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Poorly written technical procedures

The worst owner’s manual procedure I ever saw was the one for changing the headlight lamp on my daughter’s 2001 Civic. I can sympathize with the poor technical writer who had to write it, however. Whoever designed that lamp retention system must have been a sadist.

Note: I transferred this from a “Maintenance and Repairs” thread after George posed the question because I felt it was worth the thread. Should be interesting I think.

I’m nominating the FSM description how to read out the trouble codes from my Corolla’s OBD I ECM using the dashboard flashing light method. If you follow the procedure, no matter how many times you try it, you’ll see no flashing lights.

I once worked for a Quebec based Canadian trucking company at a US terminal. All of the US tractors were US spec. The company put some of their own instructions inside the cab. One notoriously bad example of a French speaking person designing an English instruction was;

Warning- idle engine 5 minutes before starting !

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The Chenglish instructions on a Chinese manufactured metal lathe read…

“Please to care not insert face into work material”.


Yeah, that would definitely leave a mark…

The Owner’s Manual for my brother’s '66 Datsun SPL-311 was written mostly in Pidgin English. Clearly the folks in charge at Datsun either didn’t put much of a priority on decent translation of their manual into English, or they didn’t understand how badly-written it was.

I can’t recall most of the bizarre and confusing instructions that were contained in that manual, but I do recall the notation regarding the windshield wipers–which were referred to as windscreen wippers. The manual stated, “wipper have two kind speeds”. Trust me…there was nothing kind about that lemon of a car. :unamused:

The verbiage relating to checking the dipstick instructed the owner to “consult Min and Max”. My brother and I referred to Min and Max as…the happy little couple who live at the end of the dipstick, but who don’t respond when we consult them.


The worse ones I ever read where from the 70’s - the Japanese audio equipment. It was like someone translated it word for word which made the translation meaningless.

It was something like this

“Turn Button left on”

I had to go by the pictures to figure out what the heck the manual was saying.

I saw a couple owners manuals of Japanese vehicles of the 60’s and early 70’s. They were almost as bad. By the time I bought my first Japanese vehicle, they had hired tech writers who actually spoke proper English.

I love my International Harvester Tech books that have pages at the end of each section that say

thing is…
with that writing on the page, it isn’t blank…

I got a new lawn mower last summer & one of the statement’s in the owner’s manual said to remove fuel cap before adding fuel.I would like to know the reason that caused that statement.

As a certified pharmacy technician (who thankfully doesn’t work retail anymore…), we were always told to assume the person reading the label would have a 3rd grade education. You should always use a verb to start the directions (example take 1 tablet by mouth daily, instill 1 drop into each eye at bedtime, etc). You always had certain drugs that need more in-depth explanations…like suppositories (Unwrap and insert 1 suppository rectally…) (it never happened to me personally, but I have heard of phone calls where patient’s complain about the taste of their suppositories :neutral_face::disappointed::cry:. With any patch medication (particularly Fentanyl patches for pain) remove old patch and place 1 patch to skin every 3 days rotating sites.


It would probably be better if the pages read,





Yes I got the idea it was to try to protect stupid people.

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Writing something stupid to protect stupid people … hmmmm. Something really wrong with that idea.

But, back at the original post, most of us who write on this forum have learned how hard it is to describe a procedure to someone who probably doesn’t know much of the vocabulary and none of the parts of a car. Now try doing it in a language in which you sort of know how to navigate a place as a tourist.

They’ve been writing stupid things to protect stupid people ever since lawsuits were invented.

You just know that the reason car windshield sun shades have a sticker that says “remove sunshade before driving vehicle” is because someone somewhere did not do that, crashed, and sued.

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Some guy somewhere was having phone sex with his girl friend while doing ten over on the expressway in the rain, crashed and killed 11 people, and his lawyer helped fabricate a story about the sun visor obstructing vision, and then sued the manufacturer.

One of my all time favorites was a tax form that had the disclaimer- “This form required by the paperwork reduction act of 1980”.


Most of these stupid lawsuits are NOT consumer originated. Many are corporate.

Several decades ago Burger King ran a local burger joint in the mid-west out of business because their slogan was “King Of Burgers”. Didn’t matter that this local business was around at least 10 years before Burger King. But BK didn’t care. They sent their team of lawyers against this business and they went bankrupt defending themselves.

Monsanto suing Oakhurst dairy because Oakhurst said their milk didn’t contain any Growth Hormone. Oakhurst never said it was bad…just that their cows weren’t fed it. Monsanto sued saying that Oakhurst saying their cows don’t use BGH it’s like saying it’s bad. Monsanto is a billion dollar chemical company while Oakhurst is a local dairy in Maine.

Or Trumpy and his team of lawyers suing companies that worked for him and paying them pennies on the dollar.

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Mike, your candidate lost. Get over it. Injecting politics and your distain for Trump into countless threads on car forums will not change the outcome of the election.


50+ years ago when Hondas were getting popular I made a few minor repairs on a few of them and the owners manuals were great for a laugh but required considerable familiarity with motorcycles and all things mechanical to decipher. I wish I had one here to quote.

And similar to those Hondas with 2 wheels, I worked on one of the earliest Subarus sold in the U.S. and the service manual for that car may have outdone Honda for being outrageously difficult to make sense of.

@TSM, concise and to the point. Well stated! That last election was a tough one for some folks! :smile_cat: