Missing User Manual? Get it back!

Who hasn't lost a user manual only to need it later? Well, read on to find out how to get a digital replacement!

User Manual image created with Copilot and DALL-E 3 February 19, 2024.
User Manual image created with Copilot and DALL-E 3 February 19, 2024.

The Case for Manuals

User manual, operation manual, installation and use guide, user guide...the venerable and valuable user manual goes by many names but serves an important function -- when something goes wonky with an appliance, product, or vehicle, the user manual can be a lifesaver. So, you should save them in a safe place.

But what happens if you throw it out? If it goes missing in a move to a new domicile? Did the company that installed the appliance or product not leave it behind? Or the company that made the product goes out of business? You might think you're out of luck, but fear not; this post will walk you through finding your manual in the modern Library of Alexandria, the internet.

Launching your browser and running a search like this, "Why isn't my refrigerator working?" won't get you very far. You might get some amusing results, but humor can wait when you are on a mission to get something working again. No, you need to gather some crucial information to maximize your chances for success. You'll need, at a minimum:

  • Manufacturer Name
  • Model Number
  • Model Year (for vehicles)
  • Purchase Date or Year
  • Error Codes - if any are displayed
  • A short description of what is wrong

If you happen to have it handy or can get it without moving a massive piece of gear out to look for it, the serial number might come in handy. Taking a picture of the data plate/sticker of the product or appliance is a great way to collect the data. Just remember that if you plan to search using your phone, write the info on a piece of paper so you aren't bouncing back and forth between screens.

Tip: Write the Model number, Serial number, installation date, proof of purchase, and when you registered for warranty coverage on the user manual. Some companies provide a handy spot for this information in the manual, as shown below.

User manual with fields for Model # and Serial #.

​Armed with your data, let's proceed!

How to find your manual online

Where do you start your search? If you have an error code or message, step over to the Troubleshooting section first. Otherwise, I'd suggest visiting online resources in the following order.

Manufacturer's Website

Navigate to the manufacturer's website first. Once there, search for your model number. If you strike gold and your product shows up, check for links to manuals. Barring that, you can look under the Support or Service headings. More and more companies are moving to self-support, so be prepared to scrounge through FAQs.

Online Manual Repositories

Okay, say the manufacturer's site doesn't have what you need or no longer exists. Then, it's time to head over to an online user manual repository. I asked my new best friend, ChatGPT, for the top sites in this category, and he was happy to provide me with four sources, the first two of which I've used with great success. 

A nice thing about these sites is the price -- free! You may be asked to create an account to save your manual or to be able to download it, but it's worth the effort. And, if you save it to your account, you can get it again if needed without going through the search process all over again.

ManualsLib: This site is like the Library of Alexandria for manuals. Seriously, they've got over 4 million (no joke!) manuals for all sorts of gadgets and gizmos. Just type in what you're looking for, and boom, you're likely to find it. 

ManualsOnline: Another great spot. It's like the ManualsLib's cool cousin. They've got a ton of manuals, and what's neat is they also have a community of users. So, if you're stuck, you can throw a question out there and get real-world advice. 

SafeManuals: This one's a bit of an underdog, but it's got a decent collection. It's worth a look if you're striking out elsewhere. 

Internet Archive: Now, this place is like a time machine! It's not just for manuals; you can find some real vintage stuff here. If you're working with an older model of something, this is your go-to.

When all else fails

If neither of these approaches helps, it's time to buy a replacement product and safely store the user manual. Naw, I was just pulling your leg there. I've had some luck simply typing the necessary information into my browser and running an old-school search. Here's an example search string you can try.

Search example: "User manual for [Brand] [Model Number/Name] [Type of Appliance/Tool/Car]"

Hint: If you don't have luck with the first variation, tweak your search terms and try again.


Search for the Error Code

I learned about searching the web using error codes from my son. I was having issues with my PC at the time and called for advice. He suggested searching for the error code. I did, found the answer, and have been using the technique ever since.

Nearly every product has a digital display, so many will display an error code when a problem strikes. Combine that with the model number and manufacturer, and search away! You'll often find the answer and a way to fix the issue.

