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Does your mechanic have the data needed to fix your car?

As more independent mechanics say manufacturers deny them access to data, states debate 'right to repair' laws.

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To uncover many car problems at his four Massachusetts and Rhode Island repair shops, Stan Morin exchanges small gifts with friends at local dealerships. It's not that Mr. Morin or his mechanics lack the qualifications to diagnose car troubles, rather they say they can't get the same service information provided to dealerships.

Morin spends thousands of dollars a year to subscribe to manufacturer websites, but his diagnostic reports sometimes have nearly 20 pages less than those provided to dealers – pages that can mean the difference between finding the problem or referring the customer to another shop. So, he's forced to barter with dealership mechanics for access to their computerized diagnostic tools to keep his customers. "I need to do what I need to do to survive as a businessman," says Morin.

Many independent mechanics charge that, as cars have become more advanced, manufacturers have limited their access to engine computers, impeding repairs and forcing drivers to seek the help of an authorized dealership. That could lead to higher prices for repairs, mechanics say, a prospect to which they say drivers already pumping more of their paychecks into their cars should pay attention. Manufacturers insist that mechanics are given all the information required to make repairs and only stopped from accessing sensitive information, such as part blueprints or security information.

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