Monday, April 11, 2011

You Don't Have to Take Your Import Car to the Dealer For Maintenance and Repairs

By Stephen Daniels

When it comes to automobiles, you will find those who would rather buy domestic and others with a decided preference for foreign or import makes and models. Some auto enthusiasts 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 distinct mechanical variations from their American cousins, many owners assume that quality servicing is available only at the dealership where the cars are sold. There are, however, many qualified foreign auto repair shops, especially in larger cities, that offer the same (or better) quality care as a dealer, and there are some advantages to seeking them out.

The first thing you should 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 goal 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 easy way to distinguish 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 showcasing that they care that they are employing the very best to care for your vehicle, and this is especially necessary for import cars.

Foreign cars, as stated above, have certain engine variations that your average auto technician in the US may not be familiar with, which is why it's highly recommended 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 unknowingly use an antifreeze coolant in your radiator instead. Diesel powered engines, which are very different from those that use regular gasoline, are also far more common outside the U.S. For those with diesel vehicles it is vitally important 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 access to parts made for the import vehicles. Those that work on import cars regularly will have contacts in the country where the car was originally manufactured.

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 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.

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