What is a TSB?
A Technical Service Bulletin, (“TSB”), is essentially advice from an auto manufacturer to their authorized dealers regarding how to fix a specific mechanical problem. TSB's are sometimes created by engineers and other times generated by mechanics who find a fix through trial and error. Unlike a recall, (https://www.myfaircreditsite.com/recalls-and-the-michigan-lemon-law), the TSB generally does not relate to a safety issue.
However created, the attempted fix is shared with all service departments in a "bulletin" that is available to consumers for free at on NHTSA's site. Using your vehicle identification number, ("VIN"), you can access a list of TSBs that apply to your vehicle. The bulletin is usually very detailed and provides step by step repair procedures that standardize the repair process. Notably, Carfax does not identify TSB's, only open recalls.
Because of the complexity of and extensive components in motor vehicles, sometimes there is more than one way to fix a problem. In fact, sometimes there are multiple TSBs for the same defect. Moreover, most vehicles have hundreds of TSBs issued over their lifetime. The GMC Yukon, for example, has over 3,000 TSB's issued for fixes over the years.
Many consumers do not know that TSB's exist. Their disclosure is not required and auto manufacturers have no legal obligation to inform customers when they issue a TSB. While the TSB repair is usually free to the consumer, it's not required. However, some bulletins actually extend the warranty coverage for a specific problem.
Just because a bulletin mentions a potential problem with your vehicle, that doesn't mean the issue will necessarily occur. Often a specific defect shows up on only some vehicles or under certain conditions. Some TSBs are minor in nature. Others, like General Motors' release of a TSB in 2005, notified dealers of the ignition switch problem allegedly caused multiple accidents and deaths. Accordingly, it makes sense for all consumers to understand and be aware of bulletins relating to their particular year/make/model.
Becoming familiar with bulletins can potentially save you money or problems by notifying you to issues with a vehicle you own or plan to buy. In some cases, they can also clue you in to an early indication of a safety problem or expose the risk of an expensive and persistent problem if it's not covered under warranty.
DIY TSB research
If you are experiencing repeated problems with your vehicle that the dealer can't seem to duplicate or fix, look it up. Initially you can enter your VIN in the NHTSA website noted above. But often, for quicker and focused results, just Google your specific problem or problems. For example, "TSB for steering problem in 2023 Dodge Ram 1500". If you find a TSB that seems to discuss or describe the defect you are experiencing, communicate that to your service department, or print it out and bring it with you. Or simply, (and politely), ask your service department to please check for TSB's while your vehicle is in the shop.
Relationship to Michigan's Lemon Law
TSBs are admissible in court and can be a red flag for a more serious and consistent defect that ultimately qualifies your vehicle for Michigan Lemon Law remedies. For example if the manufacturer is unable to fix the issue (that is covered under the manufacturer's warranty) after a reasonable number of repair attempts, you may have a legitimate Lemon Law claims. Also, if your vehicle is out of service for repairs at least 25 days within the first year from delivery, you may also qualify for Michigan lemon law remedies.
How do I know if a TSB equals a Lemon?
If there are multiple TSB's, or if a TSB repair continues to be a problem, you should contact a lawyer to review your case. The severity of the TSB and/or the amount of time required to fix it will factor into the analysis. The Michigan Lemon Law requires repairs for "same defect or condition", so any TSB relating to say, the engine, may be added to other engine problems you are experiencing.
If there is a TSB for your vehicle and you are concerned about the long-term effects, you may have a legal option. You should get the TSB fix performed, but then continue to monitor the issue to see if the vehicle experiences further problems. If it does, contact the Alexander Law Firm at (877) 652-0183.