Thursday, February 14, 2013

Repair Manual or Service Manual?

Out of the many questions we hear from customers, some want to know what the differences between a repair manual vs. a service manual are.

As we tell them, basically none! And the name confusion does not end there; besides being called repair manuals and service manuals, many still refer to them as shop manuals.

There is, however, one term that it is sometimes misused by customers who are looking to either maintain, service or repair their vehicle, and that term is owner's manual.

An owner's manual usually is the booklet that came with the vehicle (or equipment: i.e. generator, outboard motor, etc.), when new. Owner's manuals, as a general rule, do not provide repair or even basic service information. They may tell you where things are, how to operate equipment, when to perform service, and so on, but they won't tell you how to change the engine's oil, for example. Let alone how to take the engine apart and then reassemble it.

One thing worth noting is that although the word "repair" stands for fixing something, do not expect a repair manual to tell you how to repair every single system. Sometimes it makes more sense time- and money-wise to simply exchange or buy new parts, instead of repairing them.

Now, to complicate things a little more, you've probably heard some manuals being referred to as factory, or maybe, if you were talking to a mechanic, they called it an OEM manual. So let's define what these are...

A factory manual is, as the name implies, a book published by the vehicle or equipment manufacturer.

An OEM manual—OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer—is, basically, a factory manual.

So they are the same thing.

But what are the differences between a factory manual vs. an "aftermarket" manual? (aftermarket manuals are published by companies other than the manufacturer: i.e. Clymer, Haynes, Chilton, etc.)

An aftermarket or DIY (Do It Yourself) manual is intended for consumers, and publishers make every effort to present the information in an easy-to-understand format with lots of sharp photos and illustrations, along with clear text step-by-step procedures.

A factory or professional repair manual is written for (usually) factory-trained technicians or mechanics. This means that a certain degree of mechanical knowledge is assumed and, therefore, instructions may not be as clear to the weekend do-it-yourselfer. Plus, it is not uncommon for a factory manual to call for a specific tool by manufacturer part number, for example.

Factory repair manuals usually provide information for a specific year model, where aftermarket manuals usually cover a range of models and years.

Technicalities aside, sometimes a factory repair manual is the only publication available, since not all makes and models are covered by aftermarket repair manuals.