Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

If I've got a lemon, do I make lemonade or give it back?

OK, quick question for anyone to weigh in on - just purchased a used car '07 FJ Cruiser w/approximately 53,000 miles on it and CarFax showing clean history but 4+ owners. Two days after purchase several dash warning came on - CEL, SWERVY, and two VSC lights. Took it to the local dealer for diagnostics (different than purchase location) and were told the catalytic converter needed replacing. Is this a typical maintenance requirement for a vehicle of this type or an indicator of a bigger problem? Could this car be a lemon? If so, what are my options? Thanks for the help!

You shouldn’t need a new converter this early. 4+ owners in 3 years!!!

Give it back today and get your money back. This is a lemon, a hot potato that nobody wants to hold onto.

I understand that a plugged catalytic converter may trigger the CEL, but I don’t understand why it would affect the SWERVY and the VCS lights. I wonder about the 4+ owners–there is probably a reason these folks traded the car. Four owners in three years is not a good sign.

Thanks for the reply/advice Goldwing. I was definitely concerned given the circumstances but the dealer ensured me that they had checked it out and it was mechanically sound and that the 4+ owners was a possible error on the reporting side of CarFax. I want to be objective about this car but it is not looking good…

While I am skeptical of the catalytic converter diagnosis, isn’t this item covered under warranty, right now (less than 4 yrs old; less than 80K miles accumulated)? To me, dealer should offer to replace free based on his diagnosis. Check the emission systems warranty in your owner’s manual.

I was wondering if the O2 sensor could be in the problem that I am having with the catalytic converter (or worse, other engine problems). I doubt that it is worth investing the $$ in fixing these problems and am concerned about the mechanical viability of this vehicle. Dealer said that the CarFax had an error in stating the 4+ owners (claimed that the first two owners were the same person and pointed to the fact that it was a manual in explaining why it may have been returned/sold so often).

I doubt your car qualifies as a lemon but check your states’ lemon laws to be sure.

If the catalytic convertor really needs to be replaced it should be covered under the federal emission warranty, 8 years/80,000 miles. Check your owners manual.

If all the shop did was scan the computer and tell you the convertor was bad… you need to get a second opinion. Many times a shop will do a scan for codes and not do the diagnostics needed to properly diagnose the problem. It might be a defective O2 sensor that is causing the code but they don’t know that because they didn’t do the diagnostics.

You are correct - the catalytic converters are generally covered under warranty by most manufacturers for 8 years/80K. The dealer is going to replace it and all work being done is covered by the used dealer that we purchased from because it was only purchased on Saturday. I am just concerned that I am in for more problems down the road and that this may just be a symptom of greater issues. Thanks so much for the reply/post.

What guarantees or warranty did the dealer give you? Even if the selling dealer replaces the converter under warranty, there was probably something wrong with the engine that caused it to go bad so quickly.

And what about all those other lights not related to the cat? What did the dealer say about those?

Question about lemon laws for you - if the vehicle was purchased out of state but registered in my home state do the laws of my state take precedence? I am not sure that it would qualify as a “lemon” either but I am concerned about the condition of the vehicle given the circumstances and am trying to consider all my options. I imagine I am within rights to take it back to the dealer given my concerns/problems experienced. What do you think? I have never “returned” a car and have NO idea how to approach this situation…

I bet on your sales contract it says “Sold As Is, no warranty expressed or implied” So forget giving it back…But instead of whining on the internet, perhaps you should contact the dealer who sold it to you and give them a shot at it…As others have said, the CAT and many other emissions parts are covered under the manufactures emissions warranty…

The dealer provided a “Gold Check” warranty that covers any issues that may come up within 2 months/2K and the power train warranty is still in place. The converter is covered but I am with you - I doubt that this is a case of a converter failure alone.

Dealer is covering the diagnostic/maintenance/repair cost for now but I am really concerned about any issues that may come up after that period has passed. Dealer stated that their mechanics checked the vehicle prior to sale but that there were no known issues. They do not have opinion on the other lights that have come on because they say that they would need to look at the vehicle to know for sure.

Thanks for the reply Caddyman. The car was actually sold with a warranty and the dealer has been pretty amiable so far with regards to working with us. I will give it a shot but wanted to get some opinions on which route to take because I want to remain objective about the situation and get as much info as possible. Sorry if that was misconstrued as being “whiny”.

Because of the interaction between the ECM and the other electronic systems on the car, an illuminated CEL will frequently cause the stability control system (and possibly some other systems) to become deactivated.

About 7 years ago, a faulty purge valve in the evap system caused my stability control system to shut itself down. After 15 minutes in the shop, the purge valve was replaced and the stability control system became active again.

HOLD ON, lots of mis info.
If there is a emmissions issue with certain codes on some vehicles the CEL goes on addition to the other lights as the systems disable themselves. For example on my car (Subaru Legacy) if CEL goes on the ABS and cruise control lights illuminate/disable until the CEL is cleared or clears itself. This is normal. This has happened when spinning the tires stuck on ice. It self clears on my car.

LASTLY in generic legal terms, LEMON means a vehicle that cannot be fixed typically after a number of attempts(3) for the same issue by a dealer. And they only apply typically to new cars not used, but certain states are better.

So no you don’t have a Lemon by any stretch of the imagination.

Good luck.

The car is not a Lemon in any sense of the word. You purchased a 4 year old used vehicle with 50k miles+ and things wear out or break. Some of that could be caused by the people who were previously sitting behind the wheel.

Get AutoZone, Checkers, whomever to scan the vehicle and then post the codes back for discussion. Converters and O2 sensors are frequently misdiagnosed.
These types of parts houses will perform this service for you free.

Let them change it under the 8/80 warranty.

Only a few states have laws that cover “used” cars. Lemon laws are specifically for new cars. In the case of used cars you’d have to prove some sort of fraud such as odometer rollback, undisclosed damage (flood or accident), or some similar issue.

If the seller (apparantly a car dealer) is willing to give take the car back and refund your money; that’s what you should do. You now have no confidence in this car and if you want out of the deal state so now. If the dealer won’t take the car back then getting them to honor the warranty is your best recourse. Good Luck.