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Most DIY Auto Repairs Are Now Illegal in Sacramento. Could This Trend Affect More Cities Nationwide?

From engine tuning to auto body repair, Sacramento has made many DIY auto repair activities illegal. With the recent introduction of the RPM Act, tuning, and automotive tinkering is under attack. Is this a glimpse into the future?


Last week I wrote about the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act which is making its way through committees in Washington D.C. to hopefully become a law. In my opinion piece, I wrote how this law clarifies interpretation of the Clean Air Act, which is a long-standing environmentally-focused piece of legislation. With SEMA’s backing and power, the RPM Act hopes to clarify that racecars used exclusively for competition do not violate any portion of the Clean Air Act.

The comments on this story, as you’d expect, were somewhat contentious. Any time you talk about anything political that’s bound to happen today. I generally avoid political discussions as they lead to nowhere but arguments.

But I stand by my stance that taking away a great American past time like modifying cars and fixing them up and even tuning them is overreach by the government. If the government wants to get younger generations on board with environmentalism, attacking the car culture is not the way to go.

Politicians, through misinterpreting the Clean Air Act, have underestimated how much today’s generation loves the car culture and take pride in tuning and modifying their cars. Some of this is due to the Fast and Furious franchise movies, but it’s also vital to the automotive industry to make sure cars are still.

And certainly an organization like SEMA wants the aftermarket industry strong. From an economic standpoint, the aftermarket industry is a billion-dollar industry, so attacking it seems unnecessary.

Rather than rehash the pro-stance on the RPM Act, I saw on the website where Sacramento (the capital of California) passed a law that will limit the kind of work citizens can do on their own vehicles at their homes. Let’s look a little more at this law.

Car repairs/brakesCar Repairs Banned in Sacramento
In Sacramento County, where California’s capital city is located, a law looks to limit the kind of repairs that car owners can do, limiting it to just minor work like oil changes and preventing things like engine swaps, tuning or any body work.

The law goes even further preventing anyone from working on anyone else’s vehicle but their own. This would mean good citizens couldn’t step up and help someone who might need an expensive car repair but don’t have the resources to do so.

The law allows for minor adjustments and service such as oil changes, brake repair, tune ups, upholstery upkeep and tire rotation, to name a few. However the law strictly prohibits “Major Automobile Repair” which includes major engine work, tuning and body repair. The law looks to keep vehicles from being inoperable for more than 24 hours.

While that might mean well, it is an idea that is not practical for many citizens.

Taking it even further, the law looks to ban (somehow) certain tools from being used at home. Some of the tools mentioned are in fact quite common and they include: air compressors, impact wrenches and even torque wrenches. These tools, according to the law are defined as “tools not normally found in a residence.”

Checking the oilFinal Thoughts
Just like my take in the story about the RPM Act, this appears to be a law that sounded good in principle, but goes too far. Also, defining many of these tools, that are found in many garages, as uncommon shows just how out of touch politicians are with the average joe.

This shouldn’t be shocking that politicians don’t quite understand the average citizen, but this also shouldn’t mean that they get to pass overreaching laws that only hurt people and really have no real long-term value.

At least at the heart of the RPM Act is a cleaner environment, but what’s at the heart of this law in Sacramento just seems to foolishly overstep private citizens rights, without any real reason for doing so. Tinkering, tuning and DIY auto repairs are part of a normal weekend for so many. It’s also a right of passage from parent to child. Why try to inhabit and limit that? We need more people working with their hands, not less.

Let’s hope that this law is just a strange occurrence in Sacramento only and doesn’t catch on in other municipalities across the country.

Your comments were great on the RPM Act story, let’s hear them regarding this. Please leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.


Bill Vose (not verified)    March 22, 2021 - 4:40PM

I have been working on cars since about 14, so this is my 60th year (soon 61st). I do virtually all of my own repairs outside of alignment and body work and have had my own business. This law, like most of the laws in these liberal states is a classic example of government over reach. I have two vehicles that are 35 years old and no longer stock, however, all emission equipment for the engines are functional and at least one of them is probably cleaner running than it was as built. I have a fairly substantial investment in tools and diagnostic equipment including a 40X40 garage.

