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It’s Illegal To Fix A Car?

We hate these kind of stories as it deal with two of our most basic hated ideas that the government has. First is that the government owns your labor (and in this case, your tools.) Secondly, you can do something on your own property that does not affect anyone else.

The issue is that Sacramento County, California has made it illegal for people to do more than “minor automotive repair” on their cars.

1. What is Minor Automotive Repair?

  • Brake part replacement
  • Minor tune-ups
  • Change of oil and filter
  • Repair of flat tires
  • Lubrication

Other similar operations
(See section 5.2.0.B of the Zoning Code)

The definitions here are much too broad. For example, can a person replace a radiator? A battery? An alternator? A water pump?

If the standard is that the above list is comprehensive and everything not on that list is not a “minor repair,” that’s a problem.

2. Is Minor Vehicle Repair Permitted at Residences?

Yes. However, it is unlawful for any person to engage in, or permit others to engage in, minor vehicle repair or maintenance in any agricultural, agricultural-residential, residential, interim estate and interim residential zones under any of the following circumstances:

  • Using tools not normally found in a residence;
  • Conducted on vehicles registered to persons, not currently residing on the lot or parcel;
  • Conducted outside a fully enclosed garage and resulting in any vehicle being inoperable for a period in excess of twenty-four hours.

(See section 5.2.0.B of the Zoning Code)

So let’s see……

The engine check light (also referred to as the “money light”) is on. Lucky for you, you have a friend that has a scanner / diagnostic tool that he can plug in to the car and find out what is going on.

Ooops! Can’t do that because a scanner can be expensive (certainly the industrial / commercial ones are) and most people don’t have them. (Heaven help you if you take the car over to his house to have the issue diagnosed.)

Not many people have a torque wrench, so you can’t repair that flat tire and torque the bolt to factory specs.

Most people don’t have floor jacks, or jack stands or air compressors or air tools, so all of that goes out the window.

Or say that you have the acumen to fix a blown head gasket or replace an engine but only have a car port and not a “fully enclosed garage.” Sorry. You can’t use your own skill, your own knowledge and your own labor to fix your own car on your own property.

We’ll repeat that in case you missed it….

YOU CAN’T FIX YOUR OWN CAR ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY.

3. What is Major Automotive Repair?

Any vehicle repair or maintenance other than “minor vehicle repair” to include any body or painting work of vehicles or vehicle parts operations.
(See section 5.2.0.B of the Zoning Code)

In other words, anything not on the above list of “minor repairs” is banned.

“Stop that man! He’s replacing windshield wipers on his car!”

4. Is Major Automotive Repair Permitted at Residences?

No. It is unlawful for any person to engage in, or permit others to engage in, major repair or maintenance of vehicles in any agricultural, agricultural-residential, residential, interim agricultural holding, interim estate or interim residential zones.
(See section 5.2.0.B of the Zoning Code)

So if your car has a scratch on it, you can’t fix it because that would be “painting work.” (It is, after all, called “touch up paint.”)

If you get into a fender bender, you can’t repair the damage at your own home.

The County is serious about it too. Fines are $430 for the offense and if you want to appeal the fine, you have to pay and additional $700 administrative fee before the hearing.

We understand that the County doesn’t want unlicensed car repair shops in residential areas. We understand that people in the neighborhood don’t want 10 junked cars on someone’s property.

We also know that Sacramento is not the only town, city or county to have such regulations on the books.

Just because “every one does it,” doesn’t make it right.

Helping a friend should never be made illegal. Trying to save money by repairing your own car should never be illegal. Working on your own possessions on your own property should not be illegal (absent of showing direct harm to others.)

Years ago Hillary Clinton said “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Apparently that’s not the case anymore. You can’t have villagers that help a kid work on their own cars. You can’t have villages that get children interested in a trade. You can’t have a village where the government allows the purchase of specialty tools and receives tax revenues on that purchase, but does not allow the person to use the tool on their own property.

You can’t have people with varied experiences helping neighbors.

We agree with ol’ Thomas Jefferson:

A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.

– Thomas Jefferson




One Response to “It’s Illegal To Fix A Car?”

  1. Percy Veer says:

    Like you say it is understandable for a city not to allow an unlicensed auto repair shop to operate in residential areas but I’m sure there already laws to prevent that from happening. This law seems way too vague and open to interpretation (or misinterpretation) by the whims of city officials. I guess it’s still okay to perform repairs on motorcycles, boats, and tractors in the driveway so that’s good news.

    I had to laugh at the “tools not normally found in a residence” part when they include both agricultural zoning and residential zoning, how many residential zoned residences do you know that have welding equipment, but I’ll guarantee you that almost every agricultural zoned residence does.

    For me personally, just about everything I learned about auto repair came from working on cars in the driveway growing up and it seems a shame to deny other young adults the same experiences.

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