Service Manuals

The Importance of Service Manuals

I can’t imagine doing restorations without the service manuals for the vehicles I’m working on.  In fact, I can’t imagine owning a car without having access to the service data for it.  I pay for AlldataDIY for my truck, I had it for my last car, and I even have it for my friend Ryan’s Honda Civic because it makes it so much easier to fix things when you can see how the manufacturer recommends working on the car.

The sign of a true mechanic is one who never looks at the manual, and half the time I don’t NEED to, but it always helps to browse the steps before I start in case there are any hidden bolts or odd procedures for removal or installation.

Especially when dealing with a restoration, service manuals are worth owning for, if nothing else, the exploded diagrams.  I take tons of pictures and I’m pretty methodical, but remembering which direction the bolts go in the lower control arm is pretty difficult a year after you took them apart.  Some might say it doesn’t matter, and those people need to stay away from my cars.  While a bolt might go in either way, there’s usually a reason for why it should go in the way the factory recommends, although you may not understand why at that moment.  It really stinks to have to disassemble a component once you realize that if you install the bolt from the back instead of the front that you then can’t get a socket on a bolt.

In general, the service manuals should be enough, at a minimum, to complete most jobs on the car, but to do a top-notch job, you want to try and get every piece of service literature you can.  Jim Osborn Reproductions offers copies of the Ford assembly manuals which offer a higher degree of detail than the diagrams in the service manual.  Buy them, you’ll be glad to have them.  I know NPD carries the 1965 and 1966 books (there are subtle differences for 1966), although to create a complete set for 1966 you’ll need a copy of the 1965 chassis manual because Osborn doesn’t seem to have a 1966 copy.

Along with that, if you can pick up other versions of the wiring diagram, do it.  Some may just reproduce pages out of the service manual or the electrical assembly manual, but others will add color or more specificity to the diagram, which you’ll appreciate when you need to troubleshoot the system or add extra circuits.

My only beef with the Ford manual, which is very well-written on the whole, is that they don’t give fastener specifications in the book itself.  Packard has a separate Specifications section that lists each screw or bolt, what it’s for, what the size and thread pitch are, and the torque specification.  Ford only provides torque specs, they only do it when they feel like it, and you have to flip to the end of each section to find them.  Frequently I find myself looking for torque specs they haven’t provided but which I feel they should.  Sometimes they have them in the assembly manual, but often times they don’t.  It’s nothing big, but since I have a torque wrench, I’d like to be precise.