When it comes to automobiles, there are those who prefer to buy domestic and others with a decided preference for foreign or import makes and models. Some auto collectors prefer the engineering and mechanics of imports; others seek out these cars simply for the esteem of ownership and global reputation of the manufacturers. Still others, for reasons both practical and personal, might prefer to operate their vehicle from the left side. Because imported cars have some unique mechanical differences from their American cousins, many owners believe that quality servicing is available only at the dealership where the cars can be purchased. There are, however, many competent foreign auto repair shops, especially in larger cities, that offer the same (or better) quality care as a dealer, and there are several advantages to seeking them out.
The first thing you want to pay attention to when you are looking for any auto maintenance or repair professional is Automotive Service Excellence (or ASE) certification. The ASE is a certification organization for the automotive repair industry (including foreign car maintenance) whose purpose it is to ensure quality auto service via the testing and certification of mechanics and shop professionals. It creates as close as there is to a standard in the industry and it is great way to differentiate the best from the rest as far as auto shops go. There are approximately 40 different skills tests that bestow certification upon the mechanic. Each one requires that the mechanic have at least two years experience and the tests are not easy to pass either. Shop owners that employ ASE certified mechanics are proudly displaying that they care that they are employing the very best to care for your vehicle, and this is especially important for import cars.
Foreign cars, as stated above, have certain engine differences that your average mechanic in the US might not be familiar with, which is why it’s so important to seek out a mechanic who specializes in your make of car. For example, certain VW models still have cooling systems that utilize only water (believe it or not), so imagine the headaches that would be created if some mechanic were to unintentionally use an antifreeze coolant in your radiator instead. Diesel powered engines, which are very different from those that use regular gasoline, are also much more common outside the U.S. For those with diesel vehicles it is essential that they find a shop that knows these engines like the back of their hands. In addition to the engine differences, it is most important that your auto servicer have the ability to access parts made for the import vehicles. Those that work on import cars routinely will have contacts in the country where the car was originally produced.
Just like a car dealership, a reputable independent import auto maintenance shop will use original parts (rather than knockoffs) whenever possible. There are several reasons this is important, whether you are in for a repair or are restoring a classic car. The original parts may cost a little more, but the difference is that original parts are built better, are more durable, and are more likely to carry a manufacturer’s warranty. The difference can become much more significant though with an import vehicle where the tooling of the part might be quite unique to a specific vehicle make and model. The “knock-off” could in fact, cause more problems than it resolves.
Finding an independent shop may take a a bit more effort than taking your car to the nearest dealer, but the personal service, savings, and superior auto care can make all the difference in the world when it comes to maintaining your imported vehicle.