from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

Technical Service Bulletins could be the single most important part of getting your vehicle repaired properly! Usually referred to as TSBs, Technical Service Bulletins make information available to technicians in minutes that might otherwise consume hours, even days of testing to uncover.

TSBs are issued by vehicle manufacturers to help address tricky problems which have been identified through pattern failure analysis and testing. A classic example of the benefits derived from TSBs involved a popular car with rough idle, hesitation, or stalling. But get this; the symptoms only occurred immediately following a fill-up. A TSB however, explained that the afflicted vehicles came from the factory with an improperly designed fuel tank. With TSBs the total time expended to diagnose the problem, ten minutes!

But in the field no amount of testing could have found the fuel tank design flaw because testing that sophisticated does not exist outside the lab. Without the TSB this was an unsolvable problem. A master technician could have diligently performed every test in the book, used every exotic tester for days, or until frustration won out, and still not found the design error.

Tough problem number two jangled the nerves of thousands who drove another make; a thoroughly annoying whine from the car’s radio speakers. It was excruciatingly annoying, like fingernails on a blackboard! Technicians confronted with solving this one often removed the radio and shipped it off for repair, which made sense as the noise came from the speakers. But that was just wasted money, it didn’t help! Who’d have thought the car’s electric fuel pump was the actual problem, not the radio? The correction, install an electronic noise suppressor in the fuel pump wires at the fuel tank.

Those are merely two examples from tens of thousands. Bottom line, without access to TSBs some repairs are just about impossible. Lest you think these are just bizarre and unusual incidents that never affect the average car, think again. Every manufacturer issues TSBs and there are a lot of them too. In one quarterly update from Alldata there were 4,679 new pages of TSBs and that’s just an update so there’s most likely something that applies to your car.

Certainly not all TSBs involve highly unusual problems; many are issued to improve a technician’s ability to perform repairs faster or more safely. No matter the reason behind issuing a TSB, they mean better, more accurate, and usually less expensive repairs.

Knowledge of TSBs only brings benefits when you use that knowledge. Before leaving your car for repairs ask the question: Do you have an information system? Is its data current? Will the tech fixing my car search for applicable TSBs? Some technicians love TSBs others hate them. After all if the answer is as simple as reading a document all those diagnostic labor hours could be lost.

In addition to asking questions you might want to consider purchasing your own online subscription to ALLDATA Alldata gives you TSBs and allows you to look up labor hours and parts prices so you know if you’re being fairly charged. At $25.00 per year, per vehicle it is an amazing value that could save you a lot of money and even more in aggravation.