Turning Lemons into Lemon-Aid – How to Navigate a Vehicle Warranty Claim During the Pandemic

Apr 27, 2021 by Abby Adams, Senior Counsel, Dispute Resolution Programs

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, from the ability to socialize to the ability to work. The pandemic has also changed the way we run day-to-day errands, such as getting groceries or a haircut. Routine vehicle maintenance used to be such an errand, but for many who have been moving around less since the pandemic began, keeping up with maintenance of a vehicle has become less routine. 

So, what happens when you discover an issue with your vehicle?  To make sure your vehicle gets fixed, follow these guidelines and, if your vehicle cannot be fixed, we at BBB AUTO LINE have some guidelines for that, too.   


Do Not Delay Repairs 

First, if your vehicle has a defect, it is best to get the problem addressed right away.  The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency deemed the auto industry an essential industry during the pandemic, which has allowed dealerships and repair shops to remain open. But you should still expect delays, as many dealerships and repair shops may still have shortened hours and limited resources, such as supplies. According to Automotive News, several dealers reported that the necessary parts for repairs are taking weeks to arrive, causing delays and resulting in unhappy customers. 

Even though it might take longer than usual to get your vehicle repaired, it is important that you do not wait. First, the parts shortage might get worse before it gets better due to a continuing breakdown in supply chains, causing an even longer delay in getting necessary parts to fix your vehicle. Second, the problem itself might get worse if it does not get looked at right away, potentially making it unsafe to operate your vehicle. Finally, important deadlines might expire, including your warranty coverage and your ability to file a lemon law claim. 


Get to Know Your Warranty 

Look at your vehicle’s warranty to determine whether it has expired or if you are still within the rights period to file a lemon law claim. In your warranty, which may be called an owner’s handbook or vehicle manual, find the length of your vehicle’s warranty, in both years and mileage. Warranties will differ based on the type of vehicle purchased. Some common warranty types are bumper-to-bumper or powertrain, and each warranty is designed to provide coverage for a limited time, a certain number of miles, or both.  

If your vehicle is still under warranty, you can take it to your dealership for them to repair the defect at no cost to you. You should check with your local dealership to find out what pandemic-related safety precautions they have in place, such as making an appointment first, wearing a mask, or maintaining a safe distance from one another.   


Know Your Dispute Resolution Options 

If the dealership is unable to resolve the issue with your vehicle, you need to address the issue directly with the vehicle’s manufacturer. You might consider filing a lemon law claim. A “lemon law” claim is a claim that your vehicle has a defect that cannot be fixed after a certain amount of repair attempts and/or substantially impacts the use and market value of the vehicle. It is also important to know that each state’s lemon law is different.  

To get started, go back to your warranty to find out whether you are required to go through an alternative dispute resolution process, also known as arbitration. Dispute resolution is a hassle-free, timely, and cost-effective way of resolving a vehicle warranty or lemon law dispute that you have with your vehicle’s manufacturer. Manufacturers often partner with third parties, such as BBB AUTO LINE, a unit of BBB National Programs and one of the largest and longest-running dispute resolution programs in the United States, to help manage disputes between vehicle owners and vehicle manufacturers.  

When we work with consumers on their claims, most of the time, claims result in settlement agreements that are mutually agreeable to both the consumer and the manufacturer. Our neutral mediators help facilitate conversation between the two parties, and if a settlement cannot be reached, the mediator will pass the case over to a trained arbitrator to support resolution through a formal case hearing.  

Although some state arbitration boards had to temporarily close during the pandemic, most have now reopened. BBB AUTO LINE has remained open through the entire pandemic by offering virtual hearings, allowing the consumer and manufacturer the opportunity to present their cases in a safe and socially distant manner.   

Many states issued Executive Orders during the pandemic, some of which extended important deadlines in lemon law claims, including the time in which a consumer must file a claim. It is important to know whether your state issued one of these orders because you might have additional time to start your claim process.   

For instance, Florida, one of BBB AUTO LINE’s highest volume states, extended lemon law timeframes in its Executive Order. You can learn more about the implications of this Order here. If you have any questions on whether your claim is still eligible, contact us at BBB AUTO LINE and we can help you determine eligibility and help you easily navigate the claim process.  

While we are all facing difficulties during these trying times, getting your vehicle issue resolved should not have to be one of them. Using these straightforward steps, you can turn your lemon into lemon-aid. 

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