Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Federal Law Needed to Repair Your Own Car?

Does our nation need a new federal law so individuals can repair their own car?

Yes, say advocates of the Right To Repair Act of 2009 (HR 2057). Increasingly computerized engine components make it almost impossible for a car owner or a non-dealer-controlled repair shop to work on a car. In years past, anyone could purchase a book on almost all models and makes of cars and trucks, use their own tools and make repairs, or mechanics with independent shops could be selected to do the repairs. Not so with late-model cars.

The legislation was first introduced in 2001, but heavy lobbying from auto makers has killed the proposal. Once again, the bill has been filed and supporters are organizing online, via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spread their message.

Former congressman Bob Barr, along with Ralph Nader called for support of the bill last week:

The most important thing the right-to-repair legislation does would be to require that car manufacturers make the tools and diagnostic information needed to repair their vehicles available to independent repair shops, on the same basis as to their dealer-operated shops. (The legislation expressly protects manufacturer trade secrets from public disclosure.) Its enactment would be a win for small business and for consumers at a time when both need a boost.

Why, then, has the bill failed earlier to win enactment, even though a more limited version of the legislation - relating to emissions-related systems - was passed nearly 20 years ago as part of the Clean Air Act amendments? Clearly, it's not because a significant majority of Americans do not prefer the freedom to have their car repaired at a business of their choice, including independent repair shops. More than 80 percent of younger drivers (those ages 18 to 34) favor such legislation, while older drivers favor it by a better than 70 percent margin, according to research by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners."

Another group which first organized in 2000, the National Automotive Service Task Force, has been working with independent repair shops, car owners and some auto manufacturers to collect and share information and tools needed for repairs:

The National Automotive Service Task Force is a not-for-profit, no-dues task force established to facilitate the identification and correction of gaps in the availability and accessibility of automotive service information, service training, diagnostic tools and equipment, and communications for the benefit of automotive service professionals. NASTF is a voluntary, cooperative effort among the automotive service industry, the equipment and tool industry, and automotive manufacturers."

The NASTF also offers a directory of info on how much information and what tools auto makers are making available and which independent repair shops are likewise supported.

Since auto makers have begged for taxpayer support of their floundering industry, we should also require such aid to ensure a long-held right of vehicle owners: to repair our own cars.

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