Do You Have the Right to Repair and Modify Your Own Vehicle? Should You?

ToolsYes. Next question? -- Unfortunately, there are those who don't agree and in the past few days the discussion of whether you and I should be able to fix or modify things we own has been getting a lot more attention. Right now, cellphones are the issue, there's quite a debate and some pending legislation dealing with "unlocking" phones so you can use them on any network you choose, service providers don't like it much, while some owners want the option, but, as noted by many, it goes far beyond cellphones. No matter where you look, but especially in the new vehicles you buy, trouble codes, diagnostics and detailed service information are often very hard to come by meaning the manufacturer has a lock on repairs, a very profitable lock.

We've all seen the "no user serviceable parts inside" label affixed to some sealed cover that voids the warranty if opened, I always read the label as "what you need to fix is in here," but service professionals employed by the manufacturer often quickly call out the unskilled owner as unqualified to work on his own device, which may very well be true, but does that mean he shouldn't be able to try?

Copyright, but what about liability?

Much of this centers around copyright issues, who invested the time and money upfront, designed the hardware and firmware, who wrote the software and who gets to use that knowledge to advantage servicing what others can't?

The other discussions I've seen and the comments following them fall pretty clearly on the side of allowing everyone to work on whatever he buys, and I fall into that crowd, ... BUT, what those others don't think about is responsibility, or more to the point, liability, if their repairs and modifications go wrong.

I used to work as a field engineer on extremely complex medical diagnostic equipment. We repaired it down to component level on printed circuit boards, a task we could not have done without detailed schematics and sophisticated diagnostic software, no matter how good we were with a soldering iron and oscilloscope. Independent service organizations had a very difficult time repairing that equipment without the proprietary service information we had. It was a high profit service business, kinda like a dealer service department.

There's a persuasive case to be made on both sides of this issue, in my case, I was highly trained by the company on the specific equipment, had the best tools available and received constant service bulletins of known issues. Periodic retraining kept my skills up to date and I had factory parts when needed, why would anyone want to go anywhere else? Sound familiar?

Equipment owners and independent repair organizations said their techs could repair the equipment just as well if they had the service manuals and software to diagnose the problem, but they didn't develop the software, design the equipment or write the manuals.

With freedom comes responsibility

While much of the discussion centers around whether you really own something if you're not allowed inside to tweak, tune, fix or modify it, the closely related issue is who is held responsible if someone is hurt because the repair wasn't done right. Many of us who are firmly on the side of freedom to do as we please while accepting responsibility for what we do, are not the only group out there. There are those who want this freedom to do as they please while quite ready to pursue legal action against someone else if their own work doesn't measure up. In the medical field where I worked, it was a pretty clear danger, people could die if a misdiagnosis resulted from equipment that didn't work right, but what if your vehicle careens out of control and runs down several pedestrians? 1-800-lawyers is standing by. A manufacturer is usually the deep pocketed party and they are a great target, so, controlling the service work by controlling access to the service documentation and software as much as possible can make a lot of sense.

While cellphone unlocking is unlikely to have deadly results, some poorly done repairs on vehicles just might. Our lawyered up society where so many want to point the finger, even when they were at fault, seems to be one more hazard, along with the above mentioned copyright issues, jeopardizing our long tradition of working on our own stuff. I am very firmly in the camp of believing we should have access to whatever repair information is necessary and be free to do our own repairs, but the issue can get muddy. Copyright claims, liability issues and, of course, the constant battle against blatant copies of your new product being built elsewhere, certainly a lot easier if the technical and repair info is available, means hands on work is getting to be a minefield these days.

So where do you guys come down on this, and why? I know there are several attorneys who frequent The Kneeslider, your take on this would be interesting, too.

Link: Wired magazine


  1. scritch says

    Paul, I’m right with you here. I made a previous comment in response to California banning some types of modifications in order to preserve air quality, and I believe California has a right to do so in order to keep people who want to “privatize their benefits” (more horsepower) but “socialize the costs” (air pollution), if only because so many people will not take the care or get the knowledge to do it the right way. In a perfect world, though, we all should be allowed to modify any item that we purchase, as long as those modifications don’t present a threat to others.

    One example: I had a friend who hopped up his car, but did a very good job, resulting in a more powerful engine and cleaner-burning, too. The state of Washington wouldn’t pass his car on the emissions test, though, because he had modified the original equipment. This guy wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he took the state of Washington on, and got the ruling changed. Now the test measures emissions, and they don’t even look under the hood anymore. This is the way it should be.

    We don’t live in a perfect world, though, and there are lots of people who are going to hack away at stuff, hang the consequences. So there will be laws to protect society from these bodgers, and all we can do is to push back for responsible freedom where it really matters.

