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

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
edited March 2014 in Lincoln
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
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Comments

  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    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.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    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!
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Member Posts: 20,099
    "...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. :cry:

    2019 Kia Soul+, 2015 Mustang GT, 2004 Chevy Van, 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Shifty,

    Maybe someone should update that old classic book "Cherries and Lemons" to expand upon this subject.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    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.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    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.

    What if it's a part that's designed defective from the factory? When your car experiences a failure, about all they can do is just put a new part on, but if it's flawed it'll just fail again. Not really much you can do about it, if the part's prone to failure, right from the factory.

    I know it's not exactly current events, but would a 1980 Citation have been easy to classify as a lemon? It was the most recalled car in history, wresting that title from the 1976 Aspen/Volare. I heard that the 2000 Ford Focus actually beat the Citation...not in number of cars recalled, but in number of recalls.

    Back in, say, 1980 though, if a car got recalled it was usually for something serious. Nowadays they'll issue a call over the stupidest things, like if Dodge forgot to include a section in the 2000 Intrepid owner's manual explaining how to fasten a child seat, or if Honda accidentally mis-prints their customer service # in their owner's manual and gives you a phone sex hotline instead! :shades:
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,261
    I must say, that Honda Customer Service Rep sounds HOT!!! She says she'll do whatever she can to please me! No wonder Hondas sell so well! ;)
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTMember Posts: 17,454
    we had a car that had multiple problems introduced by the dealer service department. of course, we had no faith in the car or the brand, after that.
    too bad, i really wanted to like that car.
    2020 Ford Explorer XLT
  • jipsterjipster Louisville, KentuckyMember Posts: 6,208
    . 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


    I would say all of the above, except for number 5, could be considered "scapegoats". After all, inadequate parts and installation is what a lemon is all about. Repeated failure of multiple, or individual, parts is a lemon in my book. :lemon:
    2020 Honda Accord EX-L, 2011 Hyundai Veracruz, 2010 Mercury Milan Premiere, 2007 Kia Optima
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well repeated failure of ONE part makes that PART a lemon, or those parts a lemon. But really, how many cars, if any, have had more than 3 or 4 MULTIPLE failures of multiple parts? The odds of finding such a car would be astronomical.

    So if your power steering pump fails 4 times, that pump is obviously a factory defect, not the entire car. Or if the power steering pump, the windshield wiper motor and the radio are all replaced 4Xs each (for an exhausting 12 visits to the dealer), that's still only 3 "lemon" parts, not a whole "lemon".

    Right? :shades:
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Member Posts: 20,099
    "...(for an exhausting 12 visits to the dealer), that's still only 3 "lemon" parts, not a whole "lemon"..."

    That would be enough for me to declare it a lemon, or at least call the dealer a lemon for not fixing the problem.

    My wife bought a Dodge charger that had a weird starting problem. It took a few visits to fix the problem but it was fixed for good. My Toyota was a never ending cycle of parts failure for it's entire 13 years.

    The first I would not call a lemon, the second sure was. :mad:

    2019 Kia Soul+, 2015 Mustang GT, 2004 Chevy Van, 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible

  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    But really, how many cars, if any, have had more than 3 or 4 MULTIPLE failures of multiple parts? The odds of finding such a car would be astronomical.

    Actually, I can think of four different vehicles where that has happened. However, I can also come up with rational explanations for each one, where it's not necessarily the car's fault.

    Case #1. 1969 Bonneville 4-door hardtop. My cousin bought the thing in 1989. It got struck by lightning in 1990. I bought the thing in 1992. Initially it had a problem where the starter solenoid would get stuck. If you tried to start it but it wouldn't catch, it would keep turning over even with the key off, until you either got it started, it killed the battery, or you yanked the battery cable, which would somehow "reset" the starter, but would also give you a nice spark. Well, eventually it ate that solenoid. I put a new starter and solenoid on it, and it seemed like the problem was solved. It wouldn't get stuck anymore. But then it fried that solenoid. And then the one after. And the one after that. Stupidly, I just kept replacing the solenoid, when I should have just taken the thing to the mechanic and traced the problem further, which I'm sure was associated with that lightning strike. I really can't blame the car here though. I should have just had it checked out by a pro.

