Niagara Gazette

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June 20, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Secret letters that can save you money: TSB

Niagara Gazette — While everybody understands what a recall is, not many car owners have heard of the Technical Service Bulletin (TSB). TSB’s are sometimes confused with recalls, but they are not the same thing. Recalls come about from vehicular defects that result in loss of life or limb. TSBs, on the other hand, are documentation of defects that come about as a result of consumer complaints to mechanical failure trends that develop as a result of a non-life threatening defect. The car companies have technical field reps that travel the countryside visiting dealer-to-dealer and reporting on mechanical failures, this data is then given to the technical labs of the car company and repairs are developed from the data. While these service alerts are issued to dealers by the car companies, a TSB repair is usually only covered if your vehicle is still under a factory warranty. If your car is out of warranty, a dealer doesn’t have to perform the fix for free. Oftentimes, TSBs are confused with the urban legend of a “silent recall,” where the carmaker repairs something without telling you, say, when you drop the car off for oil change. Trust me that this just doesn’t happen in the real world — there is no such thing as a “silent recall.” Sometimes carmakers authorize their zone reps to offer a free repair called a “Goodwill Adjustment” based on customer loyalty, service history, ownership loyalty, meticulous service work or some other practice that indicates ideal customer idiosyncrasies.

Footing the bill

The savvy car owner will use TSBs to their advantage. We’ll get to some practical applications shortly, but first let’s address the whole issue of who pays for a repair that’s part of a TSB. While the carmaker is under no obligation to do so, the bottom line is that sometimes they will, depending on the repair and the specific situation of course. Carmakers and dealers both have made it a habit of making “goodwill adjustments,” extending an olive branch to the consumer in these cases. CSI or Customer Satisfaction Index is what carmakers base employee bonuses on, hence the often used “Goodwill Adjustment” because it affects the sales person’s pocketbook. Smart way to do business if used in the correct manner. But remember, before you can plead your case as to why you deserve such an olive branch, you need to know about the TSB and understand what it means. As I stated before, carmakers have technical service representatives out in the field all across the country, collecting service data. They use this data in order to identity patterns and trends coming up with what is called a “failure trend” index. Usually the carmaker will come up with the fix within their own labs, other times if a vendor is involved such as a lubricant company or a maker of a particular part that failed, the carmaker will work with the vendor to come up with a solution to the problem. Once an effective repair is found, and if the problem is not considered to pose a safety threat significant enough to force a recall, the information gets written up into a TSB.

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