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NOT FOR NUTHIN’ - Who needs manuals? Just give me the pictures

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For someone who never ever relies on manuals — who needs them as long as you have the picture? — I found myself referring to them twice in one week. Not for nuthin’, but what’re the odds?

Generally, the instrument panel on a car is pretty self-explanatory. And even though cars are a bit more complicated than when I first learned how to drive, manufacturers have tried to make the instrument panel user-friendly through the use of icons instead of words.

You still have the basics — P/R/N/D/L, the check-engine light, speedometer, odometer, turn-signal arrows, temperature gage and blue light for high beams — but a few more have been added to enhance the driving experience.

When my old faithful Chevy died last year and my husband and I went searching for a replacement, we tried many and finally settled on the Fort Escape SUV. This car is a case in point. It has so many bells and whistles that I can’t keep track. When the dealer said it was fully loaded, he wasn't kidding, up to and including six CDs already loaded into the changer thanks to the previous owner.

In the mornings I have just about enough competence to get in the car, turn the key and make I sure I don’t hit anything on the way out of the driveway. So busy have I been tuning the radio, adjusting all the mirrors (side view, rear view and top view) along with getting comfortable in the seven-point seat over my ownership of the truck that it was several moments before I noticed that a curious steady yellow light appeared next to the gas gage.

Since I only need glasses for reading and not for driving and my glasses were neatly tucked away in my purse, I barely made out the phrase “OD Off” that appeared in bright yellow. Not knowing what the heck it meant, I began to push, press and turn every knob I could reach. The light never went off, but some new red ones appeared. I decided the time was ripe: I pulled over, whipped out the manual, opened it up and found the pages that had only pictures (these are a lot easier for me to follow as I find it hard to read “autoese”). Right there above the icons for an overheating engine and an unsecured seat belt (the one that looks like a red flower) sat the curious yellow icon featuring “OD Off.”

The description, on Page 41, came fully equipped with arrows and instructions for what to do if the OD Off letters suddenly appeared.

Following instructions, I turned off the engine, depressed the button that was at the end of the signal selector attached to the drive shaft and then turned the key. Light still on. So I went back to the manual and read up on what to do if the light doesn't go out after you follow the instructions on Page 41. This referred to me to another page that explained how to re-set the computer to restore the factory default settings. After about 20 minutes of fidgeting, fudging and following instructions I finally managed to re-set the computer which finally put the light out. Unfortunately all the other settings that I had carefully set when I first got the car now had to be re-set.

Thus the second visit to the old manual when I got home that night.

Not for nuthin', but the next car I get will not only come with voice-activation commands but an instruction translator that sits in the front seat with me.

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