    Case #2. My friend's 1998 Tracker's transmission, which failed like clockwork around 20K, 40K, and 60K. And then again around 86K. I've mentioned this one before. I'm convinced that the first three failures, since it was under warranty, they just did the bare minimum to limp it along until it would no longer be covered. When it failed at 86K, the local transmission place got it running for $60, but said that it was probably doomed and couldn't guarantee how long it would last. It made it to around 92K, when we had a used tranny put in with 55K on it. It never had any troubles through 134K, when he finally got rid of it. So here I'd place the fault partially on the original tranny, and partially on the dealer's service dept.

    Now that I think about it, that Tracker also had a persistent problem with the EGR valve. It was replaced once or twice, but the mechanic said that sometimes it would be fine, but the OBD-II would trigger a false read sometimes. I guess if my buddy wanted to blow the money, he could have paid to have the mechanic tear more into it but instead the mechanic just reset the OBD-II for free, and then my bud bought an OBD-II scanner himself and would reset it when it came on.

    Case #3. 1989 Gran Fury ex-police car. It had a 318 V-8, but a lightweight starter that I was told was an identical part used in 4-cyl Honda Accords of the era. I bought the thing used in August 1998. Starter went out about 2 months later. It went out again sometime in 1999. And then in 2002 the real fun began. I think it went out 4 times total. Luckily, I only had to pay for the first one. It was getting to the point though that I had used up my 4 free tows per year from AAA! I used one of 'em to get my buddy's Tracker to the tranny place when it died at 86K miles. The 3 other times in that 12 month period were used up getting that Damn Gran Fury towed! One time it started, barely, and made it to the shop under its own power, but after I turned it off they had to push it into the service bay! They said it was just crappy rebuilt starters that were breaking a shaft, but I always wondered if there was some other root cause causing them to fail?

    I also asked if they could just put an old-fashioned starter actually DESIGNED for a smallblock V-8, but they said it wouldn't fit on the newer ones. Dunno if that was true or not. Now finally, that last starter did hold, and still worked in 2004, when I finally got rid of that thing. I guess here, we could blame the crappy rebuilds. Oh, and around that time the owners of that garage retired and sold the place, and I don't think the new people were quite as knowledgeable.

    Case #4. Same garage, but this was when the original owners, Walt and Al still had it. I was talking to Walt one day, and he mentioned a late 80's Plymouth Voyager minivan they had in there that had well over 200,000 miles. It was on its original engine, which I think was the Mitsubishi 3.0 V-6, but probably had about 4 or 5 transmissions put in it. The local dealer, which sold the van new, asked the owner if they could use it in some advertising, but he said only if he could put a sign on the side that said "Seabrook Garage made this car run!"
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    the closest I ever came to declaring a car a "lemon" was a Saab 900 Turbo I owned, and this car was unique in that a) I did all the work b) I bought the best possible parts and c) the SAME part never failed---it was always a different component, time after time. So I had clutch failure, hydraulic failure, power steering failure, water pump failure, turbo failure, alternator failure, convertible top motor failure, heater core leak, shifter linkage stuck, speedometer failure, door handle broken, ignition lock failure (very common), muffler failure. All this in 15 months. So I just gave up after that.

    But you know it ran great and weird as it sounds, only left me stranded 2X---like the fighter plane all shot up, I managed to belly-land back at base most of the time.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    Since all of my cars, with the exception of my Intrepid, were purchased used. Often VERY used. IMO, a car can only really be a lemon if it's a piece of junk right off the showroom floor. If you buy some ancient used car that's older than you are and it ends up being junk, well, that's hardly the car's fault!

