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Article: Owner's Manuals - - Who Writes Them? Who Reads Them?

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Owner’s Manuals

The Tell, No-Tell Book of Knowledge.


Hardly a day goes by that I'm not changing oil in a car. It's a simple task to perform… you know drain the oil, change the filter, and pour in the right amount of fresh oil. These days along with the usual oil change you also have to reset the oil reminder system on most cars. The procedure varies from model to model, as well as from year to year. Since I’m right there by the car I might as well find the owner’s manual, and look it up myself. It’s that little booklet that’s buried in the glove box under all those extra napkins, broken sunglasses, and assorted paperwork. (Funny, the one thing I never find in a glove box is … gloves.) Well that little book does (in most cases) have that information in there. A lot of times I might even use it to find the exact amount of oil I need to add, but for some reason not one of these various manufacturers can come up with one method of putting the information in a convenient spot. It’s a war of words between the writers of these manuals and my slowly diminishing patience.

The information is in there, but it’s hardly ever clearly placed where you can find it. You’d think it would be a fairly simple task, just flip a few pages and find the answers, and you’d think with years of going through various owner’s manuals to find these reset procedures, or the quantity of oil that I’d have this down to an art. !!NOT!!


There I am, just another day at the shop, another oil change, and just like the last oil change, I’m sitting in the car flipping page after page of that crazy book trying to find the right section. I do believe the definition of crazy is doing the same thing but expecting different results. That might explain the crazy mechanic in the car, if you walked by right about then. You’d probably noticed me shouting out a few comments about what I think of these poorly written exposés of motor world. The out pouring of obscenities and derogatory comments goes something like this, “Come on, you put it under capacities last time, where the heck did you move it to this year? Who in their right mind puts the oil reset under “interior controls”? Specifications section? Yea right… people! Let’s be specific… where in the world did you put it this time!?” Crazy is when you keep grabbing for the owner’s manual and expect a different answer than the last time you tried looking up things. (Wait a minute… is that me!? #[email protected]#& owner’s manual!) But I’ll try looking up the information… over and over again.


It’s like a maze of confusing references from one page to another. I mean really… there’s not that many pages in these darn things. Tell me, why do these owner’s manual writers make it so difficult to find such everyday information? I know it’s in there, probably one short paragraph describing a few steps you need to do to clear the warning light, but do ya think they’ll put a reference to that particular page in the index? HA! Good luck on that one. Of course, the real issue becomes my own stubbornness. Once I've rattled around in the glove box, found the owner's manual, and have started to dig through the pages of information I'm determined to find out how much oil goes in this car even if it takes me the rest of the afternoon to do it. I’m not letting some owner's manual get the best of me. I'm going to sit here and dig through this book until I find it! (Definition of crazy is in affect again.)


Not that I like spending my afternoon reading a boring owner’s manual, but there really is a lot of useful information in there. Sometimes I do find a few things interesting. I call it “accidental reading” when I actually do run onto something I didn’t know before. (Usually while I’m looking for those reset procedures.) The other day I had one of my old regulars pull up with a van they had just purchased. They wanted to know how to fold the seats down to their storage position so they could go on a vacation with it. I just happen to be reading about how to fold the back seat in that particular car just the other day. (I was actually taking a mental break from trying to find the oil capacity page in the owner’s manual, besides, it had a really cool photo section in it.) That’s the only reason I even knew about it, and since I’m fresh with this new acquired knowledge I was more than happy to share it with my customer. Needless to say, he was totally impressed that I knew exactly how to do it. (If he would have asked me a few weeks earlier, I doubt I’d even know what to do other than looking in the glove box for his manual.) (It’s all about timing… you know.)


Oh, I'm sure if you're a complete novice at driving, and you don't even know how to open the sun roof you should probably spend some time reading the owner’s manual. Of course, ya have to actually open the book. It doesn’t do much good just sitting in the glove box with all the other forgotten about items. Of course, a lot of new cars have gone to a cd or a website that you can view the manual. To me, that just makes it even less likely that I’ll look. I'll just go to my own computer and find the information there instead. It's less hassle than logging onto the web, and dealing with some website that starts you off with some bogus advertisement before you can get to the actual site information.


I've lost count of how many times I think I've found the page with the information I needed, only to be directed to another section, which then leads to an entirely different section. It’s just a pain in the dipstick to read these manuals sometimes, and that’s probably why people don’t read them at all. You know what these manufacturers need to do? They need to spice it up a bit. Yea, like hiring a professional drama writer to write the owner’s manual for them. Maybe turn it into a novel… doll it up… make it interesting and not so boring. I can’t say I’d sit down in my comfy chair next to the fireplace with a copy of “Gone With the Owner’s Manual”, but it wouldn’t hurt to make them more readable… maybe then people might actually “read” them. And as for me, while I’m digging through the manual trying to find the reset procedures I might actually enjoy the read. Hey, a little entertainment while changing the oil… I’m up for that!


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