In honor of Read Across America Day (March 2nd) and National Reading Month (March), we’re going over the best books about cars, trucks, and automobiles.
While there are many great online resources such as YouTube videos and message boards for learning car maintenance and repair (see our blog for instance), sometimes you end up on a wild goose chase following the wrong advice. But that doesn’t mean you should give up! Regular maintenance and repair will keep your vehicle efficient and reliable for a very long time.
Top 7 NONFICTION Books on Automobile Maintenance & Repair
Instead of scouring the internet, you can save a lot of time and frustration by purchasing a couple reference books for maintenance and repairs that range from simple to complex. If you read the following nonfiction books on auto maintenance and repair, you’ll be able to:
- Change your oil
- Check all fluids
- Change tires
- Basically anything!
Keep your vehicle running in top shape with these books and manuals:
- Vehicle Owner’s Manual
You should already have this one. The owner’s manual that came with the car will give most of the basic information you need for operating and maintaining your automobile.
This piece of reference material is essential. It will tell you exactly how to operate all of your car’s components, what your vehicle dashboard warning lights mean, what the proper tire PSI is, and other important information specific to your make and model.
If you have a question about your vehicle, consult the owner’s manual first (there’s an index in the back). If you can’t find what you’re looking for, the following books on the list will be able to fill in the gaps.
- Chilton Total Car Care Manual
For general repair procedures, get a Chilton’s repair manual for your vehicle. With just a few simple tools and a repair manual, you can complete most vehicle maintenance and repairs yourself.
These manuals provide easy-to-understand information about the inner workings of your vehicle. Even if you don’t plan on doing any serious repairs yourself, the manual will enable you to speak confidently with your mechanic.
Be aware the Chilton’s manuals tend to be a little more technical than Haynes manuals (the next book on the list). You should be able to do most car/truck maintenance and repair using only the Chilton’s manual, however, you may find gaps in information here and there. It’s best to compare the Chilton’s procedures with your owner’s manual and a Haynes manual.
- Haynes Car Repair & Servicing Manual
If you are serious about DIY auto work, you should supplement the Chilton manual with a Haynes manual. These 2 manuals will provide near comprehensive coverage for all your auto repair and maintenance work.
It’s a good idea to use both books to look up unfamiliar procedures. That way, you can choose the simpler method and get a better idea of what you are doing.
- OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Service Manual
While Chilton and Haynes manuals should be more than enough for the average do-it-yourselfer, if you want the exact reprints of service manuals from the manufacturer, consider purchasing the OEM factory repair manual for your vehicle. Normally used by mechanics and technicians, these automotive manuals are the most thorough, but are generally harder to understand than either the Chilton or Haynes manuals. If you have all 3 manuals, you’ll have all the specific information you need to understand your vehicle’s many systems and components.
- Auto Repair for Dummies by Deanna Sclar
If you are familiar with the For Dummies, you’ll know that they are filled with non-intimidating pictures and guides on a variety of topics. So it’s no surprise the Auto Repair for Dummies by Deanna Sclar is simple, direct, and easy to understand.
The book contains useful information for the layman, including year-round maintenance schedules, general tune-ups, suggested tools, and other very practical information. If you just want to know the basics of car maintenance, reduce maintenance and repair costs, and increase your confidence when speaking with a mechanic, this is a great book.
Be aware, however, that the book won’t have a lot of information specific to your vehicle. For specific information on your vehicle, get the Chilton, Haynes, or OEM manuals.
- How Cars Work by Tom Newton
Get How Cars Work if you really want to understand how your car works. It goes slowly through each of the components in your vehicle, gradually building a comprehensive understanding of how each component and system functions.
Although much of the book is focused on how car engines work, it also provides thorough explanations for other systems as well, such as steering, brake, and heating/cooling systems. If you really want to understand what goes on under the hood, this book is for you.
The best thing about this book is that any beginner can understand it. It can even make a great gift for a mechanically-inclined child interested in how things work.
Finish the entire book and you’ll be able to converse smoothly and confidently with any mechanic or automotive enthusiast.
- Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk by Tom and Ray Magliozzi
I’m sure you are already familiar with the hilarious hosts of NPR’s Car Talk, but if not, you’re missing out. In addition to the great information on the Car Talk website and radio show, there are also several books by the Tappet brothers, a.k.a. Click and Clack.
Ask Click and Clack collects the best questions and answers from their radio show, combined with additional advice and wisecracks. If you are looking for light reading filled with helpful and amusing information, this is a great book for both the experienced mechanic and the complete beginner.
Honorable Mention: How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir
If How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step by Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot by John Muir (not the nature-writer) wasn’t specific to old Volkswagens, it would have made our list. While certainly for beginners (mostly text with some illustrations), it is a very well written book that combines practical information with an entertaining style. If you own an air-cooled VW (beetle, gia, bus, etc…), this book has everything you need for troubleshooting and repairing your bug.
Advanced Automotive Engineering
If you are interested in automotive engineering and becoming a skilled mechanic, first decide which area you are interested and then go to SAE International for technical engineering information. You’ll also want to see what resources are available at your local mechanical engineering schools and join a team for hands-on experience.
Auto Log Book
If you want to keep track of mileage, maintenance, repairs, and other automotive work, we highly recommend keeping an auto log book. Whether you are trying to keep clear records for tax purposes or otherwise, an auto log book will make it easy to record your vehicle history.
There are also plenty of great nonfiction books about the history of cars and the people who drive them. Against All Odds: The Story of the Toyota Motor Corporation and the Family That Created It is a fascinating story about the history of Toyota. It should be required reading for any manufacturing entrepreneurs. Behind the Wheel: The Great Automobile Aficionados by Robert Putal is another great book for automotive enthusiasts, which includes profiles of 80 famous car aficionados.
Top 4 FICTION Books on Motor Vehicles
Humans and wheels—they’re a match made in heaven. Old or young, these books are sure to please any automotive enthusiast and their need for speed. You don’t even have to be interested in motor vehicles to enjoy these books, but don’t be surprised if they get you hooked.
- The Truck Book by Harry McNaught
This bestselling book for children is full of beautiful and colorful illustrations of over 50 trucks, including buses, RVs, and fire engines.
- Christine by Stephen King
Fasten your seatbelts, folks. The master of horror wants to take you on a chilling ride with a killer car. If you enjoyed the movie, you’ll LOVE the book!
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
The Mouse and the Motorcycle is the classic story of a young boy, a mouse, and a motorcycle. There are two great sequels as well, Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse. Children aged 5-9 will probably get the most enjoyment out of this motor vehicle tale.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Don’t be fooled by the title. According to the author, “It should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either” (Wikipedia). It does, however, use motorcycle maintenance as a life analogy we can all relate to in some way or another.
After reading these books and guides for car enthusiasts, come into Auto Simple and check out our collection of used cars. We do free oil changes every 90 days for the life of your loan and have highly-trained technicians onsite. Additionally, if you decide to trade-in or sell your vehicle after being inspired by these great literary works, we do that too!
Best Online Resources for Auto Repair and Maintenance
- YouTube (Engineering Explained is great)
- Car Talk
- How Stuff Works
- Auto Blog
- Mechanics Hub
- AutoZine Technical School
- Car Bibles
- The Family Handyman
- Auto Simple Blog
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our Online Specialists or give us a call:
Chattanooga, TN – (423) 551-3600
Cleveland, TN – (423) 472-2000
Dayton, TN – (423) 775-4600
Dalton, GA – (706) 217-2277