It’s a common question: “Do I really need to own a manual for my tractor?” After all, manuals aren’t free (most cost around $20), and with all the information available online these days it seems a little old-school to buy one. Besides, who wants to read the directions! It seems like a lot more fun to dive in and figure things out along the way.

You’ve probably heard these arguments against manuals before – you might even say these things yourself! If so, I hope to convince you otherwise. You really do need a manual (or three) to go along with your tractor.


First, let me explain the three different types of manuals – then I’ll (hopefully!) convince you to buy one.

A shop manual (also known as a service manual) is made for mechanics. Each dealer’s service department would have a copy of the shop manual, which gave the mechanics the details they need to make repairs. If you are doing a major repair or restoration project, get one of these! It’s where you’ll find all the specifications you need to prevent a costly mistake and keep your tractor running perfectly. If you can only buy one manual, get this one.

An owner’s manual (also known as an operator’s manual) was given to each original buyer with their tractor. This is the basic manual, not unlike the manual you probably keep in the glovebox of your car. It’s where you’ll find information about how to make basic adjustments and regular maintenance on your tractor.

A parts manual is really fun to look at! It shows how all the parts in your tractor fit together, and gives the original part numbers for every piece in your tractor. Not only will using a parts manual make you a pro at ordering replacement parts for your tractor, it’s a real help if you disassemble something and can’t quite remember how to put it back together.

So, do you really need to buy one? Well, here are three reasons why:

  1. It’s hard to get this information somewhere else. I’m a huge fan of the internet, but not everything you read online is accurate and trustworthy – and some information just isn’t out there.
  2. It’s faster to own a manual. Consider the amount of time it can take to search for and find the answers you need (either online or by calling the Steiner tech department). Save yourself the time and frustration by putting the answers right at your fingertips.
  3. Mistakes can be costly. An incorrect guess on specs can be devastating to your tractor. Common mistake: over- or under-torquing a rod and having it pop through the side of your block.

My dad is an expert mechanic, and he has a whole wall of manuals. If our barn catches fire, that wall is what we’re running in to save (metaphorically speaking! Don’t run into a burning building, especially not one filled with gas and oil!) It’s the most important part of our shop.

If you are doing a repair on your tractor, lots of help is available for free on the internet (like my video tutorials). You can get even more help from the in-depth repair videos that my Dad makes. But nothing can replace the good old-fashioned manual