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Basics every car owner should have

This is not a post about what you should keep in the trunk, rather it is a post about what information sources you should have at your fingertips.

My opinion is that Clymer, Chilton, Haynes, manuals are useless, others may differ.

I would like for everyone to have a Factory Service Manual for their car, a subscription to AllData for their car and be registered at the AutoZone site to look up things about their cars.

Simply having CarTalk in your “Favorites” is not considered being “well prepared”.

How prepared are you, our readers to find out information about diagnosing and repairing your car OR checking what others tell you about your car?

I Do Order The Factory Service Manual For Every Car Purchased And In Addition A Second Copy Of The Car’s Owner’s Manual To Keep In The House With The Service Manual.

I keep cars a long time and buy these at the car’s beginning and that way get the most benefit from them. Amortized over the life of the car, that couple hundred bucks is nothing, really. These books should come with the car, anyhow. I’ve said before that they don’t “cost”, they “pay”.

I do have access to TSBs (a must) and I look at Autozone once in a while, but haven’t gained anything from it (for my own cars, that is).

I have a nothing fancy code reader, a non-contact infra-red thermometer, radar gun, roller cab tool box, and a pretty good assortment of tools that I’ve built over several decades.
I’ve taken and passed a few Mechanic Certification test for the fun of it.

I sometimes order or even make “special tools” when doing timing belts. etcetera.

The biggest piece of bad advice I hear is that you can’t work on your own car anymore because of too much electronics, sophistication, too complicated, etcetera. I find that you definitely can do a heck of a lot of your own maintenance and repair work if you have the desire.


A decent hydraulic jack, because I hate the ones that come with the cars, usually
Battery charger
Portable air compressor
Volt meter

Most of my problems have been related to tires and batteries/charging systems, so having these around insure I can usually figure out how to get the car started and running again, or air in the tires to get to a shop rather than change to the spare.

I do disagree about the Haynes repair manual. It’s far from perfect but it’s a user friendly book that’s vehicle specific. It’s perfect for the novice mechanic. Factory service manuals also have mistakes in them since they are printed and then the manufacturer changes something in the vehicle. I use “any” printed material as a guide only. The owners manual should be part of the vehicle sale whether new or used. Other than that, I’ll give you a big “thumbs up” on everything else.

My list is not good for everybody but I really want to impress upon our readers to solve or at least have a plan on where to go to for information about their cars.

Just for example, if you wanted to ask a question here about a certain part would you know where to go to get a diagram or picture of the part? (assuming that we needed that info to help you).

Having a plan to find TSB’s is very good (my favorite issue to harp about).

Lastly I have about 15 Factory Service Manuals for cars I don’t even own and I don’t work any more. I found these manuals for $10.00 each at the used book store, so when you have time stop at the used book store and look for manuals (you may have to stop a few times)

One problem of doing one’s own maintenance is time. Some people don’t want to take the time to learn how to change their headlights out, let alone their oil or transmission fluid. then there’s the problem of having to dispose of the used fluids yourself.
Then, add the cost of the tools needed for such things as changing spark plugs or oil, some people can’t(or won’t) afford the cost of them.
Not everyone has access to garage space either, and their apartment/condo complex doesn’t allow one to work on their vehicle in their lot