Recalls, TSBs, and Campaigns: Free or Do You Have to Pay?

Audra Fordin
January 9, 2012

We hear about recalls all of the time, but have you ever heard of a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) or a campaign? How do they differ from recalls? If a recall or TSB is issued for your car, do you have to pay for the repairs? Here are the three situations explained:

Special service campaigns are a form of Technical Service Bulletin where a manufacturer will inform dealers of warranty extensions for particular repairs. For example, if an engine is covered for 60,000 miles, but the particular engine has experienced numerous blown head gaskets, the manufacturer could extend the warranty to 80,000. Or if the A/C has a potential problem for a leaking condenser, the manufacturer could extend the warranty for a specific time period.

Basically, what this means is that you must get the repairs done before the expiration date (or specified mileage) in order to have the cost covered by the manufacturer. If you do not get it done by then, you will have to pay for the repair yourself.

Bottom Line: Free if you get the work done before the expiration date

When cars come in for service, shops keep track of what the problems are and what customers are saying about their vehicles. When enough safety- or emissions-related problems have been noted about a specific make, model, and year, the National Highway and Traffic Administration (NHTSA) will look into it. When it comes to manufacturing defects, only the NHTSA can issue a recall and they only issue them for defects that are directly related to safety or emissions issues.

If they determine there is a manufacturing defect, they will order the dealerships to send out a safety recall on that particular vehicle to all of the people who bought the car. This is free repair and normally does not have any expiration date.

If you want to find out whether or not your car is affected by a recall, you can go to the NHTSA site or call your local dealer and provide them with your VIN number. If you register your vehicle with RepairPal’s MyCar, we will let you know about recalls as well.

Bottom Line: Free since they are safety- or emissions-related

TSBs (Technical Service Bulletins)
A TSB is issued when there have been enough complaints about a certain issue affecting a specific type of car, but the issue is not safety- or emissions-related. Basically, the manufacturer sends out an advisory about the recurring problem to dealership service departments. Most TSBs are issued during the first year a vehicle is out on the market in order to address issues that might have been overlooked when the car was originally designed. This can include problems with CD players, irregularities in the paint, and hard-to-start engines.

A TSB-related repair is considered optional, since there is no direct threat to the driver or occupants’ safety. Therefore, they are an out-of-pocket expense. When the TSB is issued, the service department will received illustrated instructions for the repair, a list of the parts needed, how the repair might affect the warranty, and suggested labor costs.

Bottom Line: Not free since they are not safety- or emissions-related

Audra Fordin

About the Author

Audra Fordin is the owner and operator of Great Bear Auto Repair in Flushing, New York, which specializes in foreign, domestic and hybrid vehicles.

2 User Comments

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By , January 10, 2012
This is a must read! I will help everyone to understand. Very well written. Thanks yall !!!
By , March 20, 2015
If it's a known problem dealers should a least take the cost!!