Chilton vs Haynes vs Online – What’s the Best Auto Repair Manual?

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One of the most valuable resources you can have in your garage is a good repair manual. Automotive DIYers make good use of these manuals to save money and get that sense of accomplishment. Meanwhile, commercial mechanics find service manuals essential due to the wide range of makes and models which pass through their garages daily.

However, some of these manuals aren’t cheap, so you want to get the best for your buck. Do you go with the legendary Chilton, the European-born Haynes, or invest in a digital manual?

Read on to learn the perks, problems, and general quirks of each option to help you determine which auto repair manual is the best.


See Also: Best Online Auto Parts Retailers

Chilton vs Haynes – Which is Better?

Before we pit these manuals against each other, let’s take a moment to discuss the history of our two main competitors. While they have the same goal of making car repair easier, they have very different approaches.



Chilton manual

Originating way back in 1904, Chilton was the undeniable king of repair manuals for generations of mechanics. It has perhaps the most extensive library of any automotive repair manual publication. On top of this, the books get into high detail for every repair needed on a model-specific level, making them extremely useful for pros and amateurs alike.

Surprisingly enough, ownership of the Chilton name has passed through a few very prominent hands, such as the Walt Disney company and none other than Haynes Publishing (as of 2001). Despite being owned by its only major competitor, Chilton’s style has set it apart and ensured these amazing guides continue to be made.


Haynes manual

Designed more for beginners, the first ever Haynes manual was for the Austin 7 Special. Despite the company being founded in 1960, its straightforward and simplified instructions gave it fast popularity in both Europe and America.

The current Haynes library includes manuals for not only cars, but also ATVs and motorcycles. All told, over 1,000 different Haynes manuals have been printed over the years.

Detailed Information


Chilton gets into extreme detail, providing written instructions covering every facet of your repair. There are plenty of illustrations, but these are usually meant as a companion to the text instead of being the main focus.

Every volume is model specific, making it easier to work with onboard sensors, trouble codes, and parts replacement.

For the DIYer, this makes them a one-stop reference for their vehicle, but a little more complicated for commercial garages that prefer a printed reference.

Chilton manual sample page
Chilton sample page (click to enlarge)


Haynes handles their information a little differently. Their manuals have more illustrations than Chilton while still providing ample written instructions. The focus in a Haynes manual is on following a specific procedure and explaining why that method is important.

Unlike Chilton, Haynes manuals are less model-specific, with some information on multiple versions of a car.

Repetitive instructions may be referenced in a single section of the book, requiring the user to flip through. This can prove a little confusing to some people, based upon their level of experience on those procedures.

Haynes manual sample page
Haynes sample page (click to enlarge)

Vehicle Coverage


Chilton has been around almost as long as there have been cars, and the manuals cover just about every make and model of car, van, station wagon/SUV, and pickup truck out there. They also cover older motorcycles, although Chilton has since ceased publishing for two-wheeled vehicles.


Haynes has a much smaller library due to its younger age,  but still includes most lines since its founding. This doesn’t include some of the more limited runs. However, Haynes does have an active line of motorcycle and ATV manuals, as well as several off-the-wall practical guides for impractical things, such as surviving a zombie apocalypse.

The Verdict

chilton-vs-haynesAs Chilton and Haynes are both comprehensive but in very different ways, there can be no clear winner. That said, both fit their own target audience, making each superior in their own ways. Here’s the verdict, based upon the strengths of each collection.

Use a Haynes Repair Manual When:

You’re new to auto repair and need a helping hand. These guides are chock full of important info on proper procedures. Best of all, it explains why you should do things a certain way. It’s almost like having a pro instructor by your side.

You’re a visual leaner. The use of extra illustrations make the manuals easier to understand for many.

You will also want to stick with Haynes for your motorcycle or ATV repairs, as they have an extensive collection available.

Use a Chilton Repair Manual When:

You have some auto repair experience under your belt and want the most comprehensive descriptions. Chilton’s heavier reliance on text can make it tough for beginners, but once you’ve cracked an engine or two, these more verbose instructions can put you on the level of a professional for a wide range of repairs. This is also why many commercial garages have relied upon Chilton for generations.

