By on March 31, 2016

Auto Repair

Your vehicle’s hidden flaws and most shocking (mechanical) secrets will soon be just a click away.

The Department of Transportation is ending the clandestine relationship between your car’s dealer and the manufacturer by posting all Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) online, according to Consumer Reports.

TSBs, which outline the recommended procedure for repairing vehicles, will be posted in PDF form on the safercar.gov website.

Putting these juicy dealer communications online would give an early heads-up to safety watchdogs and government agencies about potential issues, and put the power of information in the hands of consumers. It’s something advocates have been calling for for some time.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Centre for Auto Safety, told Consumer Reports that such a requirement would have preemptively exposed the General Motors ignition switch scandal had it been in effect a decade ago.

“Disclosure of these dealer communications could have saved lives and led to an earlier discovery of the ignition switch defect,” said Ditlow.

Responding to complaints that defect information is difficult to find online, the DOT will kindly ask that manufacturers submit their TSBs in a searchable format, thank you very much.

The move comes four years after a congressional directive to the Secretary of Transportation urged more transparency in the industry. Making TSBs available to the public was part of the mandate.

Besides being available to the public, TSBs can also be sourced by mechanics at independent repair shops, giving consumers an edge if they can’t stand their dealer.

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65 Comments on “DOT Goes Wikileaks on Dealers, Puts Your Car’s Secrets Online...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Excellent.

    I’ve had to try and search for these many times when gathering info on an issue. And unless you scout the correct forum, and the PDF some guy in Virginia uploaded in 2008 is still available, you were SOL.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I thought TSBs were already available to the general public.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Sort of. You can search databases, get a brief summary abstract, if you want the full meal deal you’ll need to find someone in a forum who is friendly with sharing the information or pay for a subscription from a number of sites to get the info.

        So having full access to the details in a searchable database is a big slice of awesome.

        As noted below, makers with a history of hidden TSBs and stealth recalls (Honda and Toyota) will have to open up the kimono and reveal the data.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Yeah, I’m sure this is aimed primarily at Toyota, Honda and those OEMs who safeguard their proprietary secrets.

          Opening up the once-secret OBD and OBDII data ports and analysis took a chunk of business away from the dealers.

          There was a time when you could only get ECU and other proprietary parts from the factory but these days AutoZone or RockAuto can get you anything you want in either Reman or New.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Per the right to repair laws TSBs are available to the aftermarket repair industry and individuals. However the law says that the mfg can charge for access.

        Some public libraries have subscriptions to aftermarket providers such as Mitchel 1 where they buy the full meal deal subscription as a service to the public.

        You can also buy access for short period from either the mfg or someone like Mitchel.

        There are also a couple of companies that purchase the full subscription and make it available to their customers for free. The one I use offers both the searchable TSB database and full wiring diagrams some going back to the 90’s.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        It is easy to find TSBs for virtually any vehicle with nothing more than a Google search.

        • 0 avatar
          burnbomber

          Yes you can find the TSB, but can ONLY access it’s number and title. You can’t get the meat of the TSB for free. My searches only yielded paths to a $$ repair database. I found a couple of applicable TSBs for my beater, got the numbers and had my local dealer print them off for me.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            Me thinks your Google feng shui is lacking.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Me thinks your Google feng shui is lacking.”

            That’s the point, White Shadow; you shouldn’t need a professional data miner’s skills to find what you need to know about your vehicle. If there is a recommended repair to prevent an issue, then that data should be readily accessible to even those internet users with the poorest skills.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “It is easy to find TSBs for virtually any vehicle with nothing more than a Google search.”

          Not necessarily true. It may be easy to find out there is one and maybe even its number, but NOT necessarily what purpose it serves or the means of repair.

          Dealerships have pushed very hard to drive non-affiliated repair shops out of business, especially when it comes to brand-specific components and services where they can milk the customer for many times the parts and labor costs in some cases. I have been the victim of such in the past and believe the dealership repair paradigm needs to be brought back down to earth. When they can get away with charging hundreds of dollars just to change a headlamp bulb, it’s time for a change.

    • 0 avatar

      This. I’ve learned that forums are gold. On one side, I followed a link once, and found the ENTIRE factory service manual for my MDX as a PDF. It lives in my laptop now and is backed up.

