Right-to-Repair Movement Gets Federal Attention
While the right-to-repair movement is fighting a national battle, the brunt of the action has been taking place on America’s coasts. Consumer activists are taking on multinational corporations that don’t want you to modify your mobile devices, affix aftermarket components to your vehicle, or have complete access to the data that’s amassed by the staggering number of products that are needlessly networked to the internet. After years of petitioning the government, often while arguing with high-paid lobbyists, the group achieved a major victory in Massachusetts in 2020. Voters decided that automakers should not be allowed to withhold information from the vehicle’s owner or use it as a way to prohibit them from taking their car into independent repair shops (rather than manufacturer-certified service centers) or tinkering with it themselves.
Now the federal government is getting involved. Joe Biden has signed an executive order that effectively forces the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take regulatory action that would settle the matter. But we don’t really know if that’s going to lead to a market where customers are free to treat their property (and private data) as they wish, one where the manufacturer holds all the cards, or simply result in a regulatory minefield displeasing all parties.
Automotive Alliance Manages to Delay Revised Massachusetts Right to Repair Law
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) has managed to stall enforcement of a ballot measure recently passed in Massachusetts that expands access to data related to vehicle maintenance and repair. Last week, the relatively new lobbying/trade group asked a U.S. district court for a temporary order that would bar implementation of the state’s new right-to-repair rules aimed at giving vehicle owners more direct control of their private data and independent repair shops a fighting chance of staying in business. But the state’s attorney general has already decided that the rules are invalid until after federal cases have been decided.
The decision represents another victory for giant, multinational corporations at the expense of disgusting citizens interested in controlling their personal information and small business owners who have had it easy for far too long.
Massachusetts Passes Right-To-Repair Protections
Independent repair shops and aftermarket parts retailers have been pitted against major automakers and their dealer networks in Massachusetts for years. The state has served as the primary battleground for right-to-repair legislation that would permit/prohibit customers and independent entities from working on or modifying vehicles. However, a major victory came on Tuesday after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure updating existing right-to-repair laws to give vehicle owners and small shops better access to vehicle data typically reserved for industry giants.
The resulting decision gives consumers substantially more control over what’s done with the data being harvested by the industry (often without their knowledge) and frees up their options on who to go to when their vehicle needs fixing.
QOTD: Built Not Bought?
There is definitely a sense of pride piloting a machine — be it car, pickup, or an off-road rig — that you built up with your own tools and your own two hands. We’re not talking about Factory Five levels of build-it-yourselfness, however, but rather the satisfaction of putting in the wrench time to either restore or modify something to your own liking.
YouTube is rife with channels of gearheads doing just this, so when the DIY Gang Family completely rebuilt this barn burner of a Hellcat, it got your author thinking: what’s the most-ambitious project you’ve ever attempted?
YouTube Personality Builds Tesla Pickup Using Chopped Model 3
During Tesla’s most-recent shareholders meeting, Elon Musk said the company’s pickup should be arriving this fall — adding that we would probably see it near the end of the summer if everything goes according to plan. Apparently disinterested in waiting another two months, robotics enthusiast and self-professed EV fan Simone Giertz decided to fabricate her own using a Tesla Model 3 as a starting point.
Giertz, who runs a YouTube channel focused on quirky building projects, claimed the home-brewed pickup’s relation to the sedan was one of necessity. She only chose the Model 3 because it possessed a steel chassis and was cheaper to risk ruining than a Model S would have been.
QOTD: First Hit of a Lifelong Addiction?
Most of the gearheads in this audience turn a wrench or three. It’s part of what makes the community at TTAC such a great one: authors and readers alike enjoy (and understand!) wrenching on cars as much as they enjoy driving them. Those attributes aren’t a requirement for hanging around these digital pages but it sure does help.
You author spent a leisurely few minutes changing over the tires on his trusty Dodge Charger from winter to all-season rubber. While spinning lug nuts, I started thinking: what is the first tool bought by most gearheads?
Haynes Manual Founder Dies, Aged 80
Even if you’re not mechanically minded enough to repair your own vehicle, your status as an automotive enthusiast has likely led to your encountering a Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual at one point or another. Due the wealth of information available within, this author purchased one for nearly every out-of-warranty model to ever pass through his ownership.
While the internet stole some of Haynes’ thunder, its paperback manuals (and their digital equivalents) are still an important resource for at-home mechanics and D.I.Y. types. Unfortunately, while browsing around for materials on the first-generation Eagle Talon, the Haynes website informed us that its founder recently passed away.
DIYers Take Note - the 2019 Ford Ranger's Oil Change Procedure Contains a Big Extra Step [UPDATED]
Ever swapped out the battery in a cloud-car Chrysler, or maybe an old Sebring or PT Cruiser? You’ll be reminded of that when the time comes to change your new-generation Ford Ranger’s oil, assuming you’re a proud member of the DIY crowd.
Job One for those looking to freshen the Ranger’s internal lubricant, besides heading to the store for a couple of jugs of synthetic and a filter, is to break out the jack. You’ll need to remove a wheel.
(Editor’s Note: Ford has reached out to us to inform us that the service procedure we referenced below is incorrect, and that the wheel does not need to be removed. We regret the error, and we have further addressed it here.)
QOTD: Your Level of Wrenchitude?
