We Tried Out The Best Auto Repair Manuals; Results are In

I remember when I was young and started to work outside in the shop with my father a service manual was rarely used. My father is an experienced do-it-yourselfer. It was very common for him to complete large jobs, such as a clutch replacement with knowledge that he had learned over the years. 

Fast forward 25 years later and I now understand why this was possible. Let’s face it, systems that were present on vehicles years ago were similar and easy to work on. You only need to look under the hood of a modern vehicle to see how times have changed. With these changes the importance of having correct service information is important. It should be one of the first “tools” that any person completing a repair needs to have accessible. Having the best auto repair manual possible is vital.

Thanks to the internet we have more options than ever when it comes to selecting the best possible information when working on our vehicles. The prices are also very reasonable, skip a few morning coffees and they are paid for a year. 

The shop labour rates have increased over the years and many people are paying over $100 for a local mechanic to work on their vehicles. The reasonable prices for access to these manuals can be quickly paid back with one simple repair that you can handle yourself instead of having to go to your local mechanic. 

 With over 20 years of experience as an automotive technician I have used these information sources throughout my career. I have researched the options thoroughly using my experience to help you make the right decision when choosing what manual is right for your next car repairs. 

The testing was completed using various vehicles and repair jobs. I looked at the ease of information, wiring diagrams quality among many others. 

Instead of making you read through this entire article here are the results of the best auto repair manual. After my in depth test I rated them on a scale of 1-10:

Mitchell1 DIYAllData DIYHaynes Manuals
Ease of Information8810
Wiring Schematic Quality999
Service Bulletin AvailabilityPresentPresentLimited but present
Repair Instruction Quality10108
Ease of Navigation779
Labour and Parts estimatorsPresentPresentNot available
Who should use it?Professional/Experienced DIYProfessional/Experienced DIYBeginner DIY

You can see there was no cut or dry winner in my process of reviewing these different service manuals. So what can I do to help make your decision easier? Let’s take a closer look at each service manual provider and see which information is the best fit for you. 

Haynes Service Manuals

1960 was the year that they began making these wonderful manuals. But before you think these are the manuals that your Grandpa used, think again. These manuals have done an amazing job in keeping with the time. Not only have they ensured that they have put a lot of time and effort into creating an excellent online manual. The paper manuals that you have become used to over the years are still available as well. 

Haynes manuals have amazing coverage for all modern vehicles. Because Haynes manuals now own Chilton repair manuals as well as Clymer service manuals their coverage not only covers automotive products. They also include farm tractors as well as power sport equipment such as four wheelers and dirt bikes.

Haynes Auto Repair manual

 The manuals themselves have very detailed information. Their process to create a manual involves two authors and between 20 to 30 weeks to produce. They disassemble the vehicle and produce the information as they progress.

This is one of the advantages of the Haynes manuals. Unlike the technical drawings that are present in the other two competitors, the Haynes manuals use actual photographs. This helps do it yourselfers quickly identify the parts that they need to remove and replace to complete a job. Also combined in the online manual is a great addition of video. Video can quickly assist you completing a tricky job faster and more accurately. 

A fault finding section will assist you in finding the correct repairs for common problems that you may be trying to fix. There is also a neat feature is a repair difficulty rating. This is very helpful if you are just learning how to fix your vehicle and need to know if you should attempt to complete a repair that your vehicle needs. 

Wiring schematics are an important component of the best auto repair manual. They are very easy to navigate and there is an excellent section about fluid specs. This section is excellent information to ensure that you are using the correct lubricant that the vehicle manufacturer specified for your vehicle. 

Overall the Haynes repair manuals are a good choice in paper format and even better online. The online repair manual gives you access to great videos that you would not have access to in the paper format. If you like to have step by step instructions with easily identified images this is your best choice.

Pricing is very reasonable for access to the great quality information that Haynes repair manuals offer. Printed manuals cost $29.95 and an online manual is a little less at $26.95. As you can imagine at these reasonable prices you can recover the cost of a manual very quickly. With labour rates at $100 per hour at many shops one simple repair can pay this manual off 2x or 3x. 

For the beginner, do it yourselfer the Haynes Repair Manuals is my recommendation on the best service repair manual. The ease of locating the information that you are looking for and detailed pictures make it very user friendly. Being a fan of a paper based manual you, can keep the information at your fingertips when you are completing a repair .

Check out Haynes Manuals to purchase one of these great repair manuals to help save you money during your next repair.

Mitchell1 DIY

Mitchell Prodemand is one of the most common auto repair information sources for the automotive repair professional. They have packaged up all the material that they offer the professionals and sell single vehicle access to the DIY crowd. This is a great deal because shops pay a large amount of money to access this information. You can purchase a license for a low price of $29.95 per year.

Mitchell 1 DIY Auto Repair Manuals

Mitchell 1 Diy has been in the repair information industry for a long time. Starting over 90 years ago they began providing excellent info for car repairs. With over 30,000 vehicle coverage you can ensure that your vehicle will be available when you are looking for information for your next car repair. 

