When you buy a vehicle and that vehicle turns out to have defects, you may have bought a lemon – so it’s important that you know about the lemon law: what you should know before buying a car.

There is a federal lemon law statute, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, enacted in 1975. Its purpose was to protect consumers in all states from deceptive warranty practices. Although consumer products are not required to have warranties, if one is given, it must comply with the Magnuson-Moss Act.

In addition, each state has its own laws that provide remedies for consumers who purchase cars that fail repeatedly to live up to the standards of quality and performance. Such vehicles are called lemons.

Check your State for how its Lemon Law works

There is a wide variance between the states and how the lemon law works in each. In some states, only new vehicles are covered, while in others, used vehicles may also be covered under the state’s lemon law. If used vehicles are covered, they generally must still be under the original manufacturer’s warranty or have been driven less than a certain number of miles, or the problem had to have begun while the vehicle was still covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty, yet the problem continues to exist today, despite attempts by the dealer to repair.

There are also time limits for when consumers can file complaints under the various state lemon laws. Some require that the complaint be filed within the first 12 months or 24,000 miles, while others may specify 18 months or 24,000 miles. It pays to know the specifics of how long you have to file your complaint because if the deadline has passed, you’ll be out of luck under your state’s lemon law.

All state lemon laws require the consumer to give the dealer, which is the authorized repair facility for the manufacturer, reasonable number of attempts to repair your vehicle. What counts as reasonable varies again by state, but in general, if four or more attempts to fix the same problem are unsatisfactory to you, that might be one indication that you’ve given the dealer a reasonable number of chances to fix your vehicle. If the problem is one that is safety related, to the extent that it could cause serious injury or death to another, that is also part of some states’ stipulation.

What are the possible outcomes of filing a complaint under a state lemon law? Again, it varies, but the general idea is that you either get your vehicle repaired once and for all to your satisfaction, or you have the vehicle repurchased by the manufacturer or replaced by the manufacturer. In some states, should you go to court, your attorney’s fees may be reimbursed, while in others, they will not be reimbursed.

In all states, however, if you go the route of applying for lemon law protection, you have to notify the manufacturer in writing about the problems with your vehicle, being specific about the number of times it has been back to the dealer to correct the problem. You also have to give the manufacturer the opportunity to have your vehicle repaired. This may seem like a time-consuming process, but it is part of the process under state lemon laws.

How long will the process take? It depends on whether or not the dealer is able to repair your vehicle, how thorough and persistent you are in your communications, and whether you pay attention to filing deadlines and responding to correspondence from the manufacturer, the state or other entities with respect to your complaint.

You do need to keep meticulous records of all repairs done to your vehicle, copies of all receipts and invoices, and logs of all phone calls between you and the manufacturer and dealer. There are many aspects of filing a complaint for protection under state lemon laws that you need to pay attention to. It will likely take several months for a complete resolution, but if you keep at it, you will likely be satisfied in the long run.