Have you memorized what every warning light on your dashboard means?
How about your recommended maintenance schedule? Do you know how to open the automatic windows manually? What about the ideal tire pressure? Oil weight? Engine size? Jump start requirements?
You might know some of those things, but if you’re like most drivers, you don’t likely have them all memorized—and you almost certainly don’t know by heart all the little details and minutiae about your vehicle that happily serve to get you from point A to point B every day.
The place for all that information is in your owner’s manual. It’s just as important to keep a copy of the manual in your car as it is to keep a spare tire!
But what if your owner’s manual is lost, or you bought a used car that didn’t include one?
We recommend that all drivers keep a copy of the owner’s manual in their car. That includes the experienced or mechanically inclined drivers, no matter how much of a gearhead they are.
That’s why today we’ll discuss a few easy and cheap (or free!) ways to get your hands on a copy of your vehicle’s manual.
Let’s begin with the free method, which also usually happens to be the quickest:
How to Find a Digital Copy of Your Car Manual Online
If your car was manufactured in the last 20 years, it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to find a digital copy of your vehicle’s manual online.
Here’s the thing: despite so many claims to the contrary, there isn’t a single resource or website that has every single manual for all cars in their archive. You might have to test your Google-Fu skills a bit (get it, like Kung-Fu).
Start by checking the very handy little site Manuals.co. While the site is designed for use by mechanics, there’s no reason that consumers can’t use it to find their car manual. You may have to do a little digging, but we managed to find owner’s manuals for common cars like a Honda Civic or Toyota Camry within just a few minutes.
No luck there? You can try checking this list of manufacturer resources from Edmunds. Find your manufacturer on the list, select it, and perform a search on their site. We noted that the majority of manufacturers don’t require you to provide an email address or “log in” to use their service.
Finally, if nothing else works, you may have to take to your search engine of choice, probably Google. Do a search that includes your vehicle’s make, model, and year, plus the word “manual.” So for example, you might search for “2008 Nissan Altima SE manual.”
With a little digging, you should be able to find a digital copy relatively quickly—for free. Never pay for a manual unless it’s coming from your dealership or manufacturer.
The only drawback with a digital copy? You can’t put it in your car unless you print it out. Which is why you might want to find a physical copy…
Request a Physical Copy of Your Car Manual From a Dealership or Manufacturer
While it doesn’t always work, the easiest and quickest way to get a physical copy of your car manual is usually to request one from a dealership. It works better if your car is newer (3-5 years old). Note that it doesn’t have to be the dealership you bought the car from, just one that sells the type of car you need a manual for.
Ask if the dealership has any extra copies in stock. If they do, you’ll likely be able to buy one for a small fee (and if you bought the car through them, they may just give it to you for free).
If your local dealership doesn’t have a copy, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer directly. Refer to the Edmunds listing we referenced earlier.
Buy a Copy of Your Car Manual From a Third Party
So, what do you do if you have an older or more obscure vehicle? You’ve tried looking online and contacting the manufacturer, but it’s a no-go?
Your best bet will be to try and purchase a copy from a third party. Websites like Books4Cars have a very healthy selection and can give you an idea of pricing. To get the best deal, make sure to double check what your manual is going for on eBay.
Learn More About Your Vehicle’s Needs from the Pros
Even if you don’t plan on working on your vehicle yourself, it’s still a great idea to keep a copy of your owner’s manual in the glove compartment. You never know when you’ll need to look something up.