    So in my case, I think the only car I've owned that could have lemon potential was my Intrepid, since I bought it new. But as luck would have it, it's been a good car. I wonder though, if I hadn't bought the extended warranty that covered it to 5 years/100K miles, if it would have ended up being a POS? :surprise: Karma can be funny like that. I really didn't have to sink much money into it until 2007, when I think I blew about $2K total on it. But by that time it was beyond the 130K mark, so I figured the car didn't really owe me anything. I'm in it about $940 so far this year. The a/c is in its death throes though, so I'll either have to get it fixed or tough it out. Lately I've just been letting my roommate borrow it, while I cycle through my old cars. Let him suffer with it! :shades:

    As for the biggest piece of junk I've owned, I'd say it would have to be a tie between my '82 Cutlass Supreme and my '88 LeBaron turbo coupe. The Cutlass was the only car I ever had that puked its tranny AND its engine, but it was also 11 years old when I bought it, and I only paid $800 for it. My uncle bought the LeBaron when it was two years old, and he took fairly good care of it. When I was married, he sold it to us. This was 1995 and I think it had about 75K miles on it. In its defense it was fairly reliable until about 90K, just before we split up in 1996. That was when we had the timing belt done, and the crankshaft and camshaft seals. That was no big deal, as that engine was actually designed to be serviceable, so it was fairly cheap. But it needed new CV boots or joints, or something like that. I remember the whole bill was about $900.

    Well, when we split, I let her have the LeBaron as part of the settlement. The a/c blew, the power antenna broke, the trip computer started lying through its teeth. It had some sensor fry that confused the computer, and made it idle at something like 2000 rpm. Then the head gasket blew. Turbo fried. She ended up giving the thing back to me in 1997, in exchange for two tickets to see Faith No More at the 9:30 Club in DC. Their lead singer looked a bit like one of her ex boyfriend so yeah, that made me feel good. :sick: But hey, she was the EX by that time! Oddly, she says their lead singer also looks vaguely like me, at certain angles, too, although I never saw it. Anyway, I figure getting it back cost about 90 bucks. I lucked out and sold it for $800, for parts. I still have its radio somewhere. Don't ask me why I pulled it out. It was the same size as a '79 Newport I had, so maybe I thought it would mate up? Evidently it didn't, since it's still lurking in the back of my grandmother's garage somewhere!

    So basically, the LeBaron was a decent car for 90K miles, and then turned into crap and was done by 118K. The Cutlass Supreme blew its tranny at 61K and 11 years of age, and the engine at 73K and 12 years...but I really didn't know its service history for the first 11 years of its life. So that's why I more or less put these two at a tie for biggest POS I've ever owned.
  • jipsterjipster Louisville, KentuckyMember Posts: 6,208
    The stars have to align properly, as well as a whole lot of other variables, to concoct a true lemon. Some lines of cars are more prone to lemon status due to inferior parts, design or installation... say early Kia models. Other times you'll get the standard of reliability in a Honda or Toyota being branded a lemon by it's owner.

    Maybe, a workers band-aid falls off into the transmission casing during installation... or the guy just divorced his wife and then his dog ran away. You unluckily happen to be the guy to buy that particular car.

    But, whether the factory part is defective, or the mechanic improperly trained, is inmaterial to me as a owner/consumer. All I know it that I'm without a car for another 4 or 5 days. Things keep breaking down... strange people I've never met keep telling me that when life hands you a lemon, make some lemonade. :cry:

    But, I've had pretty good luck with my cars (knock on wood), so what do I know. :cry:
    2020 Honda Accord EX-L, 2011 Hyundai Veracruz, 2010 Mercury Milan Premiere, 2007 Kia Optima
  • hudsonthedoghudsonthedog Member Posts: 552
    Well repeated failure of ONE part makes that PART a lemon, or those parts a lemon. But really, how many cars, if any, have had more than 3 or 4 MULTIPLE failures of multiple parts? The odds of finding such a car would be astronomical.

