Thursday

How Repair Order Paperwork Can Cost You

Better safe than sorry. A stitch in time, saves nine. Cover yourself. When it comes to a lemon car, these phrases all mean the same thing: don't count on your local car dealer to help you prove the car they sold you is a Lemon.

Every state has a Lemon Law and Ohio's Lemon Law is one of the strongest. But proving that you've got a lemon can be much easier when the dealer writes up the repair order paperwork right (that may be one reason they don't), and it's up to you to make them do it right. The law says that you have a right to a repair order that accurately documents what is going on when the dealer works on your car, whether it's under warranty or not. And the repair order paperwork is supposed to be accurate.

We recently had our office car in the repair shop for warranty work (it was only 7 months old) and it had to sit there while parts were on order because it wasn't safe to drive. Weeks later, when we went to pick it up, the dealer tried to give us two separate repair orders.

The first repair order said the car had come in the shop, parts were ordered, and the car was "invoiced" back out of the shop and apparently picked up by us the next day. The second repair order made it look like the car had actually come back in the shop a few weeks later, the special ordered parts were then installed, and the car was picked up the next day. Two days out of service, right? Wrong!

The problem was that the car had never left the shop the entire time because it wasn't safe to drive. It was actually out of service for several weeks all at one time, but if you only looked at the repair order paperwork, and you didn't know the truth, it looked like there were really two different repair trips and the total time out of service was just a few days instead of several weeks!

If they do it to us, they'll do it to you. After all, this dealer knew that we were a Lemon Law firm and they did it anyway.

That kind of "playing" with the dates on the paperwork can make your lemon look like it isn't a lemon at all. Then, when things get even worse and you try to argue with the factory rep about the days out of service, they will refuse to believe that your vehicle was out of service for several weeks because, after all, the paperwork says it was two repair trips and only two days out of service.

You may know that your car clearly fits the Lemon Law's "days out of service" requirement, but if your repair order receipts don't help you prove it, it can cost you big time. In fact, inaccurate repair order receipts are often used by the manufacturer to argue against you. You can lose your right to have your Lemon car replaced or bought back, all because the dealer pulled a fast one on you.

So what do you do about it? Fight back!

Don't put up with their game. Insist that your repair order receipt be accurate. Make sure that it correctly reflects the real date your brought your car to the shop and the real date you picked it up, too.

Also make sure that your complaints are accurately written down when you check your car into the shop, in the first place. Then, when you pick up your car, make sure you understand what they did on your vehicle while they had it. If there are any strange terms or phrases, ask what they mean. Then ask them to write it out in plain english. If they refuse, then do it yourself right then and there, on the repair order paperwork.

Don't let a car dealer misrepresent the truth about your car's repair history. Keep your own detailed diary record of all the repair info and save your rental or loaner car receipts. And don't leave them in your car's glove box when you take your car back in the shop next time (they've been known to disappear).

Not sure if you've got a lemon? Take our Lemon Law Test and find out by clicking here.