DIY Car Repairmen Will Now Have More Access to Diagnostics — Here’s Why

vehicle diagnostics

Big name car dealers hold an iron grip on the technology mechanics use to diagnose problems in today’s computer-based automotive systems. However, an agreement among car manufacturers and repair-industry leaders will make it easier for drivers and their car insurance companies to save money by offering greater access to the necessary tools for DIY car repairs, as well as independent shop repairs.

Right to Repair and National Memorandum of Understanding

The agreement, dubbed the National Memorandum of Understanding, takes its cue from Massachusetts’ recently enacted “Right to Repair” law. The memorandum requires car manufacturers to make vehicle diagnostics software and codes — in a universal interface — available to car owners and independent repair establishments at the same price dealers are charged.

System users would need to connect the vehicle to a portable device such as a laptop, and then diagnose electronic issues based on the manufacturer code generated by the software.

Automotive News reporter Gabe Nelson said, “Under the deal, all auto companies would make their diagnostic codes and repair data available in a common format by the 2018 model year, as the Massachusetts law requires. In return, lobbying groups for repair shops and parts retailers would refrain from pursuing state-by-state legislation.”

Memorandum of Understanding Concerns

However, the Memorandum of Understanding may not go far enough in protecting owners and independent repair shops beyond the borders of Massachusetts. According to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, there is a significant difference between the MOU and the law:

“The MOU is a voluntary agreement that does not have the weight of law behind it. Therefore, under the MOU, an independent shop not located in Massachusetts would not be able to take legal action against a car company for failing to abide by the terms of the MOU.”

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Also, vehicle owners and mechanics interested in performing car repairs must still purchase various data connectors if servicing vehicles from different manufacturers to access diagnostic data.

This challenge is equivalent to having different types of connectors for every peripheral attached to a home PC, instead of a standardized portal like a USB. These holes in the agreement raise additional cost concerns for those hoping to benefit from the Memorandum of Understanding.

Photo credit: HOT IMPORT