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Hagerty Employee

Deciphering Massachusetts’ “Right to Repair” ballot question

A somewhat confusing automotive question is on the ballot in my home state of Massachusetts. It’s Question 1, the “Right to Repair Law, Vehicle Access Data Requirement Initiative (2020).” One side is arguing that it’s simply plugging a loophole in an existing “Right to Repair” law to include telematic (wireless) data, while the other side claims it’s an irresponsible data grab that jeopardizes personal safety. Which is it?


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This is the same state that list exhaust modifications illegal. I see many customers get busted for exhaust that no one even looks at twice in other states. 


When laws like this come up read them, know and understand them and any issues that can be connected to them. Often they are Trojan horses ushering in other problems down the road. 


Also be aware of the RPM act. Here is a story on what the Obama admin EPA started and is still being sorted out for race cars that are never on the road.


Things to consider when voting. 


Here is what Massachusetts has done just about Exhaust modifications. If it is not stock it is illegal. 


Section 16: Offensive or illegal operation of motor vehicles


Section 16. No person shall operate a motor vehicle, nor shall any owner of such vehicle permit it to be operated, in or over any way, public or private, whether laid out under authority of law or otherwise, which motor vehicles are prohibited from using, provided notice of such prohibition is conspicuously posted at the entrance to such way. No person shall operate a motor vehicle, nor shall any owner of such vehicle permit it to be operated upon any way, except fire department and fire patrol apparatus, unless such motor vehicle is equipped with a muffler to prevent excessive or unnecessary noise, which muffler is in good working order and in constant operation, and complies with such minimum standards for construction and performance as the registrar may prescribe. No person shall use a muffler cut-out or by-pass. No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any way which motor vehicle is equipped (1) with a muffler from which the baffle plates, screens or other original internal parts have been removed and not replaced; or (2) with an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust. No person operating a motor vehicle shall sound a bell, horn or other device, nor in any manner operate such motor vehicle so as to make a harsh, objectionable or unreasonable noise, nor permit to escape from such vehicle smoke or pollutants in such amounts or at such levels as may violate motor vehicle air pollution control regulations adopted under the provisions of chapter one hundred and eleven. No siren shall be mounted upon any motor vehicle except fire apparatus, ambulances, vehicles used in official line of duty by any member of the police or fire fighting forces of the commonwealth or any agency or political subdivision thereof, and vehicles owned by call fire fighters or by persons with police powers and operated in official line of duty, unless authorized by the registrar. No person shall use on or in connection with any motor vehicle a spot light, so called, the rays from which shine more than two feet above the road at a distance of thirty feet from the vehicle, except that such a spot light may be used for the purpose of reading signs, and as an auxiliary light in cases of necessity when the other lights required by law fail to operate.




How do you feel about the fact that BMW AG just shut down Would this be considered a violation of the R2R laws? As you are a BMW guy (and a budget minded one) I am sure you have seen the value in this free online site that offers repair instructions, torque specs, even functional descriptions of systems on the vehicle. Sure it was nice to have for free, but is BMW really in violation of the current R2R law? 


-cheap BMW guy


This IS the problem with nanny-state, "Big" government. Give bureaucrats and we the "We know best." crowd an inch and they will bury you. Keep voting for those that want to control you until you have no control at all!

The best answer is only drive and buy pre-1996 (OBD-II) vehicles or better yet, only pre-OBD-II ones.  I don't know why the term VM is being used, since OEM describing Original Equipment Manufacturers, has been the norm forever. It is a sad commentary on the mentality that thinks we must eliminate the needs of the many for the desires of the few!


Kudos, Rob, for a very well-written and informative article. This legal tug of war has been going on for a very long time - I was involved with it when i had my independent shops, and I've been retired for quite a while. 


Good read Rob:


I am in favor of Independent repair facilities having access to any information VM's are privy too.  But, I would also want to ability to turn off any Telematics on any vehicle.  I don't need the VM's or any Independent company involved with my vehicle.  I'm in charge of my property and don't need anyone else accessing my property.  If you think anything that's broadcast through the ether isn't available to someone, somehow, I think that's foolish.  Not to get all black helicopter on people, but the NSA along with Google and other tech giants are constantly mining the ether for information. 


Already you have insurance companies having you plug in their stick, to your car and monitoring your driving.  And that's with the drivers permission.  With everything your car broadcasts, there isn't anything to stop anyone, with the capability to monitor everything that happens in your car.  


The real money is going to be made in "Automotive Data Security" where an aftermarket company will secure your cars Telematics and other data, so no one can tap into it as you drive around.  Now there is a Multi-Million dollar idea.  

Me; I just drive old cars that don't need any interference from anyone else and I have more fun driving them, too.  🙂  Of, course Dinosaurs like me will be gone soon, back to the Primordial soup, but that's life:  That's what all the people say.  🙂

Pit Crew

I used to be a mechanic at the dealership and then went to work at an independent garage and the amount of data that was available to us was night and day. You take your car to the dealers for proper repairs for the difficult jobs and to the local shop for the easy stuff. With all the technology in a car today, even resetting the change oil light takes a Phd. As for your data getting sold by the auto to third parties, look into your cell phone or even this web site telling you they will do that unless you say no. Cars are no fun to work on anymore anyway as you have sensor upon sensor hidden by plastic shields. Buy an old car and run around with modified exhaust and enjoy driving it.

Intermediate Driver

My Chevy Truck threw a code that my $20 told me was a vent valve on the fuel tank. Since it was still in the range of the 7 year emissions warranty I foolishly took it to the Dealer. For $120 they told me what I already knew and that the evaporation emissions system was a wear and tear part not part of the emission system. Chevy customer service heard my complaint. They checked with the dealer and just blindly agreed with them.