If you’re expending bandwidth on this site, chances are you’re a bit of a gearhead. In addition to eating, breathing, and talking cars, I’m willing to wager more than a few of us turn a wrench on our own vehicles when the need arises.
Such a need popped up in our house this week.
QOTD: Garage Nirvana on a Budget?
It’s a pretty safe bet that the majority of readers (and writers!) at TTAC wrench on their own wheels. Those who don’t likely don’t have the facilities in which to do so. Condo living, overbearing HOA, whatever. To you, we extend our deepest sympathies.
Today’s QOTD you get to dream … and spend imaginary money. Given half the average price of a new car in America to spend — half of $33,560 — how you would kit out your dream garage?
QOTD: Do You Even Wrench, Bro?
Early last week, I brought the Charger into our local dealer to sort out a passel of recalls, not the least of which was a computer reflash to bestow Auto Park capabilities on my ZF-equipped Dodge.
This new programming, it must be noted, not only added the Auto Park feature (which actually works so seamlessly it beggars belief that Dodge engineers didn’t include it from the get-go to save themselves a world of bad PR) but also changed the font in the dashboard EVIC. I now look upon my digital speed readout with a level of disdain formerly reserved for soiled copies of the National Enquirer. Comic Sans would’ve been a better option.
Anyway, the car was also due for an oil change, so I scheduled that service for the same visit. Arriving at the desk, the mental fog cleared long enough to bestow upon me the presence of mind to inquire the cost of a dealer oil change for my Pentastar-equipped Charger.
“Uhhhh … justamomentlemmelook.”
Pokes at computer
“It was around eighty-four dollars last time. Soooo …. about the same again?”
Needless to say, I canceled the oil change, proceeded with the recall work, and broke out my tools when I got home.
Hammer Time: The Real Cost of Being a Car Guy
Forgive me father, for not only have I sinned (at least for right now), but I’m going to make a sordid confession about my daily work life that will tick off 99 percent of the people here.
I find that auto enthusiasts — that’s you — are completely irrational. In fact, sometimes you’re just plain nuts.
It has nothing to do with conspiracy theories, the federal government, or the fact that every manufacturer wants us enthusiasts to become mindless traders and renters instead of long-term keepers. What it really comes down to is that most auto enthusiasts I know simply act like emotional fools.
Piston Slap: The Cons of Recon Before Trade-in?
TTAC commentator cwallace writes:
Here’s what’s probably an easy question for you: Is it ever worth the money to update wear items on a car before trading it in?
My trusty 2007 Accord EX V6 is suddenly about to cost me some real money. With 154,000 miles on it, the tires are about shot, it needs new struts, there’s a crack in the windshield, and the rear main seal is starting to make a mess of my driveway. Plus, my commute just got a lot longer, so the lack of creature comforts (like sound insulation, for heaven’s sake) make me think I’ve got my money’s worth from this car.
Other than those things, it looks good for its age, and everything else works just as it should. All that dealership service paid off, is what I tell myself.
Ford Engineer Uses OpenXC to Build Haptic Shift Indicator
When cars started getting digitized, first with fuel injection, then electronic ignition and ECUs, some enthusiasts thought that would foretell the end of hot rodding. That’s proved to be a false prophecy, what with developments like the Megasquirt engine management system, high performance “chips” and tuning via the OBD port. Last year, Ford Motor Company, which has been at the leading (some say bleeding) edge of in-car electronics and infotainment, announced the release of the OpenXC Platform. OpenXC is an application progrmaming interface, API, that makes information from the car’s various instruments and sensors available to Android applications. The idea was to open up that information to all the possibilities with which open source application developers and hobbyists might come up. The system is read only, to prevent you from damaging your car, or worse, creating an unsafe driving situation, but in terms of using that information, the possibilities are endless. To promote OpenXC, Ford has released a video of a haptic shift indicator, built into the shift knob, invented by one of their junior engineers, Zach Nelson. When you feel it vibrate, it’s time to shift.
Using a haptic feedback motor from an Xbox 360 controller, an Arduino controller, and an Android based tablet with some USB and Bluetooth hardware Nelson created a programmable haptic shift indicator that he then built into a custom shift knob that he had designed in a CAD program and printed out with a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer.
Using engine speed, throtle position, and other engine control data, Nelson programmed different modes that tell the driver when it’s ideal to shift up (or theoretically, down as well, I suppose, if you add in data from the traction control systems). Programmed for performance, the shift knob will vibrate when approaching redline and if economy is what the driver is after, it will buzz at the best shift point for optimum fuel mileage, it can even have a tutorial mode to help drivers learn how to shift a manual transmission. For “fun”, Nelson installed a LED display on the top of his custom shifter that shows the gear position.
As part of the open source ethos, Nelson and Ford have made all of his design files, the firmware, the Android application for programming the device, and the CAD file for the shifter knob, available to the public with links at the OpenXC site. The idea is to let enthusiasts further develop the idea.
OpenXC will be available for a growing number of Ford vehicles. In the video, Nelson says that the latest car he’s tested it on is the Shelby GT500 Mustang. He talks of his sense of accomplishment when his invention worked with the 662 horsepower muscle car. My guess is that in that particular app, he had it programmed to shift at redline.
NHTSA To Customers: Fix It Yourself
In what amounts to a landmark policy shift, NHTSA now recommends that customers take quality problems in their own hands, and perform recalls themselves. Take NHTSA Campaign ID number 10V305000.