Right to Repair

In this video, Louis Rossman talks about how contractual vendor lock-in is affecting the US military:

Then there’s this comment below the video:

While it’s a valid concern, I don’t see RtR affecting operations in the maritime industry anytime soon. The ability to immediately rectify problems is one of the key criteria when specifying ship’s machinery, and it lies in the very nature of the relationship between the Chief and OEM, that the crew receives all possible assistance to limit downtime. The idea of a system designed specifically to prevent the crew from repairing it is utterly mad.

However, I’ve spent the bulk of my working life as a small craft mechanic, and it’s a different world, both for the recreational and professional sectors. Since the advent of electronic control systems, access to the diagnostic tools has been strictly limited by OEMs, but since they’re mostly using derivatives of J1939, it has been relatively easy to by-pass for someone in the know. I have not been personally affected by John Deere’s infamous move to encrypt the diagnostics communication for the sole purpose of locking out shade tree mechanics, but it is a harbinger of things to come.

Meanwhile, more and more things are getting gated off. Volvo Penta have a long standing tradition of making things difficult for third parties, and the rest of the world is catching up. Mercury / Mercruiser’s already mature line of digital instruments hide diagnostic codes from the operator for no discernible reason, only giving you a generalized “Check Engine” fault. Recent Japanese multi-functional instruments have most of the menus hidden behind a code that you have to sign an NDA for. We’re not just talking service timer resets, either. For example, the newest Yanmar MFD’s are fully capable of configuring all the driveline parameters, such as slipper clutch calibration. That may come in very handy if you experience loss of drive, but it’s been locked off.

The underlying problem is that restricting repair ability makes good business sense. There are some counter arguments, such as the loss of good standing affecting sales, but they don’t hold up in the real world. I would love to live in a place where acting honorably (according to my personal values) brings you to the top, but we don’t. Can I fault the executives for making decisions that best uphold their responsibility towards the shareholders? Not really, that’s just how the machine works. Still, I feel free to pass my judgement, and I find the practice morally reprehensible.

This is indeed one of those cases where a touch of regulation wouldn’t go amiss.


I was buying a UTV for the farm. I looked at a Polaris but as soon as they told me it wasn’t ready for sale as it had to be sent to the city for diagnostics. I left it there and bought a Bobcat with straight forward electronics.

USA has right to repair laws regarding automobiles. The OEM must make available all information (including ability to flash modules to upgrade software) to any end user for a nominal fee.

If the US military can’t fix its own stuff, it is due to the complete failure of the contracting officer OR it’s due to corruption.

This didn’t used to be the case, Ekman writes. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the US military kept the rights to the technology it developed, including the knowledge and specialized training required to perform advanced mechanical repairs. In the 1990s, however, these policies changed. Fed up with exploding costs and long tech development times, Congress passed laws encouraging the military to adopt COTS — Commercial Off the Shelf hardware — wherever and whenever possible. The goal was to speed the procurement process and reduce both the price and the time required for R&D. But the consequence of these changes has apparently been a weakening of the government’s ability to negotiate exceptions to things like warranty and commercial repair demands.

except working out how to flash means you have breached copyrights on that software
BUT there has been an ongoing exception to that for cars that the manufacturers want to close now that you car has one box and it controls everything.

Do we make our own patches for any other software…
Lets start doing Boeings…

I’ll let you go do some research so you can learn about how it really works. It is available straight from the OEM (like GM) to do legally: GM Service Repair Programming | ACDelco TechConnect - YouTube


Lots of products out there to do this. And the other engines aren’t as locked down as made out to be in this thread. Most people are just too lazy to do the research and learn what is required to work on electronic engines.

the few OEM engineers that I have known over the years are all telling me the EPA was always pushing them to lock down the computers to prevent the emissions being changed thats why it was done in the past.
Now they are worried about modifications and liability after accidents

Curious. Care to substantiate? Are you disputing that manufacturers mess with timings and signal levels so that reading DTCs requires specialized interface units? Or that they refuse to sell the requisite equipment to end users? Or that they refuse to sell you the software? Or that important functionality gets locked away behind codes I’m not allowed to share with the customer? Or that any re-flash that touches the base map requires the ECU to be sent back to the NSO of most OEMs, because they’re not allowed to share the map files with me?

I’ve spent a substantial amount of time figuring out how to work on electronic engines, including lots of pricey factory training. I’m not making this up. I can fix anything given an oscilloscope and enough time, but that’s beside the point, because it’s not a very competitive service. The fact remains that there is a consistent shift among all major manufacturers to make repairs more difficult for third parties, as repairability as a sales tool is losing importance in relation to maintaining aftermarket earnings. Refuting this is going to require more than just calling me out as lazy and unkowledgeable.

Quite aside from all of that, I rather like Deboss Garage’s take on the subject (not that I know much about the US auto industry):

We might as well make it a Chevy vs Ford thread :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

BRP and their Evinrudes have been forced to lock up the ecu map and hence nobody cracked it yet

They have been successful in that at least partially because they use a proprietary design, necessitated by the high power driver stage. Brunswick have a similar policy, but rumor has it that someone with intimate knowledge of the Motorola 555 can tease out the details and make any modification they want.

