By on February 12, 2019

Even if you’re not mechanically minded enough to repair your own vehicle, your status as an automotive enthusiast has likely led to your encountering a Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual at one point or another. Due the wealth of information available within, this author purchased one for nearly every out-of-warranty model to ever pass through his ownership.

While the internet stole some of Haynes’ thunder, its paperback manuals (and their digital equivalents) are still an important resource for at-home mechanics and D.I.Y. types. Unfortunately, while browsing around for materials on the first-generation Eagle Talon, the Haynes website informed us that its founder recently passed away. 

According to his obituary, John Harold Haynes passed away surrounded by family members on Friday, February 8th, after contending with a short and unspecified illness.

Born on March 25th, 1938 in Sri Lanka, Haynes lived on tea plantation before moving to the United Kingdom to attend the Sutton Valence School in Kent. But it wasn’t long before his true calling surfaced. By 1959, he had finished converting an Austin 7 into a lightweight racer, documenting the process in his first book — Building A 750 Special.

From there, he joined the Royal Air Force and started an amateur racing career before meeting his wife. In 1965, John was posted to Aden, Yemen, and it was there he developed the first Haynes Manual. An RAF colleague who had just purchased a secondhand Austin-Healey Sprite asked John to help him rebuild it. Haynes agreed, but found the official factory manual lacking — the booklet was clearly not designed to help a typical car owner.

He then purchased a camera and documented the process of dismantling and rebuilding the engine, utilizing a step-by-step sequence that would eventually frame the cutaway diagrams found in later Haynes Manuals. The book, published in 1966, sold out in less than three months. By 1979, Haynes Publishing Group PLC had entered the London Stock Exchange and was already printing books for industry professionals and adding new models, including motorcycles, to its print catalog.

The year 1985 saw the establishment of the Haynes International Motor Museum. Initially, it served as a place to showcase its founder’s private collection. However, the obituary states that the museum grew to house over 400 separate vehicles and sees over 125,000 visitors each year.

By 1995, John was honored as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his service in the field of publishing. A decade later, the Open University presented him with the honorary master’s degree.

For the most part, Haynes Manuals are written by two authors and take the better part of a year to complete. Vehicles are purchased, disassembled, and documented using Haynes’ previously established methodology. While all models are eventually sold, the publisher typically retains the vehicle throughout the duration of the writing process to ensure it still functions correctly after being put back together. While not always the case, manufacturers frequently provide technical information to aid in the process.

Haynes Manuals are now published in 15 different languages and deal with nearly 500 distinct models, with over 200 million copies sold around the world (not counting digital editions). It’s an incredible legacy for a man who forever changed the automotive realm by arming regular people with knowledge.

[Image: Haynes Publishing Group]

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34 Comments on “Haynes Manual Founder Dies, Aged 80...”

  • avatar

    I had a Haynes book for each vehicle I owned from around ’85 to around 2010. These saved me from needing to endure the tender mercies and “Easter-egging” of the various dealer service departments and their dubious quality of repairs/associated costs. A good man who provided a great service to owners.

  • avatar

    My grimy fingerprints are in a few of his books- some of them in my home and one or two on shelves at the public library.

    There are many of us in the New World learned the Brit terms for car parts from Haynes manuals, but the obit on the Haynes site uses the U.S. spelling for “honor” [sic] in both the U.S. English and U.K. English versions. Shame!

    Thanks for all the help with my cars throughout the years, John.

  • avatar

    RIP! We had Haynes manuals for all of our old Hondas, ’77 Toyota Corolla and Mazda MPVs. I wonder though how the last decade had gone sales-wise with fewer and fewer people turning wrenches, and the proliferation of youtube and forum walkthroughs that have saved my hide many a time.

    • 0 avatar

      I sift through the forums to find out if the problem I’m having is also plaguing other owners, and if so, any fixes that have worked. Good example for me are failing synchros in Civic manual transmissions. Forum members steered me to Red Line MTL trans oil that 98% made it go away. Saved me a $3k bill for an 11 year old car.

      Youtube videos are hit or miss….have to paw through them to find the gem amongst the gravel. Good stuff can be found but some posters are functionally illiterate, others are just wrong. That’s where the consistent quality of the Haynes, et al books show their value.

  • avatar

    I would love to pick the brains of the guys doing the disassembly/assembly to hear their opinions on build quality/parts quality for various marques.

  • avatar

    I have a Haynes manual or two. They are fine for most basic repairs. Starting with my Dad and then I would buy factory shop manuals whenever we got new cars. I still have all of them in my garage bookcase. Starting with the 61 Chevrolet, 64 Chevrolet, 69 Pontiac and Ford up to the 2007 Impala with many in between. These always have the most complete information. I didn’t buy one for the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. Way too expensive, and the car is beyond my ability to work on anything other than oil changes.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m curious what the make/model/years are for the Haynes manuals you own. Their manuals for European cars through the 1970s and 1980s were very, very thorough. That’s how I learned to adjust valve lash on inverted bucket/replaceable shim lifters (er, tappets), for example.

  • avatar

    There’s a stack of Haynes books on my shelf. Between Haynes, Chilton’s and Clymer for bikes you usually had enough info to tackle most any maintenance need. The pictures showing you what you couldn’t see when it was together gave you an idea of what you were in for (take off this to get to that, etc). Even for simple stuff like knowing the proper torque for bolts makes the purchase price a bargain. John Haynes, Thank You. You saved my butt and wallet more times than I can count. Rest In Peace.

    • 0 avatar

      My brother and I were gifted an old Chilton motorcycle repair guide that covered literally every bike sold in the US 1945-1985 by a family friend when we first got into wrenching on old barn find Japanese UJMs, it was an absolutely massive tome, and fantastically thorough considering how many bikes it covered.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned a Haynes for every car I’ve ever owned, and found them valuable. That said, I’ve always chuckled at some of their quirks. (e.g. still listing a Timing Light as a suggested tool on cars that don’t have a distributor. And including that chapter on rebuilding the engine even on cars where it’s not even possible to buy the parts to do so.)

    Really, turning their guides into a series of consistent-quality narrated videos (vs. photos) might go a long way to keeping things going, although I have no doubt videos are more expensive to produce than photos+text.

    YouTube is an okay repair resource, but all too often useful bits of information that help the job go better/faster are left out. (Like telling you what size wrench to use, or what the torque on a fastener is.) And, of course, often some random YouTuber just has things flat-wrong, and it’s hard to know this ahead of time.

    • 0 avatar

      The other disadvantage to YouTube videos is you sometimes have to watch more than one to find the good one. There might be one that’s 18 minutes and has a lot of hits, watch most of that and nope, that’s not what I wanted, let’s see the next one uhhhhh this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about and at the end he gives up and calls the dealer (why would you post a video of nothing?!?), then the next one is what you were looking for.

      It’s all first world problems because there are some great videos out there that are, of course, free!

      But yeah, for me, youtube hasn’t completely replaced what a classic Haynes manual could do.

      • 0 avatar

        I was watching a vid to see how to change the plugs on my scooby. Guy gets to the passenger side rear and says “this is a pain so I’m not going to put it in the video.” How to get to that plug was the only reason I was watching.

    • 0 avatar

      Occasionally, a timing light is still a good tool to check and make sure the computer is doing it properly. I’ve seen a few reluctor wheels move and cause an issue with ignition timing that you wouldn’t see otherwise.

  • avatar

    I had that exact Haynes manual, it was used extensively to keep my Sprint running.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Haynes manuals were the best, and in my opinion, way better than Chilton’s, and sometimes better than the factory manuals.

    I knew nothing of their history. Mr Haynes was the real deal, evidently.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    It’s been a while ,but my last car manuals were from my Fox body LX 5.0 and my E36. I’m thinking Chilton on the Fox, and Haynes on the Bimmer. Very helpful for me at the time as I was a broke student during ownership of those vehicles.
    Someday I’d like to have a lift, which is the only way I’d work on a car myself these days.
    With a Bentley, an OBD scanner,youtube to provide more visual aids the and high speed internet I could do alot of damage haha

  • avatar

    I bought several, never as good as the real service manual but a decent Cliff Notes before the age of the internet. My issue was always they simply tried to make one manual work for too many different vehicles. Way too much variation.

