The Parts Catalog: Which Manual Do I Need?

Every vehicle, every motorcycle, every engine, and every piece of farm or construction equipment, will at some point need maintenance or a repair that involves replacing a part. The service repair manuals for your equipment explain how to make the repair. However, you still need a parts catalog to ensure you get the right replacement part.

What is a Parts Catalog?

A parts book or catalog is a listing of parts for a specific piece of machinery. It will contain the part number for reordering, and may or may not contain an illustration of the part.  A comprehensive parts catalog set contains both the text AND illustration manuals. This can be an ideal combination for the DIYer.

The parts are grouped into categories. For example, let’s use a 1989 Ford F-150. For this vehicle, there is a two-volume Parts Catalog Set. Volume 1 would be the text information, and Volume 2 would provide the illustrations, and relationship within the component area. As a result, each volume is broken down into groups from components where the part is located

Quick Reference Index

Just as it sounds, this index will quickly get you right to the specific part, if you know the part name and number. Otherwise, a more complete index found in the end of a manual can be used as a guide to reference the correct section.

Vehicle Groupings in Parts Catalogs

The groups are listed with the page number that begins the section. Using the 1989 Ford F-150 again as an example, these are the groupings:

  • Accessories and Paint
  • Brake System
  • Rear Axle, Drive, and Coupling Shaft
  • Frame, Exhaust, and Springs
  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • Radiator and Grille
  • Fuel System and Manifolds
  • Alternator Battery and Starter
  • Distributor and Ignition System
  • Lamps and Horn
  • Wiring
  • Fenders and Hood
  • Speedometer, Bumpers, Mirrors, and Shock Absorbers
  • Air Conditioner
  • Body Parts
  • Soft Trim Parts
Ford F-150 Parts Catalog
Ford Parts Catalog

This organization makes it easy to locate your replacement part, and order right away. Most often, groups are interrelated systems so that disassembly is more thorough. Furthermore, this helps prevent accidental disrepair to other vital systems.

Heavy Equipment Parts Catalog

For Construction and Agricultural Equipment, such as a Grove Crane, parts catalogs are organized in much the same fashion.

A Grove parts manual begins with a similar reference section, followed by a Parts Number Reference section. Next, you will find illustrated sections on the individual boom assemblies, that diagram, and name each individual part.

Similar sections for the cab, door assembly, seat assembly, console, electrical components and HVAC systems of a crane are grouped together. Every part can be easily identified, to reorder for repair.

No matter what piece of construction, forestry, or agricultural equipment you have, you will want to have the OEM parts catalog right next to the repair manual. The faster and more efficiently you can have your equipment repaired and running in top condition, the more profitable to the bottom line.

Motorcycle Parts Catalogs

Motorcycle enthusiasts, especially Harley Davidson owners, have a special relationship with their bikes. They take great pride in caring for them, and many owners choose to work on their Harleys themselves. They gather with friends and help each other with repairs.

If you are going to work on your motorcycle yourself, you will want to add a parts catalog to your service repair manual.

3 Types of Parts

Three different types of parts used in automotive repair – Recycled OEM, LKQ (recycled), and Aftermarket. Each part type will typically have a different level of quality, and therefore cost and durability, to be considered when repairing or replacing parts:

Recycled LKQ

These parts come from junkyard vehicles-typically from totaled vehicles. This might be a great option if you are looking for a seat, fender, etc. This could be a huge money-saving option, and not pose any safety issues.


These are brand-new replacement parts, made by the original manufacturer. OEM parts fit perfectly. This will be the most expensive option.

Harley Davidson Parts Catalog
Harley Davidson Parts Catalog

Aftermarket Parts

Aftermarket parts are made by 3rd party manufacturers. Although they are often brand new, they are sometimes of a lower quality and less expensive or durable than OEM parts.

The older a vehicle gets, the harder it will become to find replacement OEM parts. After a certain age, you may have to purchase aftermarket parts.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many individual parts on average are in a vehicle?

When considering every individual piece of a vehicle, there are up to 30,000 parts. Highly technical farm or construction equipment, can have up to triple the parts of a car. This is especially true in machines such as combines, which can complete multiple jobs through attached implements.

What are the most common vehicle repairs?

Vehicle parts that need repair or replacement most are: Battery, Brakes, Axles, Fuel Injector, Spark Plugs, Shock Absorbers, Muffler or Exhaust, and Transmission. Larger replacements, such as to the axle, typically occur after acute damage or repeated misuse.

How long do auto manufacturers have to make spare parts for a vehicle?

The law requires manufacturers to have parts available for 10 years. Beyond that, it will be up to manufacturer to determine the needs and demands of each vehicle and subsequent systems parts.

Final Thought

You will definitely want access to the Parts Catalog for your vehicle or equipment if you plan on doing any service or repair yourself. It will serve you in conjunction with the service repair manual. Always try to get OEM parts if possible. Being able to identify the right part is just as important as using the right tool in a service repair project.