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When did drivers' handbooks for cars get so insanely complicated?

I've just ordered a new family car. It's the latest Honda CR-V iMMD electric hybrid. It's a fantastic car to drive but the drivers' handbook occupies 906 pages. There's a 766 page user manual, and then a separate 140 page manual for the navigation system. Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace was only 200 pages more than that, and I have no desire to read anything that long.

Back in 1979 my Alfetta saloon was a technological marvel compared to the Cortinas and Cavaliers that most people drove, but the driver's handbook ran to just 62 (small and uncluttered) pages altogether. It tells you everything you need to know to use the car safely and to understand all of its features: it even includes a two-page spread explaining how to admire yourself in the mirror whilst smoking a cigarette - something that is, incidentally, completely missing from the Honda's 900+ page manual. Good job I'm not a vain smoker.

Of course the Honda is more complicated but the process of driving the two cars is essentially the same: you unlock, get in, belt up, adjust the seats and mirrors, start the car and drive off. There are instruments to tell you how fast you're going or whether you're running out of fuel, and there are switches for the lights, wipers, radio and other stuff.

So what on earth happened...?
 

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But the Alfetta did not have a navigation system so that's 140 pages saved. I bet it did not have climate control, parking camera/sensors self dipping mirror, seat belt warning lights etc etc. so that is a good few more pages saved.

However I do agree the handbook nowadays assumes you know absolutely nothing. Does it have to tell you to release the parking brake before moving off or how to change a flat tyre? These are things we learnt as part of learning to drive and should not need spelling out in the handbook. However in today's blame culture the manufacturer has to cover every eventuality to avoid being sued because "you did not tell me I should not do this or that or should have done something else.
 

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Given the price of a new car, you'd think they could tailor the handbook to the specific car. Instead, they include pages of irrelevant information about features "for markets where applicable", tyre pressures for versions you don't have, diesel-specific info in a petrol car's book, instructions for two different types of dashboard, one configurable and one not. It's as though the manufacturer doesn't know what he's built. (Alfa guilty of all the above, though they're not the only ones).

A Vauxhall handbook listed tyre pressures by engine type, where "type" was a multi-character code not used in the model name, the car publicity, on the VIN plate or indeed anywhere but in the handbook. It did helpfully say not to slam the doors at night though.
 

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Given the price of a new car, you'd think they could tailor the handbook to the specific car. Instead, they include pages of irrelevant information about features "for markets where applicable", tyre pressures for versions you don't have, diesel-specific info in a petrol car's book, instructions for two different types of dashboard....
I love the idea of a completely 'vehicle specific' handbook - and it shouldn't be too difficult to create: the manufacturer already has detailed production records for your car, so they know exactly which features it has/hasn't got. The car could even have it's own specific 'electronic' handbook built in, so (with the vehicle stationary) you can ask it to display the correct tyre pressures on the dashboard screen, or the instructions for working the sunroof, cruise control, or whatever.

Maybe the real problem is that cars have got bigger and more technologically advanced, but the handbook has only got bigger...
 

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The Stelvio displays tyre pressures , oil level and handbook info on the display. It also has three printed handbooks of increasing thickness.
 

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It's not bad if it's your own car and you can work it out as you go. It's a nightmare if it's a pool car from work, you need to leave now, and it's an auto that doesn't follow the PRNDL pattern, the auto wipers sense rain in a different county, and the radio can only find Capital FM.

The flip side of that is when someone else jumps in it to move it 500 yards, doesn't understand the gearbox either, and bunnyhops 500 yards in 1st because it's in manual mode. That's just hilarious.
 

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...It's a nightmare if it's a pool car from work, you need to leave now, and it's an auto that doesn't follow the PRNDL pattern, the auto wipers sense rain in a different county, and the radio can only find Capital FM.
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Yes, I can see that a 906-page 'generic' handbook probably isn't exactly what you need in that situation.

How about a voice-activated manual, so you can scream at the car "How do you get this poxy thing into 'drive'?" or "Just tell me how to switch off the 'bleedin' auto wipers"...
 

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It's not bad if it's your own car and you can work it out as you go. It's a nightmare if it's a pool car from work, you need to leave now, and it's an auto that doesn't follow the PRNDL pattern, the auto wipers sense rain in a different county, and the radio can only find Capital FM.

