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What is a Recall? The Truth Behind Automotive Recalls!

Posted on 05 November 2014

Have you asked yourself "What is a Recall?" Bobby P. answers this question regarding Automotive Recalls!

Before I begin, as some of you may know, I no longer work for Mitsubishi. I'm now working for Suburban Chevrolet. With that said, I feel it is a perfect time to talk about recalls! Okay, I'm kidding (sort of). In all seriousness though, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a big round of recalls, effecting over 12 million cars, across multiple manufactures in the car industry. This was due to faulty airbags. [caption id="attachment_10227" align="aligncenter" width="402"]what is a recall What Is a Recall?[/caption] It reminded me of a topic that is frequently misunderstood. When it comes to manufacturers correcting their mistakes there are typically three ways this happens. This is done through either a recall, a technical service bulletin (TSB), or a service campaign. People often incorrectly lump all three of these in to a the category of a recall. Here's the difference. Lets start with the smallest of the three: the Service Campaign. Often completely unknown to customers. these generally don't involve a safety issue, and thus are not reported to the NHTSA. This is usually related to a small issue that only a small fraction of customers have complained about. The manufacturer sens a Service Campaign to the dealers, stating that if someone complains about the specific issue that they should fix it, even after a warranty has expired. Next up is the Technical Service Bulletin, often shortened to TSB. These are issues that are wide spread enough to get reported to the NHTSA, but are not safety concerns which would require the manufacturer to send out notifications to owners. TSB's are only sent to dealerships as a precautionary notice, and typically contain instructions on how to address an issue, proper procedures, or clarification on a common question. These are typically the “known issues” of a problem. For example, the 2008 Lancer Evolution was known to have a bad timing chain that was prone to stretching. There was a TSB released to dealerships instructing them how to determine if it was the ECU, the chain itself, or the tensioner, and of course repair the issue. During my time at Mitsu I saw a TSB instructing service departments not to use heavier than 5w-30 oil in Evo's because the oil inlets on the stock turbo are not large enough to handle anything heavier. Finally the most severe of the three, the actual Recall. This is a safety issue which the NHTSA has deemed important enough for the manufacturer to notify all of its owners. An issue like the GM ignition switch was important enough to warrant a recall. Recalls typically don't have a time limit, and will be done for free regardless of modifications to your car. For example Mitsubishi recently issued a recall for the Lancer Evolution which required re-flashing of the ECU. For those of us with tuned cars, this would erase the tune and do more harm than good. However, do note that this will leave your car with an “open recall” status in many computer systems. Hopefully that clears up the difference between a recall, a technical service bulletin and a service campaign! Bobby Pflugh is an automotive enthusiast and new and used car salesman currently working at Suburban Chevrolet in Eden Prarie.

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