Apple, Tesla, and the Terrible Trend of Unrepairable Design: Repair Roundup Week of August 21

Apple, Tesla, and the Terrible Trend of Unrepairable Design: Repair Roundup Week of August 21

Apple announced it will expand its self-repair program for newer MacBook models, but critics say the move is more symbolic gesture than a true step forward in cementing a right to repair.

Each week, we bring you the top repair news from around the world, curated for iFixit by the folks over at the Fight to Repair blog.

The Big News: 

Repair in Name Only

While many are getting amped about Apple’s “Far Out” event on September 7th—which boasts a lineup of new product announcements like the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8—others are focusing on how we extend the lives of the millions of devices that are already in the hands of consumers across the world. Repair advocates have fixated on a recent announcement from Apple that adds newer MacBook models to their self-repair program. The page states that for “MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks with the M1 family of chips, [Apple will be] providing repair manuals and genuine Apple parts and tools through the Apple Self Service Repair Store.” On its face, the announcement sounds like a win, but the move was broadly criticized as lip service for promoting a repair-friendly image.

This announcement comes as a follow-up to the company’s first attempt at a self-repair program, which proved to be a letdown for many repair advocates for its limited scope. Not only that, but Apple’s policy also requires renting a 50lb+ pelican case full of repair implements solely to fix an iPhone—plus you’re on the hook paying up if you do not return them on time. 

In discussing the newest iteration of the repair program, iFixit’s Sam Goldheart puts it simply: “Apple’s Self-Repair Program Manages to Make MacBooks Seem Less Repairable.” There have been several critiques of the program, but the through-line has been that Apple is promoting its self-repair program while only making marginal improvements.

Repairing a MacBook Pro with a Pro Tech Tool Kit
You can replace an M1 MacBook Pro battery without removing the logic board or top case. But you wouldn’t know that from Apple’s official guide.

The Apple Playbook: Subtly Discourage Repair

You can repair your device. Apple won’t stop you. But their strategy has shifted to adding as much friction and difficulty as possible to the repair process. Whether by the information given to consumers like repair guides or the types of parts for sale to consumers, there are many creative ways the company can restrict repair without opposing it outright. This isn’t specific to repair either. Technology companies like Apple and Amazon are notorious for doing their best to lock consumers into their ecosystems to ensure they only buy their brands’ devices. In the context of repair, there are key strategies we see frequently popping up.

Intimidation: Not everyone wants to repair their own tech—and that’s okay. That doesn’t excuse companies that actively make repair appear more difficult than it is. Case in point: the repair manual to replace a battery for a MacBook Pro is 162 pages. When manuals aren’t accessible to repair newbies, it discourages people who might be open to repair.

Design: Whether companies’ products are designed to make repair more difficult or their ambivalence toward repair has never been a factor is up for debate. What is clear is that many of Apple’s products are still built in such a way that simple repairs become complicated. For the M1 MacBook Pro specifically, Apple’s Self Service Repair manual suggests that the design of the machine necessitates that the battery be the last item replaced. This isn’t really true—iFixit’s battery replacement guide requires removing only the back case and the trackpad. However, several MacBook Pros have been designed so that the battery can’t be removed before removing the logic board (in 2017 and 2019, for instance), making the lowest hanging fruit in extending the lifetime of the device far more difficult.

Price: In many cases, if you want to replace one part that is inexpensive, Apple’s part inventory (at present) can make a simple repair more expensive since parts are bundled. In the case of replacing your keyboard or the battery on the MacBook Pro, Apple carries the entire “top lid” of the machine, which according to the Verge will “cost you more than twice the $199 that Apple charges for a battery replacement.”


If Apple’s repair programs have taught us anything, it’s that companies can say one thing and do something entirely different. Much like how companies “greenwash” to make them seem more repair friendly, in this case, critics are accusing Apple of “repair-washing” to appease repair advocates while ensuring repair remains a viable option for a slim minority of DIY enthusiasts and repair-junkies.  

The economic, social, and environmental benefits of repair are well known, but device repairs need to happen for us to reap the benefits. Saying you are a repair-friendly company is not enough. In the case of the Apple program, critics have been left with much to be desired.

Other News:

A Mechanic Fixed a Model 3 for $15,000 Less Than What Tesla Wanted (Auto Evolution)

Bad things can happen while on the road. Fortunately, there are remedies. Some are covered by the warranty and others must be paid out. In this particular case, a Tesla Model 3 owner needed a battery-related fix. The EV maker said it’ll cost $16,000. An independent mechanic did it for 94% less. Here’s what happened.

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Support for cars produced by Tesla, Inc. (formerly Tesla Motors, Inc.)

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A Tesla Model 3 owner from the U.S. ran over an object, and it punched through the sheet of metal that protects vital car parts. As a result, a plastic tube that takes coolant to the battery snapped from its secured location and hit a fitting. All kinds of errors started popping up, so a service visit became mandatory.

When the owner went to Tesla for a checkup, he quickly learned that fixing the car was going to be pricey. They told him the whole battery had to be replaced—a procedure that would have cost this man around $16,000. He considered getting a loan to fix the leased EV but found out from people who went through similar things that someone could fix it for a lot less.

Federal Regulators Praise New York’s ‘Right to Repair’ Bill (

A pending measure meant to make it easier for consumers to fix electronic devices themselves or at local repair shops was praised this week by federal regulators as the bill awaits a final decision from Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

The Federal Trade Commission in a letter released by bill sponsor Assemblywoman Pat Fahy praised the bill, calling it a milestone. The letter comes as manufacturers have raised concerns with the legislation and have pointed to potential safety issues and cybersecurity issues. 

“For many consumers, these expanded repair options will enable them to extend the useful lives of their products, thereby driving down the cost of ownership and reducing the amount of e-waste generated,” the letter stated. “Furthermore, the Digital Fair Repair Act will provide opportunities for small independent repair shops to deliver vital services for consumers.”

NY Assemblywoman Pat Fahy

Lawmakers earlier this year in New York approved a measure that would require manufacturers of many digital and electronic devices to make spare parts and manuals available either to consumers or to repair shops in order for fixes to be performed locally. 

Missing Parts, Long Waits, and a Dead Mouse: The Perils of Getting a Tesla Fixed (Vox)

These are just a few of the issues about Tesla service that customers have flagged in complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Through a public records request, Recode obtained details about more than 1,000 complaints about Tesla, including more than 120 customer reports that discussed specific problems with service, delays, and parts. The complaints point to all sorts of problems with the experience of owning a Tesla vehicle, including an inadequate number of service centers, limited stock of replacement parts, bad communication, poor manufacturing quality, and long wait times for repair appointments.

Part of the frustration is that EVs are supposed to be easier to maintain than internal combustion vehicles. They don’t need oil changes, have fewer moving parts, and use regenerative braking, which means brake pads last longer. Tesla even says that it “designs every Tesla vehicle with the goal of eliminating the need for service.” However, Tesla drivers tend to visit service centers at nearly the same rate as the owners of premium gas-powered vehicles, such as Lexus or Audi.

Some independent mechanics who have experience repairing Teslas say they’re picking up the slack. Benoit, who runs a Tesla YouTube channel, operates an EV repair shop, and says he’s seeing an uptick in demand for repairs, including a rise in appointments for Model 3s. Carl Medlock is also the owner of an EV repair shop who worked for Tesla for nearly four years and says his business has doubled in the past year.

Why Is Everything a Subscription Now? (How-To Geek)

These days, it feels like we’re juggling dozens of subscriptions for smartphone apps, PC software, news websites, TV steaming services, appliance features, audio books, podcasts, delivery services, car features, gadgets, and more. A 2021 poll conducted by West Monroe found that Americans on average were spending around $273 a month on subscription services. If you add rent to that list (subscription housing), it feels like we might not own anything ourselves ever again.

Sometimes, subscriptions can be a good thing. If you regularly purchase a consumable item, such as electricity or a magazine with continuously fresh content that you enjoy, it feels like a subscription makes sense. But recently, some products or features that were once one-time purchases (or were previously included with a one-time purchase) are getting locked away behind subscription models with no additional benefit to the customer.

Also, if you’re concerned about living in a world where fewer things are owned and controlled by consumers, consider supporting the Right to Repair movement, which seeks to allow people to repair and modify products they’ve purchased. Good luck, and stay safe out there!

Right To Repair: What It Really Means For Users And Companies (Screen Rant)

Right to repair is a growing movement across the world that tries to ensure that users have the right to repair the products that they own, ranging from smartphones to automobiles to home appliances. With the growing advancements in technology, our lives are becoming easier and more comfortable with every passing year. There is a downside to this though—products become obsolete or outdated faster than ever, and consumers struggle to extend the life of products they own.

So, what does the right-to-repair movement and legislation mean for users and companies on the whole? Well, for users, the benefits are massive. Having an older phone that may simply need a new display would simply require going into a repair shop, paying a bit of money, and getting a new screen installed. Doing this would allow the user to continue using their phone without needing to buy a brand-new device. Companies, of course, may argue that in order to provide sleek designs and more features, some components would need to be permanent fixtures. However, with laptops such as Framework, which are slim and compact while also allowing for a fully repairable and customizable product, sleek and slim designs can be achieved without losing reparability. Companies may lose out on some profits due to consumers not needing to buy a new product every time something stops working, but they could make up the losses to a small extent by selling the official replacement parts.

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Classic Mac

The Macintosh Classic was a personal computer produced by Apple Computer, Inc. between 1990 and 1992.

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Vintage Macintosh Receives Modern ePaper Conversion (

Dave Luna brought new life to a retro beauty by adding a huge ePaper display to a Macintosh Classic II shell.

Luna’s primary purpose for this converted Classic II is displaying family photos. He wrote a custom Python script with a GUI that mimics the Macintosh desktop and shows each photo in a window. But Luna chose a unique method to get the photos to the computer. Those photos reside in a family Google Photos album and Luna didn’t want to mess around with the Google Photos API. Instead, he connected a Chromecast to the Raspberry Pi’s camera port through a special Waveshare adapter. An HDMI splitter strips the standard copy protection from the video signal and the Python script captures stills from the feed as the Chromecast runs in ambient mode.

That’s a pretty convoluted way to display a photo album, but it works. The Classic II can also act as a simple digital clock if Luna gets tired of looking at photos of his family.