Today I'm staring at an assortment of new brake parts for my car. My caliper pins are gunked up, so I have to fix them, or continue listening to the awful grinding noise they make when I hit the brakes.
I know what to do with most of these parts. You see, my dad was a certified brake mechanic, so I've learned a trick or two. However, one tiny detail is outside of my current realm of knowledge.
How do those bushings and O-rings fit together so that they don't allow brake dust to build up inside the pin mechanism?
To solve the bushing and O-ring mystery, I'll be consulting my Haynes repair manual. (I could probably figure it out by just staring at the parts for a while, but I want to be sure; this is the second time my caliper has froze in the last few months.)
I don't care what the manual says about filling the coolant tank, rotating the tires, or even possible causes for brake noise. I already know what the problem is.
I only care about one single detail... how those bushings and O-rings fit together.
Perhaps many of our users are in the same situation. They don't care about our well-crafted overview topics. They are looking for a needle in a haystack. If we've covered the one tiny detail they seek, we'll make their day, and they'll learn to trust our documents.
That's why I own a fat stack of Haynes manuals. They always cover exactly the details I'm searching for.
It's also why I'm such a big fan of FAQs.
Technical writing is about covering the essential details, and making sure users can find them. A manual that answers the wrong questions is just a waste of tree pulp.