You’re working on pre-1960 vehicles. Because Chilton started off soon after automobiles became accessible to the general public, these manuals are an absolute must for older antiques. Do you need to fix your old Buick Roadmaster? Or possibly restoring a ’55 Thunderbird?

Chilton is the only place you’re likely to find a comprehensive guide to these older treasures, which are too old to fit into the Haynes library (which only covers 1960 and up).

Best Online Auto Repair Manuals

So far, we’ve only talked about printed manuals, but let’s be honest. A busy garage would require an entire room to hold manuals for every make and model that passes through their doors.

In addition, online repair manuals have the ability to be updated for any important technical service bulletins or part number changes (not so with printed manuals). This is why an online presence has become so important.

In the online world, both Chilton and Haynes have a presence, but they’re met by three worthy competitors. Let’s take a quick look at these five digital options.


Alldata DIYWhile Chilton is the go-to for professionals in its printed form, ALLDATA rules the digital world. Their library covers over 30,000 vehicles from the 1980s to present.

The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and include all the diagrams, parts numbers, and information you need to do an efficient repair every time.

ALLDATAdiy review
Click to Enlarge

Owners of older vehicles aren’t left entirely in the dark, as the database has a selection of older vehicles as well. The guides for these are far less detailed, and you may need to call in to an expert to get some of the information.

ALLDATA Pro has become the standard for most professionals since you gain access to their entire library of cars, but the pricing ($200+ per month) is way beyond what home mechanics want to pay.

Fortunately, home mechanics can purchase 1 month of ALLDATA DIY access for $19.99 or a 1-year subscription for $59.99 for their vehicle (additional vehicles are discounted).

For a limited time, use discount code "AD10VA" to get 15% off a 1-year subscription to ALLDATA.

You get the exact same diagrams, maintenance and repair instructions as most car dealerships or auto repair shops. The online manuals are constantly updated to reflect any TSBs or recalls and even show current prices of OEM parts.

While navigating an online manual takes a bit getting used to, ALLDATA has probably the best interface out there and the convenience factor is huge.

#2 – Mitchell1DIY

Mitchell1 DIY

Just as Chilton and Haynes fight on par for the printed kingship, Mitchell1DIY vs. ALLDATAdiy is often the online version of the battle. While similar in many ways, the user interface and amount of data is the difference.

Mitchell1 tends to lose out to ALLDATA simply because the database format is a bit harder to navigate. You may have to dig around a little to get the exact information you want, whereas ALLDATA has it all in one place.

Where Mitchell1 shines is in the wiring diagrams. These are set up to be interactive, allowing you to highlight a specific circuit, making it easier to follow complex wiring patterns.

Pricing for 1-year access is $39.99 making it less expensive than ALLDATA at this time. The option of a 1-month subscription is nice, but at $19.99 it’s not a huge difference in price. With the yearly, you’re essentially buying 2 months and getting 10 months of access free.

#3 – eManualOnline

Emanual OnlineFor those that prefer a one-time cost (vs a subscription model), is a good option. Simply click on a vehicle make and model and you’ll get a list of all available manuals for that vehicle by year. Service & repair manuals make up the majority of their products but you can also find parts catalogs, wiring diagrams, and other manuals.

eManualOnline specializes in vehicles at least 5-10 years old. You’re not going to find many manuals for newer vehicles but for older cars and trucks, the selection is excellent. Simply select the manual you’re interested in, add it to your cart, pay via credit card or Paypal, and instantly download your manual.

DIY like a pro! Shop from over 1,000,000 Repair Manuals at! As low as $14.99 per manual. Shop now.

Most manuals are in the $20 to $30 range but it’s nice that you pay once and have access to it forever. At times, they have a coupon available on their site so you may pay even less.

One downside is that there is no set format that all manuals are in. It may be available in PDF format or various other computer files. Fortunately, provides instructions on how to use each. It’s a little extra hassle in some cases but worth it since you own the manual and don’t need to worry about monthly subscription fees.

#4 – Haynes (Digital)

Haynes onlineAs with Chilton, the Haynes database isn’t as comprehensive as the printed version. However, there are plenty of tips and tricks, as well as guides on how to fix most common issues such as tuning, engine repair, and a bunch of other repairs.

