Introducing Right to Repair and its Roots in the Automotive Industry

Extending the shelf life of products that use modern technology is a large part of the equation when it comes to the electronic sustainability movement. Unfortunately, this area is often found to be a source of trouble for consumers and independent repair shops. This is because many manufacturers make it impossible for consumers or independent repair technicians to fix their products. Sometimes this is done purposely and in other circumstances it is inadvertent. Regardless, this leaves consumers with few options and they are often forced to buy new or pay the monopolistic prices that select dealer or manufacturers have at their facilities. Fortunately, legislatures at the federal level and in many states have heard the voice of their constituents and right to repair bills have been introduced nationwide.

The root of the right of the repair movement can be traced to developments that have occurred within the automotive industry. In modern vehicles computers have come to control virtually every aspect of automobile’s vital systems. Therefore, vehicle repair has become a high-tech operation and computer diagnostic tools have in many ways have replaced traditional mechanical experience.[1] Currently, manufacturers serve as a door-keeper of repair information and only dispense this information to the selected dealers they do business with or at their own manufacturing facilities.[2]By 2001, this trend was well underway and in response the first Right to Repair bill was introduced in the United States. The stated goal of this bill was to end the unfair level of control that car manufacturers exercised over repair information.[2] In turn, the vehicle owner or independent repair facility would have the information necessary to diagnose, service, or repair their own vehicle.

While Right to Repair bills stagnated at the federal level, they have gained traction in many states. The biggest victory for the movement occurred in Massachusetts in 2012. The Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative appeared on the general election and passed with 86% support from the state’s voters.[3] The Massachusetts law forced car manufacturers to provide independent repair shops with the same diagnostic tools they give authorized repairers. Consequently, by 2014 it had become obvious to the automotive industry that other states would pass similar legislation and they agreed to make the same data available nationwide by 2018.[4] Undoubtedly, this was a momentous shift in the automotive industry, but how does that impact the gadget repair industry? What if tech companies were forced to provide the same information?

[1]  Sturgis, Scott (January 26, 2007). “A Mechanic’s Laptop Makes Manual All But Obsolete”. The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2009.

[2] “Automotive Group Testifies Against Right to Repair Act Bill”. Autoparts Report.

[3] “Right to Repair Question 1 – 2012 Massachusetts Election Results”Boston Globe. November 8, 2012.

[4] http://www.autonews.com/article/20140125/RETAIL05/301279936/automakers-agree-to-right-to-repair-deal

What’s In a Screen?

The easiest thing one can do to a smartphone is accidentally dropping it and cracking the screen.  The process in repairing a cracked screen is relatively easy to follow, but before purchasing any components, tinkerers need to be aware of what they’re buying online.

Before purchasing a new part, examine your device and try to determine what part is broken.  I needed to repair my iPhone 5c’s cracked screen and did some research online to fix it.  Using a Google search for “cheap iPhone 5c screen replacement,” I found an inexpensive eBay link.

Screenshot of eBay iPhone 5c Screen Replacement
Screenshot of eBay iPhone 5c Screen Replacement

For the low price of $6.99, I can receive not only the screen, but tools and adhesive as well! This is a great deal, but is it what I want? In order to make sure I’m purchasing the right product, I need to refer back to my device.  Make sure you check the physical attributes of the problem:

  • Is there a large crack on the glass?
  • Is that crack accompanied by blue stripes on the screen?
  • Are you able to see everything displayed?
  • Does your touch screen still work?

My crack was external, and no damage was done to the display or digitizer (touch screen capabilities).  It’s important to analyze the problem fully, because the screen on your phone isn’t just one component.  It’s one part, compromised of three main pieces: the outer glass protective screen, the thin digitizer, and the LCD display.  These parts are also usually encased in a heat shield of some kind, protecting the LCD from the other parts of the phone.

Components of an iPhone 5c Screen
Components of an iPhone 5c Screen ***The Digitizer is a thin sheet on top of the glass LCD screen, making the “Digitzer” two components and not one***

The part from eBay was only for the external glass screen, not the other parts of the screen.  Here’s where I need to make a decision on what my repair commitment is.  Questions to ask yourself:

Looking at tear downs and repair videos, I did not want to fix just the outer glass screen.  I wanted a less invasive, simpler repair, and ordered the fully assembled screen from iFixIt, which contained all three aspects of the iPhone 5c screen already put together.  When ordering a part, be aware of the seller you’re purchasing the part from.  Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does this seller have good reviews?
  • What is the return policy? Is there a return policy?
  • Are buyers able to review the product? What’re they saying?

I chose to order my part from iFixIt because I’ve ordered parts from them in the past and was happy with my order.  After I received the new part, I was able to replace my whole screen in under 30 minutes–an easy fix!

NOTE: All links provided in this blog post are for informational purposes only, the Illini Gadget Garage does not endorse any of the companies listed, nor does any affiliated departments or the University of Illinois.

CD Recycling at the IGG

CDs in Jewel CasesThe warm fronts have made some of our staffers go
into a frenzy of Spring cleaning! We’ve been organizing our inventory, recycling obsolete technology, and finding a lot of old CDs and jewel cases. Instead of throwing them away, we have bins at our location to recycle them.

Update your music collections at home, get rid of that soundtrack from “The Jimmy Neutron Movie” you’ve listened to once, and take your CDs and cases to the Illini Gadget Garage for easy recycling.

Tech Tuesdays!

So you have some faulty technology, but you have class or another commitment during our open hours, we understand and that is why we are hosting “Tech Tuesdays” at the UGL. Every Tuesday, from 6-9 PM, we will have one of our associates in the media commons. Feel free to bring your damaged device or discuss the issues that you may be having. If we can’t help you on the spot, we can at least advise you on the best course of action and you may find it worthwhile to bring your defective item to our Research Park location. Furthermore, this is a good opportunity to discuss volunteering options, for any of you that may be interested. Additionally, we are looking to add “pop ups” at other locations. If your organization is interested in having us, just fill out the following form, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xp8I4lK_CWeW8cM2PwqKkBhExyq0mvxkzJc_WtmvVDI/edit.  Don’t strain your budget or fill a landfill with harmful electronic waste, instead check us out on a “Tech Tuesday” and see what we have to offer!

Single Use Battery Recycling

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You’re watching T.V. and you go to change the channel, but the remote doesn’t work. I guess it’s time to throw out those old batteries, right? Actually, you do have another option that you should know about. Come to the Illini Gadget Garage and recycle your old single use batteries. We are the only spot on campus that recycles single use batteries and we are happy to take on any that you no longer use. Remember, if reuse is no longer an option, then recycling is the next best thing. Single use batteries contain many materials that can be recycled in a cost effective manner such as zinc, manganese, and steel. For more information about battery recycling etiquette please refer to the following link, http://www.rawmaterials.com/page/education/prepare-batteries. Remember, certain batteries can pose fire risks. Don’t forget to tape all terminals when recycling batteries that are damaged, lithium, lead acid, electronic  (with cracked casing or exposed terminals), or over 9 volts. If you have any questions make sure to ask the Gadget Garage staff. We are here to help!

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University Collaboration with the IGG

One of our campus projects is to allow university classes to utilize the space, be it through hosting workshops where students can learn skills like soldering, understanding the Technical Writing Initiative via class projects, creating an iFixIt Guide, or volunteering at the Garage. The School of Information Sciences has a class, Introduction to Networking (LIS 451), that requires students to partner with a community program and the Illini Gadget Garage has been proud to be one such program. The final project for LIS 451 asks the students to not only volunteer at least once a week, but also put together a tangible product to present at the end of the semester. This past Fall semester we were given the great opportunity to partner with LIS 451 and one group of students, Amanda Elzbieciak, Kelsey Riggs, and Geoff Jacobs. They were invaluable assisting in the physical transformation of the space, brainstorming different ideas for workshops to be held at the IGG, marketing, and hosting the workshops. With their help, we were able to put on two workshops: a Grand Opening, where we invited the community to see our newly remodeled space, and a Holiday themed Recycled Crafting party, where the community was welcome to come in and create seasonal ornaments and gifts. The students were able to use pictures, videos, and reflections as proof of their hard work for their project, assisting the Garage in opening our doors to the public.

Check out the final product by going to their website!