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Right To Repair - A Hot Issue or Big Problem?

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,201
The increased use of computers and electronic controls in new cars is a serious threat to independent garages. It is also a threat to competition in the vehicle repair business, as we have known it. The reason for this is that car companies possess the ability to control access to the information and tools necessary for the independent service industry to stay competitive with new car dealers. The upshot is that, in some cases, owners have no choice but to take their vehicles back to the dealer for maintenance and repairs.

There is proposed legislation to prevent car companies from denying independent garages access to the information and tools required to remain competitive with the franchised dealers. I think this issue is sufficiently important to open a discussion.
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Comments

  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    Good topic.

    I think mfrs deserve the right to exclusivity on their technologies for a certain amount of time. They developed it, or at least ponied up for the licensing, and deserve to reap some reward for their investment.

    I propose they retain exclusivity for diagnosis and repairs on any new technology for no more than the period from the time of initial release to the market to the end of warranty on that technology plus six months...
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    The consumer could see price gouging as a result - this is not like a kitchen appliance. If it breaks down, it is not cheap enough to discard (hopefully recycle! ;-)) and replace, it must be fixed.

    If the dealers don't have to compete on price with independents, they won't.

    Progressive manufacturers should be working collaboratively with independents anyway, because it would improve the product...

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,710
    Once out of warranty, it should all be fair game.
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    Should have no effect on how a car is repaired. There has already been legislation dealing with this very issue, at least in California. If the manufacturer and dealer have full control of warrantee repairs they can charge whatever they want for normal servicing. They already have a parts monopoly for at lest the first year and in some cases even longer than that. Mechanics and their ability are already controlled by state certification. I can only hope the dealers, who have not been part of the manufacturing process, are not allowed unfair privelage to the information necessary to repair a persons car after that person has spent their money buying the product. For those of us living some distance from a dealer that would be like a double tax.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    during the warranty peiod of the intial release, then they are stuck paying for the repairs anyway. Give 'em an extra six months from the expiration of warranty on the first vehicle inservice date, and let the indies go at it then.

    Who's going to take a warrantied vehicle to an independent for warranty service anyway?

    Of course, the poor indies have to buy the tech from someone anyway, don't they?
  • oldharryoldharry Posts: 413
    Let the independent buy the info.

    The people that developed it have a right to benefit from their efforts, so charge substantial prices for it, but sell it. We pay MicroSoft license fees for WINDOWS(tm) why not car makers for their intellectual property?

    Harry
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,201
    Should the do-it-your-self market be abandoned?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    anything else that the backyard mechanic can do, apart from changing the fluids and brake pads? Shade tree mechanics are rapidly becoming a thing of the past with the tech that is increasingly commonplace in today's cars.

    :-(

    I think at the very least anything that relates to a state standard (thinking of smog checks here) should be available to indies right from the get-go. What if, as someone else said, you live 100 miles or more from a dealer and there is a problem in the emissions system?

    I mean, these automakers are not selling products in a vacuum, they are closely regulated and required to pass inspections in most states every couple of years.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,838
    I would like to see some way to present error codes to owners in easily readable form (through the NAV screen or dashboard?) and a way for owners to run at least diagnostic software so that they know what the engine light is really telling them (stop now or wait or blow it off or ???). Also, just like Microsoft sends you patches, maybe some day you will be able to correct certain driveability faults in the same manner with your car.

    As for independent shops---I think IF the tools required to fix the car become punishingly expensive, there might be cause for legal action or a regulatory process, e.g., if Dell Computers forced all independent repair shops to buy a $100,000 diagnostic tool, that would just about force all Dell owners to buy new computers rather than fix their old ones....

    Uh-oh, have I just unlocked a new conspiracy? :P

    MODERATOR

  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    That once the manufacturer has sold the product we should not be "forced" to use the dealer mechanics over and independent mechanic. I know that from a personal perspective living in a small community it is much easier to develop a trusting relationship with a neighborhood mechanic than it is with an impersonal dealer mechanic where you do not know from one week to the next who might be working on your car.

    There also seems to be a cost difference to the consumer. The dealer mechanics did not invest in the R and D so why should they reap the rewards the manufacture may be entitled to rather than the independent mechanic. Like I mentioned earlier in our state you can not be forced to have scheduled services done at the dealer. You only need a proof that the service was performed at the proper times. There was a time when we had to go to state certified smog control stations and that proved to be a pain in the back. At least today independent mechanics can be certified to smog our cars for us.
  • My last car was an Audi with "free" maintenance (aka I paid for it in advance) so I used the dealer for oil changes etc. My new car is a VW. I will go there for warranty work, but otherwise I will use my own mechanic. If the time comes that auto dealers have a monopoly on repair work, I think I will take the bus.
  • Our newest rovers do have a three level check engine light.

    Amber means minor fault keep driving. The computer might make the necessary adjustments and fix the fault on its own.

    Amber Blinking means moderate fault: Call the dealer and set up appointment.

    RED Means severe fault: Stop driving right away call road side assistance.

    I would like it if you could get a more complete listing of the faults on the NAV screen. There is a diagnostic mode that can be accessed on the NAV screen by pressing invisible buttons on certain menu pages. The techs use it and anyone else could too but most people don't know it is there.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    "I would like to see some way to present error codes to owners in easily readable form (through the NAV screen or dashboard?) and a way for owners to run at least diagnostic software so that they know what the engine light is really telling them (stop now or wait or blow it off or ???)."

    Oh absolutely, they should have had something like this for a long time now, AT LEAST since the advent of OBDII in '96. I have always suspected that the reason they don't is (a) to make dealerships more money in their service bays, and (b) because they (the EPA etc) are afraid that if we drivers actually know what the fault is, we will ignore it in most instances (because with that knowledge we will worry about it less) which might lead to more cars being out of smog compliance.

    Giving the consumer more information is a BAD thing! :-P

    I don't see a problem with automakers being forced to reveal technical information on their vehicles as long as indies have to pay licensing fees to get it. The problem here of course is similar to the old Napster - once the info is out, it will start being spread around and the licensing fees will stop coming in.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,838
    Of course consumers have to know what to DO with this information. These days, even some "mechanics" don't know what to do with it. Codes are often mis-interpreted, and in fact most diagnostic codes don't really identify the faulty component, only the system/circuit that is affected.

    I think we are still a ways off with diagnostic tools that pinpoint the exact component failure.

    So, telling the driver that his 0s sensor is unhappy doesn't really tell him a whole lot. He could replace the 02 sensor and solve nothing.

    Still, anything is better than a single stupid "check engine" light. It's especially infuriating on cars that require a re-set from the dealer or mechanic even for MINOR faults, like loose gas caps.

    MODERATOR

  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,750
    Here the code readers are available to parts stores as well as independents. Getting to know your Autozone tech can save you 50 bucks the dealer charges to reset the loose gas cap code. At least I got that help when I forgot to plug in a sensor while changing plugs on my PT in Texas. The local Autozone guy had sold me the plugs and wires and laughed when i told him what had happened. He asked me go back into the store for some free coffee and when I came back, the code was gone. Cost to fix, a cup of coffee.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,838
    Yep those code readers are okay but they don't pick up all the codes. But some of them are good for shutting off the light.

    I'd like to see a Voice Command for new cars: "Engine light OFF!"

    MODERATOR

  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    Closed architecture leads to loss of market share, as has been proved over and over in the computer world. In the case of motor vehicles, could I dare say we have a "right" to information that will make it possible for the consumer (or the mechanic he/she might contract) to repair them. Surely consumer protection should extend this far: :sick:
  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    nippononly,
    Giving the consumer more information is a BAD thing!

    I strongly disagree with that comment.
    Remember that when the discussion of the right to repair act comes up, it is not talking soley about consumers. It is referring to independent shops and such. Things like Fleets.
    Fleets that buy 100s of vehicles per year from the manufacturers. These fleets are in the same boat as the independent shops. The manufacturers are trying to shut them all out.

    Try getting information on a newer Honda or Acura as a consumer and see what happens.

    Oh absolutely, they should have had something like this for a long time now, AT LEAST since the advent of OBDII in '96. I have always suspected that the reason they don't is (a) to make dealerships more money in their service bays, and (b) because they (the EPA etc) are afraid that if we drivers actually know what the fault is, we will ignore it in most instances (because with that knowledge we will worry about it less) which might lead to more cars being out of smog compliance.
    It won't make any difference in the near future. With the advent of bluetooth technology going into vehicles, the states will be implementing transmitters on the highways that will read your VIN and emissions status while you drive down the road. If you are out of compliance, you will receive a letter in the mail informing you that you are out of compliance and to have it repaired.
    The technology is already there, they are only waiting for the funds to install the transmitters.

    Mr Shiftright,
    I would like to see some way to present error codes to owners in easily readable form (through the NAV screen or dashboard?) and a way for owners to run at least diagnostic software so that they know what the engine light is really telling them (stop now or wait or blow it off or ???).
    Actually, I am testing a product that is a monitoring device that mounts on the dash, that you can monitor some parameters and you can view and clear trouble codes from the dash mounted monitor. It is a small 4 line display.
    Cost is around $180. It is called ScanGaugeII.
    It can be used as a trip computer, code reader and digital gauge.
    We hope to have the review article done on it in the next month.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,838
    Great, keep us posted on that device please!

    What I don't like about current technology is that on most cars every "check engine light" is crying wolf, as if a loss of coolant were the same urgency as a loose gas cap. After a while the natural tendency is just to keep driving. It's not well-filtered information. It's as bad as what Micrsoft gives you on your computer screen, except that your computer is not flying down the highway at 70 mph (hopefully).

    MODERATOR

  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    I agree with you on the light.
    They have taken it to an extreme.
    It should be like the heavy trucks, where there is an Engine Warn light and an Engine shutdown light.
    One is for the incidental stuff like low coolant and such. The other is for things that will cause catastrophic failure.