The regular price of the digital version of a Haynes manual is $35.95. It’s still a good value when you think of it, but ALLDATA is simply preferred by most mechanics so there’s no incentive unless you get this at a sales price. But the manuals frequently go on sale at so it’s worth checking out. 

ChiltonLibary (formerly ChiltonDIY)

Chilton LibraryAs of January 7, 2022, ChiltonDIY has been discontinued. However, they have now made the entire Chilton database accessible through “ChiltonLibrary” which is offered through public, school, and university libraries. This access is free as long as you have a valid library card number or login.

Chilton’s online guides are far less comprehensive than their printed counterparts, but that doesn’t mean the database is useless. In fact, Chilton’s online guides include plenty of diagrams, instructions, videos, recall information, and a whole slew of other features.

While it’s a bit more of a hassle, it’s hard to beat a free resource like this.

A Few Honorable Mentions

While we don’t use any of these other options, it’s worth noting that there are a few others out there for those who aren’t happy with the top picks or need something specific:

AutoMD – This diagnostics site offers general diagnostic and repair information to help heal your car of what ails it. The lack of any vehicle specific info makes this free guide more limited in its scope than the Big Four.

AutoZone – This famous company offers a variety of free diagnostic guides on their website (although you’ll need to create a free MyZone account for access). These will help you narrow down a problem based upon your own sensory information so you can get it fixed quick.

iFixit – Apple’s official troubleshooting site includes free troubleshooting manuals for select cars from the 1960s to 2011. Each guide gives detailed information on what you’ll need and how to fix problems for the specific vehicle, including crisp photo references.

Workshop Manuals – Another site with a limited selection of guides, this free site offers very comprehensive information for those models it covers. This includes parts numbers and easy-to-follow instructions.

Mark Stevens


  1. I’m looking to fix a problem with my 2008 Dodge Charger SXT Dub Edition. It’s throwing out this code:
    Ecu cylinder 5 misfire detector
    Ejector 5 cylinder open circuit

    Checked the coils and put new plugs. Found some liquid in the bottom of the 5 coil car still runs ruff and no power so its been sitting Im going to fixit myself because everyone wants to charge me an arm and leg
    If you have any suggestions please help. I can navigate and comprehend direction or dictation very well. Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Did you check the injector on cylinder 5? Open circuit could be a wiring issue leading to that injector, or perhaps a problem inside the injector itself.

      You can always try swapping injectors around to see if the misfire code follows the injector that is currently used for cylinder 5. The fix may be to replace the injector or fix the wiring.

    1. There could be many causes of this. The best thing to do would be to take truck into a shop to have the issue diagnosed. It could be something simple like a wheel out of balance or it could be loose suspension parts, which would be very bad.

  2. My Land Rover LR4 is bringing out white smoke and is smelling fuel also is writing restricted performance

        1. What have you tried so far? There could be many causes of a no start condition. Is the check engine light on? Have you scanned for codes?

  3. I’ve also had the code machine to my truck in it says the throttle body plate but now it won’t even turn over know nothing

  4. Our area was hit by hurricane category 5 and my car with out in it now it does not want to start acts like it is the battery acts like it’s not getting any fuel but it will not start in it won’t turn over and I have no oil pressure

    1. Whew, that’s a bummer. It’s likely the car has electrical issues from water damage and maybe an oil leak if something got dinged by debris. If you’re checking the oil pressure by the dashboard indicator, that could even be a false alarm caused by water damage to the wires. The car should be examined by a mechanic.

  5. Thanks for the help on which book to get Haynes or chilton repair manuals I am more of an experienced mechanic if the book was for me I would get the Chilton because I have older cars to. The person I’m getting this book for is just new in the mechanic and so I will get him to Haynes manual he has a 95 jeep Cherokee that we’re changing the transmission out again thanks again

    1. I prefer Chilton myself, but you really can’t go wrong with either one. That said, nothing beats the service manual printed by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

        1. Sorry, I’m not a great person to ask about bikes. Hopefully someone else on here is more familiar with them.

      1. My car had got fix in the shop.i got it back it and it drove good for about an hour then stalled it was hard to drive. It’s a Buick LeSabre 2003.

    2. I just got both manuals for my 94 ford because they’re both awesome, useful manuals to have, but the haynes tends to have info that the chiltons manuals don’t, and vice versa, so I got both just to be on the safe side.

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