      You can usually find a page or two for FAQ from a service manual. I have always bought the Chiltons’ or Haynes, but companies also try to quash that. I never found a manual for my Mk6 VW (rip)

      I can see why they’d not want TSB out there…it is literally “yah, we know this isn’t right…” and we don’t want our flat rate mech flapping on the deck diagnosing it….recently had a problem with power seats in the MDX…the answer is “bad mirror actuators”, and the TSB saves you hours of troubleshooting….also, often (at least the Honda stuff) they are written for a lowest common denominator tech, so this wannabe shade tree guy is right at home :)

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    If this is for real, good. Hopefully there will be no more hidden TSB’s. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., will finally be required to “fess-up” (as will several other manufacturers) and reveal that their mantra of “All our cars are excellent – It was the operator’s fault.” is utter BS as it always has been. My interactions with American Honda, its zone reps and its dealers over rejected warranty issues that were covered by hidden TSB’s ensures that I will not ever purchase a vehicle built by this manufacturer ever again.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      That is the cost of doing business in the US today. Information cannot be given out publicly because lawyers will be all over it. Every manufacturer has some form of secret communication that this will not expose.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s about time.

    But I wonder how the mfrs will change the content of TSBs, or limit their issuance, now that they have a wider audience.

    I have a couple items on my Optima Hybrid I’d like to have addressed; maybe this resource could help.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      This is what worries me. As a pessimist, I assume this will lead to fewer official TSBs and some new method of secretly giving dealers information about common problems.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Behold, the new bulletin will be called Dealer Quality Check and won’t be shared.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          Without a doubt, 28. Manufacturers probably already had lawyers cooking up a work-around at the first rumblings of this issue years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            qfrog

            Yeah it is retaining the info for technicians that call the support hotline and making the parts invisible in warehouse inventory (absent from catalog too) and blocking their order unless the parts are released for ordering to the dealership by the support hotline operator. No published documents and no parts availability means it will be exceedingly difficult to perform the repair outside of the dealership environment.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yeah, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.

            There are so many ways to get around this, like fewer official TSBs and more dealer checks whenever the car is serviced by a dealership.

            People who do their own periodic maintenance will just be SOL because they will not have access to the dealer checklists to be used when a car is serviced by a dealership.

            When I took our 2012 Grand Cherokee for a bumper-to-bumper check, before I gave it to my grand daughter, the dealer did so much to it;

            like update and flash the firmware to the latest and greatest version, R&R platinum plugs, print-out data dump from OBDII, check EHPS reservoir and steering unit for leaks, check diode board on alternator, check power brake housing for rust, etc, and probably another rash of stuff I never knew about.

            The car ran like new when we picked it up.

            It cost be $500 for that service interval but that included oil/filters change, tire rotation and balancing, thread measurement, brake inspection, boot inspection, 4WD system fluids check, and lots more.

            IMO, money well spent to bring the GC up to date.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Agreed. They will find a way to release information to dealers that aren’t defined as TSB’s.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Personally I think the dealers will be the ones demanding this, NOT the OEMs. They’re not going to get a penny out of any TSB or subsequent notifications so have no reason to attempt to bypass this new policy.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      https://kiatechinfo.com

      KIA originally offered this service for free (under KGIS), which included TSB’s , repair procedures…ect. But they have now changed it to a pay per use type setup. $19 bucks for 72 hours only.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The obvious next step is posting secret warranties online.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Great idea, and about time. The next step should be to force auto manufacturers to add to the vast array of digital readouts on modern cars, a simple way to display diagnostic codes. It’s ridiculous that we pay to have these systems included in the cars, and then have to buy an expensive tool or pay the dealership to read them. When it could be done with a couple of onboard menu selections.

    • 0 avatar
      bills79jeep

      I’ve been saying this for years. If the computer is throwing a code, we should get more than an idiot light. Since basically every car has a screen of some sort these days, it should pop up as a notice, with the code # and basic description (i.e. P2085 Left Bank O2 Sensor #2). At a minimum. Plain English descriptions would be even better, but I won’t hold my breath.

      I know there is a fear that it would decrease service visits, but I bet than <5% of customers would do anything different. They'd still go get it fixed at a dealer/shop. It would increase customer satisfaction though. If the car 'tells' them, then it doesn't seem like black magic by the dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        Problem with that is that most people don’t understand what the error code is. That is why gauges are dampened. People see the temperature and pressure rising and falling and they think something is wrong. For the few that do buy a code reader and have it.

        • 0 avatar
          bills79jeep

          People don’t know what a check engine light means today, other than, “I have a problem.” How would more info hurt that?

