Right To Repair Act: Independent Shops Want Repair Codes

markjamesOctober 26, 2009

At issue is whether auto makers by law should provide independent shops with all the codes dealership technicians use to diagnose problems, especially those involving the array of computerized systems on modern vehicles.

The bill also would require auto makers to offer the same specialized tools, training information and equipment dealerships get. The tools must be sold at "nondiscriminatory" prices, according to the bill now in committee.

Currently, repair shops have access to some but not all codes. In some repair cases involving sophisticated systems particularly in high-end vehicles  independent shops are unable to do the work and must refer customers to dealerships.

Opponents of the bill say most information already is available on websites and elsewhere, such as Chilton and Mitchell repair manuals.

"WeÂve tried for eight years to get this passed," John Washbish says of legislation.

They argue that widespread dissemination of all repair data presents security and safety risks. For instance, they say it makes it possible for an independent technician to alter emissions and safety systems.

TodayÂs vehicles are complex and equipped with about 250 different computerized systems.

Because of that, dealerships employing master mechanics are the best places to go for major repairs, says Ryan LaFontaine, general manager of the LaFontaine Automotive Group, a Highland, MI, dealership representing several GM brands.

Washbish replies: "The facts speak for themselves. There are 930,000 bays at independent shops in the U.S. and 280,000 at dealerships. The 930,000 bays need the codes."

A former dealership manager notes the issue also centers on access to the special tools that auto makers only sell to their dealerships  at inflated prices, he adds.

"I sometimes used to loan tools to independents to complete repairs, although I was tempted to be a jerk about it," he tells WardÂs. "But if the independent bought parts from me, IÂd help him out with a tool."

Meanwhile, Washbish proposes the establishment of so-called hybrid repair facilities. They would be independent shops auto makers authorize to do warranty work and such.

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Hi Mark, Maybe you didn't notice, I've brought it up before. But I'm glad you brought it up again.

The first website that I will give you is www.NASTF.org That is the National Automotive Service Task Force. It's creation is a joint effort by the manufacturers and the O.E's to identify and fix service information gaps. The O.E's have just about all signed on and go to great lengths to ensure that the service information that we require is available to us.

Here is the service information matrix from that site. http://www.nastf.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3452

Here is the O.E. tool matrix from that site.

Here is the link to ASA.

And from their website information about that R2R legislation that is not necessary, and would not solve the problems here in the repair trade.


BTW, you made the statement about the Master Mechanics at the dealers in bold. One Toyota dealer in Michigan has now raised its labor rates to $117/hr. The techs are getting $17.00 flat rate and none of them are getting a 40 hour week. I read three classified adds over the weekend from their techs looking to re-locate.

The tools are available, the information is available, the training is available, the shops have to spend the money and invest in the tools and their people. Anyone that claims they are locked out is either not making the investment to stay up to date, or has ulterior motives to deny the capabilities of the top independent shops.

I used to have the local dealerships say things like "how did you get XXXXXX tool, because its the dealer tool" and the answer of course was, I got a loan, and went and purchased it to support my customers. It's not an exaggeration when I tell you I have $100,000 spent on scan tools and software. I have the loan payments to back that number right up.

R2R is a parts bill, its always been about "the codes" or computerized software that would allow offshore companies to make things like the drivers door module in the VW mentioned in another post. It's not about trouble codes, or wiring diagrams, or scan tools, or special engine tools. It's about forcing the O.E's to release information that is proprietary.

It's not about making security information available to the aftermarket, we have that here.
It's about them being able to make the security module itself and write their own software which could be used to disable the vehicle security system instead of repairing it.

It's about someone being able to break and re-write the SRS software that could allow someone to install a non-airbag steering column pad and program the module that would prevent the warning lamp from coming on.

It's about being able to manufacture and sell parts that are not tested to the same standards that say the O.E. fenders would be for their crumple zones.

The list goes on and on.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 9:08AM
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Hi Mark.

Did you get to follow any of those links and read up on the other side of the story? Alldata, which is owned by AutoZone has this statement on their home page.

"ALLDATA® is the leading provider of OEM auto repair software to the professional automotive service industry. Thousands of mechanical repair and collision shops across North America depend on ALLDATA automotive software for service and repair information, auto recalls and technical service bulletins, plus strategic shop management and customer relations solutions."

Meanwhile AutoZone backs R2R, claiming we don't have access. Hmmm, they can't agree inside their own corporation about which way it really is. Well, unless you understand the details, R2R is not about your local shop having access to repair information.

