Guide to Car Log Books

Often forgotten, car log books are a wealth of info…

Guide to Car Log Books

When you purchase new equipment, such as a TV or washing machine, you’ll receive a manual to help you set up and understand how that equipment works.

In the same way, a new vehicle also comes with an owner’s manual and/or log book.

The log book and manual information can either be collated together in one book or can be supplied as two separate books.

The purpose of these books is to explain the ins and outs of the vehicle, including the service schedule and service history.

When buying a used car, it’s a good idea to check that the manual and/or logbook is included as part of the purchase.

Why is this small A5 size booklet worth keeping, reading and updating? Well for starters, the log book tells you the vehicle service schedule and when car servicing is due.

After completing every scheduled service the mechanic should stamp that particular service schedule in the log book.

Your log book will reveal your full-service history and it’ll be obvious if you’ve missed scheduled services or haven’t serviced your car at the recommended intervals.

This is generally not seen favorably by potential buyers, should you be trying to sell the vehicle.

The service schedule section is pretty well the beginning and end of where most people look within their log book or manual, it can prove truly valuable to take the time to read further into your car’s little books.

What else is in my log book and owner’s manual?

Considering how much money you’ve invested in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to get the most out of your purchase.

Your owner’s manual offers a wealth of information, including advice on driver comfort, handling, trouble shooting, equipment use and achieving overall complete familiarity with your vehicle.

The more you know and understand about your vehicle, the higher your appreciation and motoring pleasure will be.

We have listed common categories you will find within the log book and/or owner’s manual, and some information to show you how getting to know your vehicle could improve your driving experience.

Keep in mind that every vehicle is different with varying components and added extras.

Warranty

Your new car (or possibly even used car), warranty facts will be outlined in your manual. This will explain the warranty period, including what is covered and not covered within that period.

It should state who to contact and where to go, should you have a claim. Some warranties may also include vehicle body protection against corrosion and defects.

It’s useful to know what your warranty covers, so you’re not left out of pocket unnecessarily. Your vehicle may also come with free roadside assistance as part of a new car or used car purchase.

Scheduled Servicing

This section of your book will let you know the intervals and type of service required each time you service your car.

You may also get a breakdown of items requiring inspection and replacement as part of servicing and the reasons for those parts being checked and/or replaced.

The manual or logbook will also contain a ‘service records’ section where your mechanic can place a stamp and date at the completion of a service.

We recommend leaving your log book out and readily available to the mechanic when you drop your car off for a service to make them aware that you want them to stamp the log book.

The mechanic will only stamp your log book if they carry out all work required for that particular service interval.

Check your book before you leave the workshop to make sure your log book has been stamped, both for your own service history records and to retain your warranty.

Capacities and Specifications

This is the technical section of your manual in which the specifications of the engine and components of the vehicle are listed.

This may not mean too much to you, however, it may provide a convenient source of additional information should you be required to offer particular vehicle details to someone who doesn’t have physical access to the vehicle.

This section will include the types of fluids and the capacity required for your vehicle, which will come in handy when checking over the volume of fluids you’ve been charged for in a service.

If you ever need to know your car’s kerb weight, length, height or wheel base, this will all be listed in the specifications section.

This information may be useful if, for example, you’re looking to carry a long item on roof racks and you need to know how long your vehicle is.

The location of the vehicle identification plate which tells you vehicle type, mass and various components should also be listed in this section.

There is a vehicle identification number (VIN) plate usually found in the engine bay with your unique VIN to individually identify that vehicle.

Your vehicle will also have an engine number located on the engine block.

Cleaning

Your owner’s manual may contain suggestions on how to wash your car and what to do should you live in a coastal or high pollution area.

It may include the type of detergents recommended to retain a good paint job, including under body cleaning, interior, polishing, metal cleaning or actions required if using an automated car wash.

If you’re lucky, your vehicle manufacturer may have provided a small bottle of paint for paint chip repairs, so you can cover any stone chips and avoid corrosion.

This information should also be included in your manual. If you haven’t been supplied with extra paint, you can purchase spray cans or touch up kits from auto shops.

Instrumentation

Your manual should include a diagram of the vehicle’s instrument panel or dash, highlighting what is on your dash and where each instrument is located.

This diagram will help you locate many instruments such as air vents, stereo, steering wheel adjustment, lights, boot release, etc.

Familiarise yourself with the instrumentation diagram as it will assist you to recall where all particular instrumentation is located.

In this way, you won’t need to take your eyes off the road for too long to access an instrument.

The instrumentation section includes warning lights, where they are located, what each warning light means and what to do should a warning light illuminate.

There are various warning lights that can illuminate unexpectedly and it is important to know what you should do if this happens.

