Home » The Next Time You Go To A Junkyard, Bring Back An Owner’s Manual As A Treat

The Next Time You Go To A Junkyard, Bring Back An Owner’s Manual As A Treat

Fiero Owners Manual Topshot 2
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Here’s a pro tip to make your, um, Morning Dumps a little bit more interesting: The next time you head to a junkyard, bring back an owner’s manual as a treat. You’ll have to check with your local wrecking yard on cost, but I’ve found that fairly often, owner’s manuals are free. Yes, free, for an incredible piece of automotive literature people charge like $30 for on the internet.

Fiero Merch Owner's Manual

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Back in college, a roommate of mine went on a junkyard excursion and brought me back the owner’s manual for a 1984 Pontiac Fiero, and let me tell you, they don’t make them like they used to. What would you expect to find in this owner’s manual? Perhaps a seat belt warning, maybe some information on basic controls? Wrong! Check out this Fiero-themed merchandise, mostly worn by models with incredible facial hair. I mean come on, isn’t that beret tight as shit?

Fiero parts owner's manual

What’s more, you know how finding detailed specs on a new car can be like pulling teeth? Not for this thing, baby. You’ve got your cooling system capacity, replacement spark plug part numbers, and bulb sizing right here in the DIY section.

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Fiero owner's manual

Speaking of DIY, there are a ton of service procedures detailed in here, with various wrenches to show the level of difficulty. One wrench job? Probably a one beer job. Three wrench job? Don’t do it on the air, the FCC will not like that.

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Of equal impressiveness, just the sheer quality of the owner’s manual itself. The quality of paper and binding are mad decent, and even though the embossed cover is falling apart, it still has a certain allure that the monotone, corporate owner’s manual covers of today just can’t match. I get it, Fiero is Italian for ‘proud’ and this is a manual to be proud of.

While this Fiero manual is particularly weird in the grand scheme of things, other owner’s manuals still hold gems. You can become the patron saint of obscure automotive trivia if you just bring home an owner’s manual from the junkyard every time as a treat. Teach friends the cool things their cars can do, memorize the bulbs your parents’ cars take, save someone’s day or wow them with the power of automotive knowledge. It’s fast, easy, and often free. Plus, with Google being stuffed with SEO-focused garbage and owner’s forums often being, um, wrong, why not get your info straight from the horse’s mouth?

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(Photo credits: Thomas Hundal)

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MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
11 months ago

Someone passed down a 1920’s Rolls Royce owners manual to me. It’s really funny to read. It’s meant to be read by the chauffeur. RR states that almost ALL issues with their cars are only because the operator is misunderstanding how to operate their fine motor vehicle.

Camp Fire
Camp Fire
11 months ago
Reply to  MikeInTheWoods

Some things never change, eh?

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
11 months ago

My Volvo 142 manual assumed any driver would know how to drive with a manual transmission, but instead instructed one how to drive with an automatic.

Chris Roberts
Chris Roberts
11 months ago

Alright, so what’s the proper etiquette for the owner’s manual when getting rid of an old car? A good car in good condition sold to a friend or knowledgeable buyer, I think it would be a point of pride to include everything original (floor mats, manual, even the sticker if you have it). If you’re just trading in the grocery-getter at the dealer, why bother? But then again, I really wish I’d kept the manual from the ‘98 Cherokee I sold in 2015 because it was the first car I ever bought, and bought new at that.

D-dub
D-dub
11 months ago

The owner’s manual for my LS400 comes in a leather binder. Not pleather, actual mammal skin.

Maymar
Maymar
11 months ago

From the ones I’ve seen, GM used to have the highest quality manuals – glossy paper, full colour printing, often special binding (beyond the Fiero example above, I have one for a late 80’s LeSabre that came in its own mini-binder).

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
11 months ago

One of the biggest scores I have made for my 1932 Chevrolet Confederate was an original lightly used owners manual that came with the car!

Allen Lloyd
Allen Lloyd
11 months ago

Some people used to put money in their owners manual. In my various junkyard adventures I have found around $100 over the years. A few times I have found an envelope with a note from dad on the outside with a $20 inside.

Nega Rosenberg
Nega Rosenberg
11 months ago

85 Fiero GT had a much nicer manual. I still have both of mine in mint condition.

ThatGuyWithaFiero
ThatGuyWithaFiero
11 months ago

Obligatory Fiero comment. Nice score, I’ve been in many a junkyard Fiero, never seen a manual

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
11 months ago

I would totally collect car manuals the way I actually collect camera manuals. This article makes me wonder if I should start…

I really like that Fiero manual. Besides the sweet fashion options inside, that type of binding is a great touch, because the manual can easily lay flat, or folded over on itself to keep a particular page handy, without damaging the book at all! I’ve actually never had a car with such a nice owner’s manual!

Edit: Can someone explain why the fluid capacities would be approximated in an owner’s manual?

Last edited 11 months ago by Bob Boxbody
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Bob Boxbody

Totally on the spiral binding – I hate how modern owners manuals are quite thick & have extremely thin paper, leading to their mostly refusing to stay open on their own short of cracking the spine. I often feel automakers don’t want us to actually read them, but want to be able to prove (legally) that no, it’s not our fault, we told you to not do that…you didn’t read the manual.

