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Manufacturer Recalls and Technical Service Bulletins

Manufacturer recalls and technical service bulletins are alerts issued by a manufacturer to advise vehicle owners of a particular model of issues that a significant number of other owners of the same model have experienced, and the dealer service department’s reported recommended fix for that issue.

Many recalls address issues that should not be ignored due to potential safety concerns. These are mandatory recalls and must be reported to the National Highway, Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Other recalls involve complaints about the way a vehicle operates or performs, causing the vehicle to exhibit symptoms that may require multiple repair attempts to cure. Known as voluntary recalls, they do not address safety concerns but still address prevalent concerns. If a recall is issued, the manufacturer pays for the repairs, regardless of whether the recall is mandatory or voluntary.

A “TSB” or technical service bulletin is an alert from the manufacturer for your model that advises a dealer’s repair shop of a reported problem that many owners of the same model are experiencing and verifies the recommended “fix” for that particular problem. “TSB’s” contain repairs for a known problem or issue that exists for a certain model vehicle. A TSB fix or repair is paid for if the vehicle is still under the manufacturer’s original warranty, however, if the vehicle is outside of the specified warranty period or mileage, the owner must bear the cost of the repairs.

If your vehicle required repairs prior to your having received a recall notice, or if the recall did not cure the problem, a lemon law attorney in your state can advise as to your lemon law rights in this circumstance.

What Are Manufacturers Recalls and Technical Service Bulletins?

Technical service bulletins are issued by the original equipment vehicle manufacturer to their service dealers, and are notices describing a complaint or problem with a particular vehicle model and the specific procedures recommended for diagnosing and repairing the problem. A TSB may be issued if the vehicle manufacturer has seen similar problems with a large percentage of vehicles of that particular model. Thousands of TSB’s are issued each year by vehicle manufacturers, most are never seen by the buyer… unless they start to experience problems with their new purchase.

If new parts or updated parts are needed, the bulletin will also list any required OEM part numbers. If the repair involves reflashing (reprogramming) the vehicle computer (PCM), the bulletin will give the calibration information and codes, too.

Technical Service Bulletins may deal with with any particular issue or problem including but not limited to driveability complaints, emissions problems, service issues, safety concerns or recall notices. In some cases, a special TSB may be issued covering revised repair procedures, revisions to the factory service manual (new service specifications, for example), or procedures for using specific kinds of diagnostic and service equipment.

In the case of a recall notice, repairs are usually free if the vehicle is returned to an authorized new car dealer for repairs. The bulletin will describe what items are covered by the recall, and for what period of time.

In the case of other repairs, the TSB may list any special warranty coverage that the vehicle manufacturer is offering to owner of the particular model in question.

Does The Vehicle Owner Get Copies Of TSB’s?

The vehicle manufacturers send TSBs to their own dealerships. Independent repair facilities don’t get these notices, and can only access them by paying a subscription fee to the OEM website or an aftermarket information provider who provides this information for a fee.
Automobile Recall Notices

Automotive manufacturers issue Official Safety Automobile Recalls Notices to inform vehicle owners of car defects that have come to the manufacturer’s attention. Automobile Recalls also suggest improvements that can be made to improve the safety of a particular vehicle. Oftentimes this recall work can be performed by your car dealer for free. Knowing what recall notices have been issued on your vehicle helps you keep your vehicle in the best and safest working order.

Technical Service Bulletins differ from recalls in that they are not issued to address safety or emissions issues and they usually apply only when your vehicle is in its warranty period. A recall may remain open for a specific model for a longer time period, but TSBs frequently (but not always) address a recurring problem and include illustrated instructions for repair, a list of the parts needed, the warranty status and the labor charge.

Recall notices are mailed to the last known address of new vehicle owners. But owners of used vehicles will never see these notices unless they have extended the original factory warranty coverage, or have registered with the vehicle manufacturer. Its possible that you may not even be aware of a recall notice on your vehicle until you hear it on the radio, see it on TV or read about it in a newspaper or print publication. If you miss the report, or there is no media coverage, then you have no way of knowing there’s a recall on your vehicle — unless you look up the TSBs and recall notices online through another source. Most TSBs are released during the first year that a vehicle is offered or the year following a redesign…in order to address areas that might have been overlooked when the car was originally designed.

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  1. When a TSB states that a dealer “should”, when does the should become a shall?

    • Pretty much always as its just semantics. If a dealer wasn’t doing something stated within a bulletin, it sounds like a refusal to (properly) repair, which can be a breach by itself.

  2. what about TSB for a vehicle that is 5 weeks past warranty?
    its a known issue on my year camry but toyota is saying no since the 3yr 36000 mile warranty ended 5 weeks ago. $900 repair!

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