Haynes vs. Clymer:
The Best Motorcycle Service Manual Shootout

Over the years, I have used factory manuals and Haynes and Clymer manuals for my personal vehicles -- trucks, cars and motorcycles.  It did not take me long to realize that the relatively inexpensive aftermarket manuals were a better choice for me, a shade-tree mechanic, than the pricey factory manuals written for professional technicians with all the special tools and training. 

Unfortunately, when I bought my latest ride, a new 1998 Yamaha V-Max, there was only the factory manual available.  It baffled me that Haynes and Clymer had not made a manual for one of the most popular and longest running models, then 13 years old.  After some wailing and gnashing of teeth, I broke down and paid the $60 for the official Yamaha Service Manual, a fine tome indeed. 

Well finally in 2003, first Haynes and then Clymer published manuals for the 1985-2003 V-Max.  I wanted one, but was not sure which to buy.  Then I decided to buy both of them and do this service manual shootout, super-comparo, just for you, my faithful readers.  Here is how it turned out. 

First Impression

The Haynes manual is hardbound with about 270 slightly larger pages, 8-1/4 by 10-5/8 inches, compared to the paper-back Haynes 440 pages at 7 by 10-1/8 inches.  Haynes makes up for the missing pages by using a 3-column layout compared to the 2 columns and larger print of Clymer.  The Clymer is easier to read, but in spite of the slim volume, there seems to be more content in the Haynes. 

First off, Haynes provided a section with an unabashedly glowing history of the Yamaha Motor company and an account of the V-Max model development with color pictures.  I like it when I can read good things about my old motorcycle.  It sells it to me all over again and helps motivate me to keep her running.  Haynes also offered an exhaustive pre-ride checklist, again with color pictures.  A Tools and Workshop section which also has color pictures is included at the end of the Haynes book. 

Both manuals had a table of contents, an index, color wiring diagrams and thumb tabs.  Haynes also had a table of contents for the chapters at the beginning of each chapter, a feature I like, but their thumb tabs had no list from which to thumb, largely defeating their purpose.  Clymer did have a thumb tab listing aligned with their respective tabs.  With that one minor exception, otherwise it seemed that in nearly every respect, Haynes went one step further to provide useful content and photographs. 

The Devil is in the Details

Looking at the section on carb synchronization for example, Haynes had eight photographs compared to Clymer's two.  And somehow, Haynes is able to make their pictures clearer and more sharply detailed, no small feat I can assure you from experience.  But let's give them another try.

With respect to the front forks and handlebar assemblies, Haynes had 68 photographs and drawings compared to Clymer's 52.  On the other hand, Haynes had absolutely nothing about the rear fender and grab rail assembly whereas Clymer had a good illustration and explanation. 

Say what?

When it came to removing the fuel tank, which is almost never necessary, there was a huge difference in the two manuals.  They both agree on removing the rider seat, disconnecting the negative terminal and removing the rear wheel and mud guard but after that, their approach is quite different.

Clymer says remove the left side passenger foot rest bracket and left side down tube, an easy job.  Haynes says remove the exhaust silencers, the left shock absorber and the swing arm!  This is a huge amount of work.  Otherwise, they are about the same on all the hoses, tank bolts, wiring and stuff.  By the way, the Yamaha factory manual does not cover removal of the fuel tank at all.

Other complaints were that Haynes showed a photograph of the right hand mirror but failed to mention that the fastener was a left hand thread, identifiable by a groove or notches on the points.  Clymer had nothing to say about mirrors or right hand threaded fasteners but stated that the spark plugs should be removed with a 5/8 inch socket.  Actually, they require the less common 18 mm socket.  You can find one at a Sears hardware store.  Haynes merely stated to use a socket of the correct size or the one provided in the Yamaha tool kit. 

Good show, Old Bean.  Off you go.

The other differences lie mainly with the fact that Haynes is based in Great Britain.  Their writing style is so, there is no other way to put it, British. Here is an example.

Talking about brake fluid, "Wrap a rag around the reservoir being worked on to ensure that any spillage does not come into contact with painted surfaces.  Using a suitable funnel that is spotlessly clean, top up with new clean DOT4 hydraulic fluid until the level is above the LOWER line."  You may find this preachy, off-putting, over-kill, but personally I need it.  Other disconcerting bits involve the spelling of the King's English -- tyres, centrestand and so forth. 

Haynes has a section, with color pictures, dealing with preparing for the annual MOT inspection required in the U.K.  This would be of no interest except that it serves as a useful checklist for looking at a used motorcycle here in this country. 

One point volunteered in the Haynes manual, however, really caught my attention.  Contrary to popular opinion, they stated not to use 20W50 oil because it might make the clutch slip.  This seemed counter-intuitive to me but I did a little research and found that higher viscosity oil makes it difficult for a wet-clutch to squeeze the oil out from between the plates and that the clutch may indeed slip. 

As a member of the V-Max Owners Association, I do appreciate the credit given to the VMOA in the Clymer manual.  They did consult with a number of our members during the preparation of their manual and it is printed in the good old U.S.A. and is easier to read.  But like the old saying goes, "You pays your money and you takes your chances."  When I work on my ride, I find myself referring to all three.  Knock yourself out.

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