It could mean the difference between a minor issue becoming a major repair job if ignored.

Your instrument panel will provide you with essential safety information such as how to demist the windows, as well as instructions for basic everyday actions, like adjusting the time on your car’s clock, so it’s handy to get acquainted with it.

Heating and Ventilation

Most modern vehicles have air conditioning and heating capabilities.  Your owner’s manual will run through the different air flow options for different situations and requirements.

It will provide directions for defrosting, de misting, recirculating air and rapid cooling and heating, not only for comfort but to assist in inclement weather.

Lights

Head lights are of course very important when driving at night, however there are laws around when you can and can’t use your high beam and fog lights.

This section of your manual will tell you when you’re allowed to activate these lights on your vehicle.

High beam lights can blind oncoming traffic and some quick action to deactivate may be necessary.

If your car is fitted with fog lights, your owner’s manual will show you how to turn them on or off so you are prepared and safe should you hit a patch of fog.

These days’ majority of vehicles have headlight leveling controls that allow you to adjust the beam height level of the head lights.

This is usually adjusted so your lights are not directed too high, into the eyes of oncoming traffic when carrying a load.

This control will be shown in your manual with operation instructions.

There will also be instructions for the operation of your indicators, internal light and reading lights. An important switch to be aware of is the hazard flasher switch.

This is the button you should push if broken down or involved in an accident.

The hazard flasher switch sets all the indicators flashing, so other motorists can see you are in trouble and take evasive action if needed.

Driver Controls

It is essential to know where all driver controls are in your vehicle. This can include how to operate your horn, wiper/washer function, steering wheel controls, rear screen heater, mirrors, rear view mirrors, windows and keys.

There are some interesting functions to be found on your car.

You may find that you are able change the speed for your intermittent wipers.

Without reading your manual you may not realise those quirky additional functions.

As part of the steering wheel controls you may notice a lever for adjusting the steering column so you can move the steering wheel up or down, forward or back.

It’s best to set your steering wheel in a safe, easy to manage position so you can see the instrument panel whist being comfortable.

This could avoid some nasty aches and pains from sitting in an uncomfortable driving position and/or having to reach too far for the controls.

All these driver controls will help you get the most from your vehicle and the functions it offers.

Locks and Security

Operation of door locks, childproof safety locks, bonnet latch, fuel filler flap, central locking, remote control, engine immobiliser system and key coding can all be found in this section of your manual.

There may be ways of locking and unlocking your car that you are not aware of.

You might have the ability to just unlock the driver’s door and keep other doors locked when unlocking the vehicle which may help you feel safer if travelling alone.

Your vehicle may have a child proof locking system available to ensure your children can’t open the door from the inside, only exiting the vehicle safely with assistance.

Seating and Safety Restraints

A correct and comfortable sitting position is highly recommended for safety, especially on long distance trips.

Your manual should give you an indication of the best seating position and also directions for adjusting the seats to achieve the best driving position.

Your seats can not only move forward and backward but most likely you’ll be able to adjust the height of the seat and the angle of the seat-back.

Your manual will show you how to fold the seat forward and adjust the head restraints. The position of your seat and head restraints can be important for safety in the case of an accident.

Your rear seats may be able to move and fold away to allow more luggage space in the rear of the vehicle. Your manual will offer instructions on how to get the most out of your luggage space when needed.

This will include best practices for transporting items.

The manufacturer will include details on seat belts and their function, best operating practises and care for your safety.

The vehicle manual will include how to adjust front seat belt heights so the seat belt doesn’t lie across your neck.

If you’re installing a child restraint, then you will need to know where to find the anchorage fittings in your car so you can anchor the child seat.

Sometimes these may not be obvious at first glance, so your manual may come in handy.

Airbags are included in all modern vehicles manufactured, but the number and location of air bags can differ depending on each vehicle.

Your manual will identify where your airbags are located and when they are likely to be activated.

There will be safety information included and best seating practices to consider should an airbag deploy.

Entertainment System

Many motorists like to listen to the radio, music, use hands free phone systems or navigate a GPS system in their car.

These functions may be available within the built-in car entertainment system in your vehicle.

Sometimes these systems can be difficult to manage and you could be limiting your user options if you don’t read the manual.

The more you learn these systems the less likely your eyes will be off the road whilst you blindly try to navigate the functions.

Take the time to set your systems up when you’re off the road, for your passengers’ and your own safety.

Your manual will also include your radio code. If you lose battery connection it may reset your entertainment system and everything may need to be reconfigured.

Always ensure a technician changes your battery, so there’s no power loss to your systems, otherwise you may be searching your manual for the radio code to log back in.

Driving

Brakes are an important part of your vehicle and your safety.

