John Harold Haynes OBE: RIP

My old man swore by Haynes manuals. New (old) car; new Haynes manual to go with it. That was the unspoken but immediate rule. To me, as a child, the oil-stained book provided almost as much pleasure as the car itself. Here, after all, was everything you could possibly want to know about the unfathomable machine on the driveway, presented in the most instructive way possible. By then, of course, the format of step-by-step descriptions and photographs was long-established - but in the mid sixties, when John Haynes pioneered it while rebuilding a 'Frogeye' Sprite with a friend, the process must've seemed almost avant-garde in its clarity and newness.

It probably didn't seem that way to Haynes, a serving RAF officer at the time. For a practical man - one accustomed to dealing with complicated logistics - the idea of breaking down the engine renovation into stages so that it might be more easily explained to a layman would likely have struck him as good sense. Certainly the idea needed no time to take root with the wider public: the first Haynes manual, for the Austin Healey Sprite, sold out its print run in less than 3 months. The rest is history.

Haynes served as the Chairman of the Haynes Publishing Group until 2010, before becoming 'Founder Director'. His name has become synonymous not just with car maintenance, but the idea of instructional guides in general: there's an Owners' Workshop Manual for the Astute Class Submarine, the Millenium Falcon, the Boeing 707 and NASA's Skylab. In fact, the concept is sufficiently flexible to encompass almost any subject (Woman: A Practical Guide to Women's Health for Men was published in 2004).

The sheer breadth of the coverage testifies to a central and inherent truth about Haynes publications: that to carefully explain something complicated in detail is to consciously celebrate it. Owner's Workshop Manuals are useful because they explain how to take something apart and put it back together again - but they have become hugely famous beyond that basic remit because their scrupulous precision and earnestness speaks to the writer's affection for the subject matter. That was true of John Haynes and his friend's Sprite half a century ago, it was true for a kid reading about a Mk3 VW Passat, and it is true today. What a legacy.

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P.H. O'meter

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Comments (44) Join the discussion on the forum

  • RumbleOfThunder 12 Feb 2019

    Remove negative earth lead.

    RIP John. What a legacy!

  • Lord Pikey 12 Feb 2019

    Seems like a good time to repost this.


    For those of us that have ever used a Haynes Manual (or Clymer or Chilton equivalents) in attempting home maintenance of a car or motorbike. For those who havn't used a Haynes Manual, these are the books aimed at those who want to fix their own vehicles and which keep qualified mechanics in paid employment putting things right afterwards. They are chock full of photos, diagrams and step-by-step instructions which are obvious if you are a fully qualified motor mechanic, but which are frighteningly sparse on detail for the average Joe in the street who wants to change a set of spark plugs on a 1981 VW Polo ....

    Haynes: Rotate anticlockwise.
    Translation: Clamp with molegrips (adjustable wrench) then beat repeatedly with hammer anticlockwise. You do know which way is anticlockwise, don't you?

    Haynes: Should remove easily.
    Translation: Will be corroded into place ... clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with a hammer.

    Haynes: Remove small retaining clip.
    Translation: Take off 15 years of stubborn crud, it's there somewhere.

    Haynes: This is a snug fit.
    Translation: You will skin your knuckles! ... Clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with hammer.

    Haynes: This is a tight fit.
    Translation: Not a hope in hell matey! ... Clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with hammer.

    Haynes: As described in Chapter 7...
    Translation: That'll teach you not to read through before you start, now you are looking at scarey photos of the inside of a gearbox.

    Haynes: Locate ...
    Translation: This photo of a hex nut is the only clue we're giving you.

    Haynes: Pry...
    Translation: Hammer a screwdriver into...

    Haynes: Undo...
    Translation: Go buy a tin of WD40 (catering size).

    Haynes: Ease ...
    Translation: Apply superhuman strength to ...

    Haynes: Retain tiny spring...
    Translation: "Jeez what was that, it nearly had my eye out"!

    Haynes: Press and rotate to remove bulb...
    Translation: OK - that's the glass bit off, now fetch some good pliers to dig out the bayonet part and remaining glass shards.

