The Most Important Automotive Book You’ll Never Read


It hardly ever sees the light of day as it sits in the glove compartment.  There is not much glamour in its life with paper receipts and pens stuffed around its perimeter.  Not just taken for granted, it spends its lonely life largely ignored.

Even though tens of thousands of copies are printed up and distributed, it will never make a best sellers list.  The end of its days are likely to be spent in a recycling yard passed over by the scavengers interested in more tangible items such as valve covers and brake calipers.

Perhaps you flipped through its pages when you purchased your car and you enjoyed the fresh smell of the ink and paper that could not compete with the new car smell that wafted throughout the interior.  You might have found a page or two that held your attention for a minute or so, and then you popped it into the glove box intending to give it a good review after you had time to enjoy your first drive.

I cannot count the number of times people have asked me what kind of maintenance they should do to their car when the answer is sitting patiently in their glove compartment.  Those questions provide me the opportunity to find out how deeply buried their owners manual is.

Granted these texts are not always brimming with information that is valuable, nor are they organized with the typical car owner in mind.  Often it is a challenge to find common terms used in the index. 

Say you wanted to find out what the torque setting was for your lug nuts or bolts.  Should you look in the index under wheels?  Maybe it will be found under tightening torque?  Perhaps you will find it listed under capacities? 

The most common question that car owners have is what work is done under scheduled maintenance.  It might be listed under service intervals or car maintenance, but there is usually a very succinct matrix or table that list what should be changed, replaced, or inspected based upon the mileage of your vehicle.  There is even a definition of what “normal” service intervals are versus “severe service” mileage is.  You might be surprised to discover that the conditions that you drive under fit the definition of severe mileage.  Severe does not imply abuse either.  It just means that you need to be aware of the kinds of driving conditions and environmental conditions that will require more robust service than “normal” driving does.

Perhaps you frequently drive short trips, especially in cold weather; or are stuck in gridlock basking in air-conditioning while your cooling system and engine churn out heat.  Or you live on a gravel drive that sends clouds of dust churning out of your wheel well as it is inhaled through your air filter.  The manual can help you classify this.

There are several things that you should be familiar with as regards the car and feeding of your car.  If you ever need to have it towed you may find that your particular car has some restrictions.  All wheel drive (AWD) cars often can only be moved with a flatbed (or roll-back) truck.  Your manual can tell you for certain.

Maybe you want to change your own oil and filter.  Then check you manual for jacking points if you need to get the car up in the air.  You should also be able to find out just how much oil your engine takes, and what type of oil is recommended.  This can change depending upon the time of year as temperature will affect the viscosity of the oil recommended.

Does your car take a special power steering fluid?  Some can use automatic transmission fluid (ATF), but other makes will take a specific type of fluid.  The owner’s manual is where you can find out for sure.

Are you prepared to change a flat tire?  Do you know where the spare is stored in your car and how to get to it?  The owner’s manual will show you.

How about tire pressures?  Often this information is on a sticker in the door jamb, but not necessarily.  The owner’s manual will tell you.  It will also tell you what tire pressure the spare should be set to.

Do you know what to do if you ever need to hook up jumper cables because your battery has gone dead, or you wish to help someone else whose battery is dead?  Most batteries are under the hood, but not all.  Most manuals will tell you where to hook up the cables to ensure that everything is safe.

New cars now come with a host of electronic wizardry as well as new interfaces with old instrumentation.  One of the biggest challenges can be setting the clock when Daylight Savings Time comes into play.

The quality of writing, organization, and illustrations can vary tremendously. Some of them are less than 100 pages in length and others are over 600 and come with CD’s or DVD’s.  But they all have value and deserve a look by you, the car’s owner.  You might be surprised and discover something you never knew.

This entry was posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Care and Feeding, Cars, Life and Cars. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Most Important Automotive Book You’ll Never Read

  1. Mark says:


    Really great write up here – excellent narrative and voice. A lot of good points too.
    I admit that I only refer to the owners manual while scribing down oil changes, or when I need to remember how to program a keyless remote when the battery dies. On my wife’s car, I had to read the manual to figure out how to remove the headlights, and while I was leafing through I found a lot of neat features, like a mode that shows a bar graph of the oil level in the crankcase. Lot of “easter eggs” in new cars these days, and some of us blindly wave away the sales rep try to explain it all…

    Great post!

  2. poeavor says:

    Another exellent piece Jim. Thanks. I have always said that, people don’t read their car owner’s manuals. But be aware that some of them have the wrong information about car battery boosting.Do your research and you will see.
    Pedro Talavera.
    Miami Fl.

  3. poeavor says:

    Perhaps they should all (car manufacturers) join and make a standard for car owner’s manuals don’t you think?.I think some of them offer the information on their web page. That will be very good not only for the owner but also for mechanics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s