Used car engine threw a rod- was it a lemon?

Last year, we (briefly) owned a mid-2000s Kia Sedona minivan. It was such a brief time, and it was several months ago, so I don’t remember all the exact details. We got it from our landlord, and paid half up front with the promise to pay the rest when possible.
A week after we bought it, we found that the a/c didn’t work. We found that the fuse had been pulled out and was just lying in the box in a way that was clearly deliberate. When we plugged the fuse back in, the a/c motor started screaming and smoking right away. It was obvious that whoever looked at this last just pulled the fuse to avoid a costly repair. The landlord said that he had no idea about it, and that the a/c worked for him. This is impossible. We got a few quotes of $500-800 to fix it. He offered to fix it for $400. We declined.
A month later, we were in a small accident that dented the side door and took out a headlight but didn’t cause any other damage we could see.
Two days afterward, the engine blew a rod. We hadn’t had it long enough to change the oil, but we had checked it before our last trip and the level and color was fine. Our mechanic filled it with oil and there was no leak, which he said meant that the engine had been burning oil. He says that this meant a history of neglect and that if the oil was clean and full when we last checked, it was because the owner just poured some in to make it look good.
Now our landlord wants to be paid the rest of his money. I think he sold us a van that he knew was a lemon, and I don’t want to pay the rest. I’m in CT. What can I do, legally? The sale price was less than $3000. We were far from home and had to buy another vehicle to get us back, and we left the dead van with a junkyard.

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Since this involves legal opinions, let’s move it to our legal opinion forum.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

Legally speaking? I have no idea.

Morally or ethically? Tough call.

But if what you say about the AC is totally true that pegs the guy as a liar and deceiver right there.

Which brings us to the second part. You CAN throw a rod anytime, but is my understanding that isnt that common and for it to happen such a short time after you got the car makes it even more suspect. Throw THAT in with the AC stuff and personally I’d highly suspect he was trying to pull a fast one on you.

How you react to that is your business.

Legally speaking, private party used car transactions are almost always assumed to be as-is, so you don’t really have much legal recourse. Caveat emptor and all that.

However, practically speaking, normally in this situation if you told the seller to go jump in the lake with regard to paying the rest of it, they wouldn’t have much recourse. If they held the title, what are they going to do, repo the broken car? Maybe if the arrangement was well documented they might be able to take you to small claims court and get some sort of judgement, but that’s definitely more than $1,500 worth of trouble in my book. Which is why I’d personally never take installments on a car.

Of course the whole landlord thing definitely complicates things, depending on how much you like living in your house. And I suppose there’s the whole ethical matter of if he really did sell you the car in good faith, you probably should pay him. Sure, you think he didn’t, but just about everyone who’s ever had bad luck with a used car thinks the same thing.

Well, it could just be that the van had a serious oil consumption habit that the seller failed to mention, and that the van would have happily kept running for years to come had they checked the oil a bit more. (Heavens know I’ve bought some of those.) Not disclosing an oil consumption habit is definitely a jerk move, but not quite as bad as selling one where the engine’s already set to blow any minute.

When you say that your mechanic filled it with oil, do you mean the oil level was way down? If it was low enough to cause damage you would of gotten a warning on the instrument panel. And sense you disposed of the van without full ownership you should be on the hook for the last payment, and if the PO gave you the title with out you fully paying off, he is a dummy.

He did give us the full title, signed off as paid, even though we weren’t.
I was really more looking for advice on what might have happened with the vehicle (whether he had to have known there was an issue) and less the legal stuff, but thanks anyway.

Well, I suppose it’s possible it had an “oil pressure light” problem he solved in the same manner as the AC problem. Did you happen to notice if the oil light came on when the engine wasn’t running?

No idiot lights, but I didn’t check the fuse.

I doubt that you can get away with not paying the landlord the rest of the money unless you had a written warranty. Most state lemon laws are for new vehicles. You’d have to prove some outright fraud like the landlord knowingly sold you something like a car totaled in a flood (which could cause internal engine damage). Usually a rod about to go makes a lot of knocking noise well before it gets thrown.

Also this is your landlord. I bet that he can make things hell for you if you don’t pay.

I think what GreasyJack meant was that the oil level/oil pressure light (and most other warning lights) should come on when the key is turned to the “on” position. They should also stay on for a few seconds after the engine is cranked. If not, that could mean a bad or missing fuse.

Yeah, exactly. There isn’t a fuse that specifically runs the oil light, but it’d be easy enough to disconnect or ground out the sensor so the light is always off.

True, I phrased that poorly. I should have said “could mean someone tampered with the warning system”. I have seen used cars for sale where the owner had removed/broken the Check Engine Light. They always remember doing that right after I pull out my OBDC reader…:rolleyes:

You might want to look up Connecticut Lemon Law (I don’t know if there is one, but that’s a good way to start finding out) for some idea of the legal situation.

I wouldn’t bother. Lemon laws pertain to cars bought new. However, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (or whatever it is in CT) should have info about dealing with private, used-car sales.