Finances & Money

Find Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) for your car online

I’m a dealership’s worst nightmare. When I hear any squeak or rattle in our cars, I take it directly to the warranty manager to get analyzed and fixed. I’m not the type who can just drown out the noise with a stereo, because once I know it’s there, I’ll never forget it.

What is a Technical Service Bulletin?

Prior to the internet, you had to almost bribe the dealer or mechanic to find out what service bulletins the manufacturer issued for your vehicle. A Technical Service Bulletin, or TSB, is a notification by the manufacturer on how to fix a common, recurring problem in a vehicle, but it is not a full recall. According to an article about TSBs:

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 designing the car.

These bulletins differ from recalls in that they are not considered safety or emissions issues and they usually apply only when your vehicle is in its warranty period (whereas a recall is “open” until the work has been performed). 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.

Find all the Technical Service Bulletins for your vehicle online provides a very valuable service where you can find all the TSBs for your vehicle (back to 1990 model year). You can browse to the “Maintenance Schedules, Recalls, and Technical Service Bulletins” applet here.

You plug in the details about your vehicle year, make, model, and trim, plus the current mileage, and you get access to maintenance schedule (for your mileage), recalls, and most importantly, the TSBs. I think the TSBs are most valuable because recalls and maintenance schedules are either readily available to required by law to be distributed to owners (recalls). However, TSBs are usually minor problems, but still very important for a new vehicle owner.

Understanding the TSB Report

For my 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTS, I found 2 Recall Notices and 39 TSB Reports. Because I browse the Ridgeline owner forums to research common Ridgeline problems, and ask about issues I’m having with my own truck, I am informed about the common problems. However, I also want to know what Honda has admitted as a problem, and to see whether a fix is available.

Buying the detailed TSB

Unfortunately, Edmunds only prints a summary of the TSB, but it does give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Item Number, which you can use to purchase the details of the TSB directly from NHTSA’s web site. However, it’s not cheap, but if you’re consistently having a problem with the vehicle that the dealership is denying exists, you may want the full technical details to back up your argument, and also to understand the problem entirely.

The Edmunds article also mentions a few other methods of obtaining the TSB full report for a smaller fee or free:

1. You can buy a full 1-year subscription to all TSB and Recall reports for a single vehicle through for $24.95, and additional vehicles for $14.95 each. You get access to the full text of the TSB, as well as diagnostic and repair procedures, diagrams, and “more”.

2. Apparently, BAT Auto, a collaboration of over a dozen mechanics, will provide the full details of a TSB for free through their forums. They do request donations, which is justified if you get the answer you needed through the forums that would otherwise have cost you $25 or more.

Finally, some manufacturers, such as Hyundai, provide technical information to owners through their Service website, but I’m definitely a fan of browsing the owner forums to find problems similar to your vehicle’s before spending money or too much time for a TSB. Perhaps, if you’re nice, you COULD just ask the dealership nicely for a full list of TSBs. But, that would just mean more warranty work for them.

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  • Definitely worth checking these out. My wifes car started flashing its A/C light at us last week. Wife suggested looking for a TSB, so we did and found one stating the problem was likely a faulty relay that Toyota put out a TSB that said fix this before troubleshooting everything else. Unfortunately the car was out of warranty so the relay cost us $65 (I checked around and nobody had it cheaper). When we went to pick it up my wife handed it to me and said “go put it on please” so i did. I replaced the relay in less time than it took her to pay for it and was back in to watch her sign the credit card slip. It fixed the problem.

    Funny thing about that is the Labor charge according to the TSB for replacing that relay was 0.4 hours, and I did it in under 60 seconds…

  • Here’s a list of OE Manufacturer Service Information websites – you can obtain the same service information, procedures, and TSBs that the OE Manufacturer’s franchised dealers get, from the same place they get it:

    Here’s a list of their daily access charges:

    As an example, access to GM or Ford info is available for 72 hours for the princely sum of $20. This gives you three full days to get whatever you need.

    As stated, Hyundai and Kia make their factory info available free.

  • As an automotive warranty admin who handles Cad, Saab, Nissan, and Mazda claims, I can tell you that Technical Bulletins can be a huge headache when they get into owners’ hands.

    First, too many people think that because a concern is documented in a TSB, then the repair should be under warranty, regardless of time or mileage. No, no, no. The TSB is simply there to help techs get certain problems “fixed right the first time;” the manufacturer has seen several instances of it, and a fix has been documented.

    And when owners get TSBs in their hands, they immediately (and amazingly) just happen to have the very concerns documented in the TSBs. Weird, ain’t it?

    Oh, and Richard, your dealer would have LOVED to get that .4 hours of labor time warranted, especially if they were GM-based. That’d bring their “average repair cost per vehicle” down, and make them just that much less likely for a warranty audit.

