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Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Lemon"?



  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 42,953
    The "CEL" on my van says Service Engine Soon. I know 'cause it's on at the moment. But it blinks and then goes solid, meaning it's drivable. The codes indicate a misfire and knock sensor. I have an appointment tomorrow - meanwhile I'm avoiding driving it since it's burning rich and dumping fumes on those behind me, but it hasn't stranded me.

    I figure stranding is dead in the water and a tow is required. That rarely happens these days. But yeah, I'm not going to drive it 200 miles before getting it fixed so I see your point.

    The last tow I had was in the 70's was with a Volvo and I've held a grudge ever since.

    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me -

  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    but the BLINKING light is telling you that the car's computer "thinks" that whatever is going on may cause damage to your car

    Blink? I've never seen one blink. In my experience, they were always on or off (mostly off). Maybe that's something newer cars do?

    On the Hyundai, the light only came on for two things: the first was when it would come on for a day or two then go back out (O2 sensor); the second was where it would consistently come on about ten minutes after I reset it (the error code implicated the MAF, so hosing it down with electrical contact cleaner fixed that).
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,288
    a CEL (or SES or whatever you want to call it) light actually flash. I've seen them come on and stay on, and sometimes go away eventually. My Intrepid's light came on late last year, and stayed on for about a month. I kept meaning to plug my roommate's code reader up to it to see what it said, but never got around to it, and then the light went away.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,590
    I know I'll disappoint you here but I've never had a blinking CEL in a car going back as far as they have had such things.

    So it was partly my fault for waiting until it got worse. Also, the car did start up, reluctantly, the next day, and made it to the repair shop under its own power.

    Oh, boy, do I know THAT one. My real blind spot is batteries. I think if it dies once but then works with a jump that I can somehow lay hands on it and get a spontaneous healing! I got spoiled by one unkillable battery early on...

    I know what you mean about 1967 Tempests and stalling. That's what I learned on. Amazing I'm still here.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,590
    I kept meaning to plug my roommate's code reader up to it to see what it said, but never got around to it, and then the light went away.

    The bulb probably burned out... :P
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 42,953
    Mine will change from blinking to solid, depending on the fault code. Typically it'll blink when starting to get your attention - if it's something that won't cause further damage, it'll go solid. On my misfire, if it thinks the cat will be damaged, the MIL will start blinking. It's a ''99 Quest btw.

    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me -

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,695
    has an '02 Maxima. Just recently the stupid CEL was blinking for a week. When the car was finally diagnosed, it turned out to be 75% low on oil. Not good, but definitely not stranded. It is true that a blinking CEL is more serious than a solid one. Most cars have had that system since at least 2000, IIRC.

    Stranded means the car is dead or is giving signs of imminent expensive damage (overheat, low oil pressure) requiring you to stop right now. It means you will need a tow, and you won't make your next appointment.

    I don't consider being able to drive home and schedule servicing later in the week stranded. That's just me.

    andre: yeah, I consider replacement brake pads normal maintenance. To me, brake failure is pedal to the floor, and uh-oh! No stoppy! Or at least brake damage making the car unsafe to drive, like one half of the hydraulic system failing.
    And I wouldn't expect a 140K-mile car like your Intrepid to meet this standard any more. An occasional stranding from a car of that age is understandable. I am really looking at the first 50K miles or first five years, whichever comes first.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,288
    The bulb probably burned out...

    LOL, wouldn't that be a hoot! I had thought of that initially, but the light does come on for a few seconds when you first start the car, just like it's supposed to.

    One thing that was really annoying, is that when my Intrepid started acting up and stalling at random, and ultimately needed the camshaft and crankshaft position sensors replaced, that wasn't enough to trigger the light.

    On '67 Pontiacs and stalling...oddly, my '67 Catalina has always been really good in that regard. It's hard to get started if it's been sitting awhile, because the choke needs work. If I drive it every day it's not too bad, but let it sit more than 3-4 days, and it'll get irritable. But once it's been running for about a minute, it's just fine and won't stall.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,413
    I realize you didn't tow, but HAD YOU KNOWN, I bet you'd have had the good sense to either add oil or tow the car in, right?

    CELs don't "strand" us because we don't want them to. :P

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  • tankbeanstankbeans Posts: 585 turned out to be 75% low on oil...

    Scary. I know I'm bad at checking that stuff, I'll have to start I guess.

    One stupid thing that I did with a car that I used to have was to put oil in it. Now this isn't stupid in and of itself, but it still didn't help the car live longer.

    When I bought it I had been told that it was leaking oil and there was a leak coming from under the car. So I put more oil in when I thought it needed it. I would check the dipstick and tell myself that it needed oil and add it.

    Problem was the piece that was actually leaking was the transmission. I've never been good at checking these things.

