Fix It or Forget It

Chilton 1975-81Chilton’s Import Car Repair Manual 1975-81
Chilton Book Company

Chilton’s Import Car Repair Manual 1980-1987
Chilton Book Company

Submitter: I recently was assessing circulation on my library’s old Chilton’s manuals. The attached two manuals have not circulated in 10+ years – possibly because both are missing huge chunks of the text. Which was noted with these lovely contact-paper-covered labels. There was definitely some internal screaming over here when I ran across these two.

Chilton 1980-1987Holly: How very helpful of them! We recently pretty well gutted our Chilton manual collection. They weren’t being used much, and we have an auto repair database (not Chilton, actually, but Ebsco’s Auto Repair Source). Here in the Detroit area people are into DIY auto repair and car restoration and that kind of thing, so older manuals like these might still circulate in some libraries. To take the time to label large missing sections, though, rather than replace the books or – if they’re popular enough to warrant it, subscribe to the database – seems like an odd choice.


  1. This is so much fail that even Chilton couldn’t repair it. Who thought it was a good idea to note this and still re-shelve them? And let’s have a moment of sympathy for whoever has to clean out their house when they’re gone, because you KNOW they aren’t doing Swedish Death Cleaning.

    I suspect people use YouTube videos nowadays, though more-recent (and complete) Chilton manuals are probably popular in many places.

    Chilton once published a non-auto book. It didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped, so they went back to their core strategies and let that book and its sequels go to another publisher. Little tome called “Dune”.

  2. Did they think that 7/8ths of a loaf (book) was better than none? I would be concerned that doing that just invites someone to swipe the Honda section next.

  3. The databases are nice because people can print out the pages they need and not worry about getting grease on the book. I own a few of the books for older car restoration, and photocopy the pages.

  4. Oddly enough, repair manuals this old STILL circulate in many libraries, the ubiquity of videos on how to fix/replace everything on every make of cars notwithstanding. To do a repair right, you need BOTH the manual instructions AND the video in most cases.

    I noted that one local library finally eliminated two of their vintage manuals after they came back full of grease smudges!

    And if you sorely need a replacement, I’ve seen vintage Chiltons at thrift stores–indeed, I swear these exact manuals are in one of my local stores, and they’re even shreewd enough to mark them up from the usual flat “Paperbacks 50 cents, Hardbacks $1 Unless Otherwise Marked” pricing.

  5. Puzzling that ALL foreign/sports cars for a range of years could be dealt with in one volume?

  6. In my library system we have the Chilton in a mix of reference and circulating. But we also now have Chilton online so we’ve discarded the majority of these. (Though a quick search shows a bunch of our libraries have the 80-87, but not the 75-81.) I know some mechanics used to come to check them out quite regularly. But since the Tesla has become the status car rather than having a vintage Ferrari I see fewer mechanics looking for books.

  7. Hah.

    Someone literally just posted the 1968-1975 edition on my local Facebook Marketplace.

    And someone asked them to hold it.

  8. This is another example of something that is very dangerous to weed, if you live in a community on the “other side of the tracks” in terms of digital divide. The people that use these manuals won’t even look at a computer screen, if you show it to them, and the level of expertise needed on the part of the librarian in order to find and print the schematic they want is almost impossible to hire (because they already work as mechanics). If a “partial book” happens to have the electrical schematics intact, it may be worth keeping, unless you’re willing to have an angry old man yell at you about once per week.

  9. Somewhere deep in the stacks of my local library is a copy of the 1986 Crown Vic/Grand Marquis/Town Car service manual with my greasy thumbprints, and my everlasting gratitude, all over it.

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