    • LeChatNoir says

      Couldn’t agree more.
      no governing body outside of a race sanctioning organization should look into the engine or even at the engine, provided it has the emissions level the car was certified with or better. It is my tax dollars at work and my desire to have a better performing whatever, it passes the sniffer, it has no engine codes- what problem is there? none- so back off.
      my problem with Smog Test only stations in california is these bozos invariable touch something under the hood, and thus compromise something that was working. whether it is on purpose or not, all it needs to do is pass exhaust emissions.
      even my motorcycles, leave them alone, stupid ‘evap canister’ gets fuel in it backs up and plugs the vent, no start condition. who does this benefit?
      the manufacturer when i tow it in and lose a day of work/ commuting and money to replace?
      It is so beautiful in California yet the politics and regulations are making me look elsewhere to live…

    • dan says

      Wow great comment! I know BMW motorcycles have a memory so they can tell how high you revved the engine and all that. That’s great! More power to them for protecting their warranty claims!

    • Spamtasticus says

      Interesting concept of cost bennefit. I wonder how people on here will feel when the rest of the population wisen up and realize motorcycling as a whole is a “privatized bennefit” with a “socialized cost” that is now mandated on everyone by our federal government.

      • says

        Great comment!

        “Socialized cost” is what happens when the population of individuals are taxed against their wills and forced by threat of violence to comply with the demands of a few who use gov’t as their bludgeon to achieve their “privatized benefit” of controlling the population under their politically-motivated whims.

        • spectator says

          @TY Your comment makes no sense gramatically but I’m gathering that you fundamentally misunderstand the functioning of our REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY. It’s only slightly short of pure majority rule. If you don’t like what your representatives are doing at a MUNICIPAL STATE or FEDERAL level. Vote for someone else. Tell others why they should vote for someone else. Run yourself if you think you can get support for your position. Unless you believe in the Cabal, at which point, find mental health specialist in cult deprogramming.

      • Paul Crowe says

        No it isn’t, he pays for more gas if he chooses to do so or he drives less. You and I do not. Since there are no infinite resources, the price mechanism is how scarce resources are allocated to those who are willing to pay for them and it signals everyone to adjust their usage or find alternatives. Prices also provide incentives to produce more of those alternatives.

        If a lot of owners continue to hop up their car, it’s also a signal to manufacturers that more power is important to a large number of consumers and they’ll pay for it, so producers make cars with more power. No central planning mechanism is necessary, just millions of individual decisions.

        • Doug says

          I wrote that in terms of the argument of emissions & air resource. So, what difference is there between an air resource vs. an oil resource? Each resource could be affected by a modification depending on who does the mod. In the example cited above he managed to make it cleaner burning.
          If people are requires to maintain mpg while hotrodding, they’ll find a way. The Automakers continue to do it

        • Chris W says

          “Since there are no infinite resources”

          You forgot stupidity, it’s a bottomless pit of resource & it’s those people that the so called do gooders are trying to protect us from.

          The reality is is Big Corporations flexing their muscles, as the stupid system we live under demands increased profits EVERY year, we all know that’s impossible, so they ahve to find ways to make it continue as long as possible. No owner maintenance is one of those ways.

          In Europe the Corporates forced through the CE standard, that basically says you can’t make & sell anything in the EU unless it is CE certified. OK sounds good from safety point of view, but it costs approximately 10K Euro to get something certified, how does thos help small companies that make & sell 10’s or 100’s of low cost items, as a sideline. So they have to stop making or selling items that are NOT available from the big corporates & by reducing the profitability of aftermarket parts, the corporates are assured parts sales with fixed pricing in their favour !

          Reject it if you can.

  2. rohorn says

    I was always taught that the system of government where people are free to own (stuff) but the government (Or government contracted entity) controls the (stuff) is called “Fascism”.

    I really wish the fascists and their media cheerleaders would at least be honest about it.

    But I wouldn’t worry about it. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to modify your motorcycle all you want – you just won’t be able to ride it anymore – it has been determined that doing so is too big a strain on the health care budget.

  3. says

    I don’t have a lot of insight on intellectual property and things of that nature but what’s to stop manufacturers of all things from putting a EULA (end user license agreement) on everything they make like what’s done with software? Could an automobile or moto company do that and what would the ramifications be? A purchaser would be purchasing a license to use the product in a way defined by the license right?

    • Spamtasticus says

      Read the eua on your car software, you are already forbidden from transfering it to someone else. Technically you cant legaly sell your car or motorcycle. The manufacturers are just not enforcing this because they have not found a way to not have it blow up in their faces yet. But this is because of the public’s perception of ownership rights and those are slowly being eroded so its just a matter of time. Just look at what is happening with cell phones and videogames. You cant unlock your cellphone and EA’s latest sim city is always connected to the internet specifically so you can never resell the game.

  4. says

    According to MCN – 22 November 2012:

    “Motorcycles producing over 47bhp have escaped EU plans to make bikes impossible for owners to modify. European Parliament has voted in favour of limiting so-called anti-tampering measures to smaller machines. All new bikes over 125cc will get ABS under the regulation approved by MEPs. Smaller machines can have combined brakes instead. The anti-tampering measures aim to prevent modifications of bikes which fall under the 47bhp limit for new ‘A2’ licence holders from next year. Bikes will get so-called on-board diagnostic systems capable of registering modifications as faults to be rectified by a mechanic.”

