By BOB VAN ELSBERG, Strategic Communication Directorate, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, Fort Rucker, Ala. December 9, 2011
I'd barely gotten home from work when the telephone rang. On the other side was one of my co-workers, stuck in the parking lot at work. Try as she might, she couldn't get the transmission in her 2008 Chrysler Sebring to shift from "Park" to "Reverse." She'd called a tow truck, but needed a ride home.
By the time I got there, the tow truck driver had "jimmied" the shifter loose. Prying off a silver-colored piece of plastic trim around the shifter console, he'd used a screwdriver to move a small wire cable to unlock the transmission shifter. He explained he'd had to do this with several Chrysler cars.
That got me to thinking. The next morning I went online and checked out the National Highway Transportation Administration's website. I couldn't find a safety recall on the problem; but then I went looking for any possible technical service bulletins. Following the instructions and navigating through NHTSA's website, I finally got to a button that would allow me to "Retrieve TSBs." When I clicked on it, 13 bulletins popped up, and the first one concerned transmission problems. When I hit the "Get Summary" button, I knew I'd hit pay dirt.
\Make/Models: Model/Build Years:
CHRYSLER SEBRING 2007-2008
CHRYSLER SEBRING CONV 2007-2008
Service Bulletin Number: CSN-K16
NHTSA Item Number: 10034052
SEE DOCUMENT SEARCH BUTTON FOR OWNER LETTER. AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION SHIFT LEVER INTERLOCK SPRING. TRANSMISSION GEARSHIFT LEVER INTERLOCK SPRING RETAINER HOOK ON VEHICLES MAY BREAK. A BROKEN INTERLOCK SPRING RETAINER HOOK WILL RESULT IN THE INABILITY TO MOVE THE GEARSHIFT LEVER OUT OF THE PARK POSITION. CSC LETTER WAS REC'D. *PE
This verified what I suspected after hearing the tow truck driver's comments. The question now was how to deal with it. This wasn't a safety recall where the manufacturer was obligated to notify the owner and repair the problem for free.
I went online to Chrysler's website and found the number for the media relations manager for Chrysler LLC. He advised my co-worker to take the car to the nearest Chrysler dealer and explained the Customer Service Notification (CSN-K16 in the TSB above) would identify the issue to the service manager.
My co-worker followed his advice, showing the service manager a printed copy of the TSB, and left the car for service. The dealership repaired the problem without charge and had the car ready for pickup that afternoon. The problem was resolved and my co-worker could now drive her car without fear of being stranded somewhere with a locked transmission. It had been well worth the time to research the issue.
I can't promise every vehicle manufacturer or dealership will handle TSBs the same way. What I can say is it's worth the effort to find out if there are TSBs on your vehicle. In doing further research on NHTSA's website, I discovered some TSBs had been upgraded to safety recalls.
Fortunately, checking for TSBs isn't that hard to do. After going onto NHTSA's website, click on "Vehicle Safety" and then "Recalls and Defects." Going to the bottom of that page, look for "Search for Defects Investigations" and click on the nearby "View All" button. Select the "Search for Technical Service Bulletins for Your Vehicle" button and fill out the following screens providing the year, make and model of your vehicle. When you see the "Retrieve TSBs" button, click it. As you read them, you have the opportunity to select "Get Summary" for more information on each TSB.
So what about you? Could there be a TSB lurking out there that could affect your vehicle? The key is to protect yourself by going to NHTSA's website and researching your own vehicle and bringing it to the attention of your dealership. Why leave your safety to chance?
Editor's Note: Chrysler does attempt to reach consumers with notices on TSBs. My friend purchased her car in Korea and shipped it back to the United States during a PCS move. Unfortunately, the paper trail between Chrysler and her was broken and she did not receive notice of the problem with her vehicle.
No Lemons Please
There are more than just safety recalls and TSBs on NHTSA's website that can clue you in on problems you may be having. If, while you're going through the drill to get the TSBs, you instead hit the "Search Complaints" button, you'll see where owners of the same vehicle as yours have reported problems. Repeated problems may become the target of a Defect Investigation, something else you can search on NHTSA's website.
No one wants to get stuck with a lemon. If you're considering buying a used vehicle, you might want to check out the recalls, TSBs and complaints at www.nhtsa.gov/ before laying down your hard-earned cash. You might discover that the "sweet" deal you're being offered might leave you with a bitter aftertaste.