Imported Japanese Car Parts & Servicing 4

This post covers servicing and parts supply for imported Japanese cars.  Hopefully it will reassure you that parts and servicing aren’t as challenging as you might think.

Imported Japanese car servicing

If the owner’s manual is only available in Japanese (and you can’t read Japanese), how will you or your mechanic work out how often to service your imported car and know what needs to be done?  I’ve got a few suggestions:

  • Toyota Starlet GT Turbo timing belt change interval stickerToyota Starlet GT Turbo oil change interval stickerIs there an active owners’ forum for the car in question?  If so, you’ll probably be able to get some pointers by searching around on the forum.
  • Is there a similar car sold in an English-speaking country?  By similar I mean a car sharing the same engine and/or drivetrain.  If there is, you could look up the service schedule for this car and use it to guide the servicing for your car.  My  Toyota Noah was a good example of this: it shares its engine with the Toyota Avensis, which is available in the UK.  Therefore it would be reasonable to use the Avensis service schedule as a guide to servicing a Noah.
  • Can you buy a translated owner’s manual?  These exist for some of the more popular models.
  • There may be clues dotted around the car.  My Starlet GT Turbo had several examples of this.  There was a sticker on the camshaft cover over the cambelt saying 100,000 km.  Its not a huge leap to work out that the cambelt needs changing at 100,000 km.  The same goes for the sticker showing engine oil viscosity and industry quality standards along with 5000 km.

Failing all of the above, find a skilled and experienced mechanic and ask them to suggest a suitable servicing schedule.  In most cases it is more important that you are servicing the car than the exact service intervals, although obviously too often would be preferable to not often enough.

Imported Japanese car parts

Now I’ll move on to parts for Japanese import cars.  In my experience, getting parts for your imported Japanese car is fairly straightforward.

The first step is to identify the number of the part you need.  There may sometimes be a bit more work involved in this step than there would be for a UK market car.  Once this is done, actually getting the part is usually simple.  Why is this?  It makes sense for car manufacturers to have as many parts in common across multiple cars.  This means that that the majority of parts you’re likely to need for your imported Japanese car won’t be unique to that car.  There is probably a UK domestic market car that shares the same part.

If you use a mechanic to do your servicing and repairs for you, most of this section should only be of passing interest as the mechanic will be sourcing the parts for you.  However I hope it reassures you that the parts will be available for your mechanic to source through many of their usual channels.

Finding the part number

oil filter from an imported japanese car

  • Look at the old part!  I’ll start with the simplest option:  does the old part still have a readable number on?  If it’s an oil filter you may be in luck, but if it’s a brake disc, the number probably rusted away some time ago.
  • Ask other owners in an online owners forum.  If it is a thriving forum with lots of members, part numbers may have been posted up to help other members.
  • Your mechanic may already know the part number or interchangeability with a UK market car if they work on a lot of imported cars.
  • Use a site like JP-carparts to look up the part number from your chassis number.  This is a really good resource.
  • Go to your local main dealer armed with the chassis number (frame number) for your car.  They should be able to find the part number and get all the parts you need.  I have confirmed that this is the case with Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Subaru.  Sounds expensive?  Don’t worry too much, once you’ve bought the part from the main dealer once, you have the part number.  If this is something you’re going to need again and again, you can use the part number to buy an aftermarket equivalent next time.

Buying the part

  • Local car parts suppliers.  These will be used to finding the part you need by looking it up using data held by the DVLA associated with the registration number of the car.  They won’t be able to do this with a car imported from Japan because minimal data are recorded against the registration number of an imported car by the DVLA.  However most places will respond well to being given a part number.  They will also have extensive part number cross reference tables to help find what you need.
  • Online car parts suppliers.  Searching for the part number using your favourite internet search engine will usually lead you to somewhere selling it.
  • Import the part!  If you’re really struggling to find the part you need for your car in the UK, why not import the part from Japan, just like the car itself?  You could always ask the agent/company who imported your car whether they are able to source parts for you.

I may also be able to help here, as I have a contact in Japan who is a car dismantler.  Ask me if you’re struggling to find a part or part number and I’ll do my best to help.



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4 thoughts on “Imported Japanese Car Parts & Servicing

  • john b

    You have a really well put together website, Andrew.
    I typed “Elgrand breaking” in to ebay, and there are a surprising number (17) that look healthy and not crashed, yet are being dismantled.
    I can only conclude that there are some show stopper parts that mean the vehicle is a write-off when they go wrong. What do you reckon?
    Toyota and Honda seem to fare better in this respect, suggesting it is definitely not down to accidents.

    • Andrew

      Hi John

      Thanks very much for your compliments about the website!

      The Elgrand certainly seems to have more reliability issues than most Toyotas or Hondas I’ve encountered. That is not to say cars from Toyota and Honda are completely without fault, but most things seem to be able to be fixed at reasonable cost.

      I guess the most written about Elgrand problem is the catalytic converters. It has 2 pairs of catalytic converters: the first set can break