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Old August 1st, 2002, 11:13 AM   #1
Tom M (Sunol, CA)
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Car repair codes get attention of Congress

BY TOM WEBB
St. Paul Pioneer Press

WASHINGTON — Here's the problem: Your car's dashboard light says "Check engine," but your neighborhood mechanic can't turn it off. He doesn't have the special codes. So a trip to the dealer is required.

That little annoyance got some big attention Tuesday, as a U.S. Senate panel tried to pressure auto manufacturers to stop withholding the special codes and diagnostic tools that independent garages need to repair cars.

Independent garages suspect some car companies are trying to keep the codes a secret and force them out of business.

"Without service information, we will ultimately be forced to close our doors," Dale Feste, owner of Dale Feste Automotive in Hopkins, told a Senate Commerce subcommittee.

More than 100 auto mechanics crowded the hearing room to support a code-sharing bill by Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn. But not the auto manufacturers, who said they already share virtually all repair information with local garages — or soon will.

"Auto manufacturers do not intentionally withhold service information from the auto service industry," insisted John Cabaniss, a director for the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.

"To do so would be contrary to their best interests. Automakers want their customers … to obtain effective service no matter where or when their vehicles need maintenance."

The disagreement left some senators puzzled, but the picture eventually cleared. Feste explained that some carmakers — particularly General Motors, but also Ford — have excellent records of sharing information, computer codes and diagnostic tools.

But many European-based automakers do not, Feste said, and independent garage owners want to halt any trend toward secrecy as emission, braking and other auto systems grow ever more complex.

In response to earlier complaints, 20 car companies have promised that by January, they'll provide independent garages "the same diagnostic and repair capabilities" that they provide their franchised dealers, for all recent cars and light trucks. Honda and Porsche did not sign the agreement.

To the automakers, the issue is "really a 'parts bill' masquerading as a 'repair bill,'" said Greg Dana, an official at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. They fear the bill would force them to release proprietary information, allowing outside manufacturers to "copy our parts and sell them as their own," he said.

Said Scott Lambert, executive vice president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, "There's two codes the manufacturers have. There's default codes, which is what all the dealers use, all the technicians use to diagnose cars, that's the common code, that's widely available, and is being made more available …

"The second code is the calibration code, and nobody has those," he added. "Those are the background software. … The dealers don't have the calibration codes, and the independent repair shops don't need 'em. … What the Wellstone bill does is make all of that, both the default and the calibration codes, public to everybody. And what happens then is that the aftermarket parts manufacturers will be able to make cheaper knock-off parts."

In any case, Wellstone said he "would be delighted if the manufacturers sit down with the mechanics" to fix the problem without congressional action. But if not, he promised to move ahead, although it's very unlikely Congress could act this year.

Either solution would be fine for Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. Dorgan's local mechanic couldn't turn off the "Check engine" light on his dashboard, either, he said.
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Old August 1st, 2002, 02:36 PM   #2
Stevec
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Re: Car repair codes get attention of Congress

Ohhh that would be bad, "cheaper knock off parts" quote should have sank home, whos on the committee anyone from a state with large auto manufacturing companies (LOL)

Name a state without an auto related employer, maybe Montana.

Actually holding the codes and not providing them to aftermarket may violate the Magnusson Moss FTC act on warranty work, say you need to have warranty work done but can't do it anywhere but the dealer, you take in your "aftermarket" parts but he refuses to install, insisting on "Genuine XYZ" parts.

Did you know that if the dealer forces you to use the manufactures parts or lubricants you can claim a FTC violation. In fact if the warranty specifys those material you are supposed to get them free of charge.

This is a big deal with HD dealers on bikes too, especially the debate on Dyno vs. Synthetic oil.
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