What Happens If The Dealership Can’t Fix My Car Under Warranty In 2023


You bought a car with the reassurance of a manufacturer’s warranty to cover repairs, only to encounter major mechanical issues the dealership seems unable to properly fix.

This frustrating situation, while rare, requires you to actively uphold your consumer rights to get the car repaired accurately and with minimal costs. By understanding lemon laws, pursuing dispute resolution, and employing proven tactics, you can achieve a positive outcome.

Pursue All Repair Options at the Dealership

Don’t immediately jump to lemon law action or legal recourse when problems first arise. Work diligently with the selling dealership’s service department to explore every repair option available:

  • Have the issue documented in detail on a repair order each time you bring the car in
  • Ask if they need approval for diagnosis or repair time from the manufacturer
  • Inquire if they recommend waiting for a specialized technician or external technical guidance
  • Consider authorizing disassembly for inspection if the problem is intermittent
  • Request that parts be ordered urgently and repairs expedited
  • Escalate through management channels if you encounter resistance or delays

While frustrating, allowing ample time for the dealer to properly diagnose and address the issue demonstrates good faith. Make it clear you expect them to fix it correctly under warranty. If The dealership can’t fix car then take action is your right.

All new vehicles sold in the U.S. come with a basic manufacturer’s warranty. This protects against defects and ensures repair or replacement of parts for a designated time period or mileage.

Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, dealerships must honor the warranty and provide repairs free of charge. If they are unable to successfully fix a defect after a reasonable number of repair attempts, you have legal recourse.

Your Legal Rights Under The Warranty
Your Legal Rights Under the Warranty

The Dealership’s Responsibilities

The dealership has a legal obligation to properly diagnose and repair covered issues within the warranty period. They should provide a rental car or loaner vehicle if repairs will take extensive time.

The business is expected to have factory-certified technicians, access to manufacturer resources, and the ability to follow recommended troubleshooting and repair procedures.

Options if the Dealership Can’t Fix the Problem

If the dealership has attempted repairs multiple times without successfully fixing the issue, it’s time to take further action. First, speak to the dealer’s service manager and request they escalate the situation up the chain to district and manufacturer representatives.

If the manufacturer cannot resolve the problem either, you may qualify for a replacement vehicle or buyback under state lemon laws. Requirements vary, but generally involve serious defects, multiple repair attempts, and significant loss of vehicle use.

Your Legal Rights Under The Warranty
Your Legal Rights Under the Warranty

Steps to Take if the Manufacturer Won’t Help

If the manufacturer refuses to replace or buy back the defective vehicle, submit a complaint to organizations like the Better Business Bureau, your state Attorney General’s office, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Consult with a lemon law attorney to fully understand your rights. The attorney can help negotiate a settlement or file a lawsuit if needed.

Using Alternative Dispute Resolution

Many states require manufacturers to participate in arbitration or mediation programs to resolve warranty disputes as an alternative to litigation. This route is typically faster, less expensive, and less adversarial. Look into your state’s lemon law arbitration process or private programs.

Filing a Lawsuit Against the Manufacturer

You have the right to sue the manufacturer if informal resolution attempts fail. A lemon law lawyer can file a breach of warranty lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court.

Though time-consuming, this option keeps pressure on the automaker to take responsibility for the defective vehicle and cover your losses.

Filing A Lawsuit Against The Manufacturer
Filing a Lawsuit Against the Manufacturer

Tips for Documenting and Communicating the Issue

Maintaining detailed records is crucial when trying to prove a lemon law case. Save repair invoices, rental car receipts, repair logs, emails, and notes from calls with the dealership and manufacturer.

Photograph or video any defects. Send complaints through certified mail and avoid verbal-only communication.

Getting an Independent Assessment

A third-party expert mechanic can inspect the vehicle and provide an unbiased opinion on the nature of the defect. This professional diagnosis strengthens the case that the issues are due to poor manufacturing rather than owner error or abuse.

What to Do if You are Stuck with a Lemon

If all other options fail and it appears you’ll be stuck with an irreparable lemon, cut your losses. Trading in the car or selling it privately let’s you unload the headache. Listing the vehicle history accurately protects the next owner. Use sale proceeds to purchase a quality used vehicle with an extended warranty for protection.

Understand Lemon Law Basics

If the dealership can’t fix car seems unable to find a solution after several visits, familiarize yourself with your state’s lemon laws. These laws designate specific criteria that provide certain consumer rights and remedies when you purchase a defective vehicle. While requirements vary, common provisions include:

  • Vehicle under 1 year old and fewer than 18,000 miles
  • Multiple repair attempts for the same substantial defect
  • 30 or more total days out of service for repairs
  • Defect that causes complete impairment of use, value, or safety

Remedies can include a replacement vehicle or refund. Review your state lemon law in detail to understand qualification requirements before pursuing this route.

Understand Lemon Law Basics
Understand Lemon Law Basics

Document Everything Meticulously

Any lemon law claim will depend on meticulous documentation of the issue, repair attempts, and responses from the dealership can’t fix car. Carefully track and retain records of:

  • Dates the car was brought in for repair
  • Mileage at each repair visit
  • Diagnostic findings and repair work orders
  • Parts that were replaced or repaired
  • Correspondence with the service manager
  • Loaner cars provided while your car was in the shop
  • Statements or commitments made by the dealer

Pictures, invoices, recordings, and technician notes help build a detailed timeline proving their inability to fix the car under warranty despite diligent attempts.

Send Formal Lemon Law Notification

Once you are confident you qualify under your state lemon law’s provisions, send formal written notification to the manufacturer summarizing the issue, repair history, and days out of service. Send it via certified mail with return receipt requested so you have delivery confirmation.

State clearly that you believe these criteria classify your car as a lemon under law and ask for a replacement or repurchase. Provide a reasonable deadline for their response, typically 10 days. Be firm but professional in requesting they address the situation.

Negotiate a Buyback Settlement

Rather than immediately pursuing litigation if they reject your claim, make a good faith effort to negotiate an equitable buyback settlement first:

  • Propose a buyback figure higher than standard trade-in value considering mileage and condition
  • Ask for compensation for inconvenience, rental cars, or associated costs
  • Suggest mediation using a neutral third party if needed
  • Offer to sign a liability waiver if they accept your proposed buyback terms

If the manufacturer won’t negotiate reasonably despite clear documentation of your case, then litigation may be the only recourse. But seeking a settlement first is often quicker and less costly. If the dealership can’t fix car negotiate buyback settlement.

Consult a Lemon Law Attorney

If the dealership can’t fix car under warranty so you can call your state attorney. An experienced lemon law attorney can assess whether you qualify and guide you through required notices, documentation, and next steps in your state. They have successfully handled many cases like yours and understand the complexities. Many work on a contingency fee basis where they only get paid if you are awarded damages.

Consult A Lemon Law Attorney
Consult a Lemon Law Attorney

Pursue Arbitration Before Litigation

Most manufacturers have arbitration programs specifically to address consumer conflicts over warranty repairs and lemon law claims. Submitting to arbitration is typically faster, cheaper, and less adversarial than going directly to court.

Independent arbitrators review facts and documentation from both sides before making a binding judgement on any damages or remedies awarded. This provides an unbiased decision based on the merits of the case.

Only if arbitration fails should you then proceed to filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer. The arbitration outcome can sometimes even strengthen your case in court.

Stay Persistent and Uphold Your Rights

The process to remedy failed repairs under warranty can be drawn out and frustrating. But by diligently documenting issues, understanding lemon laws, pressing the manufacturer through proper channels, and refusing to back down, you can achieve a positive result.

With tenacity and a methodical approach, you can get into a properly functioning replacement vehicle with full warranty coverage. Keep your sights set on that end goal throughout the slog through repairs, negotiations, arbitration, and perhaps eventually litigation.

A successful outcome is attainable with commitment and perseverance. Don’t let dealership delays or manufacturer stubbornness impede you from getting what you are owed under law.

Stay Persistent And Uphold Your Rights
Stay Persistent and Uphold Your Rights

Why Dealerships Reject Lemon Law Claims

There are several common reasons why a vehicle may not qualify as a lemon under state laws, including:

  • Not enough repair attempts, days out of service, or only minor issues
  • Lack of proper written notification by the owner
  • Damage caused by owner negligence or unauthorized repairs
  • Exceeding mileage or time limits from original purchase
  • Insufficient documentation of repair history
  • Not allowing adequate diagnostic time before escalating
  • The dealership couldn’t replicate the reported issue
  • Owner declined or ignored repair recommendations
  • Required parts were on prolonged backorder

Successfully disputing a rejected lemon law claim requires thoroughly addressing the dealership’s stated reasons and providing documentation that clearly meets the lemon law criteria in your state.


What happens if my car can’t be fixed?

If your car has a major mechanical failure that cannot be repaired, you have a few options. You can sell it for scrap/salvage value, donate it to charity for a tax write-off, or junk it if it has little value left. Your warranty may cover replacement or buyback from the manufacturer if it’s a new car. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to buy a different used car or new car if repair costs exceed the car’s value.

How long is too long for a warranty repair?

Most manufacturers require warranty repairs to be completed within 30 days or 3 attempts. If the dealer can’t fix your car within a reasonable time, you can request a replacement vehicle or buyback under lemon laws. Dealers should provide a rental if your car is in the shop for an extended time. More than 2 weeks in the shop is generally considered too long for a single repair issue.

How long is too long for a car to be in the shop?

More than 2-3 weeks total in the shop during any 12 month period could be considered excessive for one car. It likely signals unreliability and you may qualify under lemon laws to get a replacement vehicle if it’s still under factory warranty. For older cars, more than 1-2 weeks for a single visit may be too long depending on repair complexity.

Is warranty void if not serviced by dealer?

For new car warranties, you can get non-maintenance repairs done at independent shops without voiding coverage. Routine maintenance services generally must be done at franchised dealers per the schedule to keep the warranty valid. Read your warranty booklet – some automakers require all repair receipts while others are more flexible.

Q: How many repair attempts are reasonable before considering lemon law action?

A: Most state lemon laws designate 3-4 attempts for the same substantial defect as qualifying for lemon status.

Q: What repairs at independent shops void my car’s warranty?

A: Any unauthorized repairs can jeopardize warranty coverage. Have all work done at authorized dealerships.


When a dealership can’t fix car major issues with your vehicle still under warranty, it can be immensely frustrating. But there are steps you can take to actively uphold your consumer rights and achieve a satisfactory outcome,

whether it be a successful repair, replacement vehicle, refund, or compensation for your troubles. Do your research, understand lemon laws, meticulously document everything, and persistently yet professionally press the manufacturer until the

problem is fully resolved to your satisfaction. With patience and diligently upholding your legal rights, you can obtain a fair remedy. Dealership can’t fix the car’ due to factors such as owner negligence or unauthorized repairs.

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