Texas Lemon Law.  How do I resolve a problem with my car?  I need help getting the dealer / manufacturer to fix my car.  My car is a lemon, what do I do?  State of Texas.

The Texas Lemon Law

The best thing to ever come out of Austin


This page is the opinion of the author, who is not an attorney, and is not intended to be legal advice.  While the resolutions of these cases are documented facts, the circumstances are the opinions of the car owners of the cases mentioned below.  This page is intended to assist people with legitimate problems to get through the process, and is not intended to give advice to those who simply want to take advantage of a manufacturer.  You should always consult an attorney if you feel it's needed.  TxDOT has been made aware of this page and their opinions have been solicited;  however, we make no representation of an endorsement by TxDOT.  This is an overview;  additional information may be obtained by clicking here.


This page addresses problems with new cars only, and provides real examples of lemon law cases.


Why don't people use the Lemon Law?


It's too complicated

This web page will help!  You'll be surprised how easy it is.



It's too expensive

Filing for repairs is free;  re-purchase requests are $35.



The consumer never wins

Of complaints closed in 2002, 62.5% of consumers received some type of relief, totaling more than $5.9 million in benefits. (source:  TxDOT)  (You can't get those odds in Vegas!)



I don't like attorneys

You probably won't need one.



I don't like courtrooms

While technically a court, this court takes place in a conference room, and is more like a staff meeting than a court proceeding.



I didn't maintain my documentation

While documentation is needed, it can be obtained from your dealer.  (They are required to provide it to you.)



I don't want to deal with government bureaucracy

You won't believe how nice, helpful, and professional the people at TxDOT are!



Even if I win, I won't get anything

Read the examples below -- you'll be surprised.




The Texas Lemon Law was enacted by the Texas Legislature in 1983, for the purpose of assisting people who buy or lease new vehicles and have repeated problems in getting their cars repaired.  (Used cars with warranties may also qualify, as well as other types of vehicles, but this page is about new passenger cars and trucks only.)  The Lemon Law can help a consumer get their car repurchased, replaced, or repaired.


It's too complicated:  The booklet available from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is actually quite clear, and fairly simple.  If you have a repeated serious defect or abnormal condition that is covered by warranty, and the dealer has been provided a reasonable number of attempts to repair it, the manufacturer can be ordered to repurchase, replace, or repair your vehicle.  There are several limitations, but the overall requirement is that you must file the complaint within 6 months of (a) the expiration of the warranty period, (b) 24 months from the date of purchase, or (c) 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.  And, like most laws, there are exceptions to that, as well (for example, you may still be able to file for repairs, if your vehicle is still under warranty).


It's too expensive:  There is no filing fee for a request for repairs.   For replacement requests, a $35 non-refundable filing fee is required, but, if you win your case, the manufacturer has to reimburse you the fee.  And, an attorney is normally not required.


The consumer never wins:  According to TxDOT, of complaints closed in 2002, 62.5% of consumers received some type of relief, totaling more than $5.9 million in benefits.  That demonstrates the odds are in the favor of the consumer.  If you don't believe it, read the examples below.


I don't like attorneys:  Attorneys are not generally required.  In the examples below, an attorney was used only to write a letter in the first case, and no attorney was used in the second.  Yet, the consumer was elated with the success of the lemon law in both cases.


I don't like courtrooms:  This is technically a court of law (no firearms), but you wouldn't know it to be in there.  Dallas-area cases are held in a conference room at the TxDOT building in Mesquite.  Everyone sits at a conference table, and the "administrative law judge" is actually a very nice person who sits at the head of the table.  In the examples below, no attorneys were in the hearing.  While the GM rep was considered to be rude and obnoxious, the Chrysler rep was cordial and pleasant.  There's no bailiff, and no "all rise" when the judge comes in.  In fact, until you're seated, you may not even know which person the judge is.  In the Chrysler example below, one of the witnesses (who didn't want to testify in "court") stated afterwards, "That was fun!  And, the judge was SO nice!"


I didn't maintain my documentation:  While documentation is needed, it can be obtained from your servicing dealer.  In fact, they're required to provide it for the hearing.  However, you should fill-out all the forms, have the documentation easy to see and understand, and know the facts of your case.  In both cases below, the judges were impressed by the documentation provided by the complainant.  In the case against Chrysler, the documentation probably swayed the case.  (These are simple forms, nothing like the ones used by the IRS.)


I don't want to deal with government bureaucracy:  The people at TxDOT are known for their courtesy and concern.  Your case will be assigned to a representative, who will be in contact with you throughout the process.  In both cases below, that representative was Tim Bargsley, who constantly followed-up on all issues, and treated the complainants as valued customers.  The judges were both impartial, yet extremely polite.  The whole process is simpler than you could possibly think, and the most you'll lose is a little bit of time and $35 (if filing for re-purchase).  What do you have to lose?


