According to CarsDirect.com, Honda still builds vehicles in Japan, but those intended for the North American market are built in Indiana, Ohio, Alabama and Mexico. Mitsubishi vehicles are manufactured in Illinois. Even high-end automobiles, like Mercedes-Benz, are made in Alabama.

At Foreign Car Service in Auburn, owner David Sheloske, specializes in only one foreign made vehicle: Volvo. While Volvo is now owned by a holding group in China, the vehicles are produced in Sweden, Belgium and Canada.

“You might say that Volvo is a foreign car that is still made in foreign countries,” said Sheloske, an Auburn native who has been working on cars for over 40 years. He started working on Japanese automobiles early in his career, but in 1997 Foreign Car Service began working exclusively on Volvos.

Sheloske admitted that there are a few challenges in working on all types of vehicles.

“Today, there are challenges in working on both foreign and domestic vehicles because of the extensive reliance on specialized diagnostic systems,” said Sheloske, referring to OBD2 – On Board Diagnostics — that are required on all vehicles. He explained that the mandated diagnostic systems are generic tools that don’t always identify every problem.

“To really do the job, you need to get proprietary diagnostic equipment from each car maker,” said Sheloske. Knowing that the cost could be prohibitive to cover many vehicle types, Sheloske decided to work exclusively on Volvos with specialized equipment from Volvo of North America.

Sheloske said that Volvo owners can be fanatics about their cars, dedicated to their quality and dependability. He cited a Volvo owner in New York who owns a 1966 P1800 Volvo that recently logged 3-million miles. While not every vehicle gets this longevity, Sheloske noted a few essential items to keep foreign cars running well.

“Take care of the fluids — transmission, engine oil and antifreeze. Take care of the brakes, being careful when stopping,” said Sheloske. “Also, pay attention to unusual noises, things like bumping, grinding, and knocking. These could be early signs of trouble.”

Foreign car owners can also face problems when it comes to securing parts.

“Most [dealers] will recommend that you get only factory original parts,” said Sheloske, noting that some car owners will purchase parts at discount auto retailers that don’t have the original specifications.

“The challenge I have is finding the balance between availability, cost and quality of parts,” said Scott Robinson, an industrial engineer at L.L. Bean from Lisbon. “I have found several online resources and with experience I have learned which ones provide the best quality at the best price. Generally, I always compare what I find online with what my local dealer can provide. If the price is close to the dealer’s, I’ll usually buy the part from the dealer.”

In addition to finding parts, Robinson said that finding a knowledgeable mechanic who knows foreign cars is invaluable.

“I recommend finding one who specializes in the specific make that you own. I rely on two mechanics, one for the newer Volvo my wife drives and the other for my older cars,” said Robinson. “The older-car mechanic only works on rear – wheel drive Volvos. He knows this type of car intimately and can make repairs quickly and at a very reasonable cost.”

While Sheloske drives a Chevy pickup for business purposes, his wife drives a 2004 XC90 Volvo, the automaker’s version of a sport utility vehicle.

“I have two loaner cars that are Volvos,” added Sheloske. “One has 210,000 miles and the other has about 310,000 miles.”

“My 1987 Volvo wagon is still running strong,” said Robinson. “I bought it in February of 2011 for $550 with 232,000 miles. It currently has just under 306,000 miles.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: