In order to qualify as a lemon under most state laws, the car must have a substantial defect covered by the warranty that occurred within a certain period of time or number of miles after you bought the car and not fixed after a reasonable number of repair attempts.
What would be considered a lemon car?
A lemon is a term often used to describe a vehicle with a manufacturer's defect that may affect its safety, use or value according to Industry Canada. When the manufacturer or a dealership has been unable to repair the vehicle after it has been in the repair shop an unreasonable number of times, or a set number of days, it usually gets the lemon label.
Lemon laws actually do use the term "lemon." Its origin as a reference to a sub-standard article dates back over a century, as in the British slang, "to hand someone a lemon," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.
What to do if your car is lemon?
You should first contact the dealer you purchased it from. Let them know of the situation and give them a chance to repair the problem. Document any repairs performed on the car, using exact dates of when the car is being worked on, along with when your warranty expires. If you still have the same problem after numerous attempts to repair your car, you may be justified in asking the manufacturer to either replace or refund the purchase price. For example, if the same problem has been serviced 4 or more times within the warranty period the car could qualify as a lemon. If a defect is safety related, the manufacturer is usually allowed a single instance to correct the problem.
Lemon laws cover only substantial defects, meaning defects that significantly impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. These laws may also protect you if a vehicle is out of service for a certain number of days due to defective manufacturing. The amount of time a vehicle is out of service is cumulative, and does not need to occur on consecutive days. The number of days a vehicle is out of service before it is considered a lemon ranges from 20 to 40 days, depending on the state of purchase.
Note: Things such as paint defects or cosmetic flaws, odd noises or an uncomfortable ride are not considered substantial defects.