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Massachusetts "Right To Repair" Initiative On Ballot, May Override Compromise 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the fix-it-yourself dept.
skids writes "MA voters face a complex technical and economic question Tuesday about just how open automobile makers should be with their repair and diagnostic interfaces. A legislative compromise struck in July may not be strong enough for consumer's tastes. Proponents of the measure had joined opponents in asking voters to skip the question once the legislature, seeking to avoid legislation by ballot, struck the deal. Weeks before the election they have reversed course and are again urging voters to pass the measure. Now voters have to decide whether the differences between the ballot language and the new law are too hard on manufacturers, or essential consumer protections. At stake is a mandated standard for diagnostic channels in a significant market."
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Massachusetts "Right To Repair" Initiative On Ballot, May Override Compromise

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  • by characterZer0 (138196) on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:23PM (#41884957)

    There are two kinds of classic enthusiats: the ones who work on their cars and the ones who write checks. If you work on your car, you want something pre-1996 anyway. If you write checks, you can write checks to the dealer.

  • don't get it (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:32PM (#41885117)

    I'm a MA voter. I read the law. It sounds like the data needs to be made available in a standardized and un-encrypted way for all future cars. If you have all ready conceded to making the info available, what is the problem in doing it in a non-proprietary way?

    That was a rhetorical question. I'm voting yes.

  • by sinij (911942) on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:34PM (#41885155) Journal
    Maybe this will help you understand. Do you remember your first computer? Well, imagine you _STILL_ want to use it today, only it was sitting OUTSIDE in the COLD, HUMID, or HOT weather.

    This is what electronics-everything in your car mean for its longevity. 20 years if garaged is doable, anything more and you are running in weird issues like capacitors going bad in all kinds of imaginative way, spikes forming shorts on solder connections, and resistor degradation.

    It is not IF, it is question of WHEN.
  • Re:Don't Panic! (Score:5, Informative)

    by theNetImp (190602) on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:44PM (#41885287)

    "See, the Supreme Court just held up that "first sale" doesn't count if the *thing* was intended to be sold to a segregated market"

    NO they didn't. They just heard the arguments. A conclusion isn't expected for several months. Stop glancing at articles and actually read them.

  • It's not like CA's lemon law, it's even more important. This is about having the keys to your own car's diagnostic data, sometimes fairly literally as you can't even get the data out (let alone understand it) without doing weird things to the PCM.

  • Re:What's the point? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:56PM (#41885415)

    I've never been busted for working on my car in the street in the People's Republic of Cambridge. In much of middle America your neighborhood owner's association is going to have rules against this; fortunately in a city if you don't live in a condo the only rules are set by people you can vote against if you disagree with them.

  • by sinij (911942) on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:07PM (#41885571) Journal
    Both. I have a degree that allows me to understand wiring diagrams and repair electronics. I still would rather do frame restorations.

    Why? Because when you are dealing with old electronics you frequently have to deal with difficult to diagnose intermittent problems. You are dealing with aging sensors, degraded wiring, lose connections, out-of-spec electronics and there isn't memory dump or line-by-line debug to help you figure out what went wrong. With some of the harder problems you have to manufacture tools or methods to simulate test conditions.

    Even 2013-model brand spanking-new car, using dealer's bells-and-whistles diagnostic system will not tell you faults outside of individual modules or sensors. Why? Because standard is remove and replace. Plus it won't tell you why this or that module or sensor is failing. Did wiring harness rot? Do you have lose connector somewhere? Is diagnostic system itself is failing? If problem doesn't happen that often during warranty period, then solving/detecting this problem isn't part of design.
  • by Uksi (68751) on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:40PM (#41885987) Homepage

    I agree--grand parent's assertion of "standardized interfaces they will be slower in achieving greater emissions and fuel efficiency" is complete bullshit. Citation needed like never fucking before.

    I know cars and I like modern cars. I don't do well with carburetors. Give me a fuel-injected, electronically controlled system all day long. Give me a modern ECU that will automatically adjust for barometric pressure and ambient temperature. Give me an ECU that will give me good fuel efficiency and emissions. I race my car, but I do not remove my catalytic converter.

    They don't want to expose the dealer interface for reprogramming a car's mileage, VIN inside the ECU or new keys w/o having the two existing keys. That's the entire extent of the security concern with the exposure of this information.

    Otherwise, if my car is malfunctioning and I want to diagnose why it's not running right, I am all too often hampered or screwed without the dealer tools.

    Simple example first: my car developed a knock in a cylinder. To find out whether it's a valve or a rod bearing or piston-slap, I have only one option: disconnect the ignition connector and the fuel connector, start the car, shut it off, etc repeat for each cylinder. However, the dealer can simply go into a menu and trigger an ON_1/OFF_1 (from 1 to 4) for each cylinder, doing the same thing electronically, faster and safer.

