Technical service bulletins show widespread defects for vehicles

Catch repair issues before recall is issued

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Car repairs are costly. Even a small trip to the mechanic can add up quickly. But you may not be aware that many cars have hidden warranties.  Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez took a look at hidden warranties to try and help consumers save money on auto repairs.  

Hidden warranties are a term to help used to describe "Technical Service Bulletins" or TSB's.

Automakers use TSB's to let dealers know about widespread defects that may not rise to the level of a recall, but could impact a car's performance.  It may include a part that fails prematurely or doesn't operate the way it was designed to.

Take for example Toyota's problem with melting dashboards in humid climates. The company extended warranty coverage for certain makes and models, picking up the estimated $1,500 tab to replace the dashboards.

Dennis Raghunandan of World Auto found the manufacturer would pay for the fix.  

"We had a nice young lady who had a Hyundai and her vehicle was experiencing a lot of shaking and vibration," Raghunandan said.

According to Raghunandan, the manufacturer footed the bill, saving the woman close to $1,000.

When you're buying a used car, the TSB's are a helpful tool. They give you or your mechanic a heads up on issues to look for when evaluating your purchase. The dealer might also provide information if the issue was addressed or repaired too.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posts free summaries of service bulletins, from minor problems like a faulty air conditioner or leaky sunroof, to problems that can turn out to be a bigger issue.

READ: How technical services bulletins can help you and where to find bulletins.

For example, before General Motors recalled millions of its cars due to an ignition switch defect linked to hundreds of injuries and several deaths, it issued a bulletin about the problem to dealers in 2005 and 2006.

This is why consumer advocates say federal regulators should be doing more to get the word out about these bulletins, calling them a regulatory grey area.

Some believe automakers should notify you directly about a problem. Still, the TSBs can help save you a lot of money on your next car repair and help you catch a potential safety issue.

There's a number of ways consumers can obtain TSB's. The NHTSA's website Safercar.gov is one source.  Repair shops, vehicle manufacturers, independent companies and car websites and messaging boards are also useful to find TSB's.

Click here to search for service bulletins.