Your manual will explain braking techniques and what happens when ABS is activated.

It may even include some tips such as making sure you apply your brakes whilst moving, just after washing your car or driving through water, to remove any water film.

Some tips on handbrake use may be helpful if you often park on hills. Selecting first gear and turning the steering wheel away from the kerb, if facing uphill, is just one tip you may find in your manual.

Starting your car may seem as simple as turning the key, however there may be situations where it doesn’t start or it’s harder to start. Trouble shoot some problems that may arise by reading your manual.

After you replace your battery, your vehicle may experience some unusual driving characteristics.

Your engine management system may need to realign itself and the manual will offer a time frame as to how long to expect this to happen.

How you start your vehicle can change depending on cold, hot or flooded engine starting.

Some people may be in the habit of depressing the accelerator when they start their car. If you read the manual you may find that for best starting, it’s advised not to touch the accelerator.

Depressing the accelerator is only necessary for extremely cold or flooded engine conditions.

If your car has automatic transmission your owner’s manual will point out you can only start the vehicle in the neutral or park position.

If you read this beforehand, it may save you an embarrassing moment of not being able to start the car and calling out roadside assistance.

When it comes to manual transmissions some reverse selections can be tricky, for instance some vehicles require the gear stick to be pushed down and manoeuvred in a particular way to access reverse.

Good to know before you want to get out of that car park!

It’s important to know which fuel your vehicle requires before you fill up the tank. If your vehicle performance has decreased it may be due to incorrect fuel being selected.

Your manual will highlight the best fuel to use and may also include some tips on extending the life of your catalytic converter, such as not running on empty, not cranking too long, not push starting your car when warm and not continuing to drive if the car is misfiring.

If you are planning on towing with your vehicle, your owner’s manual will probably confirm load limits, offer advice and make driving suggestions suited for towing.

If you are looking to install roof racks on your vehicle the roof load weight limit will be mentioned within the manual.

Each vehicle will have a different weight load limit based on the size and weight of the vehicle.

Your manual may also offer driving pointers as the aerodynamics of the vehicle will change and you may need to adjust your driving style.

If you are looking to get the best fuel economy, your manual can offer some tips on which situations can increase your fuel consumption.

Being aware of this information may change your driving habits to save some money and the environment.

Roadside Emergencies

At some stage we will all likely end up stuck on the side of the road because the car just won’t function, you’re involved in an accident, a warning light has come on or a part has failed.

Other than knowing where your hazard flasher switch is located so no-one runs into you, it’s a good idea to check out the roadside emergency section of your log book.

This may include information such as fuel injector shut off switch, bulb/light replacement and battery replacement, as well as important information regarding the location of fuses and relays in your vehicle and how to change a wheel.

When changing a wheel, it’s recommended that you know where the safe jacking points are located on the vehicle in order to safely jack the car up.

You could do some damage to your car and yourself if you don’t jack the car up from the correct point.

Your vehicle is likely to have a towing eye at the front and rear of the vehicle. This is a point on the car that is designed to be used should the vehicle need towing.

These eyes may be covered and you may need to read your manual to find out where they are located.

Towing instructions are generally also included in your manual.

A vehicle’s towing specifications differ dependent on front, rear or all-wheel drive systems.  You should never tow a vehicle backwards on the drive wheels.

Maintenance

There are some general maintenance items the manufacturer recommends be carried out at regular intervals.

If you are carrying out regular servicing around every 6 or 12 months as per your service schedule, there should be no need to carry out these maintenance checks yourself as your mechanic will do it for you.

However, if you’re completing regular checks yourself then these items are listed for you in the manual for your reference.

There should be diagrams of your engine bay in your manual, with reference to common areas/items such as your coolant and brake fluid reservoir, battery, windscreen washer reservoir, air cleaner and engine oil dipstick etc.

There may be a section on tyre safety and what you can do to increase the life of your tyres and what to look for when checking your tyres, as well as advice on correct tyre pressure, rotation and checking of the spare tyre.

Compartments

You may be surprised to find some hidden compartments in your car, which you may not find unless you read the manual.

These can be really handy to hide items in your car when needed as no one will know there is a hidden compartment unless they have the same vehicle and happen to have found the compartment in their own car!

Conclusion

So just in case you didn’t catch the message, get familiar with your car by taking the time to read your log book and owner’s manual.

You may be doing yourself a favour by discovering some great functions that will make your drive safer, more comfortable, and a better experience overall.

About Kate Richards 1119 Articles
Kate has always had an interest in writing and cars and now as a key member of the Behind the Wheel website team she gets to spend her days consumed by both. Aside from being a contributor and an editor at Behind the Wheel, Kate enjoys driving her Lancer EVO and walking her beloved dog, Max!

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