    EU Big Brother will be monitoring ANY changes that we make to our motorbikes very soon, like putting on a chrome high-flow K&N air filter or fitting a nice Yoshimura exhaust can. Art.18 also means that bikers will not be able to customise their bikes in anyway or use cheaper (still safe & approved) ‘after market’ parts or change the profile of their tyres. Custom motorbikes will have had their day…

    • J.Smith says

      I think the issue there is slightly a different one. The problem with the current A1 and A2 license, and the future A2 license, is that it allows new riders to only ride bikes with a maximum power output. So technically if your bike is producing 47 bph stock, and you modify the exhaust, and it then produces 49 bph, you aren’t legally allowed to ride it. That means, if you crash, the insurance will do all they can to not pay. that includes checking if you modded your bike. they will spot the aftermarket exhaust, and then it’ll be tough luck for the rider, especially if he involved someone else in the accident. So in a way this also protects the rider. personally I do think it is a bit extreme that you won’t even be allowed to chain the air filter for example. but as I see it, it only applies to the future A2. So you just have to live with it for a couple years, get the A3, so you can then modify your bike with LEGAL & APPROVED for your bike aftermarket components if you so wish. (of course this usually breaks the warranty if your bike is still new)

      • Paulinator says

        I just about got clobbered in France by a kid on a highly tuned moped once. I was crossing the street in a small town and this boy-racer appeared literally out of nowhere as he rounded the corner on the high side of 50 mph. He had that bike leaning like an Italian cruise ship.

        • Nicolas says

          I visited a french scooter/moped manufacturer some years ago, an engineer on the assembly line pointed at this little tube protruding from the exhaust pipe, and explained that this was used to limit the flow in the exhaust, and contributing to limit the speed of the scooter per the regulations/law in place (they ain’t supposed to ride at more than ~20 mph or so). But he also said that this was designed to be accessible : you pinch the tube right at the junction with the exhaust pipe and gain 10-15 mph right there… The OEM has to comply with laws and regulations but also knows that nobody would buy their products if they can’t easily be tweaked to go fast …

        • ADG says

          Haha! When I was 15 in the early 80’s I had a Moto Becane moped, that had a re-stricter washer spot welded inside the muffler, and would only do 30mph per gov regulations. I took a short length of re-bar and single-jack hammer and beat that sucker out. 50mph instantly!….and my first ticket for speeding in a residential zone and evading the police!

          I hauled ass across sidewalks-lawns-curbs and found a garage with the swing door open. Went inside and shut the door, only to have it open with two cops and the home owners standing outside. The good old days!

          • Paulinator says

            Ya that was good fun. I built my kids a go-kart that leaned like a jet. It had an instrument panel and lights and a useless little wind-screen. The kids and their friends scrubbed the wheels off that kart. My neighbor was a cop, but he never said a thing :)

  5. Cowpieapex says

    Though I come to Kneeslider primarily for the delight of meeting brilliant individuals like Big Ned creator Mark Walker I find it fascinating when you draw back the lens to take in these broader issues in our complex world of motorcycling.

    The question you ask actually involves three spheres, the commercial / legal interests of the manufacturers, the public interests expressed through government, and the private interests of myself the owner or user.

    You point out the interests the manufacturer has in limiting liability but, true success for a product can be enhanced by making one that can be tailored by the individual to become more of an expression of their needs and desires. In the world of motorcycles this is how Harley Davidson has built a dominant market position. I also suspect that such an impetus lay behind Suzuki’s trouble with CARB that you brought up in an earlier post .This is an example of how the marketplace dynamically resists regulatory domination. There is a clear reward for giving the people what they want.

    In over 30 years of riding I have been acutely aware of the public interest side of this question. In my youth I rode only imports because the “outlaws” in our area rode American bikes exclusively. Even riding in the company of a chopper would be to invite a multi-unit police detention, (stop and frisk, anyone?) I clearly remember a town in Oregon where the city limits sign stated “this is a quiet community, no motorcycles”. Clearly today, in the area of modified exhausts, most existing regulations are completely ignored often before the motorcycle leaves the showroom floor. This level of liberty will only last as long as a majority of Americans like what they hear. In Europe there is a very active and contentious debate raging over Euro-zone wide anti tampering laws which would even prohibit owner maintenance. In Germany the unadulterated freedom of the unlimited autobahn is leavened by extremely restrictive regulations that not only outlaw modification but even levels of wear that are typical of American vehicles.

    Finally and ultimately then we come to interests of the owner, the guy who pays the freight. The sophistication of the new technologies available to us today does indeed set a higher bar for owner modification and repair. We can see though in such new initiatives as the Motus V4 an understanding that we want to be engaged beyond simply buying and consuming. As long as we persist in selecting products that we can enhance and refurbish for better and longer use, the marketplace will respond by leaving “black box” products behind.

    For all three of these reasons forums such as yours, Paul, are a vital asset in maintaining a populace that persists in “making”. The opportunity to share knowledge and ideas is the most powerful aspect of this medium and today’s hackers are blood kin of the hot rodders of our youth.

  6. Rick says

    Ahh regulation & control. Where will it all end? No private transportation other than feet, no means of protecting ourselves. We will all be sitting in our rooms drinking victory gin, afraid to talk or look at each other, all the while under the watchful eye of the telescreen.

    • B*A*M*F says

      At least we’ll still have gin. Hopefully some victory limes and tonic to go with it.

  7. FREEMAN says

    It’ll be a frightening time we live in when we can’t even “own” what we purchase.

  8. OMMAG says

    Do I have the right?
    Yes I DO.

    Are people unhappy with that?

    Is it any of their business?
    Emphatically NO!

    • BigHank53 says

      Let me tell you a little story. It’s even true. I was walking down the street some years back in Seattle. (The top of Queen Anne, if anyone’s feeling curious.) I see a Civic parked by the curb with some unusual-looking wheels on it, so I stop to take a look. They’re some JDM track-only racing wheels designed for some kind of endurance event. The lug-nut studs have been pressed out of the brake hats and replaced with unthreaded pins, and a new spindle has been installed with ONE BIG NUT that holds the wheel on. All well and good, though–like I said–track use only. How many of you check each and every wheel on your car every single time you get it.

      Here’s the best part, though, and the whole point of the story: each of those spindles had a pair of holes in for a big hairpin clip, so that if the nut came loose the wheel in question wouldn’t just fall off the car without warning. This bozo didn’t have a single freakin’ one installed.

  9. todd says

    Typically this is only a problem with “new” things. I’m not sure how easy it will be for the government to determine what my 1972 B50 should run like – and even less likely that they should decide that I remove my disc brakes and revert to conical, cable actuated drums.

    I look at more modern bikes and I have no interest in modifying them. They already are much faster, handle and stop much better, and run cleaner than I could ever hope to make them. Though, I can’t help to keep the aftermarket cans on my Monster – I am guilty of saving many lives with those pipes…


    • Domino says

      Let’s see… ’92KDX 200, ’91 FXR, ’75RD 350, ’85 Avenger ski boat w/big V6 Merc hanging off the back, been building with Rat Rodders the last years.

      I am with you Todd, but here is what is worrisome to my lifestyle…

      I bring my “new-old” ski boat home three years ago, and my good friend comes by to see it… He brought his wife, who was working for CARB for a year at that time. She took one look at the boat and said,”Is that a 2 stroke? We’re gonna get rid of that for you!”
      Just saying, that seems to be the mindset that is being passed along in todays agencies.
      p.s. On the way home from purchasing my FXR, my charcol cannister fell off and I can’t find it..

  10. says

    Heck, yeah

    Do whatever you are capable of. Most “new inventions” are just improvements on previous tech.

    We built the BMW that Munich should have: An E30 with LS1 power and T56.

    Check it out at

  11. Rick says

    In the words of Ford Prefect “don’t panic”. This situation has been going on, well forever! I am quite sure the village chieftain was looking for ways to ‘control’ the use of fire because in the wrong hands (those belonging to anyone other than the chiefly class) it could do great harm. Outlaws!
    Looking at patents for buckboards you will find wild modifications that the towns people probably did not understand and promptly came up with ways to stifle those mod’s. Infernal combustion. Outlaws!
    And in the future when my jetson suitcase car suddenly pops open at my desk at work I’ll be in big trouble because I tampered with the jet drive! (better life out of the power crystal don’t you know!!) Outlaws!
    No doubt the manufactures will continue to make our lives safer to save on lawsuits and we will continue to find a getaround to screw with it. The Feds will clamp down with stricter restrictions to support the manufactures and I will go to prison for changing the color of my safety paint job (some quick change LCD film might keep me from getting busted!?) Bottom line is in a free society the pendulum will swing. If we let it swing too far it is our own damm fault!

  12. '37 Indian says

    I’ll worry about this when the cops start impounding every Harley on the road until the owners reinstall the stock mufflers and remove the Screaming Eagle parts.

    • Budd Greenman says

      Funny they actually did that in portland maine. They were handing out 200$ fines for non stock exhaust, and of course when the owners called “BS” they impounded bikes. So it’s not really that far off in some areas!

  13. Clawbrant says

    You’ve touched on a very old question here, Paul. The boundary between order and tyranny, freedom and chaos, where do we put tht line? Let me know if you find an answer.

  14. says

    Yes, the future EU rules are going to stop modifications, even down to adding shiny doodahs probably (good) but it is not the law yet, although the unelected EU officials will sneak various rules in while our MEPs are asleep.
    Case in point: under the last Labour government EU rules decreed that the motorcycle tests NEEDED to be conducted off road as the 50km swerve test was TOO FAST for the 30 mph roads in England (48kmh is 30mph so 50kmh is illegal!!)
    So they spent £65 million buildings off road centres that no one wanted
    Then sensible heads re-read the literature as “at up to 50kmh” (at the examiners discration) thus not needing the off road centres !!! Duh!!

  15. Mr Paynter says

    I find it really odd that you guys still have cell-phones locked to certain networks, that was made illegal here (South Africa) a few years back, and we’ve recently updated our Consumer Protection Act to further support Joe Public when buying almost anything out there (Without modifying it)

    However I think we here in Africa will be a long ways behind everyone if this should come to pass, we don’t even have tiered licencing yet, you can turn 18, write a learners theory test and go finance and buy a Hayabusa legally, no problem.

