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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@ 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.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.