Technical service bulletins are special notices issued by the original equipment vehicle manufacturer to their service dealers. A TSB may be
issued if the vehicle manufacturer has seen similar problems with a signifcant number of its vehicles. Every year, there are literally THOUSANDS
of TSBs issued by vehicle manufacturers.
A TSB will typically describe the complaint or problem with the vehicle, the make, models and years covered by the bulletin, and include the specific procedures for diagnosing and repairing the fault. 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.
Click here to view a sample TSB for a 1999-2000 Ford Windstar (PDF file).
TSBs may deal with 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 (provided 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 coverages that the vehicle manufacturer is offering to its customers. This
"secret" warranty information is good to have because it can save you money!
Who Gets TSBs?
The vehicle manufacturers send their TSBs to their own dealerships. Independent repair facilities do NOT get these notices, and can only
access them by paying a subscription fee to the OEM website or an aftermarket information provider who compiles TSBs for a fee.
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 he vehicle manufacturer. The only way you may be aware of
a recall notice on your vehicle is to read about it in a newspaper or magazine, or hear a mention on radio or TV. 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 a source such as this.
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Nov. 7, 2008 announced a new automated vehicle recall alert service that is free to all consumers. Consumers who sign up for the service can elect to receive recall notices via e-mail, RSS-feed, cell phone or PDA as they are released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The new service builds on a program launched earlier this year that provides automated recall information for child safety seats and tires.
NHTSA currently releases roughly 600 vehicle recalls each year. Approximately one out of four notices is ignored by consumers. Consumers may sign up for all recall notices, or may customize the notices for specific vehicles.
To learn more, or to sign up for the service, visit www.safercar.gov and select "E-mail recall notifications."
Resources for Finding TSBs, Recall notices and NHTSA Defect Investigations: