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A Usable User Manual Is the Key to This Car

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Gorski
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Platinum
blower motor
Gorski   3/21/2014 10:49:47 AM
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I have also tried to follow repair manuals. It can be very frustrating. I wish the authors of such manuals would run them by mechanics, engineers and handymen. I'm sure this would expose any shortcomingd and make the manuals coincide with the real world.

far911
User Rank
Silver
Re: blower motor
far911   3/21/2014 2:21:14 PM
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Manuals for me are a guide to a certain problem, surprisingly for me it is , if we could use it to the maximum for repair and maintenance by ourselves.

Turbineman
User Rank
Gold
Depends on the Manual
Turbineman   3/21/2014 4:03:12 PM
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The most ambigous manuals are the cheap ones at the auto parts stores.  I used to like Mitchell's manuals, but I could never afford them.  Fortunately, I can go to the local branch of the County Library and look at their Mitchell manuals, then copy the pages I need (you couldn't check them out).

A comparison between my 2000 Toyota Camry and 2003 Ford F350:

Camry: Reach under glove box and find the handle to the lower trap door.  Pull down and door unsnaps and comes out.  Look up and the blower motor is staring at you.  Unplug 3-wire connector.  Remove 3 mounting screws with phillips screwdriver.

F350: I don't even want to think about it.  My Haynes manual is useless and I would have to trip to the library.

 

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Quality manuals are important
Charles Murray   3/21/2014 5:29:22 PM
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This post goes to the heart of a problem that so many manufacturers of consumer products have: Manual quality is vastly underrated. I can't remember how many times I've read product manuals that were convoluted and nearly impossible to follow. They looked as if they were put together by a junior engineer as an afterthought. Too many companies don't realize what a horrible impression they are making with their customers when they do this. This is a BIG pet peeve.

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
Re: Quality manuals are important
TJ McDermott   3/22/2014 11:13:05 PM
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Charles, oftentimes even experienced engineers create poor manuals.

A professional technical writer is quite valuable to a company if they can afford the position.  They translate what the engineer tries to communicate into something the average user can, most of the time, understand.

GTOlover
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Quality manuals are important
GTOlover   3/24/2014 10:52:06 AM
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TJ

Assumming the writer can effectively understand what the engineer is trying to communicate. Some of the best manuals are the ones with assembly diagrams and exploded views. Sometimes a picture is a thousand times better than paragraphs of eloquent descriptions.

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Quality manuals are important
William K.   3/24/2014 12:47:14 PM
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My expeience with Chrysler service manuals is that sometimes they show a view from a point that no human could ever have, such as looking at an engine through the firewall just above the steering column. That was an interesting one. And removing the front fender was indeed required on some of their products. Evidently the blower motor was not intended to ever be replaced.

The worst ever technical writing was done by a chap at a company that I worked for a while back. He had written a calibration procedure for a circuit that I had designed, and it was so confusing that I couldn't follow it. I discovered this when I got a paniced call from our field service person telling me that he couldn't get the procedure to work. I had to clear my head for a few minutes, pull out the drawing, and write a better procedure, and then fax it to the poor chap. He used my instructions for a succesful calibration, and then we had the revised instructions typed up and sent to that customer as an update for their manual on the machine. And I decided that I had to have the final say on service manuals after that. 

It did sort of start my technical writing portion of my engineering career.

Ratsky
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Quality manuals are important
Ratsky   4/9/2014 4:01:08 PM
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I have to agree.  I got started EXTREMELY early in my engineering career in user documentation.  I was a 17-year old freshman at MIT, and I got an on-campus job with the dining service for my dorm.  As the "low man on the totem pole" I was assigned the least-desirable position: last shift running and cleaning the huge industrial dishwasher (conveyor-blt style).  There was no documenation available; I was shown the procedures by the previous holder of that job. I mastered it in a week or two.  Then and there I decided I needed to write up all the procedures if I ever wanted to move up!  I wrote "The care and feeding of the Beast" in excruciating detail, outlining every step and hints on how to handle problems (like clogged spray pipes).  As far as I know that manual was used for several generations of student workers there.  Soon after I got "promoted" to a better slot, eventually ending up as the weekend grill cook and a "date night" waiter.  I've been a fanatic about proper documentation for process and procedure ever since!