    What they should do is allow you to view what the trouble codes are when they present themselves.
    It bothers me that we have the technology to have most electronics do self diagnostics, but they display them in codes, not descriptions.
    If you had a Check engine light come on and where able to push a button to display a small summary and the code number, it would provide you with necessary information to determine which course of action to take.

    Then the education of how the codes work is necessary, which is something our group of guys try to work on.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,691
    You DID know I was being facetious with my remark that giving the consumer more information is a bad thing, right? I am for more information all the time for the consumer.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    Oops, my bad.
    Sometimes it is hard to tell and to be honest, there are folks out there who believe that information for the consumer is a bad thing.
  • Perhaps more of us would be willing to use the dealer if we were not so aware of how much we are being overcharged ? I once lived with a service manager for a time as a roommate. The things he told me about dealerships and where they make profit was nearly unbelievable. Here's how it works and why we pay so much at the dealer. The owner of the dealership marks the part up when service orders it. Then service "sells" it to the mechanic in the service bay for a markup. So there it is markup twice. Its a terrible thing. This on top of today's labor prices. :mad:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,838
    If the dealer charges me $15 for the same oil filter I can buy for $6, I really don't care as long as my car is done fast, done right the first time. I'm sure....certain...in fact, that taking my car to the dealer for its 5,000 mile check ups costs me $75 more than taking it to the local gas station or to a chain store. And I'm sure that the "list" of "things to do" on a 5,000 mile check contain items that are merely a glance from a mechanic at the dealer....and that's fine, too, with me, because at least the dealer technician knows where the part is that he's supposed to glance at.

    As long as my car is done in two hours, comes back all cleaned up, and runs like a top...hell, overcharge me...

    BUT....(and here the skies darken)...for this amount of money, the car had BETTER be right and done professionally in every respect or the whole picture changes with me.

    Even IF the automakers released every bit of technical information to independent shops, most couldn't keep up, especially the ones doing multi-car services. I go to the dealer because they know the product best. But, after warranty, would I go to an independent who specialized in my make of car? Yeah, probably I would if they were good. Would I save a lot of money doing that? Probably not a lot, no, because overhead in a top notch indie shop isn't cheap either.

    MODERATOR

  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    When the discussion is on the right to repair, does this mean that the proprietary information explaining how any software and firmware is constructed should to be revealed or does it means that a definition of codes should be revealed along with a possible cause when multiple codes are listed or something else.

    Being a DIY'er, I am able to perform fewer and fewer tasks on my cars. Fortunately, they don't require the same amount of attention when my high tech tools consisted of a timing light and dwell meter.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,838
    Oh I think that a better code definition and possibly even troubleshooting instructions would be enough. It's not likely that most consumers will be re-mapping their car's computers, etc.

    Of course we can only expect so much. No diagnostic tool yet available allows even the most up to date technician to positively idenitfy the exact defective component just by plugging in a device.

    MODERATOR

  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    Yes, I would like comprehensive troubleshooting instructions so this DIY'er would have a chance to find and replace the correct parts.

    I only repair my own cars so my experience is limited but I have found some repair manuals like Helms for Dodge give some troubleshoot road maps. Honda manuals seem to be more general.

    If I can pull the money together I would like to buy one of the new code scanners from Actron (CP9190) or Autoxray (6000) that should provide code scanning for common and propriety multiple codes. Once I have the codes then it is a matter of discussing the problem on various web sites to track down the real problem. Of course if it is a problem that requires quick repairing I must use the repair shop.

    Have you tried any of the above scanners? Which ones do you prefer?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,838
    I haven't tried them. One issue I'm exploring is that apparently they will not read every thrown code--so you could spend this money and still be completely in the dark, it seems.

    MODERATOR

  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    I heard some scanners will not read the propriety codes. I believes some have a letter prefix. Before buying I would check some sites to determine if the "secret" codes are read and stored. I believe the Actron CP9190 will read them. Since I only work on my own cars this i something I will be able to determine. I will have to chance the scanner will work on any future cars which is why I am still doing some research since this equipment is expensive.

    I am pleased that at least the scanners are available since not that long ago the DIY'er had few options to determine any information from computer and sensor problems. With the scanners and some web sites where code info and their reasons can be shared or purchased I still have a possibility of finding and fixing a problem myself.
  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    That all depends on the scanners that you are using and what package you purchase.
    I have probably 12 different scan tools. Most sent to me from the manufacturers and depending on what vehicle you have, there are some available that will cover proprietary trouble codes and parameters.

    Currently, there are a lot of scanners and scan programs that offer GM, Ford and Chrysler proprietary code information. AutoTap (program), AutoXray (handheld), Actron (handheld), OTC (handheld) and InjectoClean are among them.
    InjectoClean (program) also offers Toyota and Honda proprietary codes in their program package, as well as a labscope set up for pocket PC and Palm units.

    We do a lot of testing on scan tools, so we know there are some out there. :shades:
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