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Working on an older car without a manual is difficult, but working on a modern computerized vehicle without complete technical specifications is freakin’ impossible.  Have you ever wondered how auto repair shops keep manuals on hand for every vehicle on the road?  Answer: They don’t.  Instead, they pay thousands of dollars a month to access a service like AllData that allows them to pull up computerized manuals for hundreds of vehicles.

We first heard of AllData When we were in the process of finishing up Project Yukon.  We’d enlisted the help of a local tuner who helped us wring out a computer issue, and he quickly tracked down a wiring fault using a really handy testing and inspection procedures chart from AllData’s service.

After a little research, we discovered that AllData is “an AutoZone company,” which scared the bejesus out of us.  These are the same people who didn’t carry an upper radiator hose for an F150 in a Texas store!  Incredibly, though, AllData’s service rocks.  Best of all, they offer service for DIYers as well via their site AllDataDIY.com; you can purchase individual vehicle subscriptions for $25/year and add additional vehicles for $15.  When you just want to locate some wiring or track down a single issue, it beats the hell out of $100+ for a factory manual, and the additional diagnostic charts are quite helpful.

As far as we can tell, the AllData DIY service offers all the same information as the standard AllData service.  It’s just sold for vehicles a la carte instead of via a single massive solution.  Subscriptions include:

  • factory recall and technical service bulletins referenced by date and symptom
  • illustrated diagnosis and repair procedures, which you can size and print online in case you don’t want to get your laptop dirty
  • book labor hours for each task 
  • OEM part numbers, plus a link to pricing from AutoZone
  • great diagnostic charts and trouble code explanations
  • and component locations and diagrams

They also provide factory maintenance schedules and the proverbial “much more.” 

I picked up one of these for my old ’97 F150 to find the easy way to get at the heater core — which crapped out on me last week — and I’m considering picking one up for an ’06 Sierra Denali we’re working on right now in the Toolmonger shop.  It’d sure be nice to have connector pinouts without having to shell out for a factory manual.

AllData can also help you keep a check on repair costs when you’re paying a shop to do the work.  The service lists the “book rate” (read: the number of hours the shop should charge) for each task.  If your shop is asking twice the book rate, it might be time to ask a few questions.  And the link to AutoZone’s pricing should give you an idea of how much the parts should run, even if the chances of the ‘Zone actually stocking the parts probably approach nil.

Finally, if you’re planning on keeping your vehicle for the long run — like I generally seem to — AllData DIY offers a three-year subscription for $45 plus $30 for each additional vehicle.

If you want to see what kind of data they offer, you can view the entire record for a 2003 Pontiac Bonneville as a demo on the site linked below.

AllData DIY [AllDataDIY.com]


8 Responses to Finds: AllData DIY — A Shop Manual for Your Car for $25

  1. Fong says:

    Another good source of DIY Autorepair Manuals is Mitchell on Demand (recognized as the first computerized automotive repair information system in 1989), whose database is available through eAutoRepair at http://www.eautorepair.net

  2. Harry says:

    The great thing about computer based service information is that it continues to be updated unlike a printed manual. If there is a problem across a line or model of vehicles a technical service bulletin will probably be issued. These bulletins may call for replacing a part with an upgraded model or change the calibration of a control module through reflashing or list a different repair procedure that wouldn’t be listed in a printed service manual. You can also access the factory service information online by paying a fee per day or per couple of days as mandated by law. A repair shop today has to have a computer based service information source to stay in business.

  3. Emery says:

    Minor website typo above…its not DallDataDIY.com but allDataDIY.com
    Just drop the leading D and yer all good!

  4. Chuck Cage says:

    Emery: Fixed — thanks!

  5. Jeremy says:

    I’ll still stand by the Bentley printed manuals. Nothing like having something you can set on the valve cover and look at. If your only printed manual experience is Chilton’s I can’t explain how much better these are. There is actually usable information in them. No “remove engine” paragraph, nice step by step directions lots of pictures and diagrams and the full electrical schematics.
    Don’t let the price scare you. I have bought one for each of my last 4 cars and sold 2 of them–after I parting with the car–on eBay for $5-$10 less then I bought them for new.

  6. nrChris says:

    I am on board with this–one day I would like car software to be open source–wouldn’t that be nice. It took me forever to figure out how to disable the seat belt warning bell on my Tuarus, and no kidding, it took something like putting the car in neutral with the lights on and engaging and disengaging the seatbelt nine times in rapid succession. It would be nice to hookup the USB port to my laptop and go into the equivalent of the car “bios”. I guess that’ll never happen…liability issues….but a guy can dream.

  7. Nick says:

    All data is great, much more accurate and in depth than mitchell

  8. Tony says:

    Alldata isnt bad but definitely not as good as the factory manual

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