    Failure of one part is a bad part. Repeated failure of a crucial part can make the vehicle a lemon. If that bad part causes the car to strand the driver multiple times or causes other parts to fail in a domino effect, then the car can be considered to be a lemon.

    All of my vehicles have been considered to be on the low end of "quality" ratings. Sometimes it was bad enough to leave me stranded (repeated dead batteries on my 1986 Merkur XR4Ti), but usually the problems were minor if anything at all. My 1991 Suzuki Swift GT was the second lowest-rated brand in terms of initial quality the year it was made...and yet it has been nearly flawless for 17 years!

    Individual vehicles can be put together poorly and be considered lemons. With the increased focus on "quality," "customer service," and "customer retention" along with the increased competition in the automotive marketplace, lemons are much more rare than they once were. With the incredible gains in comlexity of modern cars, there are more things to go wrong and yet fewer cars break down.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Your points are well taken but I'm still hung up on the idea that if the alternator is bad, you might as well throw the whole car away. That doesn't quite make sense to me, as I'm seeing a car that's 95% good and 5% terrible.

    I'll offer a compromise. Let's break a car down into major SYSTEMS: (remember we are talking "major", not ashtrays)

    powertrain
    heating/AC
    brakes
    suspension/steering
    lighting/instruments

    If a car had a serious failure in ALL of the above systems, within warranty, I might consider that car a real demon seed.

    But if we had, say an engine miss one time that was corrected, an AC leak that was plugged up, squeaky brakes, one bad strut bushing making noise and a rear tail light bulb out, no, that's not a lemon in my book. That's just not REAL bad stuff.

    More like---> head gasket failure, seized AC compressor, leaking calipers, defective steering rack and wiring harness failure.

    OR perhaps a mixture of major and minor failures in all systems recurring with annoying regularity. That might sway me as well to use the "L" word.

    To use a clumsy analogy, there's the bad dog that digs under the fence and needs retraining, and then there's the bad dog who bites children.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    remember we are talking "major", not ashtrays)

    But cars don't have ashtrays any more, Shifty...

    :-)

    My Toyota just needed a new radiator (leaking) and timing belt tensioner at 19K miles. Lemon? No, but I'm not thrilled that at such a low mileage it needed two repairs that if unchecked could have lead to engine failure (a leaking radiator) or at least being stranded (the tensioner fails, the engine jumps timing and just quits).

    That's the first repair it has needed at the age of 18 months, and it was fully covered under warranty, so I'm certainly not crying lemon. But if those parts go on to repeatedly fail, I will most certainly consider it to be one, even though under the law I no longer have any recourse due to its age.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    SCENE: Old man with cane pointing to interior of car as little kid looks on:

    "See that sonny? That there is an ashtray. All cars used to have 'em. Why, I could put spare change or gum wrapper in there, too!"

    The reason I mentioned ashtrays is that mid 90s Porsches used to have ashtrays that mysterious popped their lids while the car was turned off. Nobody every figured out why either.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    how times have changed. My '79 New Yorkers each have 5 ashtrays and four cigarette lighters! There's a big his & hers thing that slides out from the dash with a cigarette lighter in the middle, and the back doors and passenger side front door each have a lighter and ashtray. I guess nowadays they could market those things as "power points". Look Ma, you can have FOUR plug-in's going at once!
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    Yeah -- I remember the five ashtrays and multiple lighters.

    My 99 Celica actually has an ashtray. Hadn't had one in a car in years! Wasn't in only in the mid-90s when Chrysler started making ashtrays optional? My older kids were around at that point but neither has any meaningful memory of a car with an ashtray and they can't wrap their minds around the concept. "People SMOKED in cars??"

    Lemons - boy, it's a tough definition. My 80 Rabbit was a lemon. Multiple failures of different things while still in warranty. Wasn't so much costing me as it was I could never count on it as reliable transportation.