  • There are good points here. Some do get abused and makes it a headache as you pointed out. What else is rough is I am retired and still do some work in my own garage. Service bulletins are a big help and the issue with myself is I don’t do enough work to pay $2495 a year to have unlimited access to TSBs or DSBs. They should Have something available for us technicians that are in this type of work situation. Instead, I have to trek down to one of the local dealers and get the TSBs from them.

    And here is the kicker: Until I started going to these dealerships, 2 of them didn’t even know what TSBs or DSBs were! That’s when I said “Who brought the Retards to Work”. For the curious, 1 was our local Chevrolet dealer and the other was the Nissan dealer.

    I agree dealerships are crooks, no doubt. Our local Chevrolet dealer won’t give the time of day to look at a vehicle under warranty. I have had mine to them 4 times for problems with the clutch and “Nope you have no problems” they say. My pedal goes to the floor and stays there. Put it in neutral and sit a minute then it pops back out. So I ended up going an hour away to have it looked at by a trusted dealership. The TSB outlined the problem and was fixed in a couple of hours. Now the warranty is out so I do my own work. TSBs help a lot, but gee, got to buy a year subsciption just to find 1 or 2 bulletins that relate to my issues. 2 Issues I have don’t even have a bulletin out and is a common problem. Trying to report it as I have had 4 Chevrolets with the same problems so far. I just saw another recently with same thing. Found this true on the 2002,2003,2004 Models. The back-up lights have quit working on the manual tranny and also the horn has died. Just got 41000 miles on mine and was bought new.

    I used to be able to buy the Alldata DIY CD for a particular vehicle and was cool with that, but that wasn’t good enough for Alldata. They wanted MORE and MORE money so they discontinued them and went to online resources to buy them for a 1 year subscription. It’s no big deal, just print them out and have them for reference for whenever you may need them.

  • Tom, sounds like your situation needs more than what Edmund’s offers. They only give the header information for each TSB, but at least you can find out if one is there. It’s unfortunate that it’s so costly for the common man to get these TSBs!

    Also, maybe you should look at something other than a Chevy if you keep having the same problems? All cars are prone to problems, but Chevy hasn’t been known for their reliability in recent years. They’re making improvements, but mostly in the Saturn and Buick brands. It’ll be a few years till those changes come to Chevrolet. My father-in-law’s S-10 always needs work done, but they guy wants another one, just a newer year! Sometimes brand loyalty will just get you in trouble ๐Ÿ™‚

    (You may have seen that we sold our 2005 Chevy Malibu cause it was a plastic piece of junk that is bound to fall apart in just a couple more years.)

  • I hear that and I will be looking in the future at the Chrysler vehicles as they have just recently upgraded to the first ownerships a lifetime warranty. Not sure of the full details but that would be a weight lifted greatly in repairs.

    As with my Chevy, I have determined that my problem is within the dashboard and hate to have to remove panels just to get into the dash to check out the wiring and relays. Another issue I have is the A/C. I will have to get those TSB’s as well. The title says A/C carpet on drivers side gets wet. Mine soaks the passenger side. I got so frustrated at the dealer trying to get them to fix it while under the warranty.

    And yeah I am in need of more than what the headlines of bulletins offer. I work on enough vehicles that the Pay-by-Vehicle is not really beneficial, and definitely don’t do enough to pay out a subscription price of $2495 a year for unlimited use. In the meantime, I will commute to a dealership and get the 4 or so bulletins that look to apply to the problems.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  • looking for any tsb on my 2004 pontiac grand am and a nother question my hazard keeps clinking when the turn signals and hazards are not on what could it be.


  • I’m looking for any TSB on 2005 Malibu LS – specifically dealing with
    steering “clunk” whenever steering wheel is rotated back and forth.

    Thanks a lot for any help

  • Anyone experiencing NOISE/VIBRATION problems with their GMC Yukon?

    It sounds like a washing machine when I drive at 1200-1500 rpms steady.

    Some tell me it could be the AFM or the exhaust or a combination or even the transmission.

    Gives a headache and even the radio cannot drown out the noise.

    Not normal according to muffler and transmission experts but my dealership calls it normal and don’t want to be bothered with it even though car is under warranty.

    Anyone else? I have had over many Surburbans and never had this problem.

  • I have a 2006 Sebring with a 2.4L engine that has had the seals replaced twice and it still kept pouring oil. My mechanic found out that the 2005 and 2006 engines were missing a thrust bearing and so it kept pushing the crankshaft against the timing belt which pushed out the front seal. I am trying to find out if any others had the same issue and what you did to fix it.

    Thanks for any info you can give.

  • just replaced a fuel pump and the truck still don’t start. i have a 93 chevy blazer with a vortec engine 4.3Litre. is there something that i did wrong for it not to start. or can you help me so i will know what is going on. help.

  • i am thinking o f buying a chev pickup i have heard their are oil consumption issues with these engines is this true