# The right to repair...

#### cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,633
This is a trend that I've been noticing in the industry in the last couple of decades, and it bothers me that so far they've gotten away with it. It feels pretty much like when control computers were first used in cars. The manufacturers built them as black boxes so that they could nudge, and elbow away the small mom-and-pop repair shops out of the market:

I really hope that the movement catches on and gets momentum.

#### #12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,223
I really hope that the movement catches on and gets momentum.
Not likely. I used to be a God. Now I'm just a weasel sniffing around the edges, trying to save a buck when I can defeat the original designer's intent to make me buy a new device and throw the old one in the dump.

#### cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,633
I think that the arrival of SMT components (and of course, MCU's) has been used by the industry as a fulcrum to reach this situation. It's been both a blessing and a curse.

Joined Jul 18, 2013
25,019
I have always had the philosophy of fix it if I can before scrapping it, But now there is electronic miniaturization that has reached the point where it is often not economical to spend the time in repair, particularly in the electronics industry.
I have a minimum feature Cell phone just for emergency that cost me $15.00. I don't think I will spend much time trying to fix it if it goes south. Max. #### #12 Joined Nov 30, 2010 18,223 I have a minimum feature Cell phone just for emergency that cost me$15.00.
I don't think I will spend much time trying to fix it if it goes south.
Can't argue with that. Right now I'm trying to get a guy to NOT mail me a garage door opener from 3000 miles away because I probably can't fix it cheaper than hiring a local retail repairman.

#### tcmtech

Joined Nov 4, 2013
2,867
I rather doubt it as well.
Fewer people even care to learn even the most basic methods of fixing anything (it's below them you know) let alone put in the time effort and money needed to set themselves up to be proficiently capable of fixing anything.
Surface mount and multilayer circuit board and has pretty much cut me off from being able to read/reverse engineer and thusly repair most newer electronics.

As far as vehicles go I have no real want or interest in trying to deal with their computer systems either being I am fortunate enough to know what their assorted sensors are looking at and how to make them think they are seeing what they want to see while making the engines or whatever work the way I want them to.

Now if I could get a hold of the proper software to allow me to get into my vehicles computer systems and mess with them heck yea I would be interested in that but so far I have yet to ever find any workable pirated software that lets me mess with standard Ford systems of which I have.

#### #12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,223
Now if I could get a hold of the proper software to allow me to get into my vehicles computer systems and mess with them heck yea I would be interested in that but so far I have yet to ever find any workable pirated software that lets me mess with standard Ford systems of which I have.
Yep. I would be Ford's worst nightmare if I could crack their engine computer.

#### paulktreg

Joined Jun 2, 2008
813
I'm a field service engineer in the medical sector, have been for many years, and watched as the trend has gone from fault finding to component level to now having to replace printed circuit boards or even the whole unit.

Progress?

Joined Jul 18, 2013
25,019
Same thing happened in the TV industry.
Max.

#### cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,633
Same thing happened in the TV industry.
Max.
I think it actually started with the TV industry, or maybe radios were first?

#### wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
17,167
I really hope that the movement catches on and gets momentum.
I wouldn't hold my breath. If advertising that an item was "easy to repair" would sell more units, maybe there would be hope but I don't see that happening.

The things we have that would be worth money repairing are cameras, laptops, cellphones and cars. Maybe TVs. All of these have become very complex and very hard to repair for reasons beyond anything the manufacturer is doing intentionally. You might be able repair a toaster or a coffee maker if you could find parts, but they're too cheap to justify heroic efforts.

Combine that reality with the apparent demise of a do-it-yourself ethic, and you get lots of landfill.

#### hp1729

Joined Nov 23, 2015
2,304
This is a trend that I've been noticing in the industry in the last couple of decades, and it bothers me that so far they've gotten away with it. It feels pretty much like when control computers were first used in cars. The manufacturers built them as black boxes so that they could nudge, and elbow away the small mom-and-pop repair shops out of the market:

I really hope that the movement catches on and gets momentum.
I don't think the objective is to put mom and pop out of business. They are just trying to keep costs down and profits up. Making 100,000 items at a time is expensive, per item. Making 10,000,000 at a time is cheaper, per item. In a market of 3,000,000,000 people it isn't hard to sell a million items.