          If I have to have $80 TPMS sensors at each wheel to ensure I’m properly inflated and don’t contribute .1% more hydrocarbons to the environment, then it’s certainly in the public’s interest to have the EPA mandate the same for emissions items, like an O2 sensor, MAF, etc. But unlike the TPMS sensor, every car has had the ability to tell it’s driver this info since 1996.

          Saying people who know buy a code reader, well I also own a tire pressure gauge. That’s a lot easier than deciphering codes. Didn’t stop the TPMS mandate.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “People don’t know what a check engine light means today,”

            P0442, EVAP system small leak

            Maybe I’m VAG personalizing that too much though.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            bills79jeep, ” Didn’t stop the TPMS mandate.”

            I busted out laughing when I read that because my daughter drove up from El Paso one day in her Odyssey and I noticed all four tires appeared a lot wider than normal, where they touched the asphalt.

            So I get out my trusty little $1.99 Wal-Mart tire pressure gauge, and took a reading.

            Each tire was at ~19psi and been that way since the last oil change and pressure check a long, long time ago.

            TPMS is great for people who actually look at their instrument panel. Very few people do.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Wow, 19 might almost be mushy enough to affect the handling a bit. I’m sure it rode differently.

            On TPG stories, I had an expensive one I’d bought at AutoZone or wherever, which was a Campbell Hausfeld one made of metal. I thought, “Yes, this is sturdy and made properly by a company which knows pressure and compressors. I can keep it in my glove box for years and years.”

            Couple years later, I was using my car outlet air compressor to add a little air, because I checked and the gauge said 26PSI, when it should have been 30. Well, the air compressor has a gauge on it too as it fills up, which I figured was just crap and inaccurate, because my C-H gauge cost nearly as much as the compressor did. It said 38PSI on it, as soon as I turned it on.

            So I think “Nah, nah. But I’ll check anyway.” Few days later, I was at my parents and used my dad’s cheap digital gauge…

            Yep, tires at 42PSI. My expensive mechanical pressure gauge was incorrect, for who knows how long.

            Now I have a $10 digital one instead – works great and is accurate.

          • 0 avatar
            bills79jeep

            19 psi?? That takes a while. Sounds like there is no hope for your daughter – at least when it comes to vehicle warning lights.

            I don’t know what the TPMS light looks like in a Odyssey, but I assume it’s the standard yellow tire with exclamation point, unless you have a higher trim level that tells you which tire is low and the actual pressure – see it is possible to give the customer more info! It drives me crazy when it’s on. It’s bright and annoying.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That’s the other thing that’s nice, the screen tells you which tire it is, and PSI of each.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            CoreyDL, I don’t advise keeping ANY TPG in your car or glove box. Too much chance of contamination, dust, etc getting into that orifice, or the internal plastic ring-slide being deformed by heat, cold, whatever.

            What I do, I designate one day of each month as car-check day at my house. Mine is the first day of the month so today was the day .

            I check all fifteen tires on my three cars, fire up my 80-gal Kobalt compressor and pump up the tires to the required pressure for each car.

            Today all of them were within spec so all I did was top off windshield-washer fluid. Two of my cars are new, so there isn’t much that can go wrong with them yet, but my 1989 Camry I watch closely.

            But, yeah, don’t keep a TPG in the car. If you go on a trip you can take one with you, but don’t store it in the car. Not even the digital ones.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Good point, I’m sure it’s not great for the mechanical ones to be jostled around either. I shall remove it today.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            bills79jeep, she is a pretty busy girl and drives a car from the university motor pool most of the time during the work-week, so the Odyssey stays in the garage at home during the week, while she travels in the motor pool car to these different school districts.

            She rarely puts miles on the Odyssey and as such gets the oil changed like maybe every 5000 miles or two years or so.

            But when she comes to visit her daddy, mom too I suppose, she knows her car gets a thorough once-over. More likely a thorough twice-over!

          • 0 avatar
            bills79jeep

            highdesertcat – didn’t mean any offense; that’s why I limited it to her having no hope for warning lights. If that’s her only fault she’s probably doing alright.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            bills79jeep, no offense taken. I knew what you meant.

            Even with all the automation and mandated monitoring, people still don’t look at the instrument cluster.

            Pep Boys in my area advertises to bring in your car when lights or alarms stay on and they will diagnose it for you, free of charge.

