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When your car has problems, a skilled mechanic knows exactly what tools to use to get it fixed. Professional mechanics have the experience needed to isolate the issue and take the correct steps to solve the problem. This is why car repairs are usually so expensive: the average driver pays a premium to tap a mechanic's knowledge and skill. However, there's one tool that you and mechanics both have access to that makes car repair easier. If you notice an odd shake, noise, or warning light in your car, the first thing to check is for a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB).

What is a TSB?

Vehicle manufacturers create TSBs to alert dealerships, independent shops, and mobile technicians that they've found an unexpected problem with one of their cars. TSBs aren't the same as recalls because they don't order a car to be brought back for a fix. Rather, a TSB serves as an advisory notice to let automotive service professionals know that they should expect an increase in repairs or diagnostics regarding a particular issue.

For the most part, TSBs are used by technicians and repair shops, as they detail a particular problem and often provide steps or remedies to get it fixed. To save time, money, and headaches, service professionals should always check TSBs before starting any job. The TSB can verify the customer's stated issue, saving time that would otherwise be spent trying to diagnose it. The TSB may also provide a step-by-step process on the quickest way to solve the problem, making the repair simpler and less costly.

How to use a TSB

Vehicle manufacturers will send out TSBs to service professionals once a problem is verified and a repair procedure is finalized. However, there are online resources that are good to check too. Edmunds and the NHTSA both allow you to easily search common issues for a particular year, make, and model. What you find online could make completing a TSB repair easier.

Regardless of the task at hand, it's a good idea for professionals to check for TSBs before starting any service. Even if it's a simple oil change, referencing TSBs might help find a problem before it develops into something more costly or dangerous. Customers are appreciative and the repair could be free: so long as the vehicle is under warranty and it can be proven that the problem is related to the TSB, the manufacturer will pay for those repairs.

TSBs for car owners

While TSBs are mostly for use by automotive professionals, they're helpful for car owners, too. If your car is starting to have problems, check for any TSBs on it. They could help you diagnose the issue and learn what getting it fixed entails. What's more, if the problem is related to a TSB, the repair could be free – and who doesn't like to save money on car repair?

Depending on the severity of the problem, your car's manufacturer might send you a notice about the TSB. If not, Edmunds' and NHTSA's online resources are great places to start, and simple web searches can be useful too. When you book an appointment to get it fixed, let the technician know what you found in the TSB. They'll be impressed with your knowledge, and appreciate you helping to make their job easier.

Car repairs can be a headache for all involved. TSBs are a great resource to make fixing car problems easier for owners and service professionals alike. They're a tool that's equally useful and accessible no matter if you're in the driver's seat or holding the wrench.

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