    So one day I lent the car to my brother and the very next day I get a call and he said the car lost both first gear and reverse. I suppose I could have kept it for a while and sold it for parts, but it was too much of a hassle.

    I only paid $400 for it so it was far from being worth fixing.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,590
    Less than 10% of the cost of my daughter's "oh, the oil light must be malfunctioning. I can't be out of oil" adventure.

    She's lucky she didn't kill herself. After that she was lucky that I didn't...
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,288
    My '68 Dart used to have its own way of letting me know it was low on oil. When it got down to about two quarts, if you went around a corner too fast or stopped suddenly, the oil pressure light would come on for a second or two. I guess what was happening was that oil was sloshing around in the pan, and the pickup tube was just sucking air.
  • tankbeanstankbeans Posts: 585
    ...She's luck she didn't kill herself. After that she was lucky that I didn't...

    I'm sure the I told you so speech was very much exciting. I must admit that in past cars I've had I've ignored the CEL because they've all been over 10 years old with 170k+ on them and I've always figured, well the dummy lights are stuck and I'll just be careful. In fact that was just the case in a 91 LeSabre I bought. The previous owner's had said the light had been on for years and they had taken it to the shop 4 times to see what the problem was and nobody had ever been able to find anything.

    I know I had an ABS light that wouldn't go away after a while, but I didn't do anything about it because, even though the car was still worth about $5500 at the time, to fix the ABS would have run about half of the cars total worth. I wasn't about to do that.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 42,953
    CELs don't "strand" us because we don't want them to.

    I think it's pretty courteous of newer cars to go into limp mode and lock you in second gear so you can get to the shop when the transmission goes. I'd guess I'd think it was less courteous if it actually had happened to me, but I've missed that pleasure so far.

    Back in the day, didn't "stock" car racers dismantle the running gear, check every part for spec, and replace or hone those parts that weren't on spec? I used to think that the occasional wonder car that went 100,000 miles without hiccuping was one that just happened to wind up with 99% of its parts right on spec. Now most cars seem to run fine to that distance with little maintenance being required.

    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me -

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,695
    Well, it wasn't my car, it was a coworker's, but when I mentioned to him that he ought to check the oil regularly, he said he had and found it on the dipstick. So who knows....I wouldn't have thought it was that hard to read a dipstick...

    But see, even if this car was under 50K miles (which it wasn't), I wouldn't have called it a lemon based on this incident, because the low oil was due to owner negligence.

    Indeed, the vast majority of things that seem to go wrong with the cars of people I know are either because of neglected maintenance or neglected routine checks like oil and tires.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,413
    Isn't it sort of a "given" among engineers that the more complex something is, the more likely the chance of a breakdown?

    e.g. lawnmower vs. Saturn V rocket

    Of course I guess a corollary of that (is that the right word) is that a defect in a very simple object is likely to be more disastrous than a defect in a machine that has 250,000 parts in it.

    e.g. flat tire on bicycle going 25 mph vs. flat tire on 18-wheeler going 25 mph.

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  • Actually, for Honda and Toyota badged vehicles, its more than people want to admit. Why do people have a problem admitting to bad Japanese quality?

    From my experience, it seems to be quite the opposite. Owners of domestic vehicles (primarily 1970s and 1980s) rarely complained about "minor" problems which inflated their "good" numbers giving them a better quality rating than they should have had. If/when they bought a Japanese (or European) car, they suddenly realized that some of those problems they overlooked don't have to be there at all.

    My family has owned a number of Japanese, American, and European vehicles in the past 40 years. The Japanese cars probably had the best reliability of any with an early (1974) Subaru running for eight years before being sold to a friend and a 1991 Suzuki that's been in the family since new without a major problem. Also there's the 1995 Acura, 2002 Toyota Sienna, 2007 Toyota Camry, 1982 Toyota Corolla...nary a problem among them. On the flip side, there was the Olds Calais that lost its engine before 70,000 miles, the Chevrolet Celebrity that barely made it to the dealer to be traded in, and I won't go into the Ford Granada, Ford Pinto, rattly Dodge Neon, etc.

    My point is if you can provide a story of a family of "bad" Toyotas, I can give you more families of "excellent" experiences. The good stories are the norm, the bad ones are the anomalies. They're not infalible, but they are better than average.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,413
    Well the problem is that you only have anecdotal evidence, which is true as far as it goes, but in fact it doesn't go any further than your personal experiences.

    When statistical evidence, rather than anecdotal, is applied, brands like Toyota and Honda really are much better than domestic cars overall.

    Further proof if you will is their outstanding success in the marketplace. One would have to assume that American car buyers are stupid if they buy inferior products, and especially stupid if they pay higher prices for those inferior products. And REALLY stupid in that they KEEP buying these inferior products.

