Part of the transportation bill passed last week in Congress includes a big win for consumers: Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs), which highlight common problems to dealers and the best way to repair them, must all be made available to the public. Currently only a subset of the TSBs are available on the NHTSA website.
The bill requires automakers to provide TSBs to the Department of Transportation, and for the DOT to make them publicly available on the Internet. The information has to include model year, make, model, and a summary of the needed repairs, and it must be published in a searchable format.
TSBs are similar to recalls, in that they identify a potential problem and how to fix it, but they are not mandatory, and dealers may charge for the work if the car is out of warranty.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration used to require automakers to publish TSBs when it was founded in the 1970s. Longtime auto-safety advocate Clarence Ditlow, however, says the rule has not been enforced since 1982, when former administrator Joan Claybrook left the agency under President Ronald Reagan. In the meantime, TSBs have been made available to NHTSA, but the agency has published them only selectively.
Consumer Reports has long advocated for the publication of all TSBs, so that consumers know what work their cars need to be kept in top-running shape.
Guide to car safety