    My major fret would be maintaining older motorcycles like Todd mentioned, they don’t make everything for older bikes any more?

    My basket case 73 CB500 would be left to rot, as I cannot find an original airbox, exhausts etc. What now? How are the agents going to cope with suddenly being bombarded with people walking in with 5 and 6 decade old machines to repair, maintain and provide parts for?

    Also, what will happen to machines already modified?

  16. says

    Well, the plan for the EU is: No bikes over 7 years old allowed in urban areas. One will have to use Park n Ride buses to get into town (or get home).

    • says

      Well, the basis is simply control by whatever means is expedient and available.

      The gov’t controls by edict, for the purposes of increasing revenue, which allows it in turn to increase more gov’t, which is always the goal. More control. Win for the bureaucracy, loss for the citizen.

      The dealer seeks control by obtaining a semi-monopolistic “dealership” in “his area”, in order to eliminate as much competition as possible, thereby theoretically “ensuring” a continuing supply of “fish in a barrel”. In the process, the manufacturer sweetens the deal with unnecessarily complex machines which “require” service at the dealer, and only sell parts thru the dealer, and this “justifies” the huge buy-in costs to become a dealer. The “pay-off” is the ability to fleece the public via strict control measures. But this time, it’s primarily in the private sector arena. Win for the dealer, win for the manufacturer, win for the bureaucracy, loss for the consumer.

      However, there are times when gov’t and manufacturer collude on things to “scratch both their backs”, such as the “regulations” which bring in funds for gov’t expansion, AND help to drive out or preclude start-ups of competition to the entrenched corporations by making entry into that business sector too complex and expensive to navigate. Beautifully illustrated by the motor vehicle industry situation. This is how they work together, and the big corporations LOVE the regulations because it keeps them on top. It’s called “regulatory capture”.

      As for the EU and its restrictions, it appears that the political-banking cartel running that place is about to go under anyway, and the best thing that could happen is for all the ex-EU nations to return to their previous nationalized condition and move forward without the Orwellian “1984” globalist nightmare.
      The US is still trying its best to use “1984” as its operations model, and hopefully that nightmare will be fiscally prevented from moving any further along that path than we’ve been stomped with already. It appears that the various “1984” states which all are fiscally bankrupt from that path will either go under soon, or will have to abandon the “boot on the face of mankind” mentality to recover before it’s too late.

      I realize that there are some who support the “1984” model, and so I don’t expect my comments to be popular with them.

      • Nicolas says

        To get things back in perspective, the EU has initially been created by a bunch of visionary and humanist politicians, as a positive way to link countries together and avoid repeating the errors and horrors of several world wars and major conflicts. It has never been some sort of complot lead by a group of evil dictators to rule the world and enslave the people for their own benefit, neither was it some sort of evil “socialist” effort. Let’s chill for a minute.

        Now the EU brought a couple bad things in the mix (don’t start me up on the cheese ! :-))

      • Cowpieapex says

        This is a brilliant summation of the government industrial alliance that was defined as fascism by Benito Mussolini and the military industrial complex by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
        We are seeing though the impact of Alvin Toffler’s “Third Wave” on not only the jack booted tyrants but also the greedy industrialists. We will more and more rely on Informational technologies to spread the knowledge we need to master the new products that are valuable to us and reveal the cons of products that are inflexible and unserviceable.

  17. B*A*M*F says

    I live in Missouri. We have safety inspections every couple of years. It’s pretty simple stuff like brakes, windshield, tread depth, balljoints, etc. They do it on my scooter too. We don’t have emissions testing or any requirement that everything be stock. We also don’t have a large enough population or geographical situation that causes the smog issues that made California a pretty bad place to breathe not even all that long ago.

    As far as it goes, if your bike or car can meet the emissions standards after being modified, and you actually run it in that state of tune, there shouldn’t be a problem with it. But as Scritch mentioned, privatizing personal benefits (more horsepower), while socializing the costs (air pollution), is a bad model to follow.

    As far as right to repair from a warranty standpoint, it’s typically not legal to tie a warranty to having only an “authorized” service provider taking care of maintenance. However, if something like a smart phone needs a battery replaced, you’re usually already out of warranty, or can get it repaired under warranty. There isn’t much of anything to service on them.

  18. Budd Greenman says

    Being the son of a BioMed Tech who when asked if something can be fixed always say’s “it had to go together somehow” which may not sound relative but the idea being, if it was built from scratch once it can be rebuilt.
    I was raised with the knowledge that when you fix things yourself instead of paying someone else to do it, you not only have the oportunity to save some money (in most cases) but possibly the even greater oportunity is that you learn something from doing it. I have lived by that knowledge and intend to pass it on to my kids also. It is very troubling to me that regulations keep trying to make it a violation of law to be curious and self sufficient! If the trend continues, we will as a population be less and less intelligent. I worry for my kids as it seems that we can unknowingly be breaking laws just by satisfying constructive creativity.

