Online Repair Manuals vs Paper

I have 2 different view points about repair manuals. As a professional, online is the only way to go. I use Alldata’s professional version in the shop every day.

But I still remember the days before computers and having to buy books. I still cherish the first manual I ever bought, it’s a Chilton’s 1976 repair manual.  I needed it so I could change the clutch in my first car, a 69 Roadrunner. This is the part where a lot of older guys say “I wish I still had that car”. Not me, it was a piece of crap with bondo in the right rear quarter panel… OK, I lied, I really do wish I still had that car. 😎

Even to this day I still bust out the old Chilton’s about once a year to look something up that the online version of Alldata doesn’t show. Alldata only goes back to 1982.

But the problem with printed manuals is the amount of space they would take up in my shop to cover all the different models of vehicles that I work on.

Free Online Manuals Or Paid?

I’ve looked at the top 2 website listings in the search engines to see what kind of free auto repair info you can get when you enter “free  auto repair manuals” and let me tell you, it’s crap. Worth exactly what I paid for it, nothing.  Don’t waste your time with those types of sites.

You can get free info, but you have to go to the library to get it. Some library’s have subscriptions to professional automotive information sites like Mitchell On Demand or Alldatapro. This is the same industry standard repair info that I use on a daily basis and I have to pay about $170 per month at the time of this writing.

That’s what I miss about books, you buy it once and you own it for ever, just like the manual I bought when I was 16 years old. I still got it. But I digress…

Obviously you don’t need to sign up for a pro level subscription just to work on the family vehicle. Heck, you don’t if you work on a fleet of one or two makes, I’ll explain.

Alldata offers a do it yourself online version for somewhere around $18 to $20 and it’s for only one model of vehicle. So if you own a 96 Bronco for example, you buy a 1 year subscription and Alldata gives you access to all of their online repair information for your Bronco. You get access to everything that the professional shop does. It’s the exact same info.

I know this because for a 5 year period I downsized my shop to just me and I only bought 1 year subscriptions when I had something off the wall that I needed repair info for.

And the great thing about doing it that away is, you can buy additional models for only $14.95 ea.  So I was only doing that about once or twice a month for a few years. That’s a whole lot cheaper than $170 per month.

But now that I’m ramping back up with employees and doing more different types of maintenance and repairs, I had to step back up to the pro-version because I use it daily.

Earlier I mentioned if you were working on a fleet you could use the Alldata do it yourself version. There’s no point in paying full pop when you only need info for a couple of models.

Online Repair Manuals

Pros: Latest up to date repair info including technical service bulletins from the factory and recalls. Factory maintenance schedules and a bunch of other cool stuff that’s not included in a paper manual.

Cons: You have to renew subscription every year, even for only one  model. You never own it.

Printed Repair Manuals

Pros: You get to keep it forever, you can take it right to the vehicle and look at it while you’re working on the vehicle.

Cons: Information may be outdated. No technical service bulletins from the factory, no recall information.

One last great thing about online info, you can print it out and take it to the vehicle while you’re working on it and when you’re done, you throw the printout away and never have to worry about getting a book greasy.

Give Alldatadiy a try and see what you think. I think you’ll like it.