The User Manual

When I was a kid, if I was bored on a long car journey my parents would hand me the user manual to their E39 5-Series. I must have read that thing cover-to-cover at least five times (with the end result that the dashboard light reset process has been ingrained into my psyche.) Now, I don’t blame you for anticipating a post on user manuals to be less-than-enthralling. The only reason I’m actually writing about this pedestrian subject is because they are consistently overlooked as part of the pleasure that comes with owning – and learning about – a car. When was the last time you actually looked at the books in your glovebox?

When I got my 320i, none of the user manuals (apart from the service log) were included. After a bit of trawling on eBay, I soon owned all this for £10. The black fabric folder embossed with the BMW roundel holds the user manuals for the car, radio, service log and warranty information and is a particularly nice touch.

To say they are minty fresh is an understatement; they look like they’ve never been opened, let alone read. Once you’ve got through a few pages, you actually realise how well-written these things are. Spare a thought for the poor souls who have to compile and explain every single aspect of the car, from the climate control right through to the meaning and uses of a differential, in a way that can be understood by everyone. Take a look at this excerpt, explaining the reason for BMW’s choice of a ‘High-revving naturally aspirated engine’:
‘High thrust, even more spectacular acceleration than in the past, and superbly spontaneous response are the hallmarks of the high-revving naturally aspirated engine right from one end of the speed range to the other.’
It’s easy to understand, persuasive and pretty damn good in justifying the need for naturally aspirated engines in the face of the demand for turbos. BMW also provide a ‘Technical Lexicon’ with their manuals which, if you’re a wee bit geeky like me, is handy as it explains all the technology fitted to your car. For instance, ‘Comfort Access’ is an entirely pointless feature which allows you to unlock the doors and open all the windows and sunroof in your car just by holding down the unlock button on the key fob. For those in the Mediterranean it’s a useful function, but to use it in ASDA’s car park on a cold Scottish night marks you out as a bit of a twat.

Car manuals will always be a bit dull, and rarely read except in the event of an emergency. Whilst all not only add to the originality of the car, only some really highlight the changes in technology that accompany each new breakthrough and explain them with clarity. If you’re ever bored and stuck in a car park or on a long journey, it doesn’t hurt to have a quick leaf through the manual. Unless you’re actually driving; you’d probably be best to focus on that instead.

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