07 Feb 2018

Right to Repair

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Computerized machinery, we are discovering the hard way, gives manufacturers permanent control of the machines we buy from them.


To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America’s heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that’s cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

“When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don’t have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it,” Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. “Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix].”

The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn’t be anything a farmer could do about it.

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.” The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and “authorized” repair shops can work on newer tractors.

“If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it,” Kevin Kenney, a farmer and right-to-repair advocate in Nebraska, told me. “You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can’t drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part.”

“What you’ve got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market,” he added.


You’ll be looking for Ukrainian software to hack the computer blocking non-dealer repairs in your Toyota and BMW very soon.

14 Feedbacks on "Right to Repair"


I hate my car’s “smart” key. I would prefer a simple key that I could put on my key ring. The big bulky expensive and mandatory smart key will not fit on my key ring so it must be carried separately. My vehicle will not run without it even if I have a regular key made to fit. If I lose the key I can expect to pay $100 and wait up to a week to get a key. I bought it new and they had to build it at the factory for me so I thought they would let me opt out of the smart key but nope, it’s mandatory. I also opted out of air conditioning but they put it in anyway even though I didn’t pay for it. Why can’t I get less why am I required to get more. Why make these options mandatory?

Lindsey Kidd

Go ahead and get a spare now. When you lose it, and you will,(Ilose things constantly) you will have it already.


Well… Maybe that’s good advice. A friend asked me if he should buy a spare smart key for his car and I told him it was a waste of money and he only has the one key. I do have two keys and keep the extra in my bureau drawer. But my point is why? Why do they make these stupid things and why can’t I opt out. I am retired, I spend my life traveling, often in remote locations where I might park and hike for a few days. My reoccurring nightmare is that I lose my key or fall in the river and get it wet so it no longer works and I’m stuck on the end of a long dirt road. I actually have a stupid key for my car and my wife’s car on my key ring so I can at least enter the car in case I lose the smart key. But what then? I am a former mechanic and honestly I’m not sure that this problem can be bypassed easily. I know what I would try but I don’t know if it would work or cause problems with the electronics. Oddly my brand new motor home has a stupid ignition key. I assume this is because it is on a heavy duty truck chassis and the whole smart key thingy is kind of a “yuppy” thing and yuppies aren’t the target market for a E450. Why not make it an option?

I have a similar complaint about my gas stove. It is electronic. It will not run without AC and it shuts down for various unknown reasons. It even has a connection to the smoke detector such that if the detector senses smoke the electric for the stove shuts off. I just want a stove that heats the pans and oven. I don’t want high tech and timers and push buttons.

My stupid/smart dishwasher is the same way. It has a dozen options most of which I have no clue about. I remarked to my wife just last night that the dishwasher has a light. I don’t know why it has a light or where it is but there is a button with the light logo. Why?

Even my coffee pot is too smart. Just heat the damn water and make coffee I don’t need another clock. I finally covered the clock with tape because it keeps blinking 12 o’clock. Why?

Soren K

I see two answers here. Lawyers and money. These equipment manufacturers of all stripes are tired of the US legal system hanging them out to dry for not predicting that someone, someday, might alter their original product and harm results. And guess who pays for the harm? The original manufacturer who is thought to have deep pockets and should have known you’d likely want to put an over-sized engine in the vehicle and over torque the transmission causing lord knows what to happen. That software now brings in Hector the Inspector to make sure the OEM is good with the repair and reduces their perceived liability.

Nanny justice in a nanny state.

The likely second tier hook is cash. They do it because they can. And you pay and pay.

My personal vehicle dates from the last millennium and has minimal junkwear installed. But it’s not zero.

And I found Lowes hardware will cut a smart car key for about $80 if you have one already. They need the one to get the embedded RFID code your engine’s software needs to keep running. That’s why a dumb cut key will fit, will turn, will crank, but won’t run the engine.

We can vote with our wallets, and a small group like tractor buyers might get JD to renege, but as goes personal automobiles… too many sheep like shiny bells and whistles for curmudgeons to matter one tinker’s damn.

Spurt Reynolds

There is legislation pending right now in either Nebraska or Iowa (I don’t remember which), which will allow farmers to fix their own equipment. There are at least another dozen states looking to follow their lead. Once that happens, I think the premise is it will trickle out to other products i.e cars, mowers, appliances, etc.

So there is hope that this will change in the near future. Video on YouTube about the farmers legislation.

Spurt Reynolds

The video is called Tractor Hacking.


Personally I have a 1948 Farmall Cub that belonged to my grandfather. It can be repaired with baling wire, duct tape and ingenuity. No software.


This is emissions related. To meet emissions standards, Tier IV engines heavily rely on the ECU.
Add to that, direct injection systems operate at up to 20,000 psi and that pressure doesn’t bleed off.
People need to be trained to work on these engines.

Maggie's Farm

Friday morning links

Gabon fights elephant poachers with hi-tech tracker collars Can’t repair your John Deere yourself anymore  Goodbye to Newsweek  Columbia University Professor Warns Women’s March Has Been “Deeply Infiltrated” By Zionists…  Governme


Briane is right. Almost all of this is emissions related.

And it’s not just computer components. We’ve had to rent/buy tools that are manufacturer specific in order to do repairs on different cars and tractors.

Don’t attempt to change tires on your Ford Focus without the right socket set.

We’ve had to buy 8 of the same o-ring because we don’t have the right tool to replace it in a Ford tractor transmission. And the dealer doesn’t have to tool to rent/lend to us. He’d rather you buy a new tractor from him. And we’re not buying that tool anyway (which probably costs in the thousands) to do one transmission.


That is why I drive a 1979 GMC. I farm about 800 acres, mostly baling hay and straw and run about 7 tractors from a 1949 to a 1984, average age 48 years. My family has farmed here since 1940 and so far we have never owned a John Deere.


Emissions might have something to do with it, but the bigger issue here is income for the dealerships, which are not owned by John Deere. The hourly charge for them to work on your machinery, plus the tendency for them to do a bunch of work you don’t need, which can get into the thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars has led to 2 things happening. One, very large farms identify who the best mechanics are and hire one from the local dealership to work for them, and on their machinery full time. They can pay the guy more than he was making and still cost them less. Two, some of the best mechanics figure out they can make more money working for themselves as independent mechanics. They already own the tools and they do just what is necessary, saving you money. The dealerships are notorious for being cheap with their employees and a good mechanic has all the skills of a surgeon, he just makes a fraction of the money. Thus, the need to come up with a way to force you to go to the dealer for service work.


As a farmer myself, the stupid thing is most of us don’t want to change any settings we just want to be able to pinpoint what is wrong and FIX it.
My son took an ag mechanics class, every year the class gets a new pad from a auto part company and it will read all sensors on autos and trucks, not make changes just check, why not tractors, oh thats right 100 dollars an hour from shop till back no matter how many trips
My neighbor was down with one tractor for 3 days stuck on the road not in a field waiting for a damn sensor, took three trips for dealer for an average of 200 per trip , the damn sensor only cost 75 dollars, but didn’t have one on hand sent the wrong one for 2nd trip so 3 damn trips


Ese es eel secreto para aprender cualquier idioma.


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