    The old Windstall is a different matter. It had multiple failures that cost me a bundle but they didn't start until about 80K - probably 81 or 82 really - but then it would fail with a vengeance. Before it hit 85 it was no longer something to be trusted. If you think 80K out of a vehicle is OK then it wasn't a lemon. In my book it was.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    80K is too premature for disposing of an entire vehicle, but 80K would be normal for failure of some components, especially suspension, alternator, water pump, etc.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    Those I could have lived with and up to 80K the van was OK - not stellar but not terrible either. It started throwing seals at 80K and each time the dealer would say "it's just this one; the others test out fine." This happened three times. Two days after we square away the head gasket the transmission died.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • hudsonthedoghudsonthedog Member Posts: 552
    But if we had, say an engine miss one time that was corrected, an AC leak that was plugged up, squeaky brakes, one bad strut bushing making noise and a rear tail light bulb out, no, that's not a lemon in my book. That's just not REAL bad stuff.
    I've had things go wrong and not called my cars lemons. But when something goes wrong that could adversely affect the car's life expectancy, I may be more apt to call it a lemon. If you have any major problem early in the car's life...leaking fluids (coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, oil, etc) or any problem that a mechanic can't solve in one or two trips to the garage, I'm going to have a problem with the car.

    I'm sure that people are too quick to call any product a "lemon," but there are still a number of real, by anyone's definition. poorly built products that could be called detrimentally bad.

    No, if the ashtray is bad or one component goes bad and is easily replaced without damaging the system or product as a whole, it's not a lemon.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    don't they tend to blow a head gasket and and/or drop the tranny around 80-90,000 miles? Once you calculate the book value of an 80-90K Windstall, one of those failures could certainly be enough to dispose of the thing.

    I guess at that age, you really can't call it a lemon, but how would you classify something that just doesn't tend to last as long as it "should". For instance, if a typical tranny lasts 150K miles, but another tranny is only known for being good for 80-90K on average, what would be the proper word for that?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    "a bad transmission".

    It's not like bad parts contaminate an entire car, right?

    For instance, there have been some outstanding cars that have one weak component. Would you for instance throw away an entire Subaru Outback because the 2.5 engines blow head gaskets regularly? No, you install the improved head gaskets. If the previous owner wants to sell me his "lemon" Outback for $500, I'd take every one I could find, because the rest of the car is great.
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Member Posts: 20,099
    "...Two days after we squared away the head gasket the transmission died..."

    I hate when that happens. That has happened so often that I started getting paranoid that my trusted mechanic was messing with various parts so I would have to keep coming back every other week. No sooner would I have one item repaired that something else would go.

    My worst case was my 1991 Oldsmobile. I had had it in the shop for several items (none of them too bad by themselves) with a total cost of about $1000. On the last visit the mechanic "discovered" that the frame had rotted out and the car was now unsafe to drive.

    Why couldn't he have discovered that on the first visit? :cry:

    2019 Kia Soul+, 2015 Mustang GT, 2004 Chevy Van, 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible

  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    It's not like bad parts contaminate an entire car, right?

    Well no, but it depends on the age of the car and the severity of the repair. For instance, if you have a 2 year old minivan with, say, 30K miles on it, and it drops its engine or transmission, you'd probably get it fixed. For one thing, it would probably still be under warranty. But one that's 5-6 years old or more, with 80-90K on it? Well, I dunno how much a Windstall tranny would be, but when a guy here at work blew his engine, it was around $5K. I think I'd seriously question putting that money into it, especially since around that age, it's quite possible that other parts will start failing soon, too.

    Now in a case where you have something with a faulty part but it can be fixed, ONCE, with an improved part, that might be worthwhile. But if I had a car that was blowing head gaskets on a frequent basis, and there was no improved, one-time fix available, then I'd eventually get sick of it and unload it.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    It's not like bad parts contaminate an entire car, right?

    True. I'm sure the Windstall's ash tray was fine...

    Andre makes a good point about Windstalls in that mileage range. I guess i figured not every possible thing taht could go wrong on this particular one. Obviously I was wrong.