I have used Mitchell service information for a long time and understand where the information is located. The Mitchell1 DIY system is set up differently. It allows you to quickly locate and use the information that they require to complete a repair. 

Across the top there is a quick reference table that provides quick access to the most common categories. Repair, technical service bulletins, maintenance, estimator and worksheet are easily accessed through this access panel. 

Being a professional service information provider the access to technical service bulletins was much more thorough than Haynes manuals. Diagnostic trouble codes are also easy to access and provide excellent diagnostic information to quickly diagnose the information you require. I searched for a P0456 trouble code and found an excellent diagnostic sheet. It appears to be similar to what a factory service manual would provide to their technicians. The quality was excellent. 

Continuing to click through I found a maintenance section that was very easy to locate mileage based services. This would be excellent if you are doing all of your own preventative maintenance, it will ensure you do not miss important service items. The wiring schematics were excellent quality. Depending on your vehicle the wiring schematics can even include connector and terminal ID numbers. This is a very professional addition that makes seasoned mechanics excited, so you should be as well! 

Repair information is excellent quality and provides step by step instructions on how to complete the most difficult jobs. The procedures provide torque specifications and procedures. Images are also used in difficult to understand sections to ensure you clearly understand what you need to do to complete the job correctly. 

A very interesting section that I need to note is the estimator section. This section of the repair manual provides flat rate labour times for completing repairs on the vehicle that you have access to. This is an excellent feature if you are unable to complete all the repairs on your vehicle. By looking up how long a job should take you can ensure your local mechanic is being honest. Also, making sure they are charging you fairly to complete a job.

Mitchell1 DIY is an excellent repair manual solution. Prices start at $19.95 for one month or $29.95 for one year access which is an excellent deal. Using the online manual can be a little hard to navigate at first. But, with a little time you will be able to find the information that you need quickly and with little effort. 

AllData DIY

Alldata DIY was created in 1986 and has excellent coverage of over 30,000 vehicles. With coverage this good you can assume that the vehicle you are looking for information is covered. Alldata DIY is a product that has been created from a professional service information system. Just like Mitchell1 DIY. Alldata DIY has taken the information they provide professional mechanics and made it available in an online service manual. 

ALLDATAdiy service manual interface

I have used Alldata DIY professionally over the years and I have to say that Alldata DIY is excellent! All of the is easy to locate and find, there is a fluid and specifications section that make it very easy to find information when you are servicing a vehicle. They also have an easy to find section that provides information such as ignition timing specs, alternator specs, etc.

The wiring schematic that I used for the comparison was easy to locate as well as navigate. The correct information was present and easy to locate when needed. When printing schematics there is a size to print button. This may not seem like much, but for those who have printed off wiring schematics know, it is pretty common to get some weird results when hitting the print button. I find it frustrating most days. Print to size will ensure that the schematic is fit to the paper so you can have all the information you need on one page.

Descriptions of the repair processes are detailed and clear. An excellent job of providing the specific information you need to complete the task is present. If special tools are needed to complete a job they provide the number for tool. Special instructions and specifications are also provided if you need to take certain measurements.

Alldata DIY repair manuals also have a parts and labour section. This is helpful to ensure that you know how long jobs should take if you ever find yourself taking your vehicle to your local mechanic. 

This online repair manual has all the information that professionals have at a fraction of a price. Just like Mitchell1 DIY it is geared towards the user who may have a little bit of experience finding information in these systems. However, with a little time everyone can find this service manual easy to use. 

Shops pay almost $200 a month for this information and you can get access to a single vehicle for $19.99 per month or the best value of $59.99 per year. This is an amazing deal for the amount of information that you can get access to.

Why do I need a service manual?

As I talked about at the start of this comparison, service information is required just like any other tool that you need to complete the job. Today’s modern engines require a much higher level of repair than they did just 20 years ago. Which makes it important to have the best auto repair manual that you can find.

Take for example a task of replacing a head gasket. You may have all the required tools and skills to complete the job. But, without service information how do you know how tight to torque the bolts? If you do not torque the bolts correctly you will need to replace the head gasket again soon as it will fail prematurely. 

Maybe you are dealing with door locks that do not work like I am. Don’t ask. I have one of the best automotive multimeters and years of skill completing diagnostic jobs just like this. But, without a wiring schematic it will take me hours if not days to figure out what is wrong with the system. The best auto repair manuals with have great schematics.

Any of the options above are great solutions for service information that you may require. My suggestion for the beginner DIYer would be Haynes manuals. Years of producing excellent repair manuals for DIYer’s has created a manual that is easy to use and navigate. 

If however you are an experienced DIYer or possible a professional technician than Alldata DIY or Mitchell1 DIY are my suggestions for a solution that will work best for you. 

John Morris
John Morrishttps://autoknowit.com
John Morris is the technical editor for AutoKnowIt.com. His years of experience in automotive repair as well as an automotive professor have prepared him to ensure that even the most technical information is accurate and concise at all times.

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