New Report Shows What Illinoisans Tried to Fix in 2020, and the Barriers They Still Face

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Sabrina Clevenger

2.2 million visitors from Illinois went to the repair guide site iFixit last year, but 6 of the top 10 manufacturers of consumer electronics don’t provide necessary parts and information to perform basic repairs.

Illinois PIRG Education Fund

Illinois PIRG released a new report Friday, “What are Illinoisans Fixing?” which compiles data from the popular repair instruction website about what items people in Illinois were fixing the most in 2020. The report also takes a closer look at the broader repair ecosystem, including barriers that make it harder than it should be to perform basic repairs and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the things we were fixing. 

The report, along with other “Right to Repair” topics, will be discussed today, April 9th, at 12 p.m. on a virtual panel, with guests Willie Cade, State Senator Melinda Bush, and State Representative Michelle Mussman. RSVP for the event here

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • iFixit had 2.2 million unique visitors from Illinois last year, which is almost 1 in 6 Illinoisans.
  • The most popular products people tried to fix were cell phones, laptops, gaming consoles, automobiles, tablets, desktop computers, smart watches, vacuums, clothing, and speakers. 
  • People tried to fix more gaming consoles in 2020 compared to past years, seeking entertainment while at home. 
  • Of the 10 most popular manufacturers of consumer electronics, 6 don’t provide access to spare parts or technical service information such as a schematic. 
  • Many repair shops noted an uptick in business during the pandemic, and higher demand for work-from-home devices including laptops and webcams.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has both caused financial hardships for too many Americans and encouraged people at home to find constructive things to keep them busy. That confluence of events has Illinoisans trying to save money and fix their own stuff, rather than throwing things out or paying for someone else to repair it,” said Sabrina Clevenger, Illinois PIRG associate. “Unfortunately, some manufacturers don’t make it easy for anyone to repair their electronics, blocking access to parts, tools, software or other critical repair information. We should have the right to repair our own devices.”

The report highlights the need for “Right to Repair” reforms, which would require manufacturers to make parts and service information available. More than half the states filed Right to Repair legislation in 2021. 

Illinois residents searched most often on iFixit for cell phone repair guides, and [Apple] products. While many Illinoisans were able to use those online guides to fix things themselves, others relied on experts at local fix-it shops.

“Last year was a struggle for all. As the majority of folks were home, they utilized mobile devices more than ever. All was essential. Kids needed their computers to login for school, gaming systems at night for fun and parents using Zoom to work,” said Terry Ballantini, owner of Normal Gadgets, an electronics repair shop in Bloomington, IL. “Our business increased dramatically by assisting customers when these all broke. They had no time to drive 2.5 hours to visit an Apple store that might have been closed. We are local, in their community and open.”

People also relied on their devices more than ever before as one of the few ways to stay connected. “We used to repair devices, now we repair lifelines,” said Andrew Harding, owner of Salem Techsperts.