Repair Manual Buyer's Guide
- A repair manual is a resource that gives specific information on vehicle repair. These manuals got written and put together by seasoned and certified mechanics and professionals who have been in the field for a long time.
- Physical copies of repair manuals can last you a long time. As opposed to online or electronic copies of repair manuals, you won’t have to worry about small screens and dead batteries.
- Make sure that your repair manual applies specifically for your vehicle, contains the information that you need, and accommodates your learning style with the appropriate diagrams and pictures.
- Haynes and Chilton repair manuals are similar in terms of accuracy, how they present information to their readers, and how they’re structured. However, the main and important difference between the two is that Haynes includes more diagrams and pictures to help the visual learner.
- You can get a repair manual that can last you a lifetime for only $15- $38.
In the past, mechanics and DIYers alike had to rely on instinct and gumption so they can fix a car. Vehicles weren’t as complex as they are now, so you could understand why guides and manuals weren’t a thing yet. Through time, vehicles have upgraded and so there was finally a need for a formal guide for people to fix and maintain their vehicles.
Whether it's for checking out how to diagnose OBD- II codes or how to repair components under the hood, you’ll need a handy and easy-to-follow repair manual. These guides offer a lot of helpful information and solutions that don’t appear in the owner’s manual of your vehicle. What should you look for in a repair manual? This guide will help you choose from the best car repair manuals out there.
What is a repair manual?
A repair manual is a resource that gives specific information on vehicle repair. These manuals got written and put together by seasoned and certified mechanics and professionals who have been in the field for a long time.
While owner’s manuals have basic information on the vehicle and its maintenance, repair manuals have even more detailed content and repair instructions to help DIYers and mechanics.
Physical vs electronic copies of repair manuals
Nowadays, car manufacturers post owner’s manuals on their website so that vehicle owners can have easy access to the information. However, some car manufacturers still include physical copies of owner’s manuals along with the car.
The same goes for repair manuals. You can get both physical copies of the book or you can also apply for a subscription online so you can access the repair manual from your mobile devices.
Accessing the repair manual on your mobile devices like smartphones and tablets should make everything convenient for you as a DIYer. However, having an actual copy saves you from several inconveniences.
One, the repair manuals have detailed diagrams that you just won’t be able to see in full if you view it from a mobile device. You’ll have to zoom in on the image and still struggle to see how everything goes according to the diagram. Viewing a repair manual from a tiny screen just doesn’t help sometimes.
Second, it’s pretty risky to use your phone or other mobile devices in the garage. For one, your devices might fall and break accidentally, whereas a physical copy of a repair manual won’t get damaged that easily. Second, touchscreens and keyboards don’t work well with greasy fingers. Last, there’s always a possibility that the batteries on your mobile devices can die on you in the middle of a repair job.
Third, while online repair manuals are very handy, if it’s not from a trusted source, you can’t really be sure of the information it provides. Sometimes you even have to spend a lot on online subscriptions to gain access to these online repair manuals just to access them for just a full year. If you have a physical copy and you take care of it well, it will last you quite a while.
What to look for in a repair manual
To make sure you get the best repair manual, make sure it complies with certain criteria. Not all repair manuals are the same, so you have to be particular about what you need and see which manual passes your test.
Every vehicle is different. Component locations, diagrams, and repair instructions for a sedan differ from those intended for a pickup truck. Most repair manuals out there are vehicle-specific. Before you purchase a repair manual, make sure it’s written for the year, make, and model of your vehicle.
Repair manuals will usually include wiring diagrams, electrical component locations, serpentine belt diagrams, oil change, and light service resets, timing belt and chain marks, torque specifications, and troubleshooting procedures.
Different repair manuals will arrange and present information differently. Consider doing a bit of research before you purchase a specific repair manual. This is because some repair manuals won’t have the information you’re looking for. Or the information that you’re looking for might be only available to service centers.
Diagrams and images
Some repair manuals are text-heavy, while some provide really detailed diagrams and pictures. Some people rely on text instructions while some are visual learners. Knowing how a repair manual presents information visually can help you choose a manual that suits your learning type. Go for something that presents detailed information in a way that you can digest better.
Haynes vs Chilton repair manuals
Haynes and Chilton have been in the repair manual industry long enough for them to become household brands. There are several pros and cons to each and it might be helpful to know which one suits your needs better.
Like Haynes, Chilton repair manuals are vehicle-specific. Chilton has been publishing manuals for almost every vehicle make and model since 1904. Their line includes repair manuals for cars, trucks, SUVs, and even vans. At one point, they also published motorcycle repair manuals, but right now they don’t.
What makes a Chilton repair manual different is that mechanics or DIYers who are just starting out can easily follow the instructions and diagrams in the manual. They also have instructions and other relevant information on how to deal with trouble codes. Chilton also provides an online community for its users.
Haynes is also great for amateur mechanics and DIYers. They first started in 1960 and from there, they’ve been a leader in automotive repair manuals. Haynes publishes repair and maintenance manuals for almost all automobiles, motorcycles, and even ATVs produced since the 60s. They even have manuals on earlier models like the 1949 Volkswagen Beetle.
Haynes also offers multi-language options, with some repair manuals published in Spanish. They also have digital subscriptions and paperback editions of their repair manuals.
In terms of information and attention to detail, both Chilton and Haynes have equal footing. Both brands rely on the expertise of experienced mechanics and technicians so they can publish accurate repair manuals. The main difference between the two is that a Haynes repair manual has more diagrams and pictures than Chilton. This is pretty helpful, especially for visual learners.
How much is a repair manual?
You can get a repair manual that can last you a lifetime for only $15- $38. With the vehicle selector tool feature on most online car parts shops, you can input your vehicle’s year, make, and model so you can find a repair manual that’s specifically written for your vehicle. You can narrow down your search even further by choosing the brand you want--whether it’s Chilton or Haynes.
Choosing the Best Manual for Your Auto Needs
Despite the availability of manuals all over the internet, you would still find the need to buy that specific paperback manual whenever you're inclined to perform DIY repairs and maintenance for your car. There are times when you just can't bring your laptop or other devices in the garage with the fear of either breaking them or having them compromised by your DIY tasks. And this is where a paperback manual becomes handy.
Different types of manual for different automobile needs
When you buy a brand new car, it would usually come with a certain type of manual such as a general car manual. However, at times when you need to perform a specific repair or maintenance task, a specialized manual would be more efficient. You must identify which type of manual would best suit your skills and knowledge in car repair.
- Repair manual - If you are already familiar with the basics of car repair and maintenance, then a repair manual would work best for you. This type of manual also suits DIYers who are keen on details. Repair manuals are crafted from the knowledge and experience of DIYers and professional mechanics who specialize in specific automobile models.
- Engine repair manual - This type of manual is suited for advanced DIYers and professional mechanics who prefer to have a handy reference by their side as they work on issues concerning the engine. Well-crafted engine manuals will give you relevant information on how to overhaul, rebuild, and dismantle your vehicle's engine.
- Owner's manual - If you're working on a distinct component of your car, then an owner's manual would work well with your needs. It's your trusted source of accurate technical information, sometimes with images, regarding a specific component. It also contains a more in-depth view of the car part you've bought.
- Service manual - If you're looking for service information and technical details of a specific make and model, then a service manual would best fit your needs.
Benefits of having a paperback manual
If you want to maintain your car in good working condition, then you definitely need to have your own repair manual. Aside from the fact that it gives you specific data on your vehicle's make, model, and year, it also allows you to get a more comprehensive understanding of how the different components of your car work. This way, you can save bucks with DIY repairs and maintenance routines.