How to Use a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) to Diagnose and Repair a Car

How to Use a TSB to Diagnose and Fix a Car

Being a proficient mechanic means knowing how to use every single tool of the trade. This is why experience is such a big factor in applying for automotive technician jobs and getting hired. It’s important that you have had the time to truly appreciate how various tools can be used to repair or maintain a vehicle. One especially helpful example isn’t the kind you hold in your hand and it doesn’t make a loud noise when you use it. The Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) is used across all automotive mechanic jobs and many interviewers will even ask applicants about a time they used it, so let’s look at why this asset has become so vital.

What is a TSB?

A Technical Service Bulletin is a report a vehicle manufacturer will send out to dealerships and auto body shops when they’ve discovered an unanticipated problem with one of their vehicles. This is not the same as issuing a recall, though. The manufacturer isn’t asking for these vehicles back nor are they sending notice to owners. They’re simply letting mechanics know that they may see an uptick in customers who all own the same type of vehicle and are having the same problem.

That being said, just because these aren’t recalls doesn’t make them any less important. In 2005, General Motors issued one that notified mechanics about a potential problem with ignition switches. This problem would go on to be the source of 12 deaths.

Of course, the majority of the time, TSBs are used to educate mechanics about potential issues that pose no safety threat whatsoever, but the above still does a good job of underscoring their importance as, clearly, this isn’t always the case.

Also, even when a TSB doesn’t warn of a life-threatening problem, they often cite issues that could result in expensive repairs if they’re not immediately handled the correct way.

Owners can check TSBs too

Even though the manufacturers create TSBs with dealerships and auto body shops in mind, owners can go online to check them too. This is important to understand because it means you may have customers who are aware of the intricacies of a problem and what you’re supposed to be doing to fix it according to none other than the manufacturer. If your diagnosis or plan for resolving it doesn’t match what the TSB advised, you’ll most likely be losing a customer.

As the Maintenance Guide on Edmunds.com continues to grow in popularity amongst owners throughout the country, it will become increasingly important that you stay up to date on it as well. Also, if enough problems are reported, owners will receive an Owner Notification letter, which will definitely increase the amount of customers you see about an issue.

Using TSBs to diagnose and repair cars

While you shouldn’t necessarily have to check Edmunds.com every single day, make sure you do so whenever a customer brings in their vehicle. Even if it’s just for a routine service like an oil change, you might be able to diagnose a problem before it evolves into something much worse. Best of all, you can tell the customer that not only did you save them money by catching the issue, but the manufacturer will actually pay for the repairs as long as:

  • The vehicle is under warranty

  • You can prove the problem actually exists (the TSB will help with this), meaning that you have to basically duplicate it.

That’s it. Your customers will love that you were able to save them money and a frustrating need for repairs in the future, and all for free.

While TSBs are issued regularly – and some vehicles will have as many as a dozen sent out regarding their performance – don’t take the above as a license to constantly look for problems that don’t exist. Remember, you have to duplicate the issue before the manufacturer is going to pay for repairs. If you start getting trigger happy, you’ll eventually find yourself in serious trouble.

Technical Service Bulletins are an important part of working as a mechanic. This is truer now than ever now that customers are privy to them as well. Make it a habit to check them whenever you're at an appointment and you may be able to save car owners future problems and earn their loyalty.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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