Good automotive book suggestion?

Well, I feel it’s time to learn more about car theory since I’ve been servicing my own cars for years now as a hobby.

Could someone please suggest a good book (maybe text-book), that in addition to general automotive theory, would also go through the various non-car-specific OBD-II components explaining what each part does. Such as MAF sensor, etc. Something that would teach me general theory that I can apply when seeing OBD codes that are set.

For example, I have some codes that were set, but in reading online, I see that one code can be caused by one or more component failures. By learning more about the theory, I’m hoping I can understand more about how everything interrelates, possibly helping me to decide what order to check components.

Thanks for any suggestions!


I find that, although I don’t really like their step-by-steps, the Chilton’s manuals are actually pretty good for explaining what all the newer computerized components do and how to troubleshoot them. The fuel and ignition systems of newer cars are all somewhat different, so reading a service manual for your specific car will probably be the most helpful.

The best thing you can do for yourself is go to your local community college and take a basics coarse, some public school districts offer these coarses at night depending on how liberal your district’s educators are. Any type of book you can get off the shelf is too much under the influence of the auto industry. But, you are right. Your best defense against getting ripped off is to educate yourself.
Don’t rely too much on any code you get from a code seeking device you buy at the store either. They are just like the off the shelf books, and will do to you what they have already done: give you a bunch of codes that could mean anything from trouble codes within the seeker itself to codes that are insignificant like low fuel (The idiot lights will tell you that).
For most people learning through trial and error is the best way to teach if it doesn’t get too expensive. I have gained enough experience, mostly through the friendship between my Dad and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, to only be dependant on a shop when I need to have a car diagnosed on their professional machines. This is what I would recommend: just spending the money to have a reliable shop diagnose (Only) which sensor is bad on their professional equipment.
Long story shorter, yes, all sensors are dependant on another for their performance but unless something goes freakishly wrong you shouldn’t have any more then one sensor going out at a time and you shouldn’t have to bargain with the code seeker to find out which one has to be replaced before the other - that prety much voids the entire reason for useing a code seeker, doesn’t it?

If you can find what textbook they use the local community college for automotive mechanics, in some cases, that textbook will be exactly what you may be looking for. A few years ago, we bought one like that for our son, and he loved it. Alas, he is 1,600 miles away. Instead of giving instructions on how to replace something, it tells in detail how stuff works, which may be what you want, then get the Haynes or Chilton manual for your vehicle to see how to replace it.

The automotive instructor, if you can find him, might be able to suggest something.

as a further thought, find a local college which has an automotive repair cirriculum. go to the campus book store, and buy a used text book for the course. (that way you don’t get XXXXXed off when you need to look at it with greasy hands!)

Car Talk by Tom and Ray Magliozzi. It’s yellow and Borders is where I found mine. It cost almost 11 bucks. The good news is…all in there.

Auto Fundamentals
By Stockel, Stockel and Johanson
Published by Goodheart - Wilcox
ISBN 1-56637-138-4

Automotive Engines
By Crouse and Anglin
Published by MacMillan/McGraw Hill, (800) 338-3987
ISBN 0-02-801099-X

Complete Engine Performance and Diagnostics
By Robert Scharff & Editors of Motor Service
Published by Delmar Publishing / Thompson learning, (800) 477-3682
ISBN 0-8273-3579-2

Automotive Chassis Systems
By Thomas W. Birch
Published by Delmar Publishing / Thompson Learning, (800) 477-3682
ISBN 0-7668-0001-6

Fuel Systems and Emission Controls
Published by Chek-Chart Publication, (408) 739-2435
ISBN 9-781579-322496

Any bookstore can order them for you.

Wow! Some of those were the same books I used back in my 2-year auto mechanics school back in the 70s (though I had much earlier editions). Yes they are great books.


Thanks. You’d find them substantially different in their current forms. They’ve changed with the technology.

Thanks for all the suggestions! And I found exactly what I was looking for. The Haynes “Techbook” called OBD-II & Electronic Engine Management Systems explains everything I ever wanted to know about each sensor, how they work, and how they interact with one another. For example, relating to the oxygen sensor, it starts by telling the history of the sensors, chemically how they work, what they do, how to look at graphs and determine a possible bad one, as well as how they can indicate a bad catalyst.

It discusses terminology, shows OBD scanner screens and explains them, lists diagnostic steps to confirm a device is bad, and also shows how to replace components. There’s much more there too but these are the highlights (and yes, also a list of OBD codes).

I bought this book and also a Haynes “Techbook” called Computer Codes & Engine Management Systems, which has a bit of overlap but also covers OBD I and some other issues.

Anyway, these really cover what I was originally looking for. Thanks again.


That may be a good one and it will probably turn out to be the least expensive.