Just a couple of days ago, I had an experience that shows how bad things have gotten.  I had purchased some very expensive German bathroom faucets, and had them installed by a "pro" because i couldn't get the old ones out (corrosion of the threads....).  A couple of months later, I noticed the spout assembly of one was loose and getting looser.  After looking through the installation booklet, I couldn't figure out where to tighten the spout mounting, and tried all of the "tighten this, tighten that" steps of the manual with no improvement.  Yesterday, I called the manufacturer's tech support number; as soon as I described the problem, the tech told me there was a tiny 2mm set screw near the rear base. There was no mention of this in the manual, only an exploded view that showed something small on the spout assembly, but no label on the callout, and no parts list.   When I got home, I scrounged through my vast collection of hex keys and found a 2mm one.  I had to remove the plunger control to even see the set screw hole, as it was totally covered by the rod.  30 seconds later, all was well again!  I could have fixed it much more quickly, with no wasted effort (trying to tighten from inside the base cabinet working from below) with a tiny bit more info in the manual, weeks earlier!

 

AnandY
User Rank
Gold
Re : A Useable User Manual Is the Key to This Car
AnandY   3/25/2014 5:20:52 AM
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Good user manuals are like having a remote control to your vehicle. Put aside the possibilities of repairing, you will still find good user manuals handy. Often times we don't get to know, and use consequently, all the features in the vehicle just because we don't have a useful user manual in our hands describing everything about the vehicle.

Cabe Atwell
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Blogger
Re: Re : A Useable User Manual Is the Key to This Car
Cabe Atwell   3/26/2014 4:40:15 PM
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It makes me wonder sometimes if the engineers who write those manuals do so in their heads first and then forget to write it down in a comprehensive manner later. 

 

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Re : A Useable User Manual Is the Key to This Car
William K.   4/9/2014 4:02:40 PM
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Cabe, at more than one place where I worked the manuals were written by a technical writer who was not an engineer.  so the good writers asked the engineers for assistance and clarifications. The worse writers produced volumes of fiction. And writing diagnostic processes that are useful requires a good understsnding of how a system works, and in addition a great understanding of what results failures produce. But I don't think a lot of managers have a clue about what good technical writing is, or how valuable it can be.

AnandY
User Rank
Gold
Re : A Useable User Manual Is the Key to This Car
AnandY   3/27/2014 6:53:16 AM
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@ Gorski, nothing could be more frustrating than trying to repair using a repair manual and failing to do so. It is not just about frustration. It has much more to do with company's reputation as well. A useful manual with clear diagrams, made by engineers or people properly skilled for the job, can be really handy in performing common repair operations.

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
USER MANUALS
bobjengr   4/9/2014 5:10:03 PM
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I suppose every company has issues with users' manuals or Use and Care Manuals as GE calls them.  I retired from GE Appliances and project engineers were required to write the manuals, at least prior to 2005.  They were then reviewed by our home economist for "sanity" then reviewed for grammar, sentence structure, punctuation etc.   We were instructed to use pictures and / or drawings whenever possible in addition to text.  This was for clarity.  We were also instructed to write the instructions so a 5th grader could understand, in other words—no big words.  I agree completely with previous comments in that a good manual is extremely important to a product.  Unfortunately, literature and packaging seem to be afterthoughts with most products today--especially consumer products.  Excellent post Roger.  

 

Colorado Native
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Silver
Haynes manuals
Colorado Native   4/9/2014 6:37:09 PM
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I have a Haynes manual for my Honda motorcycle, it is the next best thing to useless.  The carburators in the manual are nothing like the ones on my bike and many of the instructions are only partially of use, in many instances, you had better know something about engines to begin with or these sloppy manuals are just going to get you into trouble.  This manual claims to be for all of the models of this particular bike but it isn't.  I can't tell if it is or isn't suitable to any of the bike's model years, it certainly misses a lot of the bases on my bike.

Not much else more useless than a poorly written service manual.  I've also ran into this problem in electronics where a given manual tries to cover too many production years and ends up being nothing less than a mess.  Outside of minor changes, a new manual should be produced for a models with significant changes, that would be easier than trying to write a universal manual and mucking things up.

RonChownyk
User Rank
Iron
Re: Haynes manuals
RonChownyk   4/9/2014 7:22:01 PM
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I've never understood how Haynes stays in business.  Every Haynes manual I've ever used always lacked some key piece of information, or showed parts that were definitely not used on my vehicle.  And don't forget the statement "installation is the reverse of disassembly".  Really?  Wow!

Niel
User Rank
Gold
Re: Haynes manuals
Niel   4/10/2014 4:37:07 AM
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Ah, Haynes book of half truths (or lies) as we call them in the UK. If you want a good manual the factory one's for Honda's are ok, Clymer often beat both. I have a collection of Factory, Clymer and Haynes for my Honda and BMW bikes.

Niel
User Rank
Gold
Re: Haynes manuals
Niel   4/10/2014 4:37:12 AM
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Ah, Haynes book of half truths (or lies) as we call them in the UK. If you want a good manual the factory one's for Honda's are ok, Clymer often beat both. I have a collection of Factory, Clymer and Haynes for my Honda and BMW bikes.

john_mandel
User Rank
Iron
RE: A Useable User Manual Is the Key to This Car
john_mandel   4/10/2014 4:20:56 PM
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One day when I wanted to check the oil, the handle for the hood release of my 1983 Mercury Cougar broke off from the steel cable.  I too had purchased the complete set of Ford manuals for the car.  The instructions were fairly easy to find in the vast set of books.  However, step one for replacing the cable:  Open the hood.  If I could open the hood, I wouldn't need to replace the cable!

 

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Blogger
Keep it funny, becasue we are FRUSTRATED!
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   4/18/2014 2:17:12 AM
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My college roommate was trying to replace the electric window motor in his VW rabbit in 1980.  He needed to remove the inner door panel, but was stumped by how to remove the handle holding it in pace.  He pondered it for a long time, and then bought a service manual. 

The descriptive text amused him when he found the procedure documented, as it began:  "Remove the door handle:  At first glance this may appear to be quite impossible, as there are no visible fasteners."

We still laugh at this personable choice of wording over beers, to this day.

John
User Rank
Gold
Haynes not so bad
John   4/29/2014 4:50:26 PM
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I have always used Haynes repair manuals.  They are definitly not like a shop manual, but they have been helpfull in getting the job done.  They do use the perform proceduce in reverse statement a lot to get what ever it was reassembled, but usually it's something that can only be reassembled in only one way and it really is the reverse.  I do like Haynes' tables of torque specs and identification data at the beginning of the chapters.  Well placed.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Haynes not so bad
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 5:18:50 PM
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I like those manuals as well.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Haynes not so bad
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 5:20:54 PM
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Cars just get worse. I like old school cars...simple to work on. I've been working on my 92 Grand Prix for months....I just liked it when cars were simple.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Haynes not so bad
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 5:23:20 PM
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It's not only that it used to be a lot easier to work on your car. It also used to be a HECK of a lot cheaper! I need fuel injectors...6 at 50 a piece.....use to be spark plugs...lol

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Haynes not so bad
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 5:26:27 PM
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I am kind of thinking about buying an older car. Avoid all the issues. Give up the high tech for the low tech. Not sure yet. Although I do love me an old Mustang!

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