General maintenance in terms of oil changes, plugs and servicing have proved to be fairly straight forward. There are inconveniences of course – I got frustrated with my local Lex Autocentre who did a reasonable service, because they ALWAYS forget to order the air filter in advance and then take up to 2-3 weeks to get it in after the service, (despite my helpful reminders beforehand!). That said, they and Nationwide Autocentres seem to have been replaced by Halfords Autocentres, who I have not tried.
One thing you’ll need to get hold of early (and file it for easy access) is the VIN. The vehicle identity number. It tells parts’ suppliers exactly which part is compatible. It’s found in different places in different cars but the usual places to look are; a card in the driver manual folder and at the bottom of the windscreen on a little tab. Google your car and “VIN” if you can’t find it – you need it!
In general you will find that garages either freek out at the prospect of a non UK vehicle or they just take it in their stride.
I have settled on a combination of specialists and general places and I have found my local National Tyres location to be very helpful. Currently (2017) I am happily taking my 2015 Expedition to my local garage. I’ve had to source one or to things myself but not too much really.
There is a place in Fleet, Hampshire called North American Motors that specialises in American cars. They have been useful for servicing and more specialist work that requires parts. They have access to an importer that gets them US car parts on a weekly basis.
When I smashed the rear bumper I found Finton Ellis – a young guy in Odiham, who enthuses about American Cars and does a fantastic job of bodywork. He is also linked into the American import network and has no problem with foreign cars. He did an excellent job of fixing the back end of my Explorer. The only problem was with my insurer who wanted me to go to my local bodyshop – who had no clue how to start – let alone get parts. A little persuasion got the insurer to see sense and we all ended up happy.
For wheel balancing, all the normal specialists I went to could not handle a US vehicle, but Merrows in Farnham have the latest computer equipment which lists all cars on the planet it seems and they had no difficulty in sorting my Explorer out.
I have heard good things about Philip James, but never met him myself. He is a travelling mechanic who works on import cars. Private importers who have got his details from here tell me he is good. He covers the south of England.
Another place in Fleet called North Hants Tyres has been able to get me some parts which they import. They specialise in tyres, though I have not bought tyres from them to date.
I also bought the US maintenance manual for the car, which has been helpful for my own use, for listing parts and for lending to garages from time to time when they needed a bit more info.
The other top tip is to write down all the useful codes when you DO find the right plugs/filters etc so that your local garage can get them again next time – don’t expect them to remember.
I’ve ordered quite a few parts from the USA directly – and sometimes pop into Walmart to buy oil and air filters for a fraction of the price of buying them from the UK. And when visitors come from the USA, the odd spare part comes with them.
Finally, I have had a couple of recall notices from Ford US. The local UK Ford dealers have been useless and it was only recently that I discovered that my old chums at Mildenhall are registered to do free recall work by Ford US and other US manufacturers. They even offered to get the parts and instructions to my local Ford dealer with instructions to bill the labour back to Mildenhall who would handle all the paperwork. All at no cost to me!
American Auto Club Site for US car owners in the UK
Tel: 0161-408-2224 or 07542 807825
American Vehicle Parts UK based
F. H. Ellis Bodywork
Unit 2, Stapely Manor
Ford Parts Genuine parts
Mildenhall Auto Centre Conversions, servicing
9 Chiswick Avenue
North American Motors Service, maintenance, parts
107 Park Road
North Hants Tyres
Henry John House
2 Ivy Road
Rock Auto Parts shipped from the USA