    If I had it to do over again I probably would have dumped the vam when I ran out of payments. I'd have been fine.

    OTOH my daughter killed the engine on her 99 Camry (painful subject) and it was easily worth my while to replace it.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • dvsuttondvsutton Member Posts: 48
    Honda and Toyota? Standard for reliabilty? You're kidding, Right? My wifes Honda Odyssey has 28k miles. In that time the sliding door fell off its track onto my sons foot, dash rattles like a bag of marbles has fallen in to it, drivers seat heater fried, dvd player skips or turns off completely when you hit any kind of bump, power window motor stopped working, rebuilt trans at 11k miles and again at 25k miles. . My 2004 Toyota Camry had a different problem. Seems Toyota engines like to Sudge up. Toyota didn't want to pay for the blown engine. HAd my car six weeks while the "zone manager" decided what to do with it and who was going to pay for the rebuild. Ended up Toyota fessed up to the sludge fiasco and had to pay for millions of bad engines it duped on the American public.
    Now hear is the catcher. My son goes out and buys a Toyota Tundra. I told him to stay away from anything with a Toyota badge. But he is smarter than me. Low and behold, universals go out at 1500 miles. He gets that fixed and the camshaft breaks. Buyer beware, I say to him. So I would say Toyota and Honda are the poster child for Lemons, in my book.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    There's one in every crowd.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    I have had what I would consider 4 Japanese lemons.

    1964 Toyota Land Cruiser = horrible engine from the start. 3 valve jobs & 2 timing gears before 25k miles.
    1973 Subaru = blown head gaskets under 5k miles, manual transmission popped out of gear in the snow from the start.
    1978 Honda Accord = engine overheating, blew at 65k miles.
    1994 Toyota PU = clutch 11k miles, engine problems from about 60k miles.

    None would qualify for the CA Lemon law. They are just lemons in my memory.
    I am hoping this 2007 Sequoia beats the odds. So far it is just lousy entertainment and NAV systems. Which Toyota will not fix.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    Three of those four make sense to me. Early Japanese - particularly that early Subaru - remind one of the time when "Made in Japan" was the equivalent of today's "Made in China."

    The Accord is a head scratcher. I had an 80 which would have been pretty much the same car and you couldn't kill that sucker. With minimal care, not as much as I do now, it went on and on. It spent too much time (four years solid) 2 blocks from the ocean and eventually the parts that hold the body to the chassis had serious rust. Everything mechanical still worked fine including the original alternator, starter, clutch, etc. The interior was fine except the driver's seat which was perfectly usable but fraying.

    We all make choices based on past experience. I've done very well with Honda and Nissan. I'm sure there are those who will say the same for almost any make.

    Best of luck on the Sequoia. If the entertainment and nav is just a matter of they put a sucky system in there I don't suppose there's much you can do. If it's actually defective that's another story.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    If the entertainment and nav is just a matter of they put a sucky system in there I don't suppose there's much you can do.

    It is just sub standard compared to the rest of the vehicle. It is the limited 4X4 which listed for $51k. I expected better NAV and the CD player skips on CDs that played fine in my GMC Bose system. The climate control is fine though not dual as in the GMC PU. And the worst thing is the sales person told me I could get integrated XM with that sound NAV system. Not true. Nothing available except junky add-on units that do not integrate. I will sell the Sequoia after I buy a diesel SUV in the next year. You can bet I will check out the electronics better before I purchase the next one. I just expected more in a top of the line vehicle.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    I don't blame you for expecting more. It's nuts to have that high end a vehicle with junky electronics.

    My Hondas have mediocre stereos but they aren't $50K vehicles. Heck, neither cracked $30K. My daughter's Camry has a Bose system that is better. My Celica's base stereo is better than the Hondas but in a week or two I'm going to replace it with an aftermarket because the CDs skip beyond the ability of a cleaning disc to rectify and it won't accept one of those things you pop in the cassette deck to get an aux plug.