    • Eddy Current says

      Curious and self sufficient people are a threat to all authority, be it religious, political or corporate, the stronger the influence of any of those three in a given society then the more curiosity and self sufficiency are are discouraged.

      “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.” – HL Mencken “The Smart Set” 1919.

  19. Thom says

    This subject is why I stopped buying New vehicles altogether. Motorcycles aren’t as far along in the process, but it’s coming, and it makes me mad. “Tampering” to the manufacturer is “individualization” to me. So I only buy cars with no ABS, TPMS, air bags, stability control, or traction control. Hell, I’d avoid computer control altogether, if I could…when the parts aren’t there in the first place, you aren’t tampering with anything.
    Soon I’ll be forced into doing the same with motorcycles.
    By only buying products that existed before these regulations, I exploit the loophole. But once these products are used up, or are too old to use, that freedom will disappear.
    What happened to personal responsibility? Why does the government have to get involved at all? I mean, seriously, if I trip on a crack in the sidewalk, is it my clumsiness, or do I sue the city for having cracks in the sidewalk?

  20. Medicated Steve says

    Isn’t it apple who basically said that users are only “borrowing” their devices. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you are only borrowing your car or motorcycle so to even change the oil yourself would be a crime.

  21. Leo Speedwagon says

    We wanted all those features and plopped our money down. Whether the Feds aided to companies (or the other way round) to push for all that technology so that we will be ‘safe’ is debatable. I’m waiting for the someone to say something when the Google Glass comes to market – $1500 for them to spy on us, we’ll see who the suckers are.

    • Thom says

      Ah, the collective “we”. “I” never wanted any of those things, which is why I DON’T put my money down on them.

  22. Paulinator says

    I put a chopped (shortened) Austin Mini on the road in western Canada many years ago. It made a Smart Car look like a cube van. It was a wonderful little vehicle that handled like a roller skate and could be parked like a motorcycle – back wheels to the curb. I simply needed a mechanical inspection form filled out by a licensed mechanic to obtain insurance…then off to the DMV. As a young guy I learned a ton about good mechanical design while dissecting Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis’ game-changer.

    There must be detailed crash statistics kept regarding cause, but I’d bet confidently that floor-mats and cell-phones cause WAY more accidents than peformance tuning or modifications of any kind.

  23. JC says

    It is interesting that a lot of people assume the federal government has an interest in keeping maintenance instructions out of the hands of end users. In aviation, regulations specifically require making instructions for continued airworthiness (maintenance manuals) available to owner operators (re 14 CFR 21.50). These instructions are above the component level, but still allow a maintainer (ANY qualified maintainer) to keep the aircraft in an airworthy condition. It seems that an equivalent rule for motorcycles and cars would make good sense.

  24. Dano says

    The controls placed upon dealers and manufacturers cause them to be restrictive to individuals and non dealers.
    This hurts a large portion of our economic engine, it eliminates after market innovation, it will also close the doors of many fine bike and car shops.
    The government isn’t the final answer and they don’t regularly consult with organizations like SEMA or AMA.

  25. says

    I have worked as a mechanic for Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Triumph, and Ducati dealerships since 1974. Most of the repairs I have done were caused by lack of maintenance. In the old days, I modified everything for everybody. But, times have changed, the product is much better now, and more complex. You have the right to repair your own machine, but you need the tools and one of the most important is a service manual. If you are using that machine on public highways, you do not have the right to modify it, and that has been true for a long time now. With self-driving cars just around the corner, things are going to get even more restrictive. If you really have to play, do it on a race track.

  26. says

    Anyone ever noticed that any of these proponents of “regulations” and “banning”, etc, could just make their own personal regulations and “help the environment” or whatever they think they are achieving, by doing it themselves in their own lives, with their own property, and their own money? Just set an example by doing what they think should be done.

    But, it’s never really about that, is it?
    No, it’s ALWAYS about FORCING others to knuckle-under to their demands, usually by threat of financial confiscation or violent force, using the proxy power of “government” as the bludgeon, isn’t it?
    Yes it is.
    Because they ALWAYS are so much “better” and inherently “more qualified” to decide what should done with the lives, property, and money, of the “peons” than the “peons” themselves. The “peons” need to be managed and controlled by the “benevolent magnificence and omnipotent intelligence” of the “better class” regarding how the world must be structured according to their demands.

    Ever notice that?
    So, is the “real issue” EVER the ostensible canard of “air quality” or whatever the “crisis du jour” happens to be this week?
    The issue is political control over the lives of the people, and that is what it has always been. The canards may evolve as needed, but the cry for “more control” always remains the same.
    Simply because “control” is the goal, and the various ostensible “reasons” for it are simply the expedient tools at hand, which give political cover, so that the real purposes are not so obvious.

    “Crisis management” and “Hegelian dialectic” has been shaping the path of this nation, and indeed the world, for long enough.
    It’s time to wake up to it, and put a stop to it.