Even if I win, I won't get anything:  This is the real beauty of the lemon law.  It works!  Consider how your normal mileage depreciation is calculated.  You lose considerable value of your car when you drive it off the lot -- it's now a used car.  The unfortunate thing about the loss is that you're losing value at a time when the car needs very little maintenance.  The first 40,000 miles could easily be considered to be almost maintenance-free, except for oil changes.  Latter mileage costs you less in depreciation, but more in actual repairs:  tires, brakes, belts, and hoses need replacing, the transmission has to be serviced, etc.  The car is now showing its age, but, by normal depreciation standards, the loss is less at this time.  It's backwards!


The Lemon Law isn't backwards!  Don't let the calculations in the TxDOT look complicated:  Your vehicle's life is considered to be 120,000 miles, and each mile is considered the same amount;  i.e., the purchase price of the vehicle is divided by 120,000 miles to determine the cost per mile.  Since you're in the most expensive miles (first 24,000 or so) of depreciation, you come out way ahead!  But wait, there's more!  Miles after the problem are "charged" to you at 1/2 price!  Therefore, the "lemon law" value of your vehicle could be considerably more than the current market value.


As an example, let's assume you had a problem at 3,000 miles, and you went to the hearing at 24,000 miles.  If you win, your value will be calculated as the price of the car minus 3,000 miles (using the "flat" rate as described above), minus 21,000 miles at 1/2 the rate above.  You can quickly see the law is in your favor, and now you know why manufacturer's don't want to go to the lemon law (filing a lemon law complaint will often get your problem resolved without having a hearing).



These are real cases.  The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the complainants.  In the first two cases, the problem was intermittent, unable to duplicate, and the car owners thought they were wasting their time with the lemon law.  You'll read two very different examples, and see very different responses from GM & Daimler-Chrysler.  The third case showed another side of Daimler-Chrysler, and was resolved by the owner finding the problem with the car, which Daimler-Chrysler then fixed.


"Smith" vs. GM:


Mr. & Mrs. Smith bought a 1999 Pontiac Bonneville SE from Forrest Pontiac in Cleburne (sticker price > $30,000) in the summer of 1999;  a GM extended warranty was also purchased.


After about 3,000 miles, Mr. Smith pressed the windshield washer to clean the windshield.  The washers sprayed soapy water on the windshield, but the wipers didn't come on, blocking the driver's vision in traffic.  He turned to the right to go off the road as he slammed on his brakes.  Luckily, there was no collision.  After fumbling with the wiper switch, the wipers came on, and the Smith's resumed their trip.


The Bonneville was taken back to Forrest, but they couldn't find anything wrong with the wipers.


The Smith's discovered that by placing the wiper switch on "high," the wipers would resume operating, so the Smith's now had a work-around for their still-dangerous situation.  When they used the washers, they would now be ready to turn the wipers on manually, if required.


This situation repeated itself at least 5 times, but the dealership still couldn't find the problem.  Once, it occurred when Mr. Smith was testing the wipers in his garage, and he took a video of it.


The car experienced many other electrical and mechanical issues, as well.  They also reported problems with the turn signals, paint peeling, the trunk lid wouldn't open by its springs (after opening, it once fell and hit Mr. Smith's head as he was putting items into the trunk), and the engine was sometimes difficult to start.  However, the windshield wiper problem stood out as the major safety issue.


After about a year of the windshield wiper problem not getting fixed, the Smith's requested GM's zone rep.  The zone rep viewed the tape, and accused the Smith's of faking the problem, saying, "I could re-create that problem with 2 wires.  We're not going to work on that problem any more."  Mr. Smith said if they weren't going to fix it, he'd file on the lemon law.  The zone manager retorted, "Go ahead," and Mr. Smith did.


The Smith's complaint to GM was declined by Carolyn Miller in GM's legal department, so the Smith's continued with the lemon law process.


At the hearing, the tape was viewed, and the GM rep still insisted the car had no problem.  The judge, the GM zone rep, Forrest's service manager, and Mr. Smith went to the parking lot to inspect the car.  The wipers failed, and the zone rep's mouth fell open.


Returning to the hearing room, the judge offered to step outside and allow the parties to resolve the case.  The GM rep refused.  The judge asked, "You realize their case just got a whole lot better?"  The GM rep still refused, so the hearing continued.


The judge ordered GM to re-purchase the vehicle.  GM appealed the calculation, due to credits used on the GM credit card to purchase the car ... they wanted those excluded.  The judge said "no," and GM appealed again.  The Smith's hired Dale Slaton, Esq., to write a letter to TxDOT, and the judge ruled again in the Smith's favor.  The cost of the attorney:  $50.  (The $35 filing fee was refunded by GM when they repurchased the car.)


