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Haynes Manuals Are Essential Tools for Car Owners and DIY Mechanics

If you're ever planning on wrenching on your car in even the most casual way, you need a Haynes manual.

haynes the iconic repair manual publishers celebrate their 50th anniversary
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In case you've never heard of them, Haynes Automotive Manuals are the gold standard of DIY car repair books. The publisher — whose on-the-nose tagline is "Haynes Shows You How" — offers how-to volumes for dozens of automobiles, serving at-home mechanics with the knowledge and step-by-step instruction needed to perform all manner of car repair and maintenance.

Particularly handy if you're new to wrenching: the manuals are only $30 apiece, and often on sale. Densely packed with images and diagrams, Haynes books are geared (sorry not sorry) toward those who need or prefer visual instruction and references.

Of course, these days, most information is available at the tap of a finger. Haynes is also available in a digital version – the so-called Haynes "AllAccess" is $30 a pop, too – and in many ways, the digital manual is a better buy. Printed manuals offer instruction and visual references for maintenance and repair, plus wiring diagrams for DIY electrical work. Digital versions provide the same resources, but also offer features like printable versions of some step-by-steps, color photos and video tutorials; besides, the online version is searchable. (Haynes has a pretty great YouTube channel, as well.)

Haynes manuals are often considered either replacements for or supplements to another popular DIY car how-to book series, by Chilton. The latter ones rely less on imagery and more on text, and therefore may not be the best for folks who are new to car maintenance. If you're a newer mechanic, I’d begin with Haynes. (Interestingly, Chilton owns Haynes, and publishes both concurrently.)

For context: I'm currently fixing up my recently acquired 2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ Sport in my parents' back garage – the same garage where, 20 years ago, my dad and I wrenched extensively on our family's 1991 Ford Mustang GT. Dad has always been a good mechanic, and I've learned a truckload from him. But when we popped the hood on the Mustang, a Haynes manual was never more than an arm's length away. We were able to consult the manual every time we came across a wiring harness, bolt, spring or hose we needed to to remove or replace. I was scrawny enough then to slip under the car without much effort, and dad could easily describe exactly what I was looking for as I calibrated the speedometer or torqued down equal-length header flanges.

(Also worth noting: Haynes has produced novelty workshop manuals for other, non-car topics in case you want a garage-chic desk reference for topics such as "Marriage," "Babies" and "Pets.")

I’m good, but still, I'm no Click or Clack; for me, these manuals are invaluable. And whether you’re a new mechanic or have tons of experience, Haynes manuals are the perfect place to start, and an essential part of any DIYer’s library.

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