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Community Matters, Automotive 

Motor Vehicle Right to Repair Act

The days of being able to stick your head under the hood of a car and see what is wrong have almost disappeared. Computers now monitor and control most of the systems that keep your vehicle running properly. The special information, codes, and tools needed to diagnose and repair those systems are not always freely available.

Legislation requiring car companies to share that information has been proposed several times since 2001, but recent recalls have sparked renewed interest in the topic.  

The Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act (S. 3181) was introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), showing the bipartisan support that exists. The House version (H.R. 2057), introduced last year, now has 60 co-sponsers.

The Act would require manufacturers to:

  • Provide to the vehicle owner and service providers all information necessary to diagnose, service, maintain, or repair the vehicle
  • Offer for sale to the vehicle owner and service providers any related tool or equipment
  • Provide the information that enables aftermarket tool companies to manufacture tools with the same functional characteristics

Proponents like AAA, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE) and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) argue the act would encourage fair competition in the repair market, and improve safety by providing full access to information such as all Technical Service Bulletins.

Opponents such as the Automotive Service Association and the Coalition for Automotive Repair & Fair Information Xchange (CARFIX) say it's "a solution in search of a problem," because the information is already available through the National Automobile Service Task Force (NASTF).  It would also unfairly expose manufacturers' intellectual property and reduce security by making information about vehicle security systems, such as key codes, publicly available.

Repair information that is currently available often requires a paid subscription.  As a service to our patrons, the Library subscribes to Auto Repair Reference Center*, which allows cardholders access to DIY repair information from any internet computer.  We also have many printed repair manuals in our Automotive Collection.

There are many issues involved in the Right to Repair debate, and it will be interesting to see whether the legislation advances.


* Library card required for use outside the Library

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