Please note that while the windshield wipers failed during the test at the hearing, the Smiths are convinced they would have won the case even if they hadn't.  Their feeling was the judge believed them, and the video tape was a real asset.


The bottom line:  The Smiths were able to continue to drive the car free from mileage charges (mileage is established at the hearing) while GM whined.  They drove the car over two years and were then paid over $25,000 for it.  Their cost per mile (cost/mileage, not including gas, oil, insurance, etc.):  3 cents!  The lemon law worked!


Was this car a lemon?  The car spent one night in the shop for every 287 miles driven.


Would the Smiths buy another GM product?  Mr. Smith responded:  "No way.  The dealership did little to help us, and the GM zone rep was cocky, arrogant, and a real jerk.  It was obvious to me that GM didn't care about us at all."



"Jones" vs. Chrysler (Docket # 05-0683CAF):


This is an extremely unusual case, in that the Jones waited until after 24,000 miles to file the complaint, and the hearing never actually occurred.  Yet, the Jones were quite satisfied!  (You won't find this solution in the Lemon Law guide, so, don't think there's no resolution for your problem until you try.)


Mr. & Mrs. Jones bought a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country (sticker price:  $35,235) on 9/27/2001;  a Chrysler extended warranty was also purchased.


They reported many problems with their Town & Country:  the driver's seat belt malfunctioned at only 1,070 miles (difficult to latch, difficult to unlatch), the automatic door would be activated to open but wouldn't (until the car was in motion, then it would fly open unexpectedly), the rear window windshield wiper quit working and then started working again, the power window motors went out several times, and the instrument panel lights quit working for a few days but then came back on.


However, the most difficult problem occurred on 1/13/2004, with 31,032 miles on the car:  the battery was dead.  The Jones "jumped" the battery and drove the car to the dealership, but the battery tested okay.  Please note the car was over 2 years old, and had over 24,000 miles on it (24,000 is the limit for filing a re-purchase lemon law complaint).  It was, however, still in the original 3 year/36,000 manufacturer's warranty.


The Jones, at their own expense, replaced the battery after the 3rd failure, but the battery would continue to fail a total of 9 times.  The interval between failures ranged from 17 days to 248 days.


After the 8th failure (7/30/2005;  53,734 miles), the Jones contacted the lemon law personnel, asking if there was anything they could do to help them get the car repaired.  They were told to file the complaint, and they did, but they didn't expect anything from it since they had waited so long to file.  The car was now out of the original warranty, but still under the extended warranty.


They filed the complaint (requesting "repair"), thinking they wouldn't get anything from the lemon law, but hoping it would get Chrysler to send a "super tech" to find the problem.  Chrysler sent their "super tech," but he couldn't find the problem, either.  (The cost of filing?  A 37 cent stamp;  there's no charge for filing when requesting "repair.")


The problem was so bad,  they had been keeping a portable battery jumper in their car for about a year so they wouldn't get stranded.


They went to the hearing on 10/25/2005 (about 57,000 miles), not expecting to get anything done.


They brought two witnesses.  Previously, the witnesses had visited the Jones at work, and they all decided to go to dinner.  Since the Jones were in their truck, they drove to the Jones' house to get the Town & Country for more comfort for the four of them.  The battery was dead -- no dome lights, nothing.  The Jones thought the witnesses might help.


Judge Herring was in charge of the hearing, but said he wanted to chat a little prior to the actual hearing.  (The hearing was never officially held.)  He asked the Jones to give a brief rendition of what their car was doing, and he told them they made a mistake:  they should have filed on the lemon law much earlier in the process when the other electrical problems occurred.


Why did they wait so long?  Mr. Jones said he waited because every time he had a problem, Chrysler tried to fix it.  Many of the times he took the car to Smith Chrysler Dodge in Waxahachie.  Service Manager Robert Blumrich treated Mr. Jones so well, he didn't want to create a hassle.  It wasn't until it was apparent that there wasn't going to be any other resolution that he filed.  "I have nothing but praise for Smith Chrysler and Robert.  They never doubted my problems, and always worked to resolve any issue my car had.  But it's almost impossible to fix a problem you can't duplicate."


Judge Herring said there was an "MSRP swap" option.  (You won't find this in the lemon law guide.)  In an MSRP swap, the car owner buys another car from the same manufacturer for the difference in MSRP prices, plus the depreciation of the current car.


(Several options were presented.  The judge said he could order Chrysler to fix the car, but that they'd just replace the battery, and the whole would start all over again when it failed.  Chrysler also offered to reimburse the Jones for the cost of the extended service contract, a little less than $2,000, to put up with the problem.  The MSRP swap was obviously the best deal.)


It took the Jones only a few seconds to realize what a good deal this was, and the Chrysler rep, Dana Nance, agreed to it.


The Jones ordered a 2006 Chrysler Pacifica, which had an MSRP of $640 more than their 2000 Town & Country.  Their depreciation was set at $10,000, so they were able to go from a 2002 Town & Country to a 2006 Pacifica for $10,640.  They figure they "made" about $10,000 in the deal, based upon the actual trade-in value of the Town & Country.


The bottom line:  The Jones were able to continue to drive the car free from mileage charges (mileage is established at the hearing) while Chrysler built the car they ordered (another 8,000 miles after the hearing, although the battery failed again).  They drove the car for 4 1/2 years, put 65,000 miles on it, and were charged $10,000 in depreciation.  Their cost per mile (cost/mileage, not including gas, oil, insurance, etc.):  15 cents!  The lemon law worked!


Was this car a lemon?  The battery failed 9 times, in addition to numerous other electrical problems.  The Jones never knew if their car would start or not.  The car spent one night in the shop for every 1,248 miles driven.


Would the Jones buy another Chrysler product?  Mr. Jones responded:  "Yes.  I was disappointed we had to file the lemon law complaint just to get the zone rep to look at the car, but Chrysler was very professional and polite through the whole process.  And, their offer of an MSRP swap was very generous, indicating they wanted to keep us as a customer."



"Jones" vs. Chrysler (again!):


Mr. & Mrs. Jones bought a 2006 Pacifica for $38,140 on 3/21/2006;  this is the MSRP swap documented in the case above.  A Chrysler extended warranty was also purchased.


On 4/14/2006, they went out to a dead battery.  This happened 3 more times, after which the dealership (now Bossier Chrysler) identified the Body Control Module (BCM) as turning on electrical items, running the battery down.  The BCM, now manufactured by a different company (Panasonic, reportedly), was replaced.  The battery failed again (5th time to consumer), and the car is presently (August, 2006) at Dallas Dodge for repair.


As of April, 2006, this car had spent one night in the shop for about every 400 miles driven.  It had a little over 6,000 miles on it, and had failed 5 times to the consumer, plus once in the shop.  A lemon law notice has been mailed to Chrysler.


To quote Mr. Jones, "At least this time a Chrysler dealership has witnessed and documented the problem.  We were ecstatic, as we thought the problem had been identified and fixed.  But, the battery has failed again, and Chrysler made us take OUR time and gas to drive over 100 miles (round trip) to take our car to another dealership.  It's ridiculous -- the car was at an authorized Chrysler dealer, but Chrysler wanted it taken to a dealer that was over 50 miles away, and we were required to transport it.  This should be Chrysler's problem, but they don't seem to want to assume responsibility."


"From what I've read, the Pacifica is based upon the Daimler-designed Mercedes Class R.  I thought since it was "almost a Mercedes" that it would be a more reliable car.  Then again, one would think a $38k Chrysler would start in the morning."


"The Chrysler rep also promised us they'd put us into another Pacifica as a rental car, as we really like the Pacifica, but that was a broken promise.  In fact, it took 1 1/2 hours to get our Pacifica checked in to Dallas Dodge and to get a rental car from Enterprise (an hour and 10 minutes at Dallas Dodge, another 20 minutes at Enterprise).  Enterprise told us they told Dallas Dodge they didn't even carry the Pacifica on the day Dallas Dodge promised the Chrysler rep they'd have one for us.  This was customer service at its worst.  We absolutely love the Pacifica -- it's a great car -- but we want it to start, and we're tired of dealing with Chrysler with the hassles of getting rentals.  We don't like promises that aren't fulfilled.  Much of the time, we've been without a car ... apparently, if they can't identify the problem, it's the customer's fault, and the customer doesn't get a rental car.  It's not my fault if they can't fix the car.  They're being real jerks about it."


UPDATE:  Mr. Jones noticed one morning when he touched the key that the dash came on, even though the key was in the "off" position.  As a result, the dealership determined the ignition switch had a bent pin that was allowing it to turn the car "on" while in the "off" position.  They replaced the ignition switch, and the problem appears to be resolved.


CAUTION:  Mr. Jones learned this the hard way:  Watch out for the "free" rental car provided as part of your warranty.  When Hertz asked for Mr. Jones' credit card, he asked why and was told it was in case he damaged the car.


About a month later, he was billed by Hertz for the rental.  The dealership told Mr. Jones the dealership, not Chrysler, pays Hertz for the rental, and that it was apparently lost in paperwork, but it would be handled.


After another month, Mr. Jones saw the rental charged to his American Express card -- the rental Chrysler was supposed to pay.  He finally got it taken off, but it took a lot of his time.  Mr. Jones stated, "They give us pure heck about getting a car, even though the car is under warranty and I purchased an extended warranty which is supposed to increase my rental car benefits.  Then, they don't pay for it and sneak it onto my American Express bill.  I love my Pacifica, but dealing with Chrysler this time was nothing like our previous experience.  I'll never buy another Chrysler product."




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