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An owner's manual (also called an instruction manual) is an instructional book or booklet that is supplied with almost all technologically advanced consumer products such as vehicles, home appliances and computer peripherals. Information contained in the owner's manual typically includes:
- Safety instructions; for liability reasons these can be extensive, often including warnings against doing things that no intelligent person would consider doing.
- Assembly instructions; for products that arrive in pieces for easier shipping.
- Installation instructions; for productions that need to be installed in a home or workplace.
- Setup instructions; for devices that keep track of time or which maintain user accessible state.
- Normal usage instructions.
- Programming instructions; for microprocessor controlled products such as VCRs, programmable calculators, and synthesizers.
- Maintenance instructions.
- Troubleshooting instructions; for when the product does not work as expected.
- Service locations; for when the product requires repair by a factory authorized technician.
- Regulatory code compliance information; for example with respect to safety or electromagnetic interference.
- Product technical specifications.
- Warranty information; sometimes provided as a separate sheet.
Until the last decade or two of the twentieth century it was common for an owner's manual to include detailed repair information, such as a circuit diagram; however as products became more complex this information was gradually relegated to specialized service manuals, or dispensed with entirely, as devices became too inexpensive to be economically repaired.
Owner's manuals for simpler devices are often multilingual so that the same boxed product can be sold in many different markets. Sometimes the same manual is shipped with a range of related products so the manual will contain a number of sections that apply only to some particular model in the product range.
With the increasing complexity of modern devices, many owner's manuals have become so large that a separate quickstart guide is provided. Some owner's manuals for computer equipment are supplied on CD-ROM to cut down on manufacturing costs, since the owner is assumed to have a computer able to read the CD-ROM. Another trend is to supply instructional video material with the product, such as a videotape or DVD, along with the owner's manual.
Many businesses offer PDF copies of manuals that can be accessed or downloaded free of charge from their websites.
Car owner's manuals
All new cars come with an owner's manual from the manufacturer. Most owners leave them in the glove compartment for easy reference. This can make their frequent absence in rental cars frustrating because it violates the driver's user expectations, as well as makes it difficult to use controls that aren't understood, which is not good because understanding control operation of an unfamiliar car is one of the first steps recommended in defensive driving. Owner's manuals usually cover three main areas - a description of the location and operation of all controls, a schedule and descriptions of maintenance required, both by the owner and by a mechanic, and specifications such as oil and fuel capacity and part numbers of lightbulbs used. Current car owner's manuals have become much bigger in part due to many safety warnings most likely designed to avoid product liability lawsuits, as well as from ever more complicated audio and navigational systems, which often have their own manual.
If owners lose their car manual, they can either order a replacement from a dealer, pick up a used one secondhand, or download a PDF version of the manual online.
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