  • avatar
    Fred

    If you read the forums for your car, there is usually a link to TSB and recalls. Not to mention general complaining that can help you maintain your car.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I’m waiting for all the usual comments about how the government is evil and is out to screw the ‘makers’ of this world.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Kinda pointless, many of these TSBs are only relevant under certain conditions or a small batch of vehicles that *could possibly, maybe* exhibit a condition. Whenever you have a problem and look it up, any TSBs are readily found. No reason for the manufacturer to put something like this on the home page.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      This may be to help all the automotive repair shops who don’t have access to the factory bulletins like dealers do.

      There was a time when you could only get your car serviced at a dealership when they were the only ones with readers, analyzers and factory specs.

      Remember when vehicles required a special tool to reset the service-interval timer, like those on BMW and VW, et al?

      These days analyzers have been reduced to a laptop with a matching OBDII plug-in so an owner can take their car to any competent repair shop.

      Trouble these days is finding that competent repair shop that actually knows WTF they’re doing.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        It would be nice for consumers to have a single, credible source for TSBs, so you know which problems to take to the dealership to address.

        Yes, the vast majority of the info exists, but you have to find it, you aren’t sure if you can trust the source, and sometimes the info is incomplete or out-of-date.

        This is only good news for consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      burnbomber

      Not pointless at all for us DIY’s. I could find the TSB’s but not read them on-line. I had to go to my dealer who printed them off for me, given the 2 numbers I gave him. He didn’t charge me for it, and as a result two persistent problems are now fixed.

      Most manufacturers have owner’s home pages; it would be great for them to be realistic and put real good maintenance info on them. Unfortunately, hasn’t happened yet.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    First pointing out that your headlights do probably suck, and now this! Government agencies are on a roll this week.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The headlights was the insurance Institute. Has nothing to do with the government.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      I wish the IIHS had tested the various headlights before and after proper adjustment. The way they did their testing, they could be confusing sample variation with make and model characteristics.

      • 0 avatar
        Counterpoint

        The IIHS did that intentionally. Manufacturers should be delivering properly adjusted headlights from the factory. There’s no excuse not to do this. Consumers aren’t going to buy new cars and then immediately take them to have the headlights adjusted.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    TSBs are what have helped me to figure out issues on one of my vehicles. Since that time, the vehicle has been running nearly perfectly.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    It is about feckin’ time!!!

    Yes, you can scour the Internet for a particular TSB and after wading through a bunch of noise find it, but to have it in a searchable database with more than a brief summary description is a huge help.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      When I was wrenching and tooling on my vehicles way back when, ready access to the TSBs would have been of great help.

      Having said that, I always got excellent help for my automotive problems from AutoZone, NAPA, CarQuest, MotorSupply, Checkers, Kragen and O’Reilly’s, the main autoparts stores in my area.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    It took about 6 seconds on Google to find a long list of TSBs for both of my vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      tubacity

      A list, yes. But maybe only a list. Not the full service bulletin you need to fix the problem. Have found full SB’s and used their contents with success. Have found service bulletin documenting a problem of my vehicle that the dealer did not look for. Had the fix done. Have failed to find other service bulletins and struggled.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Did that long list include the actual text of the TSBs?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    This is certainly a step in the right direction.

    However, dealer affiliated techs already have access to special forums which only include people affiliated with the company. I imagine more information will shift to those communications channels and away from official TSBs.

    Which is, by the way, a shame.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    TSB’s will now be called “Focus Upon Quality Reports”. F.U.Q.R.’s will be harder to track and isolate.

  • avatar
    vegasgti

    For TSB info check out the following link. edmunds.com been doing it for years. http://www.edmunds.com/car-maintenance/guide-page.html

  • avatar
    NickS

    This reminds me of a memo from VW to dealers I read completely by accident in the early aughts. There was a cork-board with TSBs and memos from VWofA pinned up there (it was too far from where the customers usually were, but the service writer had asked me to wait by the back door, which put me within inches of the stuff). I read a couple of them and was completely floored. They were talking about how to brush off customer issues, and evade warranty claims (with specific examples on how to attribute known defects on service interval lapses, bad gas, etc). I still remember this phrase: “drive them away”.

    In some strange way, I felt that service writer had done this on purpose to clue me in to what VW thought of its customers.

  • avatar
    Commando

    To the best Googlers out there: I dare you to find online Mazda itself make any reference to their long standing Rx-8 “no-start” issue. Forums and blogs are loaded discussing it but Mazda itself? It knows nothing.
    Sure……..


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