    Best sound I've had come in a car was my 98 Sebring convertible. Had an Infinity system in it. When teh top was up that system was the best thing about the car.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    The Accord is a head scratcher. I had an 80 which would have been pretty much the same car and you couldn't kill that sucker.

    Give it to my old college buddy, Brian. He had a gold '80 hatchback. It blew one engine and one transmission. Then, when tranny #2 went bad, his old man made him get rid of it. Its interior was falling apart, it had huge rust coming through the paint, and the key broke off in the ignition, so you could start it with anything you could jam in there! Sometimes to be jerks, we'd move his car around the campus, just to mess with him.

    Now to be fair, this thing was a used car when he got it, so previous maintenance could have been a culprit. It also had an automatic transmission, and that's one area where the Japanese really weren't up to snuff yet in 1980. The domestics had figured out how to make a tranny go 200K miles or more by the 60's, perhaps even 50's (although by the 70's and 80's they were figuring out how to make them self destruct before 100K again. :blush: ) The Japanese learned pretty quickly, but in 1980 I think they still had a ways to go with transmissions. Air conditioning was another weak spot with them.

    I think my buddy's Accord had about 90K on it when tranny #2 went bad. Speaking of Accords, I was at a car show near Allentown PA today, and there was an '80 or '81 hatchback, in that pretty light green, with a matching green velour interior. It was very well maintained, and looked almost new! It seemed kinda weird seeing something like that at an antique car show. This was an AACA event, which is a higher caliber than those Carlisle things I attend where you can put almost anything in. But still, an '80-81 Accord is over 25 years old now, so it qualifies! There was also an early 80's K-car wagon, and a K LeBaron woody convertible. We didn't ask if once belonged to Jon Voight, but we thought about it! :shades:
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    That light green with matching interior is what my Accord was but mine was a sedan.

    I wouldn't have touched an automatic in one back then. My first Japanese automatic was an 87 Maxima wagon. Held up great.

    It would be a riot to find a nicely preserved Honda from back then. It would likely be a rude awakening to my memories of teh thing.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    The Big Three should be so lucky to produce "lemons" like Honda and Toyota does. Maybe they should get the lemonade recipe from the japanese? :P

    Well I'm truly sorry for anyone who buys a new and troublesome car. That has to be a great disappointment.

    But I don't see why 99% of all troublesome new cars cannot be squared away. Automakers might buy them back because they aren't WORTH squaring away, but that's an economic decision, not a scientific one.

    As for cars of the 60s and 70s, they all sucked one way or another. That's just ancient history.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,875
    It would be a riot to find a nicely preserved Honda from back then. It would likely be a rude awakening to my memories of teh thing.

    Actually, I was sort of thinking the same thing. A few nice things I remember about my buddy's Accord was that it was a very quiet, rattle-free car. Even with all that rust and the interior falling apart, it had fewer rattles and other assorted noises at 80 mph than my '80 Malibu. I also remember that, for being such a small car, I fit fine up front. It became essentially a 2-seater at that point...you couldn't put anyone behind me. But that's really all most people need.

    I'd be curious to see if I really thought it was comfy, even today. I did get a chance to sit in an '80 Malibu, and sadly, it wasn't as good as I remember mine being. It didn't seem as roomy as I recalled. Unless I've somehow grown since I had that car? I think you usually quit growing by the time you're 20 though!

    One thing that I did notice about this Accord I saw at the car show was that its interior really wasn't as nice as I remember them being. Now it looked presentable. The velour looked nice and there really wasn't that much hard plastic. But the material just looked very thin and fragile, like it wouldn't hold up with age. Pretty to look at when new, but not that durable. Sun fading and constant hopping in and out of the car would probably make short work of that interior in no time. I imagine taking a pristine 30 year old interior like that and suddenly subjecting it to rough use, it wouldn't last long at all.
  • cneffcneff Member Posts: 65
    I see your point, maybe 'lemon' is not the right word but manufacturers can and do build disasters.

