Categories: Tips

Free (almost) Car Repair Secrets

Saving significant dollars, yes even hundreds or thousands of dollars in repair bills by having automakers take financial responsibility for them is not only feasible, but it happens every day.  You can cash in on unadvertised automaker programs that provide free or discounted service work…much like a secret warranty that’s seldom publicly announced.  Carmakers usually call these programs  customer-satisfaction campaigns or service actions, but bottom line…they can save you real money.

For example:
  1. Honda Civics (2006 to 2009) – may qualify for a free engine block, or even a whole new engine, if their car has been leaking coolant from a crack in the block.
  2. Chrysler minivans (2008 to 2010) – front wheel bearings on models from  are subject to premature wear, so dealers will replace them for free during a vehicle’s first five years or 90,000 miles.

Technical Service Bulletins, or TSBs, are recommended procedures for repairing vehicles. Not to be confused with recalls, a TSB is issued by a vehicle manufacturer when there are several occurrences of an unanticipated problem. TSBs can range from vehicle-specific to covering entire product lines and break down the specified repair into a step-by-step process.  [Wikipedia]

These little known “warranty extensions” usually evolve  when automakers discover that some component or system in a given model fails or breaks at a faster than normal rate.  Evidence on new problems orginate from many sources…including complaints from dealer customer-service departments, an unusually high number of warranty claims for a specific problem…and/or spare-parts inventories experience a sudden rapid decline.

“Warranty extensions” usually only last for a specified time and mileage. Sometimes they’re created in the name of good customer service…sometimes as part of the settlement process resulting from a class-action lawsuit brought by consumers.

Exactly how obscure are these “Warranty Extensions”?  When an carmaker creates a service campaign, it usually notifies all known owners via letter.  Second and third owners of the vehicle in question may not find out.  Other times however, car owners only find out only if a dealer tells them or they learn about it on their own.

All warranty extensions found by ConsumerReports were detailed in the technical service bulletins sent by automakers to their dealers’ service departments. TSBs usually describe a common problem the automaker has learned about and provide detailed instructions on how the service technician should fix it. However, a small number of TSBs also contain information about special warranties related to the problem or other remedies the carmaker is offering to owners.

If your car develops a distinct problem that’s not a result of wear and tear or collision damage, it’s often worth checking whether there’s a TSB related to it (get more details below). Even if no warranty extension is offered, a TSB tells you that the problem is well known to the automaker, which could give you more leverage in negotiating a discount on the repair.

Where to Learn More about TSBs

Info about TSBs can be hard to find. Here are five (5) possible sources:

  1. You can search for free summaries of them at, the government’s auto-safety website. Enter your car’s make/model/year in the “Owners” section, and click on the “Service Bulletins” tab. But be warned, the summaries are often vague. You can order the full TSB text (free up to 100 pages) by mail, though that may take four to six weeks.
  2. However, a dealer or repair shop may share them if you ask.
  3. You can also purchase current TSBs for your car from ($26.95/year) or…
  4. Mitchell 1 DIY at ($25.99/year).
  5. ConsumerReports – check technical service bulletins (TSBs) for common problems on the new and used car model pages, under the Reliability tab.

Read More


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