Recalls VS Technical Service Bulletins: 3 Differences for Students in Mechanic Colleges

Professionals With Auto Mechanic Training Use TSBs as Diagnostic Tools

The process of assembling and delivering a car to consumers has many steps. When something goes wrong with one of them, it sometimes happens that many cars are affected. This can lead to breakdowns, and can sometimes even be a threat to driver safety.

To help mechanics and consumers alike, automobile manufacturers sometimes issue either a technical service bulletin (TSB) or a recall notice. While these are both meant to contribute to the goal of helping keep cars in good running shape, they are intended for different audiences, and can ultimately result in different outcomes.

Here’s what you should know about how recall notices differ from technical service bulletins.

1. Professionals With Auto Mechanic Training Use TSBs as Diagnostic Tools

Most car buyers will never see a technical service bulletin. That’s because these documents are issued to mechanics instead of to car owners, and are meant to be used as tools for diagnosing problems in a car. A TSB will indicate that a specific part in a model may be faulty, and list the steps mechanics should take to correct the problem. If you work at a garage after auto mechanic training, you’ll likely find TSBs to be a great shortcut for figuring out what might be wrong with a given car.

Recall notices, on the other hand, are sent directly to car owners. They indicate that a particular problem exists with a car model, and that owners must bring their vehicle in for servicing to address that problem.

2. Recalls Result in “Free” Repair, But Customers Might Pay for TSB-Related Issues

When a recall is issued, car owners can bring their vehicle in to an appropriate dealer for free servicing to correct the problem. Because recalls target specific groups of cars, the age and condition of the vehicle has no bearing on whether a car is eligible for recall. It’s not uncommon for recalls to be issued for cars that are several years old.

A TSB can result in a free repair, but only if the car in question is within the warranty period, and possibly only if the customer goes to a dealership. Should the failure occur outside of the warranty, the owner themselves will be on the hook.

Recalls result in free repairs, but TSBs might not
Recalls result in free repairs, but TSBs might not

Graduates of mechanic colleges who work at a garage should be prepared for the possibility of a customer complaining about having to pay for a known flaw in a car. If the car is still within warranty, it might be a nice idea to simply refer the customer to their dealership. You could find that it’s a good way to build trust and encourage return visits.

3. After Auto Mechanic Training, You Might Encounter Recalls for Non-Mechanical Issues

Because TSBs are essentially instructions for dealing with a problem or problems arising from faulty components, they always deal directly with the mechanical functioning of a car. A recall notice, on the other hand, can be issued for reasons other than a mechanical defect. Among other things, recalls have been issued for improper labelling in a car, or incorrect glazing of windshields. While these can be problems in certain situations, they likely won’t have much effect on the average person’s driving experience.

In some of these non-urgent circumstances, recall notices are issued that do not require that the car be returned to a dealership for servicing. Rather, they might recommend that the owner of the vehicle have the problem addressed whenever they next see their mechanic for servicing. If you work at a garage, you’ll likely deal with a couple of these problems here and there throughout your career, though you’ll almost definitely do much more work with TSBs.

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