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Getting the Squeeze

LemonLaw.com Has Released Its 2002 Lemon List, Compiled On The Basis Of Consumer Complaints

By Athena D. Merritt, Bucks County Courier Times

Forget the cell phone. Did you ever try driving a car with an engine that stalls, a steering wheel that locks or a speedometer that fails and an air conditioner that spews fumes?

These are just some of the complaints that have landed cars on LemonLaw.com's 2002 Car Complaint Index of vehicles. Kimmel & Silverman, an Ambler-based firm, which has provided free legal assistance to 19,000 drivers, manages the site.

"We want to make it clear that this is one tool you should use in buying a car, it shouldn't be an end-all deal," said Michael Sacks, director of communication and client services at LemonLaw.com.

Sacks said consumer advocate Jack Gillis compiled the list for the Ultimate Car Book and the Center for Auto Safety by tallying the number of complaints consumers registered with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

"We might receive hundreds of complaints, but if they are not safety related we may not open an investigation," said NHTSA spokeswoman Liz Neblett. She said the agency doesn't keep track of the number of complaints it receives.

According to LemonLaw.com, more than 10,000 complaints were registered about the Mazda MPV minivan, for problems such as oil leaks, malfunctioning "check engine" lights, squeaky rear brakes and a fuel smell from the air conditioner.

Those complaints landed the MPV first place on the site's lemon list. The Kia Sportage placed second, with complaints ranging from braking problems and fumes coming from the air conditioner to problems with the electrical system and speedometer.

Complaints about the Ford Excursion, which included the steering wheel locking up while driving, landed it third on the list. The Ford Windstar was fourth, with complaints about braking, stalling and electrical problems, followed by the Mercury Cougar, which was cited as having transmission problems and water leaks.

Sacks said consumers should use the list only as a guide, because not all models have the same problems that owners complained about. Before buying, he also suggests that consumers check Web sites such as ConsumerReports.com, to see how their cars rate, and review complaints about the model they're considering at the NHTSA Web site, www.nhtsa.gov.

Above all, Sacks said, before signing on the dotted line, consumers should make sure every feature on the car works and have a mechanic look over the car if it's used.

"This is your chance to demand perfection, so demand it," Sacks said.

To see the latest Lemon List: 2007 Car Complaint Index.

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