I bet the approximation is recognition that a do it yourselfer won’t ever be able to completely empty a given reservoir. There’s a sort of pragmatic charm to that.

Last edited 11 months ago by Jack Trade
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Early editions of John Muir’s How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive were spiral bound. Quite handy!

And the illustrations were awesome in a 60s psychedelic way-but still somehow informative. Quite helpful to a novice wrencher. Seriously: go search them. (I might be biased as there is a signed Peter Auschwanden print opposite me as I type. The exploded bug one: great details with the cat, SO, and kid)

Jbavi
Jbavi
11 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Had to look this up, these are amazing!

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I’ve heard of a trend to make the manuals only available as a PDF download. I don’t know how widespread this is though. Hopefully, not very.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

I collect and repair old Timex watches b/c I enjoy their everyman nature, and one of the many cool things about them is they come with this little folded instruction book – it unfolds into this fairly large roadmap-y thing (that’s also difficult to fold back up again!) with little technical drawings, stern warnings, etc. It’s a small joy.

Sadly, these days, Timexes and similar watches just have a sticker with a website address in lieu of this. Sigh.

Dsa Lkjh
Dsa Lkjh
11 months ago
Reply to  Bob Boxbody

Part of my job as an OEM powertrain design engineer was to provide capacities for oils, coolant and fuel.

Even with detailed CAD models of everything you can’t be exact because of build tolerances (a couple of mm on a moulded fuel tank can lose you a litre or two). Either you put a load of effort in to do the tolerance stack for an accurate max and min range, or you just calculate/measure it once and describe it as approximate.

With oil how much you drain out depends on how long you wait, plus there may be oil in the pump, cooler or weird little pockets that never fully drain. So the factory fill on an empty engine isn’t the same as how much you need to do an oil change.

I bought a car a couple of weeks ago and read the manual cover to cover. I already knew how to open the doors and operate the steering wheel, but it was worth it to find out my car didn’t have the optional remote trunk release so that locking the key in there would be very, very bad.

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
11 months ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

Thanks, that makes a lot of sense!

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
11 months ago

I didn’t know I needed a Fiero baseball jersey until now. Is Jim Bakker holding a collection plate handle?

Miles Long
Miles Long
11 months ago

I don’t believe that’s a beret, Thomas. It looks like an old-fashioned “newsboy” cap. Sweet duds, though.

Last edited 11 months ago by Miles Long
Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
11 months ago
Reply to  Miles Long

It’s called a “Gatsby Hat” according to the description.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Bob Boxbody

Which seems so un-Fiero. That shiny racer jacket, sure thing, but that hat (or the cardigan for that matter)? Who do they think was buying a mid-engined 2 seater from GM anyway??

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

First and foremost, men with moustaches.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Bob Boxbody

They were buying everything in the 80s…even paper towels, judging by the original Brawny guy.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
11 months ago

Idk why but every time I’m at a junkyard and look in a glove box, the owners manual is always missing. Like EVERY time. I’ve never found an owners manual in a car, ever.

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
11 months ago

I used to have a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona owner’s manual. Aside from some great illustrations and technical/service information, one of my favorite parts was this caution to drivers:

“When driving near maximum engine speed in any gear, great skill and attention is required.”

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
11 months ago

When I was in high school, I found a euro spec grey market E24 in a junkyard that still had the owners manual. In it, it had a list of every BMW dealer in Europe at the time along with lots of other info that I couldn’t read because it was all in German.

Unfortunately that book was severely water damaged and visibly moldy but I still took it anyway. That book sat in my room, forgotten about as I went off to college then moved away for work after school until one day I was home cleaning out my old room before my parents moved. Surprisingly the mold didn’t get any worse but I had come to my senses by now and threw it away.

Lincoln Clown CaR
Lincoln Clown CaR
11 months ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

I remember the manual in my dad’s 1980 e21 320i also had a list of all BMW dealers (in the US), which seemed really cool to me at the time for reasons that aren’t entirely clear now.

Maymar
Maymar
11 months ago

I have a weird fascination of looking up old dealership addresses on Google Maps to see what it’s become since then.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago

I’ve mentioned this before I know, but motorcycle owners manuals are STILL like this – they contain a fair amount of useful wrenching info and instructions.

Also, even more wonderfully antiquated is that many bikes come with a small tool collection to help you deal with problems on the go.

Meanwhile, my Ford Focus owners manual: “Ford recommends that you have your authorized Ford dealer install new headlight bulbs.”

(though in fairness I guess, nearly the entire front end has to be removed to do this. But still.)

Data
Data
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Ayup. Some years ago my wife and I attempted to change the headlights on her second gen Prius. A task I have undertaken many times over the years on other cars. We ended up shearing off one of the flanges on the “vault door” protecting the treasured bulb, so it ended up at the dealer. I am sure they removed the entire bumper cover and the entire light assembly.

Jbavi
Jbavi
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Waiting for the day when the “onwer’s manual” is just a cardstock slip of paper with a QR code on it

Last edited 11 months ago by Jbavi
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
11 months ago

Sadly, most of my wrenching has been of the not safe for FCC variety. Great description. I have a modest collection of factory vehicle owner manuals. Also, manuals for several of my favorite WWII aircraft. They’re all fascinating reading.

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