In our explorations into parts and parts replacement, we often mention the service manual. While there are certainly a large part of the monkeywrenching public who would throw directions to the wind, instructions can be a good thing when it comes to things like working brakes and wheels not falling off the car. Finding the service manual can be half the battle. Read on for a few tips for locating the books for everything from a 1971 Ford Pinto Rallye to a late-model Honda That's.

Making the Books

There are more or less two kinds of books when it comes to automobile repair. The first and most expensive are the factory service manuals. These are the same books the guys and gals at the dealership use to fix errant connecting rods or chase faulty electronics. If you're behind the wheel of something more or less modern, then the factory service manual may be the only option. Next in line are another kind of service manual. Companies like Haynes and Chiltons use factory service manuals along with cameras to dismantle then reassemble automobiles to produce their own repair books. These are usually geared more towards the shade free mechanic. Finding a service or repair manual is much like finding a car.

The Dealer


The first and most expensive option is to step up to the parts counter at the dealership. If the owner's manual in the glovebox has the same year on the cover as that magnetic calendar on the fridge, then forking over a pile of cash may be the only option until some time passes. This is usually a fairly painful financial experience. Forgo the tru-cote and ask for a copy of the factory sevis or repair manual instead.

Made of Wood


Call us crusty, but we still cling to this antiquated idea that a bookstore is still a good place to find books. Bookstores that specialize in motorized interests are a good place to find a service manual for that old SIMCA, oil-spewing NSU, or Fiat 500 stored in several five-gallon buckets in the backyard. There are even bookstores that specialize solely in automobile factory service manuals! Not surprisingly a number of these booksellers have something called a computer to help reunite books and car owners.

Swap Meet!


Summer means the return of flip flops and swap meets. The factory issue service manual and NOS windshield wiper knob for that '63 Plymouth Fury are out there. Don't just hit the automotive swaps. Branch out into flea markets and garage sales and keep your eyes open for a dog eared copy of the Chevy II twin-book set. Sometimes a book can garner interest in potential car purchases. Warning! A sawbuck plunked down for a seemingly harmless service manual can result in countless thousands of dollars sunk into project cars.

Message Board


One of the best ways to glean information about a particular make and model of automobile is to join a community that already exists. If you're the proud owner of something worthy of having its own message board then chances are good that someone truly dedicated has spent the time to either scan in the pages of the service manual, or host a digital version for members. Another great feature of message boards is that someone, perhaps even the chiseler upstanding citizen that sold you that bucket, has usually had the same mechanical problem before.

The Interwebs


A quick scan of the eBay or similar will reveal hundreds if not thousands of automotive service and repair manuals. Some of these are of the factory service variety. Others of the Hay-Chil sort. While we have scored quite a few genuine factory service manuals from eBay and other fine online retailers, there are also a great deal of crummy bootleg CD-ROM style deals floating around. Beware of the auctions accompanied by a heap of exclamation points. There are certainly more ways to find that service manual, so now it's time to tell the story of where you found your book or digital version in the comments.

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Parts [Internal]