Since question one comes down to a matter of who you can trust I would take it a step further and only share information with a designated shop. 

Since that's not on the ballot we have to settle for a resounding 

YES on one!

Intermediate Driver

We all have to understand what "data" is and how it's being used to manipulate you to do what others want, for their own purposes.  Yes, information about the operation of a device you "bought" should be provided to you, for whatever reason you might have.  The contents of things you eat should be disclosed, but it is not.  Do you know what's in chopped meat?  Peanut butter? Scotch whisky? No, you don't, it's never disclosed. 


John Deere and others now do not disclose information about how their products work and what is happening that causes it to fail, but rather transmit it to the company via electronic data.  When a combine breaks down in the middle of a corn field in Iowa John Deere knows it, and the operator knows it stopped working, but only John Deere can fix it.  The local repair service that would have the ability to go to the field and do the work is left out.  Since most of this type of equipment is leased the people harvesting the corn don't have an ownership interest in the machinery, so they have to wait for Deere.  


The bigger issue is that the maker knows who you are, where you are, how fast you are driving, how hard you brake, where you shop and when and whether you are alone or with others.  They can see your face, they can probably get your fingerprints, they can listen to you talk and assess what you want to buy.  They can learn your music preferences from Pandora.   They can know you like Chevron gas, that you shop at Whole Foods or Costco.  


The problem is much bigger than cars, and the resolution will come slowly and painfully.



Thanks Rob for slogging through all that to help make sense of it for us! The biggest problem I have is how shockingly misnamed the bill is. We've always had the "right to repair" our cars, they've simply gotten more complex which requires more failures to be brought to a dealer. Dealers will eventually cut their own throats by routinely abusing their customers. Following closely in second place is those blatantly fear-mongering sexual predator ads. AS IF anyone you bring your car to can't find out where you live with a glance at the registration. As for data security, I'm no longer surprised at the resourcefulness of hackers who've been able to break into vehicle data. Tesla, the most sophisticated production car I can think of, has a thriving community of people who've come up with brilliant workarounds for getting what they want from reassembled salvaged examples.


i am glad my newest car is a 2012... and from there span the 90s to the 60s. what we as a society has done with data is frightening. you have no idea what is collecting it, what is being collected, or where it was going

Intermediate Driver

Is there a Reader's Digest condensed version of this article available?


An excellent exposition of the current situation. One thing that should be made clear is that having "access" to information and factory service equipment is one thing, but being able to afford it is another entirely. The annual cost for an independent shop to access to factory service information for all of the major makes is in excess of $25,000. OEM test equipment that ensures the ability to access proprietary system codes and related data starts at around $1,000 and can run into the mid five figures - for one manufacturer! Try calling your local BMW dealer and asking the price of their charging system diagnostic equipment, which is integrated into a special battery charger - just be sure to have a stiff drink first and make sure you are sitting down.  


Great article, thanks. That was a lot of research and explanation, and is much appreciated.


It is not necessarily true that an insurance company has to have your permission to access the driving data in your cars "black box." The position of the last company I worked for was that permission was implicit in the insurance contract and that in the event of an accident they had the right to examine it without asking or informing you. It's only a short legal step from checking the data stored in your car's computer to storing data stored in the Cloud. Of course, to be fair the company in question was a substandard carrier and it was pretty common to find a crack pipe laying on the floor of the car, so there's that.

Pit Crew

Well researched and laid out.  I think Tesla would be most worried about this, as their cars are rolling hardware devices that exclude nearly everyone and everything from service, just like an iPhone.  Their impact on the industry is still starting to play out.  The idea of people tinkering with the software controllers on these cars in ten years time seems unlikely, unless you have to used hacks to unlock them.   As for affordable scanners, carly works well for BMW and is pretty affordable, particularly if you're stupid enough to have more than 1 BMW (looks at self accusingly).

The solution to me is ignore any vehicle manufactured after the late 90s and live somewhere that doesn't pass laws against changes.  Finding, driving and fixing old cars is the hobby after all.  Can't have CEL issue if there is no CEL (taps head).  Time to trade in the 21stC cars for some choice 20thC rides.


some where over 50 paragraphs (sorry no 'pages' on soc media) complicates the matter for me. 'S OK tho, many want to dive deep. But no need. Left/Right Coasts seem to lead the way. "The Corps' lost out w/the Cali emissions laws and seek to never do so again. This is simply bout the dealers doing all the repair wrk or not (me? I'm just a hobbits, only make $ ona sale ofa car I am NOT flipping).

In '12 they brought out their guns and the voter spoke. This will be the same. Government often will not help (current Admin) as they are paid for reelection by the corps (no fair, 2 against one - the citizen/consumer).  Hopefully progressive MA will state again (& again) "No we don't want 'the free market' shut down, we DO want it to B fair...

Got expensive, glossy 'mailers' frm the corps that lied today. Vote "yes" on #1 this national voting day in MA...

Intermediate Driver

I've seen all the VMs' ads saying that if Question 1 passes, then independent shops will get access to your personal data and you'll get raped in a vacant parking garage or somebody will take control of your car and steer you into a head on with an 18 wheeler.  Setting aside the lie that independents will even get access to your personal data, they're still saying that you can't trust your local shop with the data, but you CAN trust the dealership!  I've been forced to go to many dealerships over the years, and I've never found one that didn't try to swindle me every time I walked in the door.  It has to be the most corrupt form of business that most people will deal with on a regular basis.


I voted YES on Question 1.