Car Problem Guide

Automotive Issues
Due to the volume of calls and e-mails we receive, it’s tough for us to respond to everyone. We focus on helping the consumer to help him or herself. We have a policy not to get involved in automotive disputes. We are not qualified to figure out what is wrong with a vehicle, and only get involved if there is a trend surrounding one repair shop or dealer. The California Bureau of Automotive Repair addresses these problems. This guide below should help with your questions.

My general advice for dealing for anyone doing business with any company:

  • Photocopy, file and save any documentation (receipts, letters, and bills). You don’t know when you’ll need it again.
  • Put your dispute in writing by sending a letter or e-mail. You don’t have proof when you call up a company. Even when you do call, take down the name of the person with whom you spoke, the date and time, and what was discussed.
  • Send letters certified mail. A return receipt will serve as proof it was received.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get help with my bad car repair?
If you have a problem with a mechanic over a car repair, complain to the Bureau of Automotive Repair. The agency may send a representative to help resolve the dispute. If a mechanic is breaking the law, the BAR can take action.

Department of Consumer Affairs Hotlines: 1-800-952-5210

Bureau of Automotive Repair Web Site for Consumers

BAR Online complaint form

Print out a complaint form

You can also complain to the Better Business Bureau

My newly purchased car is a Lemon. Does it qualify under the Lemon Law?
The California Lemon law applies to cars purchased for private and business use. If, during the duration of the car’s warranty, there’s a defect covered by the warranty that substantially reduces the use or value, you are entitled to get a refund or replacement. The following must be true:

  • The dealer attempted to fix the same defect at least four times.
  • The vehicle is out of service for 30 days during the warranty period, not counting delays outside the control of the dealer and the manufacturer

The Better Business Bureau also assists in Lemon Law Disputes.

Guide to California’s Lemon Law

What should I do before buying a used car?
There is a list of questions to ask, and you should always take the car to a diagnostic center or repair facility for an overall inspection by a technician. This link offers you the state’s thorough guide to buying a used car: Link

My recently purchased used car isn’t running right and the company won’t listen. Who can help me?
There are a number of agencies that offer assistance with used car problems. Click on the links to see how they can assist you.

New Motor Vehicle Board
1507  21st Street, Suite 330
Sacramento , CA 95814
(Can only investigate/mediate complaints on new car/motorcycle dealerships)

Local District Attorney’s Office or
Office of the Attorney General,
Public Inquiry Unit
1515 K Street
Sacramento , CA 95814
916-322-3360 or 800-952-5225

Department of Motor Vehicles
Bureau of Investigations
(check the white pages of your telephone book or click here for local offices)

Handles complaints on all dealerships.

Better Business Bureau – Sacramento
400 S Street
Sacramento CA 95814-6997
(916) 443-6843

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety ( CARS )
1303 J Street, Suite 270
Sacramento , CA 95814
(530) 759-9440

Better Business Bureau – San Joaquin Valley
11 S. San Joaquin Street, Ste. 803
Stockton CA 95202-3202

(209) 948-4880

Department of Consumer Affairs
Bureau of Automotive Repair
( click here for field offices )

How can I choose a reputable mechanic?

My car won’t pass smog. How can I get cash for my clunker?
Qualified Consumer with old vehicles they’d like to junk can contact the Bureau of Automotive Repair Consumer Assistance Program. The state will pay qualified motorists up to $500 for emissions-related repairs, or $1000 to retire the vehicle. Click here to find out if you qualify.

  • Joyce Ellis

    Please discuss the problem of blue headlights blinding people in the Sacramento Valley.

  • Tasha Murdock

    what should I do if I purchased a used car from a smog/auto repair/dealership that is labeled as is but during neogiations of sale was told by owner that it would be air bag light would be taken care of when I came back to pick up truck and when I picked up truck it was still not fixed. After taking it back several times owner has one excuse after the other My truck has now been in their shop 12 days and they claim they’re waiting on parts but told me to come get it cause they finally fixed the clock and radio which was also broken. I told him that I would come get it when the light is off. What can I do?

  • Les Smith

    My vehicle is a 1991 Cutlass Supreme 3.2 lt recently was on a trip and my vehicle stopped suddenly was towed to an automotive shop locally. They found the Harmonic Balancer broken and they replaced. Since this replacement the car doesn’t drive the same. When it drives it just dies after just a couple of miles. Occationally it will start again, occationally not. It has now seen a few different shops and no ones had any luck or any idea of what the problem could be.

    Please help us solve our pickle.

    Thank You

    Les Smith

  • Elaine B. Green

    Doug saw your show this morning and I purchased a 1986 IROC Camero, Yellow, tan interior would like to see if we can buy it again. We are 62 yrs young and purchased the car when we were 35. Would love to suprise my husband. Thank You

  • bmw repair granite bay

    Can I simply say what a comfort to find somebody that really understands what they’re talking about online. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people need to read this and understand this side of your story. It’s surprising you are not more popular since you definitely possess the gift.

  • Shauna Wittmann

    I purchased a 2010 Cadillac DTS from John L Sullivan (ROSEVILLE AUTOMALL) in November 2011. I have put less than 1000 miles on it and it has been in the shop five times for different things. It currently is in their shop for what I believe is a bad heater core. (passenger floor board soaked) They are trying to tell me that it is a water leak from the body of my car. They say my car has soaked up water from the undercarriage like a sponge. Funny thing is I have never driven it in the rain and it is parked inside of my “rain free garage” I am not sure what to do. I have 10,000 in to a car that is already falling apart. Any suggestions?

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