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AAA Tips on How to Read Your Owner's Manual (in 10 Minutes or Less)

6 October 2000

AAA Tips on How to Read Your Owner's Manual (in 10 Minutes or Less); Quick Review of Owner's Manual Could Prevent Breakdowns, Increase Safety and Save Money

    SAN FRANCISCO--Oct. 5, 2000--What does "2" mean on your automatic transmission, and when should you use it? Should you brake differently if you have anti-lock (ABS) brakes? Does your car really need the more expensive super-unleaded gas? Is your child's car seat installed properly? Is your airbag reusable? And where is that fuse box, anyway?
    The answer to these and other vehicle safety and operating questions is usually, "consult your owner's manual," but how many motorists have read this important safety manual book cover to cover?
    October is National Car Care Month, and in the interest of "auto-literacy," AAA encourages motorists to familiarize themselves with their owner's manual. While the manual will never make it to the Best Seller list, AAA considers it to be one of the most important auto accessories in your car. With a few simple strategies, motorists can quickly familiarize themselves with their manual in about ten minutes or less, so they know where to look for key information when they need it.

    AAA Tips on How to Read Your Owner's Manual (in 10 Minutes or

-- First, you'll need to find your owner's manual. If yours is missing, you can order one from your dealer, auto parts retailer, or on the Internet. AAA recommends you keep the manual in a protective covering case that can also store your important vehicle documents, such as insurance, registration, warranty. (1 minute).
-- Take a minute to glance at the table of contents to understand how the manual is structured. From the beginning, skim through the pages, glancing at the illustrations and headings, getting an overall sense of how the information is laid out. You may want to use different highlighter pens such as yellow for important, red for safety notices and items of critical importance. Make a mark next to the most important items you want to learn about your vehicle. Some owner's manuals describe features your particular vehicle does not have, so you may want to cross out the sections that do not pertain to your vehicle. (3 minutes)
-- Scan the index in the back to become familiar with the terminology. What you call "gas" may be listed under "fuel; "CD player could be listed under "radio" and "car seat" may be termed "child restraint system," (1 minute)
-- At the beginning of the manual, skim the pages again, going through to the back of the book. Focus on the highlighted areas you've marked, and pay special attention to safety information. Remember, some owner's manuals describe optional accessories and even other vehicle models which you may not own, so to avoid confusion, strike out any sections that give vehicle information which does not apply to you. If there are any important items you wish to read in detail, do so after you've gone through the entire owner's manual at least once. (5 minutes)
-- Lastly, take a moment to write down your VIN number (vehicle identification number) and keep it at home in a safe location that is easy to find. The VIN number is located on the driver's side dashboard just next to the windshield on the inside. Some owner's manuals imprint the ignition key code, so keep that in a safe place.

    Safety Comes First: Due to the complex nature of today's vehicles, it is essential to use the utmost care when working on your car or truck. Before attempting any service or repair, consult your owner's manual. Be sure you understand the service procedure completely, have the proper tools, and adhere to all safety precautions, including handling instructions for any chemicals you are using. If you are unsure about any repair, consult a professional technician.
    To assist motorists in how to maintain their vehicle, AAA has prepared a variety of vehicle maintenance Web pages at and some are available in brochure format at local AAA offices:

    -- Make Sense of Car Care -- consumer tips on inspecting and
    maintaining your vehicle>

    -- Maintaining and Repairing your Car -- a comprehensive but
    non-technical guide to nine essential car maintenance
    functions, plus AAA's Consumer Repair Guide and dictionary.

    -- Automotive FAQs -- answers to questions about maintenance,
    repair and purchasing.>

    -- Gas Watcher's Guide -- how to save money and get more mileage
    out of your fuel.

    -- AAA Offers Five Easy Tips to Keep Your Vehicle in Tip-Top
    Shape -- quick inspection for safety and economy.

    -- AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities -- easy search directory
    of more than 700 AAA Approved Auto Repair(SM) facilities
    throughout Northern California, Nevada and Utah; all have met
    exacting standards of reliability and quality with their
    mechanical repairs.