Now it crossed my mind, since you are one of my tormentors here, that you most likely posted this to attempt to discredit me, or somehow otherwise attempt undermine my credibility. (Hence the bold sections of your original post) Well wouldn't you just know, out of some 300,000,000 people in this country what are the odds that I would happen to be one of the twenty people who shut down my business for two days to drive to Detroit and sit in some of those NASTF meetings and helped create the accord that the aftermarket shares with the O.E's. On top of that, last fall when Massachusetts took this to committee, my phone rang with the request from ASA to see if I could travel to Boston to testify in their senate committee hearing. I was in Corning NY that day teaching, so that wasn't possible to attend in person, but I did assist with writing some of the presentation that ultimately helped defeat this bill.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 8:35AM
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One Toyota dealer in Michigan has now raised its labor rates to $117/hr. The techs are getting $17.00 flat rate and none of them are getting a 40 hour week. I read three classified adds over the weekend from their techs looking to re-locate.

One of my tenants, a mechanic at a dealership was making around $22 per hour, but was getting fewer and fewer hours before he left.

He currently makes a little less money per hour, but gets more hours, has better benefits and has better conditions working for the WalMart Distribution Center, plus he travels 85 miles less per day.

Many of the helpers and trainees at the local independent garages make around $8 per hour with no benefits, plus they're lucky to get 30 plus hours per week.

This is likely why there are so many mechanics, contractors, tradesmen, trainees, helpers and handymen doing side jobs to buffer their low wages and fewer hours.

Many of the local independent garages, including the mechanics that lease my garage are more focused on used vehicle sales, motorized toy sales, tire sales, gas sales, convenience store sales or buy-here-pay-here financing than auto service.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 10:50AM
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Now seeing what you are used to and comparing that to MY business approach, I hope you understand why I feel insulted if you try to lump me in with them.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 11:13AM
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Now seeing what you are used to and comparing that to MY business approach, I hope you understand why I feel insulted if you try to lump me in with them.

I'm not lumping anyone with anyone. In most of my posts I'm simply describing the actions and business models of many people in the auto service business, plus customer perception and customer actions.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 11:33AM
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So how do your posts assist the average reader in avoiding those shops, and finding the ones that are proactive in training, and reinvesting in their techs? How do your posts assist the average reader in understanding that the $100 code puller is not a substitute for, nor in any way representative of the investment that the best shops and techs have to make in order to keep up with the technology that is designed into their cars?

Of one point I am sure, no-one can accurately describe what it takes to be a good shop today, unless they are actively trying to be the best that they can be, and have the first hand perspective that doing so creates.

The answer to solving the most technical issues faced by vehicle owners today is in fact to find top independents who make being the best technician that he or she can be a lifetime commitment that cannot be measured by who writes a techs paycheck. People with that much drive won't work at a dealership because the focus inside the dealerships service department is totally about profit, and not about understanding and repairing the car. Occasionally an individual will show up in the dealer network that shines above the circus atmosphere inside it. But they rarely last there anymore. The dealerships focus is selling cars, not fixing them. You will see things like "Flush brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant systems, injection cleaning, intake cleaning, engine flushes, etc. and they are all performed by the least experienced technicians all in the scheme to "flush the wallets" of the customer.

Shops, and yes, shops like mine are the alternative to all of the nonsense. We don't live by shoving unneeded filters and flushing this and that. We just fix the cars, straight in at the symptom reported, and straight back out. I'm not alone in my approach, there are quite a number of shops just like mine. But how does the average customer realize the difference if all they see are the twisted perceptions that I attempt to correct even here in this forum?

Note to everyone. If you walk into a business and see a menu card with lists of what they flush and the associated prices, you are not in a top shop!

If you walk into a shop and the only scan tool they have is a single aftermarket tool at any level, Your not in a top shop.

If you ask price first, and they can quickly throw an answer to you, without looking at the car first, your not in a top shop.

If you ask them to show you what continuing education classes the tech that is about to work on your car has attended in the last year, two years, five years and the answer is less than six a year, then again your not in a top shop.

If the shop supports R2R, in the mistaken belief it will solve the problems caused by a habit of not investing in the business, which means it's tools, equipment and most of all it's people. Well, then your definitely not in a top shop.

If none of that genuinely matters to you, until the day finally comes when all of the chips are down and the regular place hasn't made the investment to keep up with the technology, some will say you can always go back to the dealership, which of course could be miles, and miles away since they are closing in record numbers or you can try and then seek out a top shop. Maybe you'll even be lucky and find one and if you do, you need to reward their investment with all of your business or else don't expect to have them available for the next time. JMHO

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 9:11AM
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