Cars

Which American cars are actually made in America?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader looking to buy American.

Ford fuel powered F-150 trucks under production at their Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan on September 20, 2022. Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Q. This isn’t a car repair question. I would like to buy an American car. Which cars are made in America?

A. There was a time that this was an easy question to answer. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler were all American cars, made for the most part in the United States, or at least North America. Traditional import cars have manufacturing or assembly plants from the Carolinas to California. You could buy a Honda Accord made in Ohio, a Toyota Camry made in Kentucky, or a Hyundai made in Alabama. The last Buick I drove was made in China, so it gets quite confusing. While it even seems odd for me to say (might be a generational issue), Tesla may be the most American car company. Trucks from GM and Ford are very American as is the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang. As you are car shopping, look at the window sticker. It will tell you where the car is made and the percentage of American parts. 

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Q. My Ford Explorer with 321,000 makes a noise if I’m driving more than 45 miles per hour. When I accelerate, it’s fine. When I let off the gas, there is a loud, fan-like noise. What could cause that? 

A. Generally, the differential pinion bearing will make this type of growling noise. Typically, the noise gets louder the faster you drive. Four-wheel drive vehicles like yours can sometimes be a little hard to diagnose. As a general rule, the front pinion bearing will be noisy when coasting and the rear pinion bearing will make noise under load.

Q. With gasoline still too expensive, I’m curious whether tires can actually save gas. I’ve been hearing about tires that can cause the car to use less fuel. Is this true?

A. I have seen some comparison studies that found that low-rolling resistance tires such as Michelin Energy Saver and Bridgestone Ecopia can actually save fuel. In a test with a Toyota Prius, the difference between tested tires with the lowest rolling resistance and the highest resulted in a savings of 21 gallons of fuel over 15,000 miles, without any trade-offs in performance or tire life. This isn’t a huge saving, but every little bit helps. To save fuel without spending more money on new tires, keep your tires properly inflated, accelerate and brake gently, and combine trips when possible.

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Q. We love our Honda Odyssey because of its reliability, fuel efficiency, comfort, and quiet car-like ride. We need a vehicle like the Odyssey because of our kids, our dog, and the long road trips we often take. One of the other reasons we like the Honda is because of the built-in vacuum. Do you think the new Honda is still a good choice?

A. I still believe the Odyssey is one of the best vehicles of its type on the market. It rides well, gets decent fuel mileage, and is very versatile. The Toyota Sienna is also a good choice and stands apart from the minivan crowd with all-wheel-drive. The Sienna as well as the Chrysler Pacifica also have hybrid options. I do have one bit of bad news about the Honda Odyssey: The last time I looked, due to supply chain issues, the built in Honda-Vac was unavailable.

Q. I just bought a 2002 Lexus SC 430 with 70,000 miles from a neighbor. It’s in stunning condition. Most people who look at the car think it is a new model.  Would you recommend due to age that I replace the timing belt and water pump? I think the manual recommends 90,000 miles, but considering the car is 20 years old, I’m thinking it might be the right thing to do.

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A. Considering the age of the car it would make sense to replace the timing belt and belt tensioner as well as the alternator and power steering belts. Regarding the water pump, I would also replace it since it is an integral part of the timing belt system. The labor to replace the timing belt in just under five hours and it is only another 18 minutes to replace the water pump. When replacing the belts and water pump, give the coolant hoses a good look too. In my opinion, although a little costly, replacing these items could prevent an expensive breakdown.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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