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Selling a Car with the Check Engine Light Activated & Failure to Smog-check a Vehicle

When drivers purchase or lease a vehicle, there is a reasonable expectation of safety and functionality involved—that their vehicle, fresh off the lot, will operate as it should. Unfortunately, many consumers find that their vehicles exhibit problems not long after their purchase or lease has been agreed upon. For instance, it is not uncommon for a vehicle’s check engine light to activate immediately after driving off the dealership lot mere hours or days after a vehicle’s purchase. More often than not, an engaged check engine light that activates so soon after a vehicle leaves the lot may be a sign that proper smog-check practices were not followed by the vehicle’s seller.

Before a buyer leaves the dealership lot with their newly acquired vehicle, the dealer must have performed a safety inspection and a smog-check inspection of the vehicle being sold. According to Health and Safety Code §44015(f), the dealer must provide the buyer with a certificate of compliance, which ensures that the vehicle underwent these inspections and passed in accordance with the law. This certificate is good for 90 days from the date of the sale, but the dealer must have provided this documentation before the buyer leaves the lot with the vehicle in question.

Smog-checking a vehicle is important for the safety, health, and financial welfare of the vehicle’s driver, the community, and the environment. When dealers skirt smog-checking protocols to save themselves time and money, they are breaking the law and putting consumers and the community at risk.

If you were sold or leased a vehicle whose check engine light engaged shortly after leaving the lot, or if you were not provided with proper safety and smog-check certificates, you may be entitled to a vehicle refund and other related damages. For a FREE consultation with on our auto fraud attorneys, contact us at the Law Offices of Robert Mobasseri at (213) 282-2000. You can also submit a FREE case evaluation form through our website so that on our auto fraud lawyers can review your case and contact you personally about your legal options.

Signs your check engine light impacts your vehicle’s smog-check

It may not be uncommon for a vehicle’s check engine light to activate shortly after leaving the dealership lot, but it is still unsettling for the recent buyer who signed off on a vehicle that may have a defect. Though a check engine light can be an indicator for any number of problems, when this alert engages within hours or days after a purchase It usually means that the seller reset the check engine light previously. A dealer may reset a check engine light to hide the fact that a vehicle might have failed its smog-check inspection. Sometimes fixing a smog problem on a vehicle is a simple, but often times it can cost a considerable amount of money. A dealership might go through the trouble of resetting a check engine light in order to avoid repairing any problems with the vehicle’s smog emissions.

Having a vehicle smog-checked may not be incredibly expensive for a dealership, but having every car on the lot inspected may add up. Many cars on a dealership’s lot ultimately go to auction if they are not sold during an inventory cycle. So, in order to avoid paying for every single car’s inspection, since many will not be sold from the lot, dealerships may wait to have a car smog-checked until a buyer is interested. But, at that point, arranging for a smog inspection might be hard to manage if negotiations have ended and the buyer is looking to take their vehicle home. A dealer may have the vehicle’s check engine light reset to avoid hassle and then perhaps ask the buyer to come back the next day or week to have a smog-check performed. This may seem like a reasonable request, but by lawunlawful, regardless of the smog-check’s results.

A dealer may also falsify the results of a smog-check in order to get out of paying for repairs that would allow a vehicle to pass inspection. There are numerous ways dealers or mechanics can cheat or alter smog-checks, like clean piping or falsifying dates and results. If your vehicle’s check engine light turned on shortly after leaving the lot or within a week or two after your lease or purchase, it may be the result of a check-engine light reset and a failure to have a vehicle properly smog-checked.

If you’re unsure about your vehicle’s smog-check status or were not provided with proper documentation of your vehicle’s smog check certification, you can contact our auto fraud attorneys for FREE with your questions or concerns. Call the Law Offices of Robert Mobasseri at (213) 282-2000 or fill out a FREE case evaluation form through our website and a member of our auto fraud firm will contact you about your legal options.

Why you need an attorney

Smog-checks may seem like a simple, solvable problem when they arise, but can ultimately lead to costly and extensive repairs and problems for consumers. When a check engine light activates soon after a purchase or lease, it is often an indication that a dealership did not follow protocol with the vehicle they sold, and their deceptive practices can extend far beyond a failure to properly smog-check a vehicle, ultimately leading to greater problems. Similarly, a failure to provide the correct certificates and disclosures about a vehicle’s safe smog-check status is unlawful and may entitle you to a vehicle refund and related damages.

A vehicle that has not been properly smog-checked is not only a danger to its driver, but to the health of the community and to the environment. When sellers violate the law in order to save themselves time or money, at the expense of the consumer, you are not left without recourse. An auto fraud attorney can ensure that you receive proper refunds for the time and money you have compromised due to a seller’s negligence.

Who We Are

At the Law Offices of Robert Mobasseri, we have extensive experience handling cases of auto fraud, dealer fraud, lemon law, and consumer protection. Our 99% success rate guarantees your case will be treated with care, attention, and will be litigated to the full extent of the law. Our firm generally operates on a contingency basis, meaning that the losing party covers our fees when your case is won. Our contingency basis also guarantees that if your case cannot be won, you owe us nothing, which makes retaining top-ranking legal representation a financial possibility for any consumer in need.

If you were not given proper safety or smog-check certificates at the time of your vehicle’s sale, or if your check engine light engages shortly after your purchase, call us at (213) 282-2000 for a FREE consultation where a member of our firm will speak with you personally and address any questions or concerns you may have about your case. You can also fill out a FREE case evaluation form through our website, to be reviewed by a member of our team who will contact you about your legal options and next steps.


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Lemon Law Auto Fraud serves the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.

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Disclaimer: The following Lemon Law and Auto Fraud information has been compiled from various public sources. It is presented online for informational use only, and without warranty as to its accuracy, timeliness, or completeness. This site does not replace any official versions of the information presented, nor does use of this information constitute an attorney-client relationship. It is always recommended that you do not make any decisions about any legal matter without first consulting an attorney to ensure that all of your rights are protected, as well as to find out if your vehicle meets the established Lemon Law or Auto Fraud Criteria for your state.