Many vehicle owners search Google aimlessly for answers to questions like: “what type of oil does my car use” and “how do I replace my headlight bulbs.” But what they fail to realize is that the answers to these questions—and many more—are readily available in their owner’s manual.
When it comes to taking care of your vehicle, the owner’s manual is one of the most important references to have on hand. That’s why, in recognition of the fall car care season, we’ve created a guide to help you navigate your owner’s manual to find proper information on vehicle service and upkeep.
Your Owner’s Manual: Where to Look for Car Care Information
Your owner’s manual has everything from information on how to set the radio to instructions for opening and closing the doors. In regards to car care, however, the most important sections in your owner’s manual include:
- Taking care of the unexpected
- Technical information
- The service schedule
Let’s explore each of these sections.
Note: The name of each section of the owner’s manual (and the content inside) may vary by vehicle.
The Maintenance Section
The maintenance section is one of the most important parts of your owner’s manual. Here, you’ll find the basic information needed to maintain your vehicle.
Usually, the section includes instructions for:
- Locating fluids
- Checking fluids
- Changing the oil and filter
- Replacing select exterior bulbs
- Replacing the wiper blades
- Maintaining and replacing the tires
- Inspecting and caring for the battery
The “Taking Care of the Unexpected” Section
Have you ever been stuck with a flat tire or dead battery and not known what to do? In the “Taking Care of the Unexpected” portion of your owner’s manual, you’ll find information to help solve these problems and more.
Here are some of the key topics this section usually covers:
- How to change a flat tire
- How to jump-start your car
- Fuse locations
- What to do when faced with issues, such as warning lights and engine overheating
The Technical Information Section
When you enter a query into Google regarding your vehicle’s care, you might not get the correct answer. But when you reference the owner’s manual for your car, you’ll get the right answer—every time.
Information you’re likely to find in the technical information section includes:
- Fluid specifications (types and capacities)
- Trailer weight rating
- Fuel octane specifications
- Spark plug gap
- Tire size and recommended inflation pressure
- Lug nut torque
- Light bulb specifications (model number, wattage, etc.)
The Service Schedule (May Be Found in a Supplemental Booklet)
You want to take care of your car by servicing it on time, but you don’t want to waste money on unnecessary maintenance. The service schedule comes in handy because it tells you what services are due and when. For example, it mentions when:
- Fluids should be changed
- Filters require replacement
- Tires should be rotated
- Other maintenance that should be performed
You’ll find the schedule either in the back of the owner’s manual or in a separate, supplemental booklet.
What’s Not Covered in the Owner’s Manual
Surprisingly, many people are unaware of how much information is available in their owner’s manual—and just as many get confused about what’s not included in the manual.
Here are some examples of what the document does not cover:
- Repair instructions (e.g., how to replace your fuel filter)
- Diagnostic trouble code descriptions
- Wiring diagrams
- Information regarding the locations of mechanical and electrical components (e.g., sensors)
How to Find a Copy Of Your Car’s Owner’s Manual Online
These days, if you lose your car’s owner’s manual, you may be able to access a digital version for free via the automaker’s website. Nearly all vehicle manufacturers provide digital owner’s manuals for models built within the last decade or two. For instance, if you have a 2015 Toyota RAV4, you can get an e-manual by going to Toyota.com.
But what If you have an older car or you simply want a paper manual? Usually, you can get a print copy through eBay or the dealer.
Why Having (and Reading!) the Owner’s Manual is Important
Nowadays, there’s no excuse not to reference your owner’s manual since digital versions are readily available online. Choosing to rely on internet search results for important questions, such as what type of oil your car takes, can lead to incorrect answers that cause big-time problems.
So, if you want your car to last, you need to keep the owner’s manual handy—and actually read it.