Many years ago my son purchased a rather "high end" camera used. It quit working after a few weeks and he took it to a camera shop to see if he could get it repaired. They informed him that it was an internal computer problem and that he would need to pay quite a bit, in advance, for them to even evaluate the camera. A very unhappy son brought the camera to me to see if there was any hope of my fixing it. The first area that I opened exposed a wire that had become unsoldered from the stainless steel surface that it had been attached to. I resoldered the wire using an aesy trick that I had learned about soldering to stailess steel, put it back together, and returned it to him to see if that had fixed it. The camera worked perfectly from then until it was replaced by a digital camera ten years later.
From this we learn that many folks claiming to be able to diagnose problems not only lack the skill to correctly interpret the symptoms, but, far worse, they lack the integrity to admit that they don't have a clue about it.
As for automotive software or firmware, most of what we would repair does not need any information about the internal code or algorithms, since it is usually a hardware problem. Except for microsoft brand produts, software seldom breaks. All that I usually require is a circuit diagram and possibly the "truth table" for any complex switches, and what voltages should be in any external analog connections.
Your recent comment in this blog is very well put! I also believe that not everyone should repair their own equipment, but those of us who DO have significant electro-mechanical ability should NOT be barred from doing so after the sale. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't think that the core of this new MA. law is to make the firmware of the engine control computer available as a download to JOHN Q. PUBLIC, as some have suggested, I see no harm in the "manufacturing for repair" concept.
Modern-day manufacturing has become so automated that I believe it is one of the reasons why we no longer are inclined to repair an item. For example, I recently had a CANON EOS 50D camera body fail. The unit wasn't that old, but the CANON warranty had expired. I took it to an independent photography sales/service outlet with whom I've done business for many years. The proprietor told me that he would have to send it to CANON for repair, as he was not able to diagnose and/or replace the main circuit "board". Evidently, CANON uses computers to repair their camera models. This fellow has been servicing cameras of several makes for several decades, but even he isn't technically able to repair the latest models. I found that explanation VERY DISHEARTENING!
William K, right you are. I had the same problem with a TV. Although the front-panel light flashed some sort of error code, I never could find any info about what it signified or how to get it serviced. Of course we don't know this when we make a purchase. On the other hand, when I buy a Sears Kenmore appliance I know I can get service information and spare parts. We live in an imperfect world.
One more concern is that one community near where I live has decided that residents are not allowed to replace their failed water heaters themselves. The demand is that the work must be done by a licensed plumber. The law was passed without consulting the residents, so it certainly looks like a cozy deal with the local plumbers. Replacing a water heater is a quite simple task, the only real challenge is removing the failed unit.
Of course, it is true that there are some folks who should not try to replace the water heater, but most of those people should not handle any tool sharper than a soup spoon.
What I find most interesting is that this discussion seems to be limited to automobiles. Clearly, repair parts should be available for purchase to all, but only after the warranty on having them replaced for free has expired. That would protect the competitive edge, and possibly improve the warranties a bit.
How about service information on other items that we buy, like TV sets and other electronics. Service parts are simply not available to any except "authorized service" organizations, and those folks are so proud of their talent that few can afford it. I can't get any service information about internal adjustments on my 2 year old TV, and I am certainly not going to just discard it, since it was not a cheap one. Nor are any service parts available, not even knobs and cabinet parts.
So you may read all about this brand and model in the "monkey" section in a few weeks.
Really, no service information or even source for parts is available for th vast majority of products that we purchase these days. The problem is not jus with cars.
Special tools for Fords are generally sold under the Rotunda name. If you look at your Ford Workshop Manual (which you should have- I can tell you where to buy one if you need it- you won't like the price), you will see lots of references to Rotunda part numbers for special tools. Required tools are typically listed at the beginning of each procedure in manuals for late-model vehicles.
Rotunda tools are available online at rotunda.spx.com. They will sell you any tool they offer, which should cover most of your Ford specialty tool needs. The Rotunda site has a nice feature (if you want a long list): it can give you a listing of all available tools for your vehicle (search by year, make, and model).
While your local Ford dealers may not be very helpful (mine aren't either) (passing the law won't force them to sell you anything), I am, so if you need a particular tool, post the information and I will look it up for you.
Keep in mind that special tools are NOT CHEAP! In some cases, the tool would cost more than having the work done by a dealer.
I can tell you from my own personal experience that not all tools are made available to the shade tree mechanics like myself. More common tools are usually available from the after-market auto parts retailers. But the very specialized tools are not readily available. I had parts departments in three seperate dealerships refuse to sell me a specialized tool for my Ford truck. They all pointed out that they sold the tool to their own mechanics, but would not sell to me because I was not a factory authorized repair facility. I eventually had to fabricate the tool myself.
In this case, as Ford has a monopoly on the tool, I do not believe they have the right to refuse my request to purchase it. If the tool is considered proprietary, they can patent or copyright it as appropriate and maintain their ownership of the design.
So I hope the bill passes. It will be better for all of us.
By the way I maintain my four cars myself. A mix of Ford and GM vehicles. Do everything up to major engine overhaul.
TexasTJ: A great example of what you're talking about is the Toyota floor mat situation. It's not even a repair. But if the owner uses an "uncompliant" floor mat, or stacks eight floormats around the accelerator pedal (as one owner did), it's Toyota's fault for not taking that into account during the design stage.
Market forces say people in New York City should have access to more taxi cabs. But they don't because the taxi companies have a monopoly created by pressure on legislators to limit taxi medallions. So, market forces don't always make consumers winners.
The same thing happens in many markets. Few people will buy a car or truck based on whether or not they can repair it themselves. But those who want to do their own repairs should have the opportunity. I never advocated giving consumers access to source code or design information, but if they want to work on a vehicle they should have access to the tools and information the dealers have.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.