    • Cowpieapex says

      Some restrictions and regulations loosen and decrease over time. When the automobile was first invented there was a global wave of regulation to stem the hazards of the new “menace” My grandfather photographed the baskets hanging from Chinese speed limit signs in 1936 which held the heads of violators summarily executed for going too fast.
      The idea that regulations and laws can crush a business for which there is a large demand suggests that the writer has never heard of the “war on drugs”. It actually seems that the marketplace itself defies regulation as long a society demands the product.
      I wrack my brain to try to think of an actual functioning example of a successful unregulated nation state. As with highly developed concepts in engineering the final step to successful deployment is a functioning prototype.
      Utopian dogma is usually a red flag in engineering a society, somewhat like over-unity (perpetual motion) in mechanical engineering. Even when the project is carefully crafted and enthusiastically embraced by multitudes it can prove to be ineffective, like Carl Marx’s clever little experiment. The problem with Utopian flying machines though is there are often millions of test pilots who must die in the pursuit of a more perfected model.

      • Paulinator says

        Dude!!! Your “war on drugs” comment was shockingly naive. The “war on drugs” is a modern slogan for prohibition. Ironically, in the roaring twenties booze was outlawed, but almost everything else (opiates, cocaine, strychnine) was still fair game…and we all know how that turned out for the gangsters and the Kennedys.

        • Cowpieapex says

          “It actually seems that the marketplace itself defies regulation as long a society demands the product.”
          Perhaps my point eluded you. Prohibition, like any regulation will only prevail so long as those being regulated agree to submit. When a sufficient plurality of the populace is no longer willing to observe the rule in question it, by necessity, will be changed.
          As I stated earlier, Harley Davidson used this principal to achieve market domination by creating a business model that not only encouraged owner modification but made it a major profit center.

          • Paulinator says

            H-D’s business model has obviously been very effective, as u pointed out. They must be a strong lobbyist and proponent for the little guy’s right (or privilege?) to modify. And if not, they better get on it soon, or risk a polar-shift in the way they do business.

            Quoted, “the populace is no longer willing to observe the rule” sounds like anarchy to me. Anything short of mass-revolt is merely martyrdom, since the little guy is no match for the MAN. What bugs me is when common-sense (the simplest deduction) indicates that the MAN is working toward the benefit of special interests rather than the common good (aka, the little guy).

            • Cowpieapex says

              Perhaps this underscores the genius of the capital system in that the interests of the little guy are reflected in his willingness to support the special interests that support his needs and desires. So the superior engineering of say a BMW gives up market share to a company who does lobby the regulators and endorses a culture of doers by offering products which encourage owner personalization. Any smart producer can translate this model to their own product and many do.

  27. Oldyeller says

    If you want the RIGHTs!
    you need the RESPONSIBILITY

    You can’t have one without the other!

  28. Stephan says

    No one will argue that the air quality hasn’t gotten better in California. It’s mostly because he state mandated emissions standards that exceeded what the Feds had and pushed the automakers to improve. No matter how many gear head friends you have we are a minority. A small percentage of modified cars and bikes does not make the difference, millions of new cars meeting the standards does. Not many of us would argue against common sense regulation but take the following example into consideration. My county mandated emissions tests based on the premises that if it did not it would not be eligible for federal funds. Even new cars must be tested every two years. The Feds mandate that manufactures warranty all emission controls for five years, why then must new cars be tested? Bureaucracy stands in the way of common sense at a cost to the consumer. Also you can live just over the county line yet commute to the city everyday without complying. At least the law is common sense enough so as to just have the sniffer test, if its clean its allowed. I can put that Viper V10 in my old Landcruiser.

  29. Alan Longmore says

    All well and good, but what happens when the manufacturer builds it ‘wrong’?

    The first ‘bike I had was a BSA C15, the second was an A7, the third a 6T Thunderbird, followed by a B50T. After a couple of decades or so I bought myself a new ‘bike, a CCM R30, and high-sided it within half an hour doing a low speed U-turn because some idiot had put the gear-change lever where the brake pedal ought to be! Now, I could have (probably) learnt to work round it, just as I could learn to walk swinging my right arm forward as I step my right leg forward, but I’m struggling to think of any good reason why I should, so I’ve swapped the pedals round.
    A motorcycle is a ‘dynamically balanced system’ and any imbalance should ideally be as evenly distributed across the system as possible – apply the brakes using right hand and left foot, change gear using left hand and right foot – makes sense dynamically, ergonomically and, from a safety point of view, I can go years now without falling off it at all. Result.

    • todd says

      I always honk the horn and flash my lights whenever I hop onto my BMW. All I’m trying to do is use my indicators. Gear / brake lever? BTDT on my B50MX.


  30. Big Bob says

    I live in AZ, which is even worse for emissions BS than CA. I have a 1972 VW bug, with a highly modified engine, which I also drag race, so it IS safe, but will not pass the states draconian emissions standards, which believe it or not, go all the way back to model year 1967. For several years I kept a stock motor so that I could actually swap the motors out for the test, then put the hot rodded motor back in. I finally lucked out when they came up with the “collector car” law, that allowed vehicles insured as “collectible” to be exempted from the emissions crap. I went for it, and ended the engine swapping. I also own a ’64 Fairlane and ’66 Mustang, which I can work on all I want. I refuse to buy a newer car. Wouldn’t be any fun for me anyway. And I also ride a motorized bicycle with a 2 stroke engine. I have been a car and motorcycle enthusiast since age 8, am now 54, and have no intention of giving it up. I am also a professional mechanic, and would never drive an unsafe vehicle on the road.

