Owner’s Manual: Which Manual Do I Need?

When your vehicle or equipment went off of the showroom floor for the very first time, it came with an owner’s manual. If you were the original owner, you probably have it in your glove box. This seemingly unimportant document actually provides immense information about the essential functions and maintenance of the car.

With many different types of manuals out there, it’s important to know which manual suits your needs. Ending up with a parts manual when it’s really an operator manual that’s needed will wind up an exercise in patience. So rather, it’s time to take a closer look at the owner’s manual and the information contained within this vital tool.

What is an Owner’s Manual?

An Owner’s manual is literature that comes with your equipment or vehicle at purchase and gives the operator information on features, maintenance, operation, and care. It really is imperative to have one and learn everything about your vehicle or equipment. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on a vehicle owner’s manual.

An Owner’s Manual may also be called an vehicle Operator Manual, a User Guide, an automotive Maintenance manual, or possibly even Instruction Manual. The main purpose is to inform the day-to-day user of its functions and upkeep, rather than the technical information a mechanic might need from a repair manual.

What type of information is in the Owner’s manual?

While seeming like a mundane document, an owner’s manual truly carries a lot of valuable information. In fact, few people truly realize the value of the manual that accompanied the vehicle into their care. While not exhaustive, here are just a few examples of the information one may find inside an owner’s manual:

First, the manual helps the owner in understanding the vehicle. In this way, the owner’s manual provides information about the vehicle’s features, functions, and capabilities. This can help the owner get a better understanding of how the vehicle works, as well as how to use its various integrated systems, systems and components.

Another primary purpose of the owner’s manual includes instructions on how to properly maintain and care for the vehicle. Some examples include recommended maintenance schedules, tire pressure recommendations, and fluid levels requirements. This can help keep the vehicle in good working condition and also avoid costly repairs.

A major reason to review the owner’s manual is that it provides important safety information. One such example is how to properly use safety belts, child safety seats, and airbags. Information is also included on what to do in case of an emergency, such as a breakdown or accident.

Many manuals will provide troubleshooting tips and advice for common problems that may arise. This can help the owner diagnose and fix minor issues without needing to take it to a mechanic.

Finally, information on the vehicle’s warranty coverage should be found with the manual, including what is covered and what is not covered. This can help the owner understand their rights and responsibilities under the warranty.

Chevrolet Owner's Manual

Specific Sections


Warning Lights and Chimes

This section of the Owner’s Manual will explain what all of the warning lights and chimes mean, and go over all of the dash symbols.

Fuel Gauge and Odometer

Here you will get instructions on using a trip odometer, and fuel and tachometer info


Radio or Satellite Radio Operating instructions

Here you will learn the basics of your system, including search and saving stations, sound settings, etc.

CD & MP3 instructions

You will learn the complete operation of the CD and MP3 jack inputs.

Navigation System

This section will guide you through the complete operation of the GPS system, if installed


In this section, you will learn how to operate the climate counsel, and control Heating, A/C, and defrosters.


This section contains a LOT of useful information. It will cover headlights, taillights, running lights, interior lights, turn signal lights, and even how to replace the bulbs.


This section will familiarize you with the basic controls to safely operate the vehicle. It will cover the multi-function lever(s) on the steering column, and steering wheel controls, Tilt steering column control, Visors, center console, auxiliary power, window operation, mirrors, speed control, & more.


It is of the utmost importance, that you become very familiar, with all of the driver control functions, BEFORE you are driving the vehicle. Getting stuck in a sudden downpour, and not being able to find the wipers, for instance, could prove dangerous.

Infotainment Center

Some manufacturers, such as Chevrolet, have moved to more digital manuals in recent years. So, you may find the owner’s manual on the infotainment center and can utilize the touch screen to get to the area you need. Some people like this, and others who are not as embracing technology would prefer the paper model. The information in either is the same, and it is important to familiarize yourself with whichever version you have.


This is another important section.  In this, you will learn how to use the interior locking system, and also how to run the remote key fob, if so equipped. If your model comes with a programmable keyless entry option, this section is where this will be explained


This section will cover seating configurations, and how to work with the built-in restraint system. It will also cover, child safety seat installation, and airbags.


This is an important safety section. Please know where within your manual to get this information when you need it.


You will learn how to properly inflate your specific tires to the correct level, how to understand your pressure monitoring system (if so equipped), how to rotate, and more.


This section will help you with your towing limits, how to properly hitch and secure your tow, hooking up trailer lights, etc.  Also describes the differences in driving experiences, and what to expect when you are towing.


This section is exactly as it sounds.  This is the section that talks about driving as it relates to this specific vehicle


This section will tackle changing a tire, jump-starting, and emergency towing


You may find when you bought your vehicle, you only received a small version of the owner’s manual, more of a quick start guide. That is because many manufacturers are moving more towards a digital version in vehicles 2009 and up.


You will find an Owner’s Manual, more likely called an Operator Manual, for any piece of construction or agricultural machinery that you purchase. It is imperative that you read these to ensure the proper operation of the unit.

For all intents and purposes, owner’s manuals and operators are the same. However, while these operator’s manuals will cover similar material, they will typically focus more on technical aspects. Heavy machine operators, such as forklifts and telehandlers, must take additional care of hydraulics and other essential components. Furthermore, automotive owner’s manuals tend to cover more conventional information, such as how to use a seatbelt, as opposed to more detailed maneuvers and care.

For the sake of an example, let’s look at the contents of a Compact Track Loader manual. There will be a section on Safety, General Product information, Operation, Maintenance, and Reference Section.


This section will discuss the general hazards on machines, fire safety, pre-start checklist, operation safety, parking safety, slope safety, guards, etc.

Product Information

General information and product specs would be contained in this section


This section will describe your pre-operation routine, and how to operate the machine itself.


This is where you will find all maintenance and lubrication instructions, and schedules.