...car manufacturers now severely limit the number of repair shops that are allowed to have the tools, diagnostic codes and updated repair information essential to being able to repair late-model cars (which are heavily dependent on computers for performance and repair).In fact, the general rule is that car makers allow only the shops attached to their dealerships to have the necessary equipment and information to repair any cars they made that are still new enough to have five digits in their Kelly Blue Book price. ("Late-model” is a relative term. Some companies have been doing this ten years or more.)
By thus unfairly limiting the universe of repair shops able to diagnose and repair late-model cars to only those repair shops that are connected with their dealers, the manufacturers dramatically limit consumer choice and significantly increase the costs to those car owners (by some 34 percent, according to a study preformed for the Automotive After Market Industry Association by Lang Research).Congress is responding with the Right-to-Repair Act of 2009, H.R.2057, which requires automakers to sell that equipment and information on the open market, so your neighborhood garage can buy it. This is going to become especially important as dealerships die and the associated garages lose their dealer affiliations. Prius owners in some areas could be left with no place to get maintenance done that doesn't require taking a day off work to drive there.
This sort of bill has apparently been put forward in previous years but always died in committee. The reason bills like this die in committee is that there isn't enough of a show of attention from the voting public. We Prius owners have a direct economic interest in this legislation. It's currently in the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has 59 members, so there's an off chance that your representative is one of them. Which means you can email him or her and say good things about this bill. If your rep is one of the 17 sponsors of the bill, you can send an email of thanks. And either way you can email your Senators and ask them to introduce similar legislation or to back it if someone else introduces it first.
To find out who your Representative is, go to http://www.house.gov/ and enter your zip code in the upper left blank.
To find out who your Senators are, go to http://senate.gov/ and open the “Find your Senators” menu in the upper right.
To see the text of the bill, its sponsors, current status, etc., go to http://www.thomas.gov/, click the “Bill number” button and search on HR2057.
To see whether your Representative is on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, go to http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.p
Quotations taken from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c
And thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for bringing this issue to my attention in an article suggesting that maybe we need legislation like this for more than just cars, at http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/05/ri