Manual Dexterity

The manual can often hold all of your car's commandments!

If you’ve bought a new car you might have wanted to do subversive things like re-setting the trip recorder or adjusting the climate control.

If that car is even moderately expensive there’s a reasonable chance that it will thwart these ambitions by concealing the processes you need to go through to find out how far you’ve been or to stop your windows misting up, but never mind, there’s always the owner’s handbook.

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Oh dear. The average handbook is as long and labyrinthine as a Dan Brown novel, although in terms of dramatic tension and classy writing most probably have the edge on Mr. B’s offerings.

However, this doesn’t mean that they’re convenient to use, partly because of their hugeness (not long ago I came across a 700 pager) and because the information hidden in them is often not in the place you’d expect it to be.

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Not long ago it was possible to circumvent this by going to the alphabetical index at the back of the book, where there was a list of the car’s functions with page numbers next to them.

Now you can’t guarantee this saver of time and temper will be there, so you will be forced to grind your way through endless headings and sub headings, and read great screeds of text about things that are irrelevant in the desperate hope that the information you need is a paragraph away, only to find that it isn’t.

Recently I wanted to turn off a Subaru Forester’s alarm, and in the end had to phone the press office for advice. It was in the handbook somewhere, but I couldn’t find it.

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And when, weeping with gratitude, you do unearth the explanation that you want; the language used to describe it is sometimes as mystifying as the thing itself.

‘Double press the hydraulic virtual spigot actuator with your left index finger only, at intervals of not more than two seconds. It is not permissible to sing anything from Justin Bieber’s back catalogue or this will disable the curtain airbags. This feature must not be used during a leap year, or plagues of locusts will devastate your crops,’ etc.

Alternatively, you could hurl the handbook into the nearest bin and get the bus.