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Meet the man who spent hundreds of hours collecting 1000s of car owners manuals, and then putting them online

We speak to the creator of a website that is home to thousands of owner's manuals for cars, all downloadable for free, which has recently been the subject of much fanfare from the car enthusiast community

Alex's website has already gained much attention from online communities and he promises big things are in the pipeline for the website

Alex's website has already gained much attention from online communities and he promises big things are in the pipeline for the website

We caught up with Alex Smith, the man behind JustGiveMeTheDamnManual.com, a site that offers thousands of car owner's manuals as downloadable PDFs for free. We asked him why and how the site, which has recently been the subject of much attention and praise from the online car enthusiast community, was conceived.

How the idea came about...

There's an interesting twist to the story behind JustGiveMeTheDamnManual.com. Alex told us how he previously ran an owner’s manual site called ownersmanualsource.com.

He made a living by selling advertising on the site, through a service called Google AdSense. After linking directly to General Motors’ Owner's Centre, hosted by competing search engine Yahoo, Google decided to ‘pull the ads’ from his site. According to Alex, Google said that these direct links to manuals on Yahoo's GM Owner's Centre were an advertisement placement policy violation. After Alex changed the direct links, he told us how his site was "essentially useless" for the average user just looking for an owner's manual. Alex then had problems getting Google to re-enable the advertising on his site. He told us how "I was so fed up with worrying about making sites that only Google AdSense would approve of, so I decided to disregard them and create something that has true value to the user, so I guess you could just call [JustGiveMeTheDamnManual.com] an expression of my long and abusive relationship with Google AdSense."

How he finds the manuals...

Finding the manuals is another time-consuming challenge for Alex - he told us how he uses many different web services and search techniques to source them, including "Usenet, boolean search expressions and torrent networks", alongside the more conventional car manufacturer sites. He's also seen an increase recently in "random users sending him files", continuing to explain, "…people send me tons of obscure owner's manuals all the time. In fact I'm sitting on almost 6 gigabytes of Ferrari owner's manuals that I haven't even gotten around to uploading.”

Why are owner's manuals traditionally so hard to get hold of?

"I honestly have no idea", was Alex’s honest answer, though he went on to explain how "…you would think the manufacturers want you to have these manuals", adding "Toyota is hardest to deal with, because they take each individual owner's manual for every year and split them up into 20-100 pieces, so I stitched them back together on my site and even included relevant bookmarks to accompany them.”

Will sourcing the lost owner's manual for your car always be a problem?

BMW Electronic Owner's Manual

As part of BMW's ConnectedDrive technology, BMW is the first manufacturer to provide an interactive and multimedia Owner's Manual that is integrated in the vehicle. The hard drive saves animations, slideshows and language settings as well as information on fitted optional equipment.

The response from auto enthusiasts...

Alex's website recently gained significant attention from the popular online community Reddit. "I've been a redditor for 6 years and I never would have thought I would get the response I did,” explained Alex. "They crashed my site several times from the traffic flood. I had to upgrade my web hosting package.”

“The best thing was that most of the responses I've gotten from the car community have been positive."

Alex was also quick to mention that "any complaints I've received are for not having their particular make or model… all I could say to them is that this site is less than a month old and I'm working on it. I am only one man!" He added, "This is a very tedious process. I have a bunch of old manuals that I'm waiting to digitise too.”

Hinting that he has further ambitious plans for the site, Alex promised us "more big things are coming to JustGiveMeTheDamnManual.com".

Why is your car owner's manual important?

Reading your owner's manual is something that is very important, specifically when it comes to maintaining your car warranty. If you'd like to learn more about maintaining your car warranty - or any other aspect of maintaining your car, our experienced service advisors are always on hand to answer your questions. We can even offer you a completely free vehicle health check at any one of our 200 service centres across the UK.

About the Author

Sam England
Sam England

Staff writer at Arnold Clark

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