Herman (not verified)    May 21, 2022 - 4:56PM

In reply to by Bill Vose (not verified)

That is crazy they won’t let you work on your own vehicle. How do they think this country was built. They over stepping their boundaries by way too much. I’m glad I don’t live in California.

jg (not verified)    March 22, 2021 - 4:47PM

I’ve lived in various places in the US and Germany where auto maintenance was verboten in residential areas, and it was mostly because people refused to dispose of dangerous chemicals in a proper manner, though I believed noise and neighborhood eyesores did play into the regulatory decisions.

One of the positive outcomes in these areas was the rise in the business of renting shop space and providing assistance to those in the shop areas. Because of the availability of professionals to help out the DIYers, many more people that wouldn’t have previously tried were going to these shops to work on their own vehicles.

So despite how bad this sounds on the surface, it could end up building new businesses, fostering new car clubs, and actually getting more people into the gear head mentality (I’ve been working on cars since I was a little kid because my grandpa had a gas station, back when we used to do full service auto repair).

TimR (not verified)    March 23, 2021 - 12:52AM

So no weekend vintage car restoration projects? That is truly un-American. I could maybe understand certain restrictions in certain neighborhoods of a city. But this is for an entire county, and Sacramento County has many somewhat rural areas, too. But I live in CA, so this doesn't surprise me at all. And who knows, maybe this is really an effort to wean people off evil fossil-fuel powered cars. Don't fix it, buy a new EV instead.

Rick J (not verified)    March 23, 2021 - 10:09AM

"The most dangerous words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" - Ronald Reagan

Shawn (not verified)    March 23, 2021 - 11:55AM

Did you actually read the law or just that crappy odometer article?
They misinterpreted it completely. It is meant to keep people from operating something like an auto repair shop out of their garages. You absolutely can work in your own car. Having it up on blocks for a long time may upset your neighbor though.

Richard E Crouthamel (not verified)    March 23, 2021 - 12:29PM

Those tools all have uses for many other things than automotive. They are out of control and need to be stopped, not a chance I would live in any area like that.

Glen (not verified)    March 23, 2021 - 12:57PM

I live in Sacramento and while I don't work on my cars I find that this will be one of those laws that doesn't get enforced. People in my neighborhood replace their brakes and other types of maintenance all the time. Reality is so few people have the ability to work on a car or have a car that can be maintained that it is a California statement versus anything else. The reality is that progressive states are going to have to lead on the climate change issue as the Federal government can't and you have to expect an irrational law to come out now and again.

John (not verified)    October 12, 2021 - 9:38PM

In reply to by Glen (not verified)

"Progressive states are going to have to lead..." Are you kidding? You sound like a passive, go along to get along pansy-ass pussy. People like you just absorb propagandist talking points and then spew out the bullshit, as if it actually makes sense. Use your brain and think for yourself for once, dumbass!
Climate change is all about control. That's it. See World Economic Forum. Build Back Better. 4th Industrial Revolution
Corona virus is a hoax.
and many more. Search for truth using duckduckgo as google is china now and CENSORING LIKE YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE !!!

Spo (not verified)    March 24, 2021 - 9:21PM

I see the corporations are pulling strings against right to repair again. Tough luck. I own my car and I will do what I deem necessary.

Bill Beggs (not verified)    March 24, 2021 - 10:56PM

Your headline is grossly misleading."Most DIY Auto Repairs Are Now Illegal in Sacramento" yet you go on to say "The law allows for minor adjustments and service such as oil changes, brake repair, tune ups, upholstery upkeep and tire rotation, to name a few. However the law strictly prohibits Major Automobile Repair”. So which is it? 'Most' or 'Major'. Answer - Major. Do the right thing and fix your clickbait headline.

RH (not verified)    May 25, 2021 - 3:21PM

This is ridiculous, and a shot for grabbing more money. If people aren't allowed to fix their own cars they'll hve to pay the THOUSANDS of dollars shops overcharge to do the same job. Toyota just charged my sister $5k for fixing something and that wasn't evenan engine replacement. It's absurd.
And my father paid for his tools and uses them on MANY projects outside of car repair. No law should prohibit his use of a product he purchased many yrs ago or prohibit ots citizens from using their own hands. What it can and should outlaw is people dumping car parts where and chemicals where they shouldn't be, and or having a car out on the street for an infinite amount of time. But we already have a law that states a car cant be parked somewhere on public sidewalk for more than 3 days at a time....

geasijo (not verified)    June 30, 2021 - 4:29AM

Why would anyone live in Cucklifornia? Except maybe for those subhumans working in IT corporations.