    Complex scenario: diagnosing catalytic converter failure (which is very emissions relevant!) If the car is running rough or is down on power, especially top-end power, it's possible that this might be caused by a catalytic converter. However, many other things could also be wrong to cause this. The best you gonna do as a DIYer right now (for a 2004+ Mazda, in my case) is to wait until the computer throws a check engine light complaining of cat converter inefficiency. However, your situation might be right on the threshold of the rather-generous factory allowance for catalytic converter performance. The dealer can simply pull up a page of emission stats the the car tracks, which lists catalytic converter efficiency. If it's near the bottom of the range, especially for a car with lower mileage, then you have a dying converter. You can monitor this setting over time as well (E.g. over two weeks) and see if it degrades. Having access to this information can save you non-trivial dollars in gas mileage (e.g. highway can drop from 30mpg to 24mpg easily), fouled up spark plugs and (albeit small) risk of engine damage. Since most modern cars run spark plugs capable of long term replacement intervals, such as 60K miles, you risk fouling up an expensive set of plugs.

    This is the simple stuff too. Troubleshooting your ABS system? You get nothing other than an ABS light. Could it be a tear in wiring to an ABS sensor? If you are crafty, you can solder that up cleanly yourself for pennies. Could it be air in the brake lines that got into the ABS module? Bleed the air for the cost of a half liter of brake fluid ($10). If a wheel speed sensor shat the bed, that's a $75 repair. If the ABS module shat the bed, well that's much more expensive. Going to the dealer to find out what the ABS light is all about? You will get slapped with a $90 (1 hr labor) diagnostic fee. As a car enthusiast and an engineer, I don't like paying $90 for 5 minutes of diagnostics. What if you go to your local repair shop for the same problem? If they can't read the ABS code, they will have to spend time going down the list of possible things that could go wrong. E.g. all 4 wheel sensors and wiring would have to be inspected (hope the tear is not obvious or not a failed wire inside a connector, where it's not visible!), brakes bled just in case, parts possibly replaced unnecessarily (on a hunch for a common problem). The pure waste in labor that an independent shop has to do wastes the shop's time and your money.

  • by characterZer0 (138196) on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:41PM (#41886003)

    You do not have to use the ECU for that particular car. There are projects for aftermarket ECUs. http://www.megasquirt.info/ [megasquirt.info]

  • OBD II (Score:3, Informative)

    by TigerPlish (174064) on Monday November 05, 2012 @05:25PM (#41886471)

    I'm an old-car junkie. I have none right now, but I have in the past. I spent 3 years as a mechanic for the USAF, and I've wrenched on every car I've had to some extent or another. My last car was OBD I, it blinked, like Capt Pike, to tell you things.

    Now I have an OBD II car. The amount of data it captures is remarkable. One would need a sizable battery of old-school analytical tools to match what OBD II gives you for free. You just need to pay a little for the scanner.

    For today's car, you need an OBD II reader with freeze-frame capability. Less than 100 bucks. Or, you can get a wi-fi OBD II dongle, and use one of the multitude of scanners and realtime dataloggers for a variety of platforms, iOS and PC included.

    Hearing all the whining about how modern cars are not for the shadetree mechanic makes me wince. All it tells me is that people are unwilling to adapt, change and learn new tricks.

    I've used a 90 dollar OBD II scanner, a forum and the car's Factory Service Manual to diagnose and conclusively repair the two Check Engine Lights I've had. I tracked both down to dirty solenoid connectors. Why were they dirty and grimy? Long story, but the source of this trouble has been vigorously flogged, and they've lost my business forever.

    The language in TFA is weird. What exactly is this info that makers are allegedly holding back? If by "holding back" they mean spend the $120 on the factory service manual, then don't be such a cheapskate and pony up the dosh. I have the FSM for my car. The real FSM, not some Haynes or Chilton wannabe. Every single code my car uses is in there, and I can read them all with a 90 dollar OBD II scanner with freeze-frame. For some of the more exotic things you need a datalogger that records OBD II data realtime. Like I said above, lots to choose from for multiple platforms.

    The info is available, you just have to pay for it. Is that so much of a burden?

    Mechanics of old had to keep a battery of test equipment (ignition testers, tach/dwell meters, exhaust analyzers, etc) and had to keep up-to-date reference material, all of which cost money. Why should today's mechanics be any different? What, you want the car's codes for free? Na. You need to shell out the $$$ to get the factory service manual. You've always had to.

  • Re:OBD II (Score:3, Informative)

    by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aol.cTWAINom minus author> on Monday November 05, 2012 @09:08PM (#41888817) Journal

    The problem you will run into with this approach is that OBD-II only defines a minimum standard of telemetry data that is available at the port.

    Manufacturers are free to add to that minimal dataset in any way they wish, using any type of encoding or obscurity to hide their meaning.

    The minimal set of OBD-II diagnostic codes is pretty useless for determining what ails your vehicle. You might get an evap leak error, but that only tells you there is a leak in your evap system. The manufacturer extended codes will tell you that the leak is in the hose between the reverse sinusoildal dingle-arm and the upper reciprocating tremmy pipe about three inches from the up end of the cardinal gram meter and that you need to replace part number ZXV-330F.

    OBD-II really is a completely deficient diagnostic standard for modern vehicles.

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