    I had an 03 Audi A4. First week I had electrical issues and it never ended, never had mechanical with the car, it was all electrical. Totally crazy stuff, wipers not working, headlamp washers failing regularly after 2 uses, drivers seat memory option was forgetful so the seat would actually move at will (very entertaining to watch), radio turning on and off, headlights turning off randomly, outside temp reading fluctuating at will, climate control turning off randomly, tranny picking different shift points or not at all, brake lights working or not at all, moonroof or windows closing at will, side mirrors changing setting at will, equal brake distribution failing, 7 key fob failures, Quattro getting totally confused (no kidding) the electrical part and not the mechanical, audio speakers not working randomly. More engine warning lights then I can count (of course no record of that in the CPU) so I took photos for Audi.

    I opted for all the cool comfort and conveniences options and all my failures were tied to the central CPU. 4 dealers, USA Audi expert and a product manager from Germany failed to correct all the problems, the car was in the dealer half its life with me, but maybe here is where the underlying issue is, Audi flat out refused to replace it. So warranty work and loaner cost I am sure was more then the car was worth. Final cost was they lost a customer.

    Maybe sometimes it is the manufacturer that is the lemon
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    Maybe sometimes it is the manufacturer that is the lemon

    You can say that again, but in your case I am surprised that it DIDN'T qualify as a lemon?? In California I bet it would have, if your problems began after only one week of ownership.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • tankbeanstankbeans Member Posts: 585
    Hello-

    I know of a car that could perhaps qualify as a lemon. My mom had a 92 Corsica and she said within about 30k miles it killed three engines. She bought the car new and by 15000 miles the first engine needed to be replaced. Shortly after the new engine fried, luckily under warranty and by about 30k the second new engine fried. At that point my mom was fed up and traded the car for a Tempo that gave her no problems.

    I was very young, about 4, so I can't quite remember the car, but I've heard the stories.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    '94 Saturn SL2. Before the age of 3, and before 50K miles, it had a failed fuel pump and a failed ignition, so I was left stranded not once but twice. Having been twice stranded, I wasn't waiting for the third time, and I traded the car at a small loss (I was slightly upside down in the loan). I was very lucky that I had purchased an extended warranty to 50K miles (something I have never done since, both purchasing an extended warranty AND buying a Saturn), as my out of pocket would have been well over $1000 otherwise.

    It was not a lemon in any sense of the LAW, but two failures causing me to be stranded before 50K miles have caused me to think of it as a "lemon" over the years since. tankbeans' mom's Corsica would have been the same, from what it sounds like: not a lemon under the law, but certainly a "lemon" for its owner.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I would think that a great many new cars will leave their owners stranded 2X in 50,000 miles. Can such a large percentage of new automobiles be "lemons"?
  • bumpybumpy Member Posts: 4,425
    Twice in 50k? Any new car that does that of its own volition should be broken up for scrap. :mad:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Oh I think you're going to be very disappointed in the real world numbers here. I have read a few probability studies which suggest that at 5 years service you'd have at least 5 to 7 % of cars breaking something, and of course it would be higher for things like lights and tires. Brakes would also be a high risk item.

    Consumer Reports also seems to suggest that those percentages are reasonable in terms of "reported problems per 100 cars". Of course, not all those problems are breakdowns by any means.

    So you think 4 years of driving without one mishap is normal? I have a very different impression, but not based on much evidence aside from what I mentioned.

    I'd expect at least 10% of all new cars to have left a driver stranded for one reason or another within 5 years...dead battery, flat tire, "default" mode, overheat, weird noise, electrical failure, check engine light, something like that which requires driver action and a repair shop.

    We'd have completely empty boards here at Edmunds if new cars were so reliable, and yet we get a gazillion hits each month, so they're talkin' about something and I can tell you some of it is not happy talk.

    I'd be ecstatic to break down only 2x in 5 years if I bought say an Audi or a Saab or a VW. I'd even pay for that kind of assurance :P

    I bet Triple A has some good stats that they'll never reveal.
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