How To Write a DIY Tutorial
Communities thrive on information, and writing tutorials is one of the best ways to provide that information. Tutorials show other people how a certain procedure is performed, and it enables and empowers them to save money by working on their own car as well as install upgrades to improve their ownership experience. Some of us were born with a wrench in our hands, while others see things like a valve cover replacement or turbo blanket install as a daunting task. Tutorials are provided to walk people through procedures for completing automotive tasks so they can feel comfortable and confident.
This tutorial is designed to outline how to write a tutorial. I've spent a great deal of time writing tutorials for the CruzeTalk community and intend to the same here. It is my hope that my tutorials encourage others to contribute as well.
- A digital camera (phone camera works too)
- A willingness to help others
- A computer (I don't recommend trying to write tutorials from a mobile phone)
Observe the layout of this tutorial. We have a centered title in bold that matches the title of this thread. When writing a tutorial, split the tutorial into distinct sections. I like to place all of the tutorial sections in bold to make everything easy to read.
- Overview: This explains what the tutorial will cover and why someone might want to perform the procedure on their vehicle. Make your overview thorough but brief. If you find yourself writing an essay, it may be appropriate to create a new thread on that topic that you can link to in the tutorial thread.
- Tools Required: This is a critical component in a tutorial. This allows whoever is going to attempt the procedure on their car to be fully prepared, assuming everything goes to plan. Be sure to include the little things like any extensions you need and specific socket or bit sizes.
- Part Required: When replacing a component such as a valve cover or turbo oil feed line, it is very helpful to provide the part number you purchased so someone can be prepared. Be sure to list every part that needs to be replaced and its associated part number so someone doesn't have to run out in the middle of their upgrade or repair to pick up a part you forgot to list.
- Procedure: This is the meat of your tutorial and goes step by step explaining what to do.
During the procedure, document every step. Take pictures of every component and its location, every wire you need to unplug, every bolt you remove (unless they can all be seen in one picture), and so forth. Since you are taking pictures while performing the procedure, allocate some time to make sure that you get the necessary pictures. It is very easy to get too caught up with getting the job done quickly at the expense of being thorough with your documentation of the procedure. Be aware of what time it is and the fact that your photo quality will degrade at night.
Torque specs. Torque specs. TORQUE SPECS. "Gudentite" or "two ugga duggas" doesn't cut it. Every bolt that needs to be turned has to have a torque spec. If you're going to do something, do it right. Don't half-ass a tutorial and say "just get it hand tight." I've seen a few too many people asking what size heli coil to use after using that approach. For someone who hasn't worked on a car, "good and tight" could turn a 30 minute job into a 6-hour job. If you write a tutorial, document the torque spec you need to use for every bolt that needs to be tightened. If relevant, also explain the tightening sequence of a component.
If you have some automotive experience, be sure to note particular areas of concern. Don't assume everyone's stupid, but be mindful of the fact that not everyone has the mechanical experience and aptitude that you do. Take note of areas where people need to be especially cautious and areas where something could go wrong if someone isn't careful. Aside from the obligatory "don't drop that bolt down the engine bay," stress that certain parts should be approached carefully. Making note of these areas of concern will give your reader more confidence that they can tackle this project on their own.
When uploading photos, I strongly recommend uploading them directly to the site using the drag and drop function. I cannot count how many times I've seen a tutorial on another forum where someone took the time to post pictures, then the pictures got deleted off their hosting site and we ended up with explanations but no pictures. Uploading them to the site ensures that they will always be available even after you've moved on.