The flip side of that is when someone else jumps in it to move it 500 yards, doesn't understand the gearbox either, and bunnyhops 500 yards in 1st because it's in manual mode. That's just hilarious.
But surely the real point is that no red blooded male reads the handbook. Many years ago when the company I worked for changed from Fords to Vauxhalls for company cars and I had one of the first Cavaliers I lost count of the number of colleagues who, having gone to their new car, came back and asked "how do you get it into reverse". As most will recall there was a locking collar which had to be lifted before reverse could be selected. Simple but novel and not something most manufacturers used at the time. It was in the handbook but they never thought to look it was simpler to ask someone who had a Cavalier. Best bit was that the delivery driver had driven front first into the parking place so the colleague could go nowhere until they had worked out reverse.
 

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When did drivers' handbooks for cars get so insanely complicated?



I've just ordered a new family car. It's the latest Honda CR-V iMMD electric hybrid. It's a fantastic car to drive but the drivers' handbook occupies 906 pages. There's a 766 page user manual, and then a separate 140 page manual for the navigation system. Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace was only 200 pages more than that, and I have no desire to read anything that long.



Back in 1979 my Alfetta saloon was a technological marvel compared to the Cortinas and Cavaliers that most people drove, but the driver's handbook ran to just 62 (small and uncluttered) pages altogether. It tells you everything you need to know to use the car safely and to understand all of its features: it even includes a two-page spread explaining how to admire yourself in the mirror whilst smoking a cigarette - something that is, incidentally, completely missing from the Honda's 900+ page manual. Good job I'm not a vain smoker.



Of course the Honda is more complicated but the process of driving the two cars is essentially the same: you unlock, get in, belt up, adjust the seats and mirrors, start the car and drive off. There are instruments to tell you how fast you're going or whether you're running out of fuel, and there are switches for the lights, wipers, radio and other stuff.



So what on earth happened...?
Try having an alfa romeo, I've got a giulietta and mine doesn't even go into detail on a lot of parts, it's so vague and universal I a lot of ares it's almost like trying to read small print

Sent from my SM-G973F using Tapatalk
 

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But surely the real point is that no red blooded male reads the handbook. Many years ago when the company I worked for changed from Fords to Vauxhalls for company cars and I had one of the first Cavaliers I lost count of the number of colleagues who, having gone to their new car, came back and asked "how do you get it into reverse". As most will recall there was a locking collar which had to be lifted before reverse could be selected. Simple but novel and not something most manufacturers used at the time. It was in the handbook but they never thought to look it was simpler to ask someone who had a Cavalier. Best bit was that the delivery driver had driven front first into the parking place so the colleague could go nowhere until they had worked out reverse.

And that was the Citroen's downfall. Every other car I've ever driven, I've just got in and driven. The only other I can recall was the 2nd gen Prius but that came with a sort of quick-start guide like you get with a mobile phone.

Try having an alfa romeo, I've got a giulietta and mine doesn't even go into detail on a lot of parts, it's so vague and universal I a lot of ares it's almost like trying to read small print

Sent from my SM-G973F using Tapatalk
I remember my 156 handbook. That was a product of google translate full of stuff like "Please be turning on the light in the dark time" and "Do not be afraid to be using the braking pedal for the slowing down".
 

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Try having an alfa romeo, I've got a giulietta and mine doesn't even go into detail on a lot of parts, it's so vague and universal I a lot of ares it's almost like trying to read small print

Sent from my SM-G973F using Tapatalk
I have got an Alfa Romeo! The handbook is 62 (rather light) pages, and is a model of simplicity and clarity. It's only the modern cars that seem to come with such lardy, generic and unhelpful tomes.

The 'quick start' guide sounds good: presumably just the info needed to get in, start engine and drive backwards or forwards? (which is actually all that most people need to do)...
 

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I remember my 156 handbook. That was a product of google translate full of stuff like "Please be turning on the light in the dark time" and "Do not be afraid to be using the braking pedal for the slowing down".
Your words filled me with nostalgia for all those Japanese hifi manuals we used to struggle with. "Not stick screwdriver in bottom."
 

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Your words filled me with nostalgia for all those Japanese hifi manuals we used to struggle with. "Not stick screwdriver in bottom."
They were great! I remember buying a Japanese hi-fi amplifier years ago: I thought I knew how to set it up and use it, until I read the manual - which seemed to have been translated from Japanese to English by somebody who spoke neither language...
 
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