    Haynes: Lightly...
    Translation: Start off lightly and build up till the veins on your forehead are throbbing then re-check the manual because what you are doing now cannot be considered "lightly".

    Haynes: Weekly checks...
    Translation: If it isn't broken don't fix it!

    Haynes: Routine maintenance...
    Translation: If it isn't broken... it's about to be!

    Haynes: One spanner rating (simple).
    Translation: Your Mum could do this... so how did you manage to botch it up?

    Haynes: Two spanner rating.
    Translation: Now you may think that you can do this because two is a low, tiny, ikkle number... but you also thought that the wiring diagram was a map of the Tokyo underground (in fact that would have been more use to you).

    Haynes: Three spanner rating (intermediate).
    Translation: Make sure you won't need your car for a couple of days and that your AA cover includes Home Start.
    Translation: But Novas are easy to maintain right... right? So you think three Nova spanners has got to be like a 'regular car' two spanner job.

    Haynes: Four spanner rating.
    Translation: You are seriously considering this aren't you, you pleb!

    Haynes: Five spanner rating (expert).
    Translation: OK - but don't expect us to ride it afterwards!!!
    Translation #2: Don't ever carry your loved ones in it again and don't mention it to your insurance company.

    Haynes: If not, you can fabricate your own special tool like this...
    Translation: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

    Haynes: Compress...
    Translation: Squeeze with all your might, jump up and down on, swear at, throw at the garage wall, then search for it in the dark corner of the garage whilst muttering "bugger" repeatedly under your breath.

    Haynes: Inspect...
    Translation: Squint at really hard and pretend you know what you are looking at, then declare in a loud knowing voice to your wife "Yep, as I thought, it's going to need a new one"!

    Haynes: Carefully...
    Translation: You are about to cut yourself!

    Haynes: Retaining nut...
    Translation: Yes, that's it, that big spherical blob of rust.

    Haynes: Get an assistant...
    Translation: Prepare to humiliate yourself in front of someone you know.

    Haynes: Turning the engine will be easier with the spark plugs removed.
    Translation: However, starting the engine afterwards will be much harder. Once that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach has subsided, you can start to feel deeply ashamed as you gingerly refit the spark plugs.

    Haynes: Refitting is the reverse sequence to removal.
    Translation: But you swear in different places.

    Haynes: Locate securing bolt.
    Translation: Remember that worrying noise when you drove along the A38 last summer? That's where you'll find the securing bolt.

    Haynes: Prise away plastic locating pegs...
    Translation: Snap off...

    Haynes: Remove drum retaining pin.
    Translation: Break every screwdriver in your box.

    Haynes: Using a suitable drift or pin-punch...
    Translation: The biggest nail in your tool box isn't a suitable drift!

    Haynes: Everyday toolkit
    Translation: Ensure you have an RAC Card & Mobile Phone

    Haynes: Apply moderate heat...
    Translation: Placing your mouth near it and huffing isn't moderate heat.
    Translation #2: Heat up until glowing red, if it still doesn't come undone use a hacksaw.
    Translation #3: Unless you have a blast furnace, don't bother. Clamp with adjustable wrench then beat repeatedly with hammer.

    Haynes: Index
    Translation: List of all the things in the book bar the thing you want to do!

    Haynes: Remove oil filter using an oil filter chain wrench or length of bicycle chain.
    Translation: Stick a screwdriver through it and beat handle repeatedly with a hammer.

    Haynes: Replace old gasket with a new one.
    Translation: I know I've got a tube of Krazy Glue around here somewhere.

    Haynes: Grease well before refitting.
    Translation: Spend an hour searching for your tub of grease before chancing upon a bottle of washing-up liquid (dish soap). Wipe some congealed washing up liquid from the dispenser nozzle and use that since it's got a similar texture and will probably get you to Halfords to buy some Castrol grease.

    Haynes: See illustration for details
    Translation: None of the illustrations notes will match the pictured exploded, numbered parts. The unit illustrated is from a previous or variant model. The actual location of the unit is never given.

