Being really bored today, I made another attempt to make my ’98 Ford Ranger fire up in a repeatable manner. Having replaced the fuel pump and now the idle air control with no effect, other than on my bank account, I thought it might be time to consult the manual in hopes of figuring out how the fuel system works… Or in this case, doesn’t work. So I consult my dogeared and rapidly disassembling Haynes… And find a smattering of info, much of which doesn’t even refer to my Ranger. So I google “Ford Ranger fuel system” and check out the images of what comes up… Which was pretty much the same images as the half useless Haynes manual has and some even less useful other stuff.

So, maybe it’s time to break down and buy a for real Ford manual? Following the links to Ford’s exclusive purveyor of manuals, I find there are no more manuals available, at least in the form that we’re used to, printed books. Heck, no manuals on CDs available either. All that’s offered is “online’ access, at rates ranging from $10 for a few hours to a couple thousand a year for a commercial repair shop. OK Ford, I can take a hint… I’m supposed to lease a new F150 and pay you folks a few hundred dollars a month in perpetuity, on top of the similar financial hit at the gas pump.

Contrast that to the information rich environment our old BMW airheads thrive in- Factory, Haynes, and Clymer manuals on good old fashioned bound paper. Online parts look up, the airheads e-mail list, website, and Facebook page. If that ain’t enough to solve the problem, there’s the airheads forum over at ADVrider, Snowbum’s exhaustive website, and at least a handful of others. Same for my ’03 VW Golf TDI- I got the VW factory manual, Haynes, and online.

But not so much sweetness and light for my ’13 Golf Sportswagon- The last factory manual covers up to ’10 or so, which is pretty much the same as a ’13, and Haynes still hasn’t come out with a manual for the car. Not much better for my ’07 BMW F800S, but at least a CD manual and a Haynes are now available. But both all too often direct you to the non OBDII factory diagnostic tester, but at least aftermarket testers are available in the $300 and up range. Ford? Same problem, it’s beyond the reach of OBDII, and there are no consumer priced aftermarket solutions.

Are there any solutions?

Well, couple years back I watched with interest as the former Ford dealers in Starbuck and Glenwood closed and their libraries of manuals were auctioned off to old Ford collectors. No point in trying to outbid them when I own but one Ford and it’s only 17 years old… But I suspect that a ’98 Ranger manual could be separated from a collector’s haul for a few bucks, had I shown a bit more foresight. So when a dealer or collector lets go of their manuals, I’m gonna be on it! And while Ford’s manuals are no longer printed and in some cases even “burned” on CDs and DVDs, we need to “stock up” on manuals while they’re still available- My Haynes are getting pretty beat up anyway. And for those who can’t acquire manuals for whatever reason, we need to share ours- I’ve got a commercial grade copier here and damn near a ream of paper left over from the campaign, and I’ll be happy to run copies for anyone that needs them.

And how to deal with manufacturers that insult our intelligence and rob our bank accounts by making their service information so proprietary as to be unavailable? Well, I’ll only buy a new vehicle if I can buy a service manual along with it!