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Why Consumers Need Service and Repair Choice — and the Aftermarket

Our industry needs to let our legislatures know how important Right to Repair is for consumers — and us

Editor’s note: Paul E. Grech owned the former San Franciso shop, Allied Engine & Auto Repair, before retiring. In this column series, Grech shares his experiences as a shop owner.

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) is leading an effort to make sure we have access to the information that we need to work on our customers’ vehicles through Right to Repair legislation. We went through this before in 1994 when I was asked to try to get some publicity on this by the director of Automotive Service Councils of California, John Goodman.

Paul Grech

I always tell people that I never had to go look for opportunity, opportunity always came knocking on my door. As it happened, the very next day there was a news article on how not to get taken for a ride when getting a appliance repaired. I called the reporter and told him about how car manufacturers wanted to deny us access to repair information. Why did I care, he asked?

It isn’t about David and Goliath.
It’s about the consumer having a place to go for service and repair other than a dealership — which is us, the aftermarket auto repair industry. Well, the news truck was at my shop in a half hour and we got the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle that year in 1994.

Shortly thereafter, the manufacturers decided to let us have the access. I am bringing this up because the fight still remains today.

Here are a few examples of how it hurts the consumer.

• A buddy of mine had a no-start one morning, took it to a dealer and was told it was $7,500 just to diagnose it. Talk about sticker shock. The next day he took to an independent garage and got it fixed for $75. The problem? Clogged fuel injectors.

• In a recent online video, the owner of a very high-end European sports car had noise in the rear brakes and took it to a dealer. The service advisor said he needed new brakes and quoted price for new pads and rotors that was $16,000 (not a typo error). He declined the estimate and decided he was going to do the work himself. He ordered the parts, started to do the job and discovered his brakes were just fine —  but the heads of the bolts that held the rotors to the axle flange had broken off, causing the noise.

• In 1982 I bought a 1980 Ford station wagon with an extended, mandated emission warranty. So, I took it to the dealer wearing my overalls and instead got a $1,200 estimate. I left. I had just signed up for a new diagnostic repair service and, for $35 phone call, was told a $10 part and an hour of labor would do the trick.

Those stories are perfect examples of why the consumer needs a place to go to for a second opinion, and the need for the industry to let our legislatures know how important Right to Repair is for us and consumers.

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