A recall is a safety related issue that the manufacturer is required to repair. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts defect investigations and administers safety recalls.
The NHTSA is authorized to order a manufacturer to recall and repair any part that has a serious safety defect in the design, construction, performance, or does not meet national safety standards. They are also mandated to monitor a manufacturer’s recall campaign.
Recalls are only for safety related issues. Defects not related to safety would not qualify for a recall. For example, if a particular vehicle make or model had consistent issues with the air conditioning system, it would not qualify as a recall candidate.
With a recall you are entitled to have the problem repaired by the manufacturer at no charge.
Technical Service Bulletins
Technical service bulletins (TSB) are used by the manufacturer to communicate to dealers issues or problems and repair recommendations they have experienced with specific vehicles and specific parts.
With a technical service bulletin you are not entitled to have it fixed at no charge, although some TSB’s may be repaired free of charge for public relations reasons.
The NHTSA is a great resource if you are having a problem with a particular component. On their website you can view all complaints, recalls, defect investigations and service bulletins for your vehicle. You can also view this information on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s site. Both sites offer a wealth of information for consumers.
This is a myth. There are no secret warranties. Manufacturers do repair certain parts at no cost on a very narrow range of vehicles and only on very specific parts and only if the vehicle is having an issue with these parts. This is typically done if the manufacturer finds a very high volume of issues on a specific part and as a public relations gesture.
These are not keep secret. The manufacturer will notify owners of vehicles that are eligible.
Department of Transportation: http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Owners