    There's just no case to suggest that Toyota isn't one of the best made cars in the world.

    This is not to say that domestic products haven't gotten BETTER--they most certainly have.

    But you know what they say: "When you are first out of the gate by a long shot, it's very hard for anyone to catch you".

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  • andres3andres3 CAPosts: 5,458
    I don't understand. I guess I am the one in every crowd. The one that can honestly admit Japanese quality is a sham.

    I will gladly write you a check for the amount I spent to keep my 2003 Accord running for 65,000 miles if you will write me a check for the amount of money I spent keeping a 1995 Dodge Neon running for 65K miles!!!! :lemon:

    Trust me, I'll come out a much richer man for it, as the Accord's costs were in-line with typical Honda tradition and stayed in the single digits for 65,000 miles. That digit would be 0 (zero). Now the Neon... whoa baby! Not quite 5 digits, but you'd be surprised how much a cheap car can end up costing more than an expensive one would have in the long run. Heck, I'd of probably come out ahead financially buying a Benz!
  • jipsterjipster Posts: 5,345
    Talk about your extremes of ownership, the most reliable (Accord) versus one of the least reliable pieces of junk ever made (Neon). :sick: :lemon:
  • andres3andres3 CAPosts: 5,458
    Talk about your extremes of ownership, the most reliable (Accord) versus one of the least reliable pieces of junk ever made (Neon).

    Yes, after having lived through the domestic ownership experience provided to me by Chrysler through their Neon, I had to go to the other extreme of reliability and get an Accord.

    THANK GOD the 2003 models came out with a wonderful redesign that didn't bore me to death like the older generation model would have. So I got to have my cake (reliability) and eat it too, with icing on top (great redesign, looks, power, efficiency).
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,683
    I saw an old friend at lunch today. He used to have an Audi 100 up until very recently. He swore it was perfectly reliable. He is driving an Accord LX right now. I bet you that Audi bled him dry, but he will never admit it.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,695
    Whoa, the Audi 100. There was a model with a 100% lemon rate. :lemon: indeed.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,413
    Oh you might be thinking of the old 100LS. I think he means the 100 from the 1990s.

    That car wasn't so bad. The 100LS was a disaster, that's true.

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  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,695
    Are we allowed to designate whole model runs as lemons?! :-P

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,288
    I think I actually prefer the style of the '98-02 to the '03+. But for my tastes at least, the '03-07 is a much better car all around. I know the EPA will say otherwise, but for me, 2003 was when the Accord finally became a midsized car.

    It took awhile for the style of the '03 to grow on me, but I always found them comfortable, nice riding, and just big enough inside. And to be fair, often it does take a couple years for a new style to grow on me. I hated the look of the '98 Concorde and Intrepid when they first came out, but I ended up with an '00 Intrepid a couple years later. So it couldn't have been THAT ugly. :shades:
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,288
    Are we allowed to designate whole model runs as lemons?!

    Well, I guess if the whole model run sucked, sure! :lemon: Hopefully though, the manufacturer would get the bugs worked out after a year or so. Or, if they didn't, I'd like to think the public would be smart enough to quit buying that model, so as not to encourage the maker to keep building it!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,413
    The 100LS is a case in point to suggest that even THAT car can be made to run reliably. I had one of those and once I figured out the defects, it proved to be a pretty comfortable and reliable car. I had to figure out how to defeat the overheating issues; otherwise it was a nice car (for the time it was built).

    I'm sure most people did not have a good experience with that car, but it wasn't ALL bad. In fact, only 10% of it was bad...but that 10% was REALLY bad. :surprise:

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  • tankbeanstankbeans Posts: 585
    And to be fair, often it does take a couple years for a new style to grow on me.

    I couldn't agree more. For instance, I absolutely hated to Focus when it was first introduced. I thought it looked stupid, but then as they were putting around close to everywhere I started to really like them. BUT, Ford had to go and mess that up by turning the Focus into the monstrosity that it is now.

    Jeez, that thing is gross and if Ford has remained the same it'll keep that same style for about 7 years. Lord knows the last model remained relatively unchanged for 9 years save a few minor changes in the lighting structures. The stupid part is if you were to look at a profile view of a car from the current generation along with one from any of the previous model years you'd swear they were of the same generation. The doors and most of the side panels are almost identical.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 10,055
    a lot of camcords are originally bought by people who take very good care of them.
    a lot of domestics are bought by people who are lucky to be able to get a new car from anyone. what goes along with that is that the maintenance is skipped.
    i am not saying the domestics did not earn that type of buyer.
    anyways, i hear plenty of stories at work and from some family members who passed their well maintained camry/accord to one of the kids and in another year or two it needs a new tranny/engine.
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