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Chilton vs Haynes Auto Repair Manuals: Which Is The Best For DIYers?

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By Scott

When you’re looking for a Jeep repair manual with the hope of finding answers to some wrenching-related questions, you’ll probably land on auto repair manuals from Haynes and from Chilton. Which begs the question, “How do you decide between Chilton vs Haynes manuals?”

Both repair manuals have long histories. Chilton dates back to the early 1900s and Haynes to the 1960s — so you’re likely to find a manual from either one of them on just about any make and model of car you own. (Interestingly, Haynes now owns Chilton — they purchased the brand in 2001.)

So… which one should you choose?

It depends. I own both Chilton and Haynes manuals. The main difference is how the information is presented.

The right manual for you is the one that best suits your mechanical knowledge and learning style.

I’ll try to help you decide by showing you what these two auto repair manuals are like…

What Haynes Manuals Are Like

Haynes Repair Manual for Jeep Wrangler

My first experience with Haynes manuals came after already performing some Jeep repairs using a Chilton repair manual — and I wished that I’d seen the Haynes book first!

That’s not a dig on Chilton’s manual, though. It’s just a statement about my personal experience as a mechanic at the time.

The Chilton book contained all the information I needed to do the job — and then some. But now that I’ve owned both, I usually reach for the Haynes manual first.

Haynes repair manuals tend to be more visual and big picture.

For example, if you wanted to see a visual demonstration for how to service a generic automatic transmission, you would be best served with the Haynes manual.

A look inside the Haynes Repair Manual

That’s not to say that the content in a Haynes repair manual is vague — because it’s not. It just caters more to the DIYer. It appeals to anyone who has decided to work on their car this weekend and might need some guidance… rather than to an experienced mechanic.

The well-laid-out visual examples are a great help!

What Chilton Manuals Are Like

Chilton's Manual for Jeep Wrangler

Saying that Chilton manuals are for the pros would be an overstatement. You can still get by if you only have a little bit of automotive knowledge and use a Chilton manual.

I’ll give an example that Jeep owners can relate to…

While I own auto repair manuals from both companies that speak to the classic Jeep CJ series, the Chilton manual is my go-to for year-specific nuances.

The cover says “Jeep CJ 1945-70,” for example which speaks to the amazing simplicity of these vehicles. That’s probably why they’re so robust. There are, however, differences that might go overlooked if you’re trying to restore a car to the way it came from the factory.

The Haynes repair manual will help you get things running, but the Chilton manual might be a better reference in terms of technical correctness.

Because the Chilton manuals are geared toward a technically inclined audience, most of the detailed information will come in the form of text — rather than images and graphics. You might need to have a basic understanding already, in order to make sense of it.

A look inside the Chilton Manual

There are also times when a specific procedure like bleeding the brakes will be mentioned without explicit instructions on how to do it.

That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s a good way to differentiate the two brands’ different styles.

Which Repair Manual Is Right for You?

I personally find that I get more use from the Chilton manuals — because I have some years of experience wrenching. But your mileage may vary.

There’s no shame in picking up a Haynes manual just because it’s more visual, since diagrams are great tools.

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong having both. And you may find that your preference shifts over time!

Fixing a leaky transmission on the Jeep.

Both manuals are well-respected for their high-quality content.

In some cases, it could be something as specific as the make and model of car that determines which book you like better.

If you’re not sure which way to go… visit a bookstore and open one up, or ask a friend if you can borrow theirs. That might help you decide.

Here’s another good summary of Chilton vs Haynes auto repair manuals.

Where To Buy Chilton And Haynes Manuals

Both of them are available on Amazon (Haynes manuals & Chilton manuals).

These auto repair manuals can sometimes be a little cheaper if you buy direct from the publisher (remember Haynes owns both).

NOTE: There’s currently a special: $10 off any Chilton or Haynes repair manual. You can choose to have the paperback book version mailed to you, or access the online digital version immediately.

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Chilton vs Haynes auto repair manuals - see which is best for DIYers!