Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Find a car repair manual or shop manual

Find a car repair manual or shop manual

Where to get the best shop manual for repairing your car or truck

Nobody wants to spend money on a shop manual for their car or truck. They think they can get a step-by-step, free wiring diagram or youtube video that tells them everything they need to know. I’ve got news for you; if you want half-assed or outright incorrect information, then head to the internet and youtube. Yes, there are are a few blogs that post free wiring diagrams (like my site). But due to copyright infringement enforcement actions by the car makers, those diagrams tend to disappear shortly after they’re posted. And, getting the RIGHT diagram can be tricky. Read this post on how difficult it can be to get the right diagram even if you subscribe to an online shop manual service.

Be wary of Youtube auto repair videos

The people who post repair videos on youtube are well meaning. But many times they’re showing you a hack way to do the job. They skip past critical information like torque specs and alignment settings. Tightening some parts without a torque wrench can cause major part failure, costing you a small fortune down the road. They kinda skip that part. I mean, nobody ever comes back to re-do the video and say, “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about this!”

A professional shop manual will give you all the torque specs, step-by-step instructions for disassebmly and re-assembly and they’ll provide diagrams.

Aftermarket printed repair manuals

You can buy a Haynes or Chiltons manual online or at any auto parts store. Congratulations, you just saved money. The downside? In my opinion you just very little value for your money. That’s because printed shop manuals combine multiple model years into one book to save money. Car and truck makers change things every year, and procedures, wiring diagrams and specifications change from year to year and even model to model. So the books are cheap. But in some cases, you’ll have the wrong information for your particular year, model and engine combination. So you get what you pay for.

Factory shop manuals are the best

If you have an older car, I strongly recommend going on ebay to buy a genuine factory shop manual. They’re simply the best. They not only give you step-by-step instructions, but they also explain how the systems work so you can diagnose them. They’re worth every penny. BUT, there’s still a better way to get repair information.

Professional online shop manuals from Alldata and Mitchel on Demand

Professional shops use Alldata and Mitchell On Demand repair manuals. Why? Because they not only provide all the repair information pro shops need, but they ALSO provide all the technical service bulletins by the car maker.

What is a technical service bulletin

Look, car makers make mistakes. They under-design parts. They mess up the software. They mis-route wiring harnesses that wind up running against the engine and shorting out. When car makers discover those mistakes, they publish a technical service bulletin to give techs everywhere a “heads up” that when you encounter a certain issue, chances are they’ve already identified the fix. Having the service bulletin can save you a LOT of money.

Here’s an example: Almost half of all technical service bulletins describe engine and transmission performance issues that can be fixed by installing a software update. I get it, you can’t install the update yourself because you don’t own a $3,000 scan tool. But most pro shops do and they charge about $150-$200 to do the update. You’ll waste far more than that in time and parts trying solve the problem yourself, only to find out that you still need a software update.

Technical service bulletins also correct mistakes in the printed versions of their factory shop manuals and they update procedures when techs find easier ways to do the repair. Printed shop manuals can’t give you those updates.

Buy an online subscription or try to find a free source

Many public libraries offer free in-library access to professional repair manuals. Libraries usually offer either Alldata, Eautorepair, Chiltons, or EBSCO. EBSCO is the least helpful of them all. However, it does offer TSBs and some wiring diagrams. I’m not a big fan of Chiltons, but if it’s free and you have no other source, it’s worth a try.

Call your public library and ask if they have online access to an auto repair shop manual service. Then log in, find the diagrams and print them on the library printer. Total cost? Maybe $2 for the printer/copy machine.

Or, buy a subscription to Alldatadiy.com or eautorepair.net

Eautorepair.net is the consumer version of Mitchell On Demand. Both are really top notch services and their pricing is similar.
Yes the services will cost money. But you’ll be getting the right information at your fingertips. It just isn’t that expensive to subscribe to an online service and get the real information for your specific vehicle from a reliable source. In addition, the solution to the problem you’re trying to solve may already be in a technical service bulletin put out by the car maker. In that case you’d be wasting a ton of time trying to track down the problem on your own. That’s why the pros ALWAYS check the TSB’s before starting any repair.

Here are the pros and cons of each one type of shop manual.

Alldatadiy.com has diagrams of body trim components and fasteners, along with factory wiring diagrams with instructions on how to remove them. So if you have to tear into your dash, remove a door panel, or replace a window regulator, this is the service for you. Alldata also seems to have more up-to-date TSBs.

However, Alldata also has redrawn tech friendly wiring diagrams. The tech friendly wiring diagram are in color and show the part’s location. In addition, you can click on a wire and the program will highlight the circuit on your page, making it much easier to follow. ’

Factory wiring diagrams are much harder to read because each manufacturer uses their own special symbols. Worse yet, factory wiring diagrams don’t include the locations of splices and grounds on the same page as the diagram. So you have to go to the component locator section and find the sections for power distribution, ground locations, splice locations, etc. It’s cumbersome.

Eautorepair also provides factory and redrawn wiring diagrams

Eautorepair.net has factory wiring diagrams and redrawn tech friendly wiring diagrams that list the part location.

But Eautorepair.net doesn’t have ANY diagrams for body or trim parts. If you need to tear into a dash, replace a window regulator, or remove a door trim panel, you’re out of luck with eautorepair.net.

Online Shop Manual Pricing

1 month subscription $19.95 per vehicle
1-year subscription $39.95 per vehicle
4-year subscription $59.95 per vehicle
1 month 19.99
1 year 39.99
4 year 59.99

© 2012 Rick Muscoplat


Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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