Right to Repair

August 1, 2012

The state of Massachusetts has just thrown the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between the manufacturers and the aftermarket automotive repair industry over what is become known as “Right to Repair.” They have passed the first comprehensive Right to Repair legislation in the nation. Bills are pending in other states and also in both Congress and the Senate at the national level.

Simply put, Right to Repair demands the auto manufacturers share access to repair information and tools with the aftermarket auto repair industry. As our fleet of vehicles has become more complex in recent years, the amount of repair information has grown accordingly. 

Right to Repair can find it roots in legislation passed in the early 1990s that created what is commonly referred to as OBD II (On Board Diagnostics II). The was the first attempt to standardize certain vehicle diagnostic systems and demand that the manufacturers share some of their proprietary repair information. At the time, OBD II was a great benefit to the aftermarket repair industry. Unfortunately as the technology in our vehicles continued to advance, the OBD II standards could not keep up.

This new, groundbreaking legislation will require manufacturers to immediately make available to the aftermarket vehicle repair industry the same tools, software, and repair information they make available to their franchised dealers. Furthermore, beginning with the model year 2018, car companies will need to provide access to their diagnostic and repair software through a standardized interface. 

The Governor of Massachusetts has not yet signed this bill, but he is expected to do so. Perhaps passage in Massachusetts will break the log jamb in other states and at the national level, so we will end up with a nationwide standard.

UPDATE 09.14.12: The Right to Repair legislation is not supported by all in the automotive industry. As noted in the comments below, and directly from the Automotive Service Association (ASA), "ASA believes that the industry's efforts in assuring service information through the private sector, third-party providers and automaker websites offers our members the service information necessary to repair their customers' vehicles". To read more, please visit the ASA website.

About the Author

Jim Taddei has been in the automotive field since 1975 and has over 25 years of experience with General Motors products, achieving the designation of GM Master Technician. He is also currently certified as an ASE Master Technician, and holds an Advanced California Smog Check License. He has been the lead technician and team leader at a multi-line dealership. After leaving the dealership he spent a couple of years working in an independent shop and now uses his experience and expertise to help verify the quality of RepairPal Certified shops.

4 User Comments

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By , September 05, 2012
Repair shops already have the "Right To Repair". Information, tools and training are already available. Though not free, these things already allow the good shops to fix every problem any car owner could experience. The idea that a legislated action to force car makers to release information will only make the job more difficult. Government will be forced to enforce a legislative action. Why bother when the information is already available? An informed consumer could conclude that this is not being pushed by a group of independent auto repair shop owners in Massachusetts, but instead is being spearheaded by aftermarket parts manufacturers that want proprietary information to make cheap knock-off parts. Those in the industry already know that some if not most of the parts made by these companies are not of the same quality as the original manufacturer. But the real loser here is the consumer in the form of higher taxes (someone has to pay for enforcement) and higher repair costs (the car manufacturers will start charging more for the information that is already expensive).
By , September 05, 2012
I agree with Downing Street Garage. Why are we trying to fix something that is not broken yet? The information is available to repair vehicles now. This is one of the most misunderstood subjects I can think of. When someone hears the title "Right to Repair", it makes such sense, but when you really understand the topic you realize this is going to hurt our shops in the long run. I am surprised that RepairPal is taking sides on this topic one way or another, since many of your shops and Top Shops do not agree with your stand. If the association that represents the independant shops in this country,The Automotive Service Association, does not agree with RtoR, that should make a huge statement as to who is behind this bill.
By , September 05, 2012
As a shop owner in Massachusetts, I would like to assure readers that we, Independents Shops, already have the "Right to Repair" we CAN fix your car, you do not need to go back to the dealer! The Legislation is not necessary for shop owners, technicians or consumers, and will not change the way many of us do business - the service information HAS BEEN available to those of us willing to invest in their businesses, by purchasing the necessary tools, training and information, needed to repair today's vehicles:) While a universal interface is a great solution to the expense of having Vehicle Specific Scan Tools, it is Technology that has driven our industry’s improvements, just as it has in most other fields, not the Right to Repair Legislation. The industry was headed that way, without government involvement and will most likely be there well before the 2018 government mandate; yikes look at what we do with our iPhones today, who would have thought that 3yrs ago? New Technology is what is driving our change! Education and Training is what our industry needs! That is what will make a difference, not this Legislation. I am happy to hear that we have reached an agreement in Massachusetts, and it is my hope, that now... much of the resources and energies, which have been wasted on passing the unnecessary legislation, can be used towards uniting and improving our industry! Have a Fun Day!
By < of , November 15, 2013
Its been over a year, what changes have occurred since the legislation passed?