from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

Some say knowledge is power but I say knowledge is money in the bank. But where do you get reliable, money saving, automotive information? Certainly you could ask relatives and friends but what you’ll likely get is mostly money-wasting not money-saving information. Many drivers consider the Internet to be the gospel of good information. Now there’s a misconception that’s apt to lead you down the path to big financial losses. Many posters on the Internet are idiots who post outdated information that can be harmful to a modern car. And let’s not forget the Internet pranksters who delight in misleading the uninformed. They’re the same cretins who pour out infectious viruses over the Internet.

Of course you could think outside the box, you could do something highly unusual; read your owner’s manual! Owner’s manuals are brimming with good information and it’s highly beneficial to understand what the people who designed and built your car had in mind. Unfortunately owner’s manuals are not the total answer because new problems and solutions come along all the time, but, your owner’s manual never changes, which means you also need information that’s more current.

What you need is access to current Technical Service Bulletins and recalls. Manufacturer TSBs are written solutions to specific problems. Fixing a problem is usually easy but finding the fix can require enormous amounts of testing, sometimes hundreds of hours. Once a solution to a difficult problem has been verified the manufacturer publishes a TSB. With a TSB your technician doesn’t have to spend hours testing or replacing parts to find an answer that’s already known and published.

TSBs can be accessed online either for do-it-yourself or personal understanding at the National Highway Traffic Safety or by subscribing to Alldata at If you know the TSBs that apply to your car you’ll better understand what to expect when problems arise. For instance you might have a horrible sounding noise but you know there’s a TSB showing how to fix the problem with a simple hose clamp around an exhaust heat shield. A few minutes time researching TSBs just saved a couple hundred bucks. All your technician has to do is follow written instructions.

Today’s automobiles are complex and difficult to repair so it pays to ask if a shop has an information system like Alldata before using that shop. If you feel all that matters is the lowest price, sooner or later you’re probably going to waste lots of money. When a technician can’t access TSBs, you pay for unnecessary testing to find answers that are already known. If the shop doesn’t have access to information find one that does. But information systems are a lot more than just TSBs; they also provide maintenance schedules, general and specific repair procedures, capacities, labor times and approximate parts prices.

If you’re happy with the shop you’re using but they don’t have an information system, supply your own. With a subscription to ALLDATA you’ll have online access to the same information the pros use. Then before taking your car for repairs look up applicable TSBs, recalls and approximate labor and parts prices. That way you’ll know what may be wrong and approximately what the repair should cost.

Automotive information is available, inexpensive, easy to access and can bring peace of mind to your repairs. When you know what to expect you know some jobs are harder than they appear while others are easier. Being informed actually makes you a better customer because you have more realistic expectations.