to the dealer first, and they gave him a vague estimate of $1-3K. I started calling around to local junkyards, and found a tranny out of a wrecked 1995 Sidekick with about 55K miles on it. He bought the tranny from them, and the place just down the street from them put it in. Total bill was under $1100. It had a 90 day warranty. It turns out the lockup on the torque converter was acting up, so that was replaced under warranty. But after that, the thing ran fine from 92K on up to 134K, when he traded it on a brand-new '06 Xterra.
As for lemons, one candidate might be my co-worker's 2000 Lincoln LS. That was the first year for them, and he bought a V-6 model. Almost immediately the transmission failed. After that was fixed, he had problems with it overheating. Then it had some other issues, and it ended up being so bad that a year later the dealer essentially gave him what he paid for it and he paid the difference to upgrade to a 2001 V-8. And then, when that one got to about the 50,000 mile mark, he just didn't trust it, so he traded it on an Acura TL and never looked back. Sad, really, because he had an '87 Mark VII and a '92, and trusted them both enough to take him up to around 150K miles or more.
#8 of 122 Re: One example... [andre1969]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jul 18, 2008 (5:08 pm)
I think owners start branding their cars "lemons" right at the point where they do not trust the car anymore. Remember the old Peanuts cartoon with Charley Brown and the football? Each time Lucy said "trust me" and he kept falling for it.
I, too, wonder about how thorough warranty work really is because the factory will only allow the dealer so much time on a kind of "flat rate".
I do have sympathy for the dealer on occasion, when he gets book-ended between owner and factory.
#9 of 122 Re: Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jul 23, 2008 (8:50 am)
I don't think a car with a million parts has to be "TOTALLY bad" to be a lemon for its owner. I am all for keeping the lemon term exactly as is, because I have known a few folks with lemons, and believe me it's no fun owning one. I am lucky I have avoided that curse for myself.
Andre's friend with the junky 2000 Lincoln LS? That's a lemon in my book.
Any time you ante up all the money for a brand new car and have multiple problems that keep the car out of service in the first year, that's a lemon. The manufacturer should have to provide a better product than that for the amount of money new cars cost, and I think the lemon law is pretty well sorted in that regard.
Now when you say "is it really the car's fault?", well, I'm not sure what that means. A car is not a living entity, so nothing can really be its "fault". I see what you mean about poor repair work at the dealership, but I also believe that lots of components of cars nowadays are designed to be as cheap as possible with little to no regard for quality or durability, and while that's not the "car's fault", it IS the car manufacturer's fault, and not something the car buyer should have to put up with on a brand new car.
As a footnote to all that, I should add that it is certainly also the case that lots of people call their cars "lemons" when they are not under the legal definition. For instance, some people buying Toyota or Honda experience one problem, often one fixed on the first attempt, and to them their car is a "lemon" forever afterwards, because they expected a Japanese make to be flawless in every aspect of reliability. That's not a lemon to me. A lemon has to have repeated problems that take it out of service to qualify for that moniker in my book.
#10 of 122 Re: Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"? [nippononly]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Jul 23, 2008 (8:56 am)
I'd be more apt to believe a car was a "lemon" if it had failures of DIFFERENT components time after time, rather than failure of one component multiple times. If the same part fails time after time, that to me is encouraging---it means that some smart person can fix it once and for all.
But if one part after another breaks without cessation, that seems to make the car hopeless.
But you're right-- a lot of cars owners call "lemons" are probably "buyer's remorse" more than anything else. They bought or leased a car they really couldn't afford, and after the first glitch they are sick at heart over the entire purchase. Can't say that's not a very human trait.