• Sign in
  • |
  • Sign up

Car Buying

Technical Service Bulletins: What Are They?

RELATED READING
  • Car Deals

    Our list of December's top new car deals is perfect for shoppers looking for a new ride at a great price this month.
  • Car Deals

    We've listed December's top SUV deals for shoppers interested in getting a brand-new model for a great price.
  • Car Deals

    We've rounded up the top truck deals available this month for shoppers interested in getting a new pickup at a great price.
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Acura cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs Infiniti cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2013

If you're searching for a used car, you may have heard the term "technical service bulletin," or TSB. So what exactly are technical service bulletins? How will they affect your car? And how do they differ from a recall? We have a few answers to help you understand this commonly confused automotive item.

Defining Technical Service Bulletin

Many shoppers hear technical service bulletin along with "recall," but the two are very different. A recall is a government-mandated action that requires automakers to repair a safety-related defect for free. But a TSB comes from the manufacturer to address a common defect -- unrelated to safety -- in a particular vehicle. TSB repairs aren't necessarily done for free. Instead, the bulletin simply provides dealerships with guidance on how to repair a common problem.

How Do I Find TSBs?

While recalls are posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website, technical service bulletins can be harder to track down. Our advice: Once you've narrowed your search to the vehicle you want, call the dealership to see if there are any technical service bulletins for that car. If there are, you'll want the dealership -- or a mechanic -- to check and see if they've been performed.

Paying for TSB Repairs

The main reason it's important to see if any technical service bulletins have been addressed before buying a car is that you may have to pay for TSB repairs. That's different from recalls, which are performed for free.

Sometimes, however, TSB repairs are done free of charge. This is always the case when a car is under warranty, and sometimes even if the car is out of warranty. If you're buying a used car, you'll have to check with your dealership to see if any outstanding TSBs will result in out-of-pocket costs.

Should I Buy a Car With TSBs?

Technical service bulletins are common in the auto industry, so we don't suggest you pass on a car just because it has a TSB. We do suggest discovering what TSBs relate to the car you want before you buy it. That way, you can negotiate with the seller in case you have to pay for repairs.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Close 
Technical Service Bulletins: What Are They? - Autotrader