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What Is a Car Service Manual?



What Is a Car Service Manual?

Why You Should Buy a Car Service Manual

Even the most experienced mechanics can get stuck when working on a car model he comes across for the first time.

That’s why it’s not uncommon to find car service manual in most repair shops — and for a good reason.

A car service manual contains everything there is to know to maintain and repair a specific vehicle based on the make, model, production year, and engine.

Among other things, they cover all symptoms to help you troubleshoot any issue and the corresponding procedure to repair it, making them essential to DIYers and mechanics alike.

Depending on the manual, you can also expect to find various diagrams, pictures, illustrations, and wiring. But, of course, not all manuals are created equal.

But, before we discuss the content you can expect to find in a service and repair manual, we should first cover some terminology.

Differences between Workshop, Service, Factory, Owner’s, Aftermarket, and Repair Manuals

Service, Repair, and Maintenance are terms you will often see together with other labels, for example, “Factory Service Manual” or “Workshop Repair Manual.”

These three terms are interchangeable and don’t tell much about the contents. The only thing you can know for sure is that you are not looking at an Owner’s Manual.

An Owner’s Manual is a heavily watered-down version of a car service repair manual.

That’s something you get with every new car. Come to think of it; it’s something you get with every stove, microwave, tv, etc.

An Owner’s Manual is basically an “instruction” manual, covering all the controls and features, basic care and maintenance, and technical data — but not much more.

Lastly, we have the Aftermarket and Factory manuals, which cause the most confusion. Both manuals cover repairs, troubleshooting, pictures, wiring diagrams, etc.

However, a “Factory” repair manual is put together by the manufacturer itself, while the “Aftermarket” one is produced by a third-party company — basically like the difference between OEM and aftermarket replacement parts.

Still, the main difference between the two, even though they both aim to cover the same information, is that a factory manual is usually much more extensive.

For example, a factory manual for a BMW E36 is over 700 pages. In comparison, a Haynes workshop manual for the same car is just over 300 pages.

Of course, they’ll both work for the basic stuff, but if you are about to disassemble the engine entirely and rebuild it from the ground up, a Factory manual is always a better idea.

How to Use a Car Service Manual

Instead of listing all the possible contents of a typical service and repair manual, I think it’s best to do a quick demonstration on how to use one.

Let’s say you have noticed your temperature gauge is faulty. It either shows a high temperature when the engine is cold or doesn’t move when it’s hot.

The first thing you would do is find the cooling system section. To do that, open the first page, and you will see something like this:

0 – General Data and Maintenance

1 – Engine

2 – Transmission

3 – Suspension, Steering, and Brakes

4 – Body

5 – Body Equipment

6 – Electrical System

7 – Equipment and Accessories

8 – Wiring Diagrams

Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. Since you need to work on the cooling system, on the same page next to “Engine,” you will see multiple subsections. One of them will be something like “Radiator and Cooling System.”
  2. Once you get to the first page of the cooling system section, you will see another table of contents, and one will be labeled as “Troubleshooting.” Once in that section, do a quick scan to find the “Temperature Gauge Check.”
  3. After that, the instructions will explain that you need to bypass the sensor and how to do it. You will also see a picture of what the sensor looks like and where it’s located as well as instructions regarding which terminals to hardwire.
  4. Next, depending on what the gauge does after bypassing it and what the instructions say, you will know whether the gauge is faulty or if you should test the sensor and wiring instead.
  5. Once you find the source of the issue, you will then find everything you might need to repair or replace whatever’s broken.

Digital Manuals and Service Manual Software

In this modern day and age, when everything is going digital, car service manual are no different.

If you have the choice, getting a digital one is a much better idea since it will be much easier and quicker to navigate and carry around.

That said, there are two types of modern online manuals. The first is the standard paper manual scanned and converted into a PDF file.

They are still easier to use and are more practical, but you will still find yourself scrolling through hundreds of pages.

Besides, the file and the manual pages are usually not in sync, making it almost as tricky to use as a physical manual.

Service manual software is the second type and usually a much better option.

These are basically the exact same thing used by dealer technicians. As a result, you can find what you are looking for with only one click.

However, while most repair manuals in PDF format will work on just any electronic device, including your smartphone and tablet, repair manual software will often be only compatible with Windows or Mac computers — keep this in mind if you prefer to keep your repair manual with you at all times.

Luckily, most repair manual suppliers like eManualOnline usually carry both types, so you can choose whatever works best for you.

Wrapping Up

Car service Manual repair manuals are nothing new; they have been around for as long as cars have, and that’s a factual statement of their efficacy.

Even excluding the step-by-step guides, wiring diagrams, troubleshooting instructions, tables, etc., finding so much detailed information on a vehicle in one place is still incredibly fascinating.

I will never forget when I first uncovered them and went through an entire factory manual, front to back, for a Suzuki GSX-R1000 I didn’t even own. It changed my view of motorized vehicles and made me fall in love with mechanics as a whole.

But, since then, I have made huge savings on repairs and maintenance on any car I own and use them daily in my shop.

Put simply, if you are serious about fixing your own vehicles, you just can’t go wrong with a good repair manual.

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