    I’m in the camp that thinks it should be a consumer law that manufacturers make it open source how to repair their products. I guess it really doesn’t matter since most of this can be found on the web if you know where to look.

    • 0 avatar

      “should be a consumer law that manufacturers make it open source how to repair their products.”

      Completely agree. Way back I bought the shop manuals that Chrysler published to wrench on my heaps. Very thorough and they were specific to model and year. Also reasonably priced.

      Haven’t looked recently for the manufacturer books for cars/trucks, but did ask about one for my late-model tractor. Two hundred and fifty dollars…on a CD!! Do they really think I’m pecking on a laptop when swimming in hydraulic fluid? I’m thinking it’s a strategy to prop up the dealer service departments.

      Haynes, Chilton, Clymer and I&T (for ag tractors) are all part of the Haynes company.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree they are really good, but more so for older vehicles I think. I encountered the problem where one book attempts to cover too many models. For example the 350Z and G35 are the same thing… except when they are not.

      My main complain was the photos are not good enough quality (being just B&W) to fully show some procedures. Also they didn’t cover enough interior tear downs as they seem to focus on mechanical or electrical problems. What they were really helpful for was specs for things like wear (brake rotor thickness for example) and bolt torque.

      When I sold my 350Z I put the Haynes manual (full of fingerprints) on top of the spare tire along with a note of which forum to visit for any questions.

      The internet has somewhat replaced these paper guides as long as the your specific problem is covered in detail. I just did the power steering pressure sensor on my ’02 Dakota after watching YouTube – very straight foward: get OBD-II code, order replacement part, swap it out. The video even mentioned the wrench size required so I didn’t have to guess. Immediate thumbs up on that one!

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    I have Haynes manuals for several cars I owned in the 1980’s and 1990’s – a Fiat 128, Plymouth Horizon, Dodge Aries and Chevy Cavalier. I still have all of these books today.

    I always liked the cutaway drawings on the covers of the old Haynes manuals. Over the years I have collected quite a few of these manuals for cars I’ve never owned just for the cover art. Many of these drawings were by artist Terry Davey.

  • avatar

    Sri Lanka, where Haynes was born, was at the time known as Ceylon. There’s also a very good article in today’s Hemmings Daily blog:

    The first Haynes manual I purchased, back in 1978, was for the Chevy Vega, as I owned a ’75 base hatchback, while in high school. One of the local Chevy dealer had tuned it up for me, but it sometimes stalled at idle with the a/c on, and it also pinged. I went to Sears and bought a 3/8″ drive socket set, some combination wrenches (open end/box end), a 3/8″ beam type torque wrench, a $50 Sears Penske chrome timing light, and a Sears Penske ignition analyzer (for dwell and idle speed). I still have all those things except for the torque wrench (the handle cracked and the beam pointer eventually broke).

    With the tools and the Haynes manual, I was able to retard the timing a little, curing the ping problem, and turn the idle up a little, getting rid of the stall issue. Since that day 40 years ago, I’ve been able to do most of my own repairs, buying more tools and manuals as I went along. I’ve also owned Haynes manuals for cars like the Audi Fox (my second car, and first new car), the Datsun B-210 (a girlfriend’s car on which I learned to drive a manual), the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Celica, and others.

    One of Haynes’s biggest innovation, and help to many shadetree mechanics, was figuring out how to make repairs with regular tools and without manufacturer’s special tools.

  • avatar

    A sad day for the Automotive Enthusiast .

    In many circles the Haynes manuals are called “H.B.O.L.” : Haynes Book Of Lies for the many, many incorrect specifications, never trust the torque specs in one .

    I have dozens of them, as mentioned affordable and useful books every Enthusiast should own so at the very least your Mechanic will have some sort of reference before dipping into your vehicle .

    I’m on the hunt for a copy of the Haynes Honda singles book that covers C90 / CT’s and so on, it can be battered and dirty/oily, I don’t mind .


    • 0 avatar

      It’s not limited to Haynes….Ford kept changing the torque spec for spark plugs in the notorious 4.6 litre V8. I’ve seen 3 numbers so far.

      Wish I could help with the CT90….had a CT70 which I loved, tremendous fun for cheap and was absolutely indestructible. Sadly the bike and the book are long gone. Good luck in your quest.