Merc actually allow some dealers to reprogram the 555 and lots of others do it as well.
The new 4 stroke V8 outboards might be different though?

I’m allowed (in fact required) to reflash, but not if the change affects the base map. I think that is an EPA thing, same as how they are required to block off the mixture adjustment screw on carbs, which is valid enough in a certain light.
There’s no policy change that I’m aware of. However, the salient question is if they seek to assist or hinder third parties in performing such tasks, and that is clear enough.

somewhere along the line the software has been de compiled to flash it and thats the breach of copyright unless you have some agreement

Fixing codes is one thing as you say and changing the map is another, same for BRP

I feel you/powerabout and I are discussing separate topics. I believe “right to repair” is just that, the ability to REPAIR. I am not speaking of changing fuel maps, HP upgrades, timing changes, option changes, or any other parameter change. By REPAIR I mean, view sensor and engine data, view error codes, reset codes, and possibly update or flash PCMs to the newest version of software released by the OEM.

I am able to repair my large fleet of cars using an aftermarket Snap-on scanner I bought used off eBay for $500. It showed me enough data to find a faulting transmission input speed sensor on a Toyota. It can view many specific OEM parameters and even change some on various brands of automobiles. This allows me to REPAIR. If I want to FLASH, I can use a system like drewtech and then buy a short subscription to the OEM site to download the appropriate files to flash a module.

Now, regarding offroad or marine equipment. The are varying degrees of what’s available, but lets use Cummins as an example. The OEM cummins insight program looks to be around $1200 (first vendor I found) https://www.diesellaptops.com/products/cummins-insite-v8-lite-12-month-license

An interface is required, but this is standardized. One option is cummins “inline” adapters, but there are many other manufacturers (including chinese clones) that will work on the mostly standard protocols (j1939, etc): https://www.cummins.com/parts-and-service/digital-products-and-services/inline

Cat has it’s own flavor of stuff, and I’m sure volvo does too. Companies package these products that allow varying level of service, but it’s about REPAIR, not reprogram: https://marinediagnostictools.com/products/texa-dealer-level-marine-diagnostic-scanner-tool-full-coverage

I am with you but when there are fuel system repairs it gets into grey areas.
Last I heard from guys running cats on board was they could do very little so any fault caused a call out to CAT?

OBD2 is a really lovely thing, and power to Cummins for making their software available. However, neither Honda, Yanmar, Brunswick, BRP, VP, nor any other brands I’ve worked with do, and John Deere recently went so far as to put down a serious roadblock. This is a very real problem.

As for repair vs reprogram, I’d argue the case that there’s a whole litany of repairs requiring a reflash, but it’s beside the point. Sure, let them reserve those edge cases for their in-house guys, encrypt the tables so I can’t get to them, whatever. This is about restricting access to diagnostic information, and a whole bunch of other anti-repair measures as referenced by Louis Rossman.

its the EPA that forced all this on the manufacturers
EPA did force OBD for cars so you do have viewing access not sure what the truck and marine rules were?

What software do you speak of? What are you trying to do?

I’ve heard this works pretty well for Honda work: http://www.brpdiagnostics.com/honda-dr-h-outboard-diagnostic/

Regarding John Deere, here is what google found me (I only repeat the info here, no personal experience). The good news is that modern engines are very reliable and it is rare that more than a sensor needs to be changed to address an issues…of course this is assuming some clueless ass doesn’t damage wiring or connectors.

John Deere Diagnostics

John Deere has recently been in the news because of their strict opposition to allowing farmers, equipment owners, and repair shops access to the information they need to repair and maintain their vehicles. If you read the main stream news, you would be left to believe that John Deere diagnostic with a computer is impossible. Well, we are here to help dispel that myth and give some more exposure to some tools that actually do perform diagnostics on John Deere. There are actually several solutions in the market, some of which we will cover in this post.

All these tools cost money, but so do wrenches and sockets…

Ummm… my day job?

“Pretty well” would not be my adjective of choice. Quirky would be a gross understatement, and fails to convey the Engrishness. It almost seems like they designed it so you would need factory training…

I’ve heard of those grey market sites, and really appreciate what they’re doing. There is no better way to stick it to the man in this case than to reverse engineer his tech. I wonder if that’s a genuine bit of kit from a dealer crazy enough to risk his affiliation, or one of the counterfeit units that have been turning up?

As for the possibility to by-pass this BS, I alluded to that in the original post, and there are far better alternatives out there than counterfeit OEM solutions. MEDS comes highly recommended, but is rather pricey, so I never bought it for myself.

Since you came into this discussion slandering my work ethic, I’m happy you followed up with a gem like that.

Are you a snowflake? Or do you truly believe every word written on the internet is directed at you?

I never commented on you, your work ethic, or your knowledge. This is a discussion about “Right to REPAIR”. This is the internet, nobody cares about you or your work ethic…WTF?