Cars being assembled in factory

Spotting the Differences Between Manufacturer Defects, Repair Shop Negligence, and User Error

Did you purchase a lemon of a car? Or did the mechanic damage your car or fail to properly repair it? Maybe the problems with your vehicle are simply a case of “user error.”

If there is a problem with your car that could cause serious injury if you drove it, or if you’ve tried to have the same problem fixed with no resolution, then you could be covered under California’s “Lemon Laws” for a faulty vehicle.

However, if you’ve been inadvertently causing the damage yourself, then you don’t have legal recourse. Understanding the difference can enable you to get a refund or a replacement for your car or to file a suit for negligence against a mechanic.

Manufacturer Defects

Manufacturer defects are flaws that happen during the manufacturing process of the car; these are errors made when constructing the vehicle or its parts.

Common manufacturer defects include:

  • Transmission issues
  • Engine performance
  • Suspension issues
  • Steering issues
  • Emissions issues
  • Defective brakes
  • Faulty seat belts
  • Ignition switch problems
  • Computer issues

These issues occur during the production phase. They don’t apply to problems with the vehicle’s overall design but to problems in the manufacturing process. However, each of these listed defects can be a significant safety, use, or value concern.

Manufacturing defects typically make a car considered to be a “lemon,” but to take advantage of the consumer protections of the California Lemon Law, the manufacturer must first make a reasonable number (two or more) of repair attempts. 

If these repairs don’t fix the problem, then you may be able to get a full refund or a replacement vehicle.

Repair Shop Negligence

If the mechanic fails to complete the repair, or if your car has additional damage after it leaves the shop, then the shop may be considered negligent. You might be entitled to financial damages if the shop fails to exercise reasonable care for your vehicle.

Typical negligence includes the mechanic incorrectly installing a part, the shop owner allowing unlicensed workers to complete repairs, or repairs being made to the wrong part of the car. Negligent repairs can affect the safety of the vehicle and cause costly damage. They can also reduce the value of your vehicle.

California has strict laws about repair shop operations under the California Automotive Repair Act. All repair shops must register with the Bureau of Automotive Repair and enforce specific safety standards. Mechanics must also meet state licensing law requirements.

As a California repair shop customer, you have certain rights, too. Repair shops must act in good faith and provide transparent estimates for their work. You’re entitled to a written estimate before the work begins, and you may request to have any replaced parts returned to you. You’re not required to pay for any unauthorized repairs.

How is User Error Defined?

User error is just what it sounds like — you caused the damage. If you just bought a new car, take the time to go over the user manual, including the alert code for engine problems. You should also check the details about when to bring your car in for routine maintenance and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Regular maintenance can help avoid a lot of problems with your car. Plus, the mechanic may spot minor issues and fix them before they turn into big, expensive, or unsafe ones.

Do you have a Lemon of a Car?

Do you suspect that you’ve purchased a lemon of a car? You may have a case to seek monetary damages. For more information, call the experienced trial attorneys at (858) 259-5009 for a free case evaluation.


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