  • avatar

    In the 1970s and 80s, I bought all the manuals I could find for each of my cars. Since I had a succession of FIATs and a Peugeot, professional help (I’m in the US) was limited, so I was the mechanic-of-last-resort for my fleet.

    IMHO, the manufacturer’s manuals were always better than the Haynes, but the OEM manuals were also drastically more expensive (e.g. Haynes $25, Ford $500). That price differential was huge when I was a starving university student. And, for most simple jobs, the Haynes was sufficient. And, sometimes, Haynes would tip me off to a secret that the manufacturer neglected.

    As an example, when I fitted a new timing belt to the 2L twincam engine in my FIAT Brava, the engine made a HUGE clattering noise upon startup. It turned out that the long-throw 2L crank was touching the fuel-pump eccentric on the auxiliary shaft. (This, on a FI engine with an electric fuel pump…) The fix was to correctly time the auxiliary shaft, clearly and explicitly documented in the Haynes Brava manual, but barely and obliquely mentioned in the official FIAT manual.

    I also loved some of the British humor that crept into some Haynes manuals. Quoting from the Haynes FIAT 128 manual about transaxle lube:

    “Some manufacturers claim there is no need to change he oil, as it will last the life of the transmission. This may be so, but the life can be longer if the oil is changed.”

    The FIAT 128 manual also showed me how to set the front-wheel toe-in using a pair of long sticks and a tape measure. I’ve since used that procedure on many other cars with great success, saving many dollars along the way.

    I’m deeply indebted to Mr. Haynes for his manuals and his DIY legacy. His books allowed me to keep my FIATs running, cheaply and reliably, for years. I haven’t yet bought a Haynes manual for my most recent car (Mazda), but I will.

    • 0 avatar

      That oil life comment is brilliant

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “The FIAT 128 manual also showed me how to set the front-wheel toe-in using a pair of long sticks and a tape measure. I’ve since used that procedure on many other cars with great success, saving many dollars along the way.”

      Hey, I did that as recently on my former Scion xB1, back in 2012. Like you, I also had the Haynes manual for my 74 128 SL.

  • avatar

    I had a few of his manuals.
    The E-Type one had this gem about the bonnet:
    “It is deceptively heavy”
    His work helped lots of people get and keep cars running.

  • avatar

    My first car was a MGB, which I rebuilt from the ground up, including an engine rebuild and extensive re-wiring, with only Haynes help and some advice from a sympathetic mechanic. Has been my first choice for information when working on vehicles ever since. Much easier to prop up on a fender than a tablet playing a video! RIP, and thank you.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I had a Haynes book for my dads 72 Toyota Celica and 74 VW Dasher, sisters 77 Corolla and 80 Honda Civic. I found them to be quite comprehensive and liked the British terms, tyre for tire, bonnet for hood and boot for trunk lid.
    But for my American vehicles I stuck with the factory service manuals because they are reasonably priced used and have more than the necessary information including part numbers, something you did not alway get with the Haynes. I have the Ford manual for my 95 Thunderbird and used to have the one for my 87 Fox body that I sold.
    I still have a Chilton on my shelf, a 65-72 edition which is a good reference plus a 1964 Motors.

  • avatar

    Very useful manuals. I’m surprised to know that Haynes owned Chilton and Clymer, which are greatly inferior products. Maybe they bought them out in order to monopolize the market?
    I have always bought a Haynes manual for each of my cars. They pay for themselves many times over.
    The manual for the Volvo was published in England, as they never made a version for the American market. It’s a hardback, the only one on my Haynes bookshelf.
    Great article. We all owe John Harold Haynes a respectful tip of the hat and a moment of silence in his memory.

  • avatar

    Thank you so much for the kind words and remembrances of John Haynes and the manuals he created. We just created this account specifically so we could pop in here and thank you in the comment section. We are sure that John never imagined what he was starting when he took apart that first Sprite and wrote the manual for it. We are still here in Sparkford, UK and Newbury Park, CA taking apart cars/trucks/motorcycles and writing books to help you fix them, the same way John did it way back in the 1950s. We love to see greasy and well used copies of our books, and hear your stories about them, so feel free to post picture or tag us on social media with #MyHaynes

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