Posted on Fri, Sep. 27, 2002

WASHINGTON: Car makers to share repair data

Washington Correspondent

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 repair codes.

"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, D-Minn.

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 trucks."

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 January.

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.

2001 twincities and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.