Best Repair Manual Showdown: Chilton vs. Haynes

If you’ve spent time working on your own car or WANT to start working on your own car, the odds are high that you’ve run into the familiar dilemma: which repair manual should you choose?

Some people think that any manual is just as good as the next one, but you know better. A good repair manual can mean the difference between a quick and easy car repair, and a frustrating afternoon that makes you never want to see your car again.

How many times have you come across that one key step in the repair that might as well be written in an entirely different language? For the do-it-yourself mechanic, nothing is more important than a detailed, easy-to-follow service manual.

Both Chilton and Haynes service manuals offer step-by-step instructions and tips for a huge number of crucial car repairs, from basic oil changes to intensive engine repairs. But which one is truly the best option for your next project?

Interestingly enough, Chilton is actually owned by Haynes; the Chilton brand was sold to Haynes publishing in 2001. However, both brands have continued to publish manuals for a wide range of vehicles, each presenting detailed information, pictures and diagrams in their own unique style.

Is Chilton the Best Repair Manual?

Chilton sample page (click to enlarge)

Chilton Publishing has been in business since 1904, and over the course of its long history has amassed a huge library of manuals and training materials. Once owned by the Walt Disney Company, Chilton is now under the leadership of Cengage Learning, which continues to publish the well-known line of automotive repair manuals and use the latest technology to offer new service manual options for car repair enthusiasts.

What’s Included in a Chilton Manual?

Like many of the top manuals on the market, each Chilton manual includes detailed, step-by-step instructions for each repair and maintenance activity included in the text. All of the manuals are model specific, so you’re never left guessing whether the steps for a repair are the correct ones for your vehicle.

Every Chilton manual covers vital procedures, such as drivetrain repairs, electrical system guides, and engine maintenance and overhaul instructions. They also include model-specific guides to trouble codes, noting what the code means, what sensors are associated with the code, and what vehicle parts are related to the code.

A detailed list of the procedures included in each Chilton manual can be found on the company’s FAQ page.

While Chilton manuals do provide some detailed pictures, illustrations and diagrams, they tend to be more focused on the procedure specifications and procedure details. This offers mechanics an exhaustive overview of the repair process, but may be more difficult to follow if you prefer more visual instruction.

Who Should Use a Chilton Manual?

Chilton manuals are typically designed for mechanics with a basic working knowledge of vehicle maintenance and repair, so they may not be the best option for brand new mechanics.

While beginners should still be able to follow the step-by-step instructions, they may need a little more patience and attention when using Chilton manuals, compared to mechanics who are already familiar with industry terms, specialty tools, and general maintenance procedures.

Chilton’s also offers most of its service manuals in Spanish.

Which Car Models are Covered by Chilton Manuals?

Chilton manuals cover almost every automotive make and model, including cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans. While the company has published motorcycle service manuals in the past, they do not currently offer a line of manuals for modern motorcycles.

What Extras Are Offered by Chilton?

In addition to the print and online service manuals from Chilton, the company also provides on online community for both professional and DIY mechanics to connect and share questions, answers, and advice.

Or is Haynes the Best Repair Manual?

Haynes sample page (click to enlarge)

Haynes Publishing was founded in 1960 in England, but quickly became a popular resource for automotive and motorcycle enthusiasts in the U.S. The company started out with a single book on building an Austin 7 Special, and has since expanded to almost 1,000 manuals on automotive, motorcycle and ATV repair and maintenance.

Who Should Use a Haynes Manual?

With its simple and thorough instructions and easy-to-follow diagrams, Haynes manuals may be the best repair manual option for brand-new mechanics. Compared to Chilton manuals, Haynes tends to offer a lot more pictures and illustrations, however it can sometimes be more difficult to follow, as many standard procedures are referenced in other sections of the book.

Haynes manuals also tend to spend more time explaining how and why specific procedures should be done in a particular way, which can be very useful for the beginner mechanic or experienced mechanics looking to improve their skills.

Haynes also offers most of its service manuals in Spanish.

Which Car Models are Covered by Haynes Manuals?

Similar to Chilton, Haynes manuals also cover nearly every automotive make and model, with the exception of model ranges that only include a handful of vehicles. In addition, Haynes offers more than 200 service manuals for a range of motorcycles and ATVs.

For those operating a step or two outside of the mainstream, Haynes also offers a series of “Practical Lifestyle” manuals covering topics from bicycle repair to “How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse”.

What Extras Are Offered by Haynes?

In addition to the print and online manuals from Haynes, the company also provides a huge number of “Tips and Tutorials” articles providing free, detailed advice on everything from vehicle history to troubleshooting tips.

So Which One Should You Choose?

The Chilton vs Haynes debate has been going on for years. Both offer outstanding automotive repair manuals for DIY mechanics, but each brand brings its own unique style to the table.

Chilton manuals are typically the best manual for mechanics who already have a basic understanding of automotive repair, and are looking for a detailed guide for their car, truck, SUV, or van. Chilton is also a great option for mechanics who want to join an online community of other mechanics and automotive enthusiasts.

Haynes manuals are typically the best manual for brand new mechanics, or those who prefer more illustrations and diagrams to guide their repair work. Haynes service manuals are also the better choice for those who need guidance for other vehicles, like motorcycles, ATVs or bicycles.

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