If you’re an avid do-it-yourselfer car mechanic, you’ve most likely had a repair manual or two for every vehicle you’ve owned and worked on. There are various service manuals available, but for the frugal budgeted you’ve probably owned either a Chilton or a Haynes brand manual for servicing your vehicle. Both offer complete step by step repair guidelines from beginning to end for tasks ranging from oil changes to brake pad swaps to clutch replacements, and offer many pictures and diagrams to visually direct you through each step along the way.
Both brands are often viewed as competitors, but Chilton is actually owned by Haynes Manuals, so each offer similar information but publish it in slightly different styles. Both also cover a wide range of vehicles, so whether you own a Chevrolet Corvette, a Ford Mustang, or a Plymouth Barracuda, chances are Chilton and Haynes offers a manual for you to follow their teardown guidelines to fix your car the right way. You can similarly find them for imports such as a Nissan Versa, Toyota Corolla, or Honda Civic, or even pickup trucks like a Toyota Tundra, Ford F150, or a Chevrolet C1500. As you can probably guess based on the short list above, if you have a vehicle, there is a pretty high chance Haynes or Chilton makes a manual for it. Of course this creates the dilemma of having to make a choice between a Haynes versus a Chilton manual for your car. Hopefully this breakdown will help to highlight the strengths of each brand so you can pick the one that is best suited to your needs.
Chilton Repair Manuals
The Chilton Total Car Care series of printed car repair manuals offers the do-it-yourselfer a complete maintenance guide that doesn’t require a PhD in automotive mechanics or design. Their manuals are written for people with a basic working knowledge of automotive repair, but they still allow a patient novice mechanic to complete service and repair by following simple steps. All of the Chilton brand manuals include model specific coverage. For instance, the Datsun manual will have information for working on both the fuel injection system of the 280Z as well as the dual SU carburetor system found in the 240z. Each manual includes step-by-step guidelines for an engine overhaul, a complete electrical guide, drivetrain replacement, and more. Each printed book will also include trouble codes for the models covered and what those codes indicate and what sensors and parts they are associated with.
Beyond the vehicle model specific manuals, Chilton does offer general interest manuals, a Total Service series, and System Specific repair manuals. The Total Service series includes Automatic Transmissions, an Engine Code manual, and Fuel Injection Diagnosis and Repair. The System Specific series also includes automatic transmissions (Import Cars and Light Trucks from 1980-1984) and Brakes, Steering and Suspension.
Haynes Repair Manuals
Haynes was first started in 1960 and have been a leader in automotive repair manuals for over fifty years. They offer manuals for almost every vehicle produced since the 1960’s and do offer some for vehicles even earlier than that such as the 1949 Volkswagen Beetle, Bus, and Fastback. Haynes manuals are offered in English and Spanish versions, and do also include other titles beyond automotive interests. They do offer both digital subscriptions (in yearly format) and paperback editions, whereas the Chilton manuals are only offered in paperback printing. Vehicle specific and technical books are available on specific subjects too.
The big difference between the Haynes and Chilton manuals is the attention to detail between the books. Both may offer a Suzuki Samurai manual, but you will notice that the attention to small details is a little different between the brands. Each is written by an experienced technician based on a complete vehicle teardown and rebuild, so either is a good choice to aid in the successful weekend work on your project car. Generally speaking, Haynes manuals are written in layman’s terms and don’t rely on the reader to have quite as much automotive knowledge as the Chilton manuals do. Haynes manuals tend to be a little bit more diagram and picture heavy, which can make them easier to understand for mechanics who are still new to working on cars.
The Haynes and Chilton brands both offer comprehensive repair and overhaul manuals for about every vehicle produced in the last 50 years. They are written for the basic shade tree mechanic who has a basic automotive socket set. Overall, if you have a working knowledge of cars, you will likely find the Chilton manuals will suit your taste (although you will do just fine with a Haynes as well). If you are still relatively new to cars, Haynes manuals are ideal as they tend to offer information in a slightly more visual format. They also have the added benefit of being available in Spanish, if that is something you’d find useful. In the end, the Haynes versus Chilton manual debate is easy to answer, as either brand is a good choice to have as a basic resource for working on your car. All you have to do is choose the one that matches your learning style best! Happy wrenching!