THE PROBLEM THAT CANNOT BE FOUND
Perhaps the most frustrating problem faced by consumers is to deal with a vehicle problem that cannot be duplicated. YOU know there is a problem. The vehicle wouldn’t start for you that morning and made you late to work. The car hesitated, jerked and then surged when you left the intersection. It died on you in the left lane of the freeway. But when you took the vehicle to the dealership they told you that they could not duplicate the customer concern. The repair order said “No Problem Found” The helpful repair technician showed you the diagnostic computer that told you there were no defect codes. How do you handle this?
First, understand that almost all functions of a modern vehicle are governed by an onboard computer. It is supposed to control ALL functions of the vehicle and conquer the competing performance objectives of: Greater fuel efficiency, More Horsepower, and Lower Emissions. It will also manage the temperature in the cabin and in the engine, tell you when you need maintenance and a number of other functions.
Eventually, the driver cockpit will become an elaborate video game console. You think I’m kidding? Already the gearshift on some models is nothing more than a joystick that electronically chooses the gear. In many vehicles the accelerator pedal is not connected to the engine with a cable. It is an electronic control connected to the computer that in turn controls the amount of fuel to the engine.
If it is a computer then it has a computer program. These programs are amazingly powerful and efficient. But they are not infallible. Not every line of computer code is perfect. Not every part responds properly to the computer command. So the computer can fail.
The computer is programmed to report certain conditions that it recognizes as an error. But not every circumstance has been anticipated for the computer so a problem can develop that the computer does not recognize. A repair technician accesses the computer by attaching a small monitor to the connecting plug (usually underneath the dash just left of the steering wheel) and asks the computer to admit what is wrong. The computer will tell the technician EVERYTHING it has been programmed to tell. If the computer has not been programmed to diagnose and report a problem, it will not. This is where your frustration comes in. If the computer does not recognize your problem as a defect, it will not report it as an error. You will be told that no problem exists if the computer won’t admit it AND the technician cannot duplicate the problem in a short test drive.
If your lemon problem falls into this category you will need to be creative. A video camera and good notes may be your best weapon. Keep a video camera handy in the car. IF the problem happens again, get out the camera and start videotaping. Narrate the conditions or any gauges that may not show up on the video. Attempt to duplicate the conditions that caused your problem. The more you know, the better your case will be. If the car starts every morning except on Tuesdays during a full moon after an overnight rain, you have at least narrowed down certain conditions. Maybe the vehicle has to be warmed up. Or maybe the vehicle has to be cold. Be persistent and resourceful. If the manufacturer will not admit that a problem exists, then your chance of persuading the manufacturer, a Lemon Law hearing judge, a jury or a lawyer will be very difficult. In that case you will either have to live with the problem or trade the vehicle, probably at a considerable loss.
The law discussed on this site is Texas law pertaining to Texas situations. NO advice is given for any transaction or situation that does not involve Texas law.
Mr. Aschermann is licensed to practice law in the State of Texas and is board Certified in Consumer and Commercial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization but Mr. Aschermann is not licensed to practice law in any state other than Texas.
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