Reader Question: Service Manuals?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Bill writes: I’m a wrencher but not a mechanic, and usually need some sort of guide to doing more than the most basic stuff to my cars and bikes.  I’ve bought Clymer’s and Hayne’s manuals, and once a long time ago I was given a factory service manual.  Now I see those are available cheaply as pdf downloads. So what manuals would you recommend for a guy who still wants to do work to his own bike or car?  Are there sources you would recommend, or sources you’d avoid? Thanks for everything, Eric. I love your site!

My reply: I have a factory service manual for all my vehicles. These are much more comprehensive than the Clymer or Haynes manuals sold at auto parts stores as well as much more specific.

Meaning, the factory manual will have necessary info regarding year-to-year changes as well as details pertaining to the specific drivetrain combo/options your specific vehicle has – as opposed to the much more general info you’ll find in the Haynes and Clymer manuals. Which aren’t bad as a general resource for basic repairs, but if you plan to get deep into the guts of a vehicle, a factory service manual can be your best friend.

As you already know the good news is it’s no longer necessary to spend a fortune to get the hard-copy service manual; you can get PDFs as well as CDs (see ebay for these) for a fraction of the hard copy cost.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. My favorite anger thing is the phrase: “Remove the clip.” Do you know how many clips there are on cars now? Dozens, and none come off the same way.

  2. Motor used to make the ultimate manual. They got fancy and greedy and you had to buy a manual for each part for no more than a year or three. I spoke with the salesman 10 or so years ago. Even the mechanic shop didn’t buy any from him. It’s a damn shame too since the old manuals would have basically everything for a number of years for a single company. I used the Same book to trouble-shoot and repair every GM product from pickups to big rigs. And, they were affordable. I loved the things since they’d have exploded views of every parts systems with very specific disassembly and reassembly instructions even telling you what sorts of assembling gasket maker, lubes, etc. All good things evidently must end and with Motor, it did.

    I’m sure they’re still good but just for one pickup, every book I needed totaled to around $1,000……bullshit.

  3. I think the European (including the UK) companies are required to provide a way to get the service manuals, so they sometimes put them on an a pay-for access web site in as a number of web pages rather than a single PDF. The dealerships pay for full-time access but is unreasonable for a shade tree mechanic. However, there is a solution if you (or a friend) can use computer scripting languages.

    Land Rover and Lotus does this and I wanted all the manuals for my LR4 and Exige. So I bought a one day subscription (about $4 each if I recall), pulled down the top level index, then wrote a script that recursively pulled down everything else – text files, pictures, etc…. Now I have a static copy of the factory service manuals.


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