Search example: "Westinghouse Microwave Model MX145q error code ERR17"

Search YouTube

Not surprisingly, YouTube is an excellent troubleshooting resource. Using the same search language I mentioned above can provide a wealth of information. You might be lucky and get an official video from the manufacturer. Otherwise, I've run into companies that service and install the products posting videos along with DIY folks.

Caution: Not everyone who posts a fix-it video actually knows what they are doing. So, approach advice from content providers other than the manufacturer or a legitimate service provider with a healthy dose of caution. 

Exploded parts diagrams

Exploded Parts Diagram for a Silhouette Under Counter Refrigerator
Exploded Parts Diagram for a Silhouette Under Counter Refrigerator

For those readers unfamiliar with the topic, an exploded parts diagram shows every part of a product or appliance scattered neatly on the page like it had just blown up and was captured in mid-flight – hence the "exploded" moniker. 

The best diagrams will provide each part's name and part number. This information gives you everything you need to track down a replacement. Unfortunately, exploded parts diagrams are becoming scarce for whatever reason. Or, they are getting much harder to track down. 

You search for these jewels of the DIY art using the same techniques you used for finding the user manual. Just replace "user manual" with "exploded parts diagram" and give it a whirl.

Search example: "Exploded parts diagram for [Brand] [Model Number/Name] [Type of Appliance/Tool]" 

Note: You can also search for a parts list, which is helpful, but I prefer the exploded parts diagram with the parts list:>)

Parts List for the Exploded Parts Diagram above.
Parts List for the Exploded Parts Diagram above.

General Electric's parts page

GE makes it easier than a lot of companies to find parts. Check out their parts page and see for yourself what can be provided.

Sourcing replacement and repair parts

Okay, you've enjoyed outstanding success finding the information you need to fix your problem. That information includes the part(s) needed to get everything working again. Where do you turn?

Head back to the manufacturer's website first. Some sell replacement parts or can direct you to a third party that does. The manufacturer source has the advantage of providing an OEM part you know will fit and work properly. Failing this, my pal ChatGPT recommends the following sources.

Sears PartsDirect

Yes, this part of the old Sears empire still exists! A go-to for a variety of appliance and tool parts. They cover many brands and types, including Kenmore and Craftsman!!


Great for finding parts for appliances, lawn equipment, and heating/cooling systems. They also offer troubleshooting tips and repair videos.


Offers parts for a multitude of appliances and provides helpful repair guides.


It is ideal for finding parts for power tools, outdoor equipment, and appliances. They also have diagrams and repair guides.

Appliance Parts Pros

Specializes in parts for all major appliance brands and offers detailed diagrams and expert support.


A good source for vacuum cleaner parts, small appliance parts, and more.


Offers various parts for appliances and tools, along with instructional videos and articles.

But what about car parts?

I haven't spent much time on vehicles, but that doesn't mean I don't have any helpful information on getting the parts you need. Sure, you can go to the dealership or the usual auto-part outlets. However, I have a far better and more affordable option for you: RockAuto.com. What it lacks in style, it more than makes up for in selection. I've had great luck with these folks.

The wrap-up

My recommendation is to find a single place to keep your user manuals. Just like your tools, always put them back after you use them. You do follow that practice with your tools, right?

When you get a new product or appliance, make it a habit to record the following information on the cover:

  • Model Number
  • Serial Number
  • Purchase Date
  • Warranty Registration Date

Tip: You might also want to include your username and a note as to where you've stored the password (don't write the password on the manual) because you'll need to create an account to register the warranty in many cases. Keep the receipt with the manual. If you buy something online, print a copy of the order and use that as your warranty documentation.

A user manual is your first line of defense when something needs attention. For those that have disappeared on you, use the steps in this post to get them back.

AI Use Notification

I take pride in writing all original content and will continue to do so. However, ChatGPT has made my research task much easier, so occasionally, I may use content he generates where it makes sense. Whenever I do that, I will include a citation and a reference in my copy that ChatGPT provided the information. 

Here's the citation for this post:

"Information provided by ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI, accessed February 19, 2024."