When you hear the term “recall” for your vehicle it gets your attention and it should. Recalls are issued because there is a serious safety defect that needs to be addressed. You also hear the term “technical service bulletin” for vehicles. There is a big difference between the two.
Recalls are issued when it is determined that a certain type of vehicle has a defect that might pose a safety risk to the occupants of the vehicle or others on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires automakers to correct defects at their own expense if it is determined that a serious safety issue exists and the Administration ultimately has the power to order the automakers to issue a recall after an investigation.
Many times, automakers issue a recall before the government forces them to on issues that can cause serious injury such as air bags, fuel leaks, steering parts and stuck accelerators. So if you receive a recall notice, it’s important that you take it seriously and get in to see your dealer right away.
Technical service bulletins (or TSBs for short) differ from a recall because they can be related to just about any type of issue with a vehicle, whether it is related to safety or not. TSBs are sent out by the automakers so that technicians are aware of particular issues that are related to certain vehicle models.
That helps the technicians repair the vehicles more quickly and efficiently. As an example, a vehicle that might have had one or two recalls issued for safety reasons might have over 200 TSBs issued for a wide variety of issues and/or problems. Just so you know, most repairs that are required to fix TSB problems are not usually paid for by the automaker, unless they are covered under your normal warranty.
If you're wondering if your vehicle has a recall that you have not heard about, go to safercar.gov. There you can enter your particular type of vehicle into their database and search for recalls.
There is also a page for reporting safety issues that you are concerned about with your car and they can investigate. Remember, the only way automakers know about many of the problems out there in the real world is by hearing from customers like you.