Owners Manuals and Service Manuals

Tech Topic of the month

I know, I am guilty of it too. We take technology for granted- so much so when we get that new piece of technology, most of us never read the manual that came with it- or at best just a cursory look. After all, who ever reads the manual? Its usually not until AFTER we have a problem or question, that we turn to the manual. Well its time to re-evaluate that way of thinking.

Ever wondered how you know when you need to change your oil? Well, of course we all know the oil needs to be changed every so many miles, but the real answer to the question is: we know when we need to change our engine oil because engineers have determined that when using the recommended oil in our Yamaha engines, our street bikes need their oil changed every 4,000 miles (Of course this is completely different than a Dirt Bikes requirement).  How did they do that?

The answer is design testing.  Every major manufacturer that really cares about their product quality does extensive design testing. There are many different kinds of design testing. Some of it is done under controlled situations in laboratories and some is done in real world environments.

The key is, when this testing is done, the manufacturer looks at wear and tear intervals, failure points and other factors to determine when a particular component will need to be maintenanced or replaced. Some items like brake pads are a no brainer. They need to be looked at regularly and when worn out, replaced. Other items like valve springs are less obvious. It would be fairly unrealistic to assume you are going to routinely check the valve springs and replace them before they fail. We need a check interval from our manufacturer.

This is when the manual comes to the rescue. Both our owners and service manuals have precise maintenance interval charts. For you dirt riders you will get maintenance charts that tell you how often to replace the valves and valve springs (this is critical with the new titanium valves) and how often you need to inspect the piston and rings. On street bikes it will let you know how often those suspension bearings need to re-lubed (see the tech article about tune ups...)

Now the question I get asked all the time is: What is the difference between an Owners Manual and a Service Manual? Well as the name implies, the owners’ manual is a relatively basic manual. It includes all the relevant maintenance interval charts, and also includes the maintenance records charts, but contains only OPERATION instructions or "how to use the product" type of instructions. If you're the kind of rider that likes to do his or her own maintenance and repair, then the Service Manual is the way to go. It still has the same maintenance charts but also goes into detail on the exact procedure to perform that repair or maintenance.

Either way, the factory manuals are indispensable when it comes to knowing when you need to have specific routines performed. If you don’t have one, you’re flying blind! (they can be purchased online here)

Ride Safe!
Dr. Jay