I repair instead of replace when I can also. In my neighborhood I have a reputation for being the tinker man for such things. But a $15 phone? Unless it is an easy fix or just cleaning it isn't worth the effort. I try to emphasize the value of being able to repair things to the neighbors and family who value 'survivalist" talents. if we ever experience the big SHTF times repair skills will be important. #### tcmtech Joined Nov 4, 2013 2,867 Most of my higher end gear is older industrial or commercial application stuff that was worth the effort to try and fix. I now have three NEC LCD 3000 30" commercial displays for computer monitors. New cost on them combined would be around$10K but I paid less than $400 for all three of which none of them took more than 20 minutes to fix. To me that stuff is worth working on. A 20" generic LCD monitor, nah. If it can't be fixed in 10 minutes with a common component I have on hand it goes in the parts bins now. #### ian field Joined Oct 27, 2012 6,536 I think that the arrival of SMT components (and of course, MCU's) has been used by the industry as a fulcrum to reach this situation. It's been both a blessing and a curse. SMD has been around since about the 70s - I remember flatpack ICs on boards with square holes punched to accomodate the IC packages. The main motivation was reduce size in computers with many stacks of boards, and probably the space program. #### jpanhalt Joined Jan 18, 2008 11,088 I think there is a relatively clear line between, for example, major medical equipment and the owned family car. The former has evolved into a largely leased arrangement. The manufacturer maintains ownership, and the user pays lease and usage-based fees that include service. If you lease a car, maybe the same principle applies. But if you own a car, that is a different story. There are plenty of honest repair shops, but the refusal by auto manufacturers to allow access to all diagnostic codes and parts at a fair market price is anti-competitive. Since medical supplies have been mentioned, let me give an anecdote from many years ago. In the early 1970's, a well known diagnostics company was pre-eminent in making instruments for doing hematocrits, hemoglobins, and basic blood counts. It sold the instruments, but then wanted to retain its hold on the reagent market. First it said that using reagents (e.g, saline) from other vendors voided all warranties, and it would not service the instruments. That approach did not do well in the courts. Then it tried changing the shape of its reagent packs and the instrument reagent compartments so only its packs would fit. Of course, it tried to copyright/patent the pack design. That approach didn't sit well with the courts either. That has been one of the major driving forces in medical instrumentation moving to leased arrangements. I fail to see why the diagnostics company was subject to anti-competitive litigation, while the auto manufacturers seem to get by Scott free for cars they sell (i.e, doesn't retain ownership). Could it be the auto manufacturers have higher paid lobbyists? John #### DNA Robotics Joined Jun 13, 2014 624 I worked at a Cadillac dealer about 10 years ago. Most of the work was warranty and paid very little. Those mechanics used educated guesses to diagnose instead of taking time to prove a part bad. They just ordered the most likely part. If that didn't fix it, they ordered something else. That is okay for warranty work but they did that with customer pay jobs too. How do you explain to a customer that a$500.00 part didn't fix it so now we will order a $300.00 part? The customers had to keep paying parts and labor until they guessed right. Many times I heard that the cost of repairs exceeded the value of the car so the customer declined. I thought Cadillac would be a class act. I guess not. I figured out that if you want to make money repairing things, you have to work on things that are worth fixing. I went back to a gravy job repairing multi-million dollar yachts. #### nigelwright7557 Joined May 10, 2008 532 Yep. I would be Ford's worst nightmare if I could crack their engine computer. In the 1990's I was given a tune up add on off a Ford to try and crack. It was potted so the first job was to dissolve the potting. Inside was a ULA and an EPROM. It turned out the ULA was just a couple of counters for reading the EPROM with increment address signal. I managed to copy the ULA and we made out own add on. It was fun testing out the system on a Ford Escort Cosworth. I also had a go at designing an ECU for a Honda motorbike. Just about had it working when they shut down the project. #### Tonyr1084 Joined Sep 24, 2015 6,861 If advertising that an item was "easy to repair" would sell more units Advertising such might make the consumer think they might HAVE to repair something. Who'd want to buy that. But I hear what's being said about availability of parts. Mom bought a new GE Washing machine - a smart machine with on board diagnostics. It began acting up - agitating the whole drum rather than just the agitator. The problem according to the OBD was a failed mode shift coil. The repair guy wanted$400 to repair it. Repair meant replacing the entire mechanical drive system because GE did not sell just the "Two Bolt bolt on" mode shift coil. So she was going to scrap a new machine, hardly used and buy new. I said "Let me have a look at it." Sure enough, the mode shift coil was open. After calling around to many suppliers I realized the only way to get anything was to order the $135.00 mechanical unit. And I did NOT want to remove the tub and deconstruct the whole thing just for the sake of a coil that was bolted on with just two bolts. So I took it off and cut the swaged rivets off and had a look. The coil was pristine. No sign of heat anywhere. Nothing to indicate why it would have gone open. I first suspected a faulty connection, but when I looked, the wires were still soldered on, shiny and bright. So I checked the fusible link. THERE! Found the "Open". Did some math and decided that they put a protective device in the circuit that was rated at 102% of normal operation. Now, you all know better than to put a 16 volt capacitor on a 16 volt circuit. Why would you engineer with a 2% margin? Answer - to sell more parts. Well, I went to Radio Shack and got a new fusible link for less than$2.00. As close a rating as I could get was approximately 120% of normal duty. Put that in and the machine has worked flawlessly since.

Why they don't advertise their parts are easily repaired is because if they put the idea of repair in your mind, 95% of the population doesn't know HOW to repair things. They'd be selling to just 5% of the pop. Built in obsolescence has been a thing since the 70's (that I know of). More and more we live in a "Throw-away society". Disposable lighters for instance. You can hardly find refillable lighters now-a-days. You CAN find them, but they're not common place. For a while they even talked about disposable cars. But people didn't like the idea of a car that would be used up too soon.

I'm of the "Fix it if I can - within reason" mentality too. But we're a rare breed. Most people will throw something out because it quit working. Found a metal detector in the trash. It's only fault? A broken wire on the speaker. Nothing more.

Oh well. Society is doomed to end up in a land fill.

#### wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
17,167
I'm of the "Fix it if I can - within reason" mentality too. But we're a rare breed. Most people will throw something out because it quit working. Found a metal detector in the trash. It's only fault? A broken wire on the speaker. Nothing more.

Oh well. Society is doomed to end up in a land fill.
I've often thought a lot of value could be generated by having otherwise-idle people (prisoners, for instance, but also the chronically unemployed) learn to fix the stuff that's on its way to the dump for lack of a simple fix. It's a fact of life that a lot of "good stuff" will be thrown out by people too busy, rich or stupid to make those simple fixes. But it's also a fact that one man's trash is another's treasure.

The internet and sites like E-Bay and Craigslist have gone a long way to repurpose used junk. I think much more could be done at the local level. Put the idle to work. Give them useful training, a sense of purpose, and a share of the profits. It would start with a team that goes around in front of the trash trucks, to grab potential projects before the scrappers get there.