Recalls & technical service bulletins


         Recalls are listed by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and are triggered by vehicle design flaws that result in a potential safety hazard. Automakers are required to try to notify car owners and perform the repair work free of charge, regardless of the age of the vehicle or the date of the recall. To find out about a recall, call the DOT Safety Hotline at 800-424-9393 or 888-327-4236 or check out . If you buy a used vehicle, register with the automaker’s customer-service department to be notified of future recalls. There’s another kind of design flaw you need to know about. When a manufacturer learns of a widespread problem in a model from leaks to undue wear of a part—it may send dealers a technical service bulletin (TSB) with diagnostic and repair information. Manufacturers are required to file these bulletins with NHTSA. They usually don’t have to tell you, however. And they’re not obligated to foot the bill for the repairs. Often, however, an automaker will pay far some or all of the work—if an owner asks. (Only California, Connecticut, Virginia, and Wisconsin have laws requiring automakers to disclose these “hidden warranties.”)

Check to see whether your car’s problem is covered in a TSB arm the NHTSA web site (NHTSA has safety-related TSBs only). If so, you can order it for a fee. Or click on the ownership portion of and follow the prompts to download TSBs free of charge. Bring the TSB to the dealer, and ask that the repair be done for free or at least negotiate the cost.


The NHTSA web site also includes defect investigations and consumer complaints. Online discussion groups, such as those you can find through , let you network with other owners. Search engines such as AltaVista, , , lnfoseek, Lycos, and Yahoo will find web pages with information on a particular model’s defects.