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Recalls and Technical Service Bulletins

Recalls and Technical Service Bulletins

When is the car manufacturer responsible for the repair bill?

By Steve Lehto (Lemon Law Attorney) | Published on May 3rd, 2021 | Last Updated on
By Steve Lehto (Lemon Law Attorney)
Published on May 3rd, 2021. Last Updated on .

When vehicles are manufactured, they often times have inherent defects that don’t present themselves until the vehicle gets driven over time. While most problems are easy to fix, there are many problems that present a safety hazard and require more time to fix. Over the years, we have seen many different vehicle issues such as airbags blasting projectiles into passengers, vehicles catching fire, failure of the brake system, and many more. One of the biggest questions revolving around vehicle repairs is “when is an automobile manufacturer responsible for paying for the repair”?

When a defect is discovered in an automobile that presents a safety concern, the Federal Trade Commission will issue a recall. The issues that we mentioned would all require a recall as they are a safety concern. This means that the manufacturer of the vehicle will be responsible for making the repair at no cost to the owner. This applies to vehicles under the manufacturer’s warranty and those that are no longer under the manufacturer’s warranty. You will also qualify if you are not the original owner of the vehicle as well.  While there have been many vehicle recalls over the years, most are not as serious as the ones above. The main thing to remember about vehicle recalls is that they must be safety-related.

Many people get confused in the instance where the problem with the car is not considered a safety risk and the car is no longer covered by the factory warranty. For example. In the 1990s, there was a paint delamination problem with several manufacturers. The paint on the vehicles was peeling off in sheets around the warranty expiration date. While this was considered a defect, it was not a safety-related defect. The auto manufactures were not legally obligated to repair the vehicles.

For situations where a number of vehicles where mechanics have trouble solving problems, a Technical Service Bulletin, or TSB, is issued by the manufacturer. This is issued when a manufacturer deems the solution to a problem non-obvious. Taking a look at the TSB, you will notice that it will outline how to make the repair per the manufacturer’s instructions. This is provided to dealerships to train the mechanics on the proper procedure for remedying the problem. Having a TSB performed does not constitute the manufacturer paying for the work. The only instance where you can have a TSB fixed for free is if the car is still under warranty and the affected part falls under your warranty coverage.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, tracks all of the recalls and TSBs on every vehicle. They can be found here - You can use the VIN, Vehicle Identification Number, of your vehicle to look up any outstanding recalls on it. It is always a good idea to check for any TSBs on your vehicle when your car is acting up.

This is a great tool for those who are car shopping. You can find the VIN of the vehicle you are considering and look up the TSBs on the NHSTA website. This will show you if the car has any outstanding recalls. You can also look at the TSBs to give yourself a good idea of what to expect when making the purchase. If you plan on test driving the car, look for the specific TSBs outlined for the vehicle. This information can help save you from buying a vehicle that will require a lot of work.

See the video below for even more detail on why it is so important to follow up on these types of repairs:

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