  31. Gerry says

    Back a few decades a TV maker sold a tv with a warranty. When the owner attempted to open the back to see inside, the small end of the picture tube broke off, losing the vacuum and the warranty was void. You needed a special tool to release the plug and only dealers had it. An irate owner took them to court in the USA and won. He argued that the TV was his and he could open it if he wanted to and the company had no business installing a trap. The courts agreed and (I believe it was Sylvania) had to recall all the sets. Kinda makes you wonder about the legality of the seals on your hard drives in the computer…

  32. Tom Bow says

    Until the state starts paying for my vehicle, then yes, I have the right to work on it. As long as it meets safety/emissions requirements, then yes, I have the right to modify it. As for liability… GAH, people trying to figure out liability, or trying to dodge it, have screwed things up for so many people. No one can take a risk anymore, SOMEONE somewhere has to be ‘liable.’ It’s just an annoying situation all around.
    I had a relative who ran a machine shop, and someone asked him to make a custom driveshaft for a 4×4. He looked at the specs the customer handed him and told him that it would be unsafe. The guy kept insisting, and they came to a compromise. He would make the driveshaft as long as the customer signed a notarized contract stating that he had been made aware of the problem in the design, that he would not ever drive this vehicle on the road, and that he would absolve the machine shop of all liability.
    So of course 3 months or so later, the guy drives his 4×4 down the road, where the shaft breaks as predicted, and he sues the machine shop, and wins. We all know who is REALLY liable here. But that’s not how things ever turn out.
    In another story, normally I would do mechanical work for people in my family on their vehicles, but I’ve been very, very busy with work lately. My mother’s car was having engine issues,(constant limp home mode) my dad’s truck developed issues (Fuel injectors) and my own work truck developed coolant issues. I checked the basics on mine, and when 45 minutes was enough to tell me it wasn’t the obvious (Thermostat/coolant/etc.) I decided that it would just be best to take my vehicle to the shop, and pay for the time savings. And to apologize to the rest of my family, and tell them that they’d best go to the garage themselves.
    In the end, I’m told my truck is ready, and I pick it up to find that they replaced the thermostat, which I had told them I had already checked, and replaced coolant, which I had also already done. And that it would cost me $200. And the problem hadn’t been fixed. I end up driving my bike for the next 2 months, until I get the time to look at it myself. I call my mother to ask about hers, and she finally admits to me that she has spent $2600 with a mechanic, who also, has still not fixed the problem, but is now offering to replace the engine for her, for just a couple grand more. And my father, was quoted $1200 for replacing all the injectors on his engine, because there’s “no way to tell” which one is bad.
    After I finally got some time off work, I was able to spend some time diagnosing each of these problems, and fixed them all. My truck? $12 to fix, my mom’s took $100, and my father’s truck had two clogged fuel injectors, replaced with rebuilt units at $40 a piece. I have no automotive training what-so-ever. All of this was several months ago, all the vehicles are running fine now.
    Both my parents are retired and on fixed income, and I’m stuck in a horrible job for the foreseeable future, and don’t earn much money at all.

    Fixing my own vehicle is not only a right, it’s a necessity.

  33. Hawk says

    Ah yes, the days of draconian “nanny” laws usually drawn up and enacted by people who have no frigging clue about what they are doing. Thankfully, where I am, we now have the British Columbia Coalition of Motorcyclists who have fought the government minions and won a lot of our rights back.

    But I’ve always liked to have stuff that goes like stink but doesn’t look like it. My old Alloy Clipper BSA …. had a 500 cc Gold Star engine in a trials frame and went anywhere … pretty darn quick. The my old B544 Volvo that I did some rallying in. 1/2 inch wider wheels with good rubber (Pirelli when nobody knew about radials) and I could lift the inside front wheel almost 18″ ….. well 6″ is it was raining.

    Even my current 650 Burgman. Nobody gives it a second look until I leave them at a light or pass them on the Sea to Sky highway. (That’s the one that goes to Whistler, eh?) More than a few guys are dragging the boards …..

    But now that I’m a few years past the 3/4 century mark, I’m just happy that I won’t be here when the “nanny law” writers win.

    Feel sorry for my grand kids though …..

  34. wstarvingteacher says

    In texas a car 25yo is exempt from smog testing but must have all the equipment. In other words don’t mess with them. My current crop is a 91 truck, and new driver for mama, an old bike that is exempt, and a 57 chevy. The chevy doesn’t run because I parked it when the gas prices went up. Have started to think I made a mistake there and should rectify it ASAP.

    When someone thinks they have a right to think for you and spend your money on their programs it becomes evident quickly. I think it may get ugly soon.

  35. varg says

    I will modify, allow or not. Privatizing benefits and socializing costs my ass. That’s why I’ll never live in a bankrupt, overreaching nanny-state like California where scary guns and fast cars that can’t pass “visual emissions inspections” are simply “not allowed, Mr. So-called-free-man!”