    Haynes: Drain off all fluids before removing cap.
    Translation: Visit bathroom, spit on ground, remove baseball cap in order to scratch head in perplexity.

    Haynes: Top up fluids.
    Translation: Drink 2 cans of beer and call out a mobile mechanic to undo the damage.

    For Added Haynes Fun, go to the first section "Safety First" and read the bit about Hydrofluoric Acid. Would you really trust the advice of a book that uses this form of understatement?

    The best one I encountered was how to change a brake sensor in a Ford Fiesta Popular Plus. The photo showing the location of the unit failed to mention the crucial detail of whether the item was located in the engine compartment or inside the car ..... and the helpful photo of what the thing looked like didn't give the reader any clues!

    All makes and models post-2000
    For a modern car chock full of electronics, all that's in the Haynes Manual (aka "The Haynes Bumper Book of Jokes") is:

    Routine Service: Take it to a main dealer and hand over a large amount of cash.

    Advanced Service: Open the bonnet. Decide all that stuff is far too scary. Proceed with routine service (see above).


    HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer is nowadays used as a kind of divining rod to locate expensive parts not far from the object we are trying to hit.

    MECHANIC'S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on boxes containing seats, motorcycle jackets, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while in use.

    ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning steel Pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age, but it also works great for drilling mounting holes just above the brake line that goes to the rear wheel.

    SKILL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

    PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

    BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

    HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

    MOLE-GRIPS/ADJUSTABLE WRENCH: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

    OXYACETELENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your garage on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside a brake-drum you're trying to get the bearing race out of.

    TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

    WHITWORTH SOCKETS: Once used for working on older cars and motorcycles, they are now used mainly for impersonating that 9/16 or 1/2 socket you've been searching for for the last 15 minutes.

    DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against that freshly painted part you were drying.

    WIRE WHEEL: Cleans rust off old bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar callouses in about the time it takes you to say, "F...."

    BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.

    HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering car to the ground after you have installed your new front disk brake setup, trapping the jack handle firmly under the front wing (fender).

    EIGHT-FOOT LONG DOUGLAS FIR 2X4: Used for levering a car upward off a hydraulic jack.

    TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood splinters.

    PHONE: Tool for calling your neighbour to see if he has another hydraulic floor jack.

    SNAP-ON GASKET SCRAPER: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading mayonnaise; used mainly for getting dog-doo off your boot.

    BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool that snaps off in bolt holes and is ten times harder than any known drill bit.

    TIMING LIGHT: A stroboscopic instrument for illuminating grease buildup.

    TWO-TON HYDRAULIC ENGINE HOIST: A handy tool for testing the tensile strength of ground straps and brake lines you may have forgotten to disconnect.

    CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 16-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A large motor mount prying tool that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end without the handle.

    BATTERY ELECTROLYTE TESTER: A handy tool for transferring sulfuric acid from a car battery to the inside of your toolbox after determining that your battery is dead as a doornail, just as you thought.

    AVIATION METAL SNIPS: See hacksaw.

    INSPECTION LIGHT: The mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin," which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, its main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate as 105-mm howitzer shells during the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

    PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

    STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws.

    AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in a fossil-fuel burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts last tightened 30 years ago by someone in Dagenham, and rounds them off.

    PRY (CROW) BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

    HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to cut hoses 1/2 inch too short.

    DAMMIT TOOL: Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling 'DAMMIT' at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.

  • Paperboy 12 Feb 2019

    "Re-assembly is the reverse of removal" are words that never quite seemed to work out..........

  • Nerdherder 12 Feb 2019

    Paperboy said:
    "Re-assembly is the reverse of removal" are words that never quite seemed to work out..........
    Most of us will have realised this whilst sitting in a pile of toy car parts as a small boy.

    RIP Mr. Haynes.

  • AMGSee55 12 Feb 2019

    I see the chap in the picture is about to top up the engine oil in his Passat. The page he has opened however appears to detail clutch disassembly....good luck with that sir biggrin

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