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Used car scam? My sister bought a used car privately and now the catalytic is done- what can she do?

 She bought the car about two weeks ago, and it ran great for exactly 5 days.  Then it started shaking and making strange noises.  She took it into our old high school auto shop for a diagnosis, but a student disconnected the battery while it was hooked up (to clean the terminals) and we lost the diagnosis.  The instructor informed her that it would take a few days for the engine maintenance light to come back on, and to come back if and when this occurred.  Well it did- exactly 5 days later.  We are pretty sure it was reset the day she bought it so that by the time the problem arose, it would be "her problem", but can't prove it.  I'm pretty sure a catalytic converter does not constitute a safety issue, thus wouldn't be covered under her certification.  Is there anything she can do, is she on her own?

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 Private sale, so she's screwed on that score.... but ....

Now, there are other things to do though.

What year is the car?  It could be nothing more than an oxygen sensor problem, and that's a lot cheaper to fix.  Last O2 sensor I changed cost me like $25 or so.

If you don't live in a state that has emissions testing, though ... you can live with the check engine light, and replace the cat with a piece of straight pipe.  Or just make the cat into a piece of straight pipe with a broomstick handle.  That'll even give you a little more horsepower and gas mileage by reducing exhaust flow restrictions.  (Or so I've heard.  I obviously would never do such a thing.)

Now, I am wondering how a catalytic converter would set off an engine sensor, though ...  every car I've ever had, there haven't been any sensors connected to it ...


I'd reckon changing the lambda probe is a cheap fix to try.

You should even be able to test the sensor with a multimeter to see if it even needs to be changed.  With the old Bosch sensors you could read the volts coming off it, and if you had an analog meter, watch the swing of the needle.  IIRC, if it was fluctuating in a more or less even sweep between +1 and -1 volts, then your sensor was okay.  (This will vary between different fuel injection systems of course - the above was based on Saab K- and LH-Jetronic systems, and observed on 900 and 9000 turbo models from '83, '86, '87-'89 and '91.)
The ones I used on the V8 on my Landrover were so high impedance, using a voltameter affected the readings though.
lemonie7 years ago
You should have some statutory-rights under law. Check with e.g. your local government / council. Ask a lot of people, ask reputable car-salespersons - they'd probably be happy to tell you...

L
I hadn't thought about that.  I think in the US since you are required to have a cat converter, you have to have a good one on there when you sell the car.

Check that out.
The downside is that considering all the trouble of filing a complaint, hiring a lawyer, waiting months for the case to be heard, etc, it's still easier and cheaper to just get the car fixed and move on. I think that ripoff artists count on that.
Re-design7 years ago
She probably did get "cheated".  There is always that chance when buying a used car from a private sale or a dealer, but there's probably not much she can do about it now.  I don't know what state you are in or even what country but you might be able to find some cheap or free legal advise thru an aid society.

Probably the best bet is to just have a new cat. put on.  That'll run between $500 and $1000.  Then just forget about it.  It's not worth the heartburn.  The people she was dealing with are pond scum and probably will not admit any wrong doing.

I doubt that even if she had taken her car to a mechanic for a checkout before buying it that the plugged cat. could be found.

Good luck to her.


blkhawk7 years ago
I am sad to say that she will find very difficult to get her money back. In most states of the US Lemon Laws only apply to cars bought at auto dealers unless they were bought "as is". In private transactions, unless she can prove that the car was sold to her with some kind of warranty, it is assumed that the car have been bought as is.
I am afraid that she is stuck with this car. It was possible to get a catalytic converter on a junk yard but now many junk yards will not sell them to you. Someone has to install a new (and sometimes expensive) one.
Keep us posted if she could get her money back.
The moral of the story: Buyer beware!
orksecurity7 years ago
ALWAYS, before buying a used car, take it to a mechanic and have it checked out stem to stern. (All you have to tell them is "Check it as if your own kid was considering buying it.") It'll set you back a few bucks, but it's a lot cheaper than buying a lemon.

As far as what can be done: Ask your Local Authority Having Jurisdiction. If they tell you to ask a lawyer, think about doing so. Laws differ from town to town (never mind province to province or country to country); contracts may differ widely, and the "implied contract" or "implied warranty" likewise. Only someone who knows the law in *YOUR* area can tell you whether it can help you.

For example: The catalytic may not be a safety issue -- but it may still be one of those items  legally required in order to pass annual inspection (it is in my area),  and the law may forbid selling a car that does not pass inspection. Not all the "if"s and "may"s. This is why you need to do your research locally.
Kiteman7 years ago
If she bought the car privately (not from a business), and the seller did not tell her directly that the catalytic converter was fine, then there is (in the UK) no come-back.

Sorry.