WASHINGTON — There's good news for drivers who are sick of
looking at their "check engine" lights.
An agreement was reached Thursday that should make repairing
newer-model cars a bit easier and settle a lingering dispute between
independent garages and car manufacturers.
Under the deal, virtually all car makers have agreed to share
complete repair information — plus the necessary tools and computer
software — with automobile repair shops, including independent
businesses. Some car makers gladly share the information already,
but others do not, and a growing number of drivers have had to make
multiple trips to find a mechanic with the proper diagnostic and
"This agreement has taken a long time, but it's solid and it
gives us what we need," said Robert Redding with the Automotive
Service Association, a group representing independent garages.
"We'll have service information on how to repair these cars, and
tool information, including the software."
The agreement was reached after Congress got involved and warned
the industry that lawmakers would act if the industry didn't. Sen.
Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., was the main sponsor of a Senate bill to
promote information sharing, with support from Sen. Mark Dayton,
Wellstone said he introduced the bill "after hearing from a group
of independent service technicians in Minnesota about their
inability to get technical data from auto manufacturers, which
effectively prevented them from working on newer cars and
All car makers except for Porsche agreed to the deal, Redding
said. The agreement takes full effect next August, but garage owners
hope that most of the information will be fully available by
At a Senate hearing in July, mechanics praised General Motors and
Ford for sharing repair information, but they said European car
manufacturers were a problem, particularly on repairs involving
emissions and braking.
Already, Redding said, independent garages were redirecting 15
percent of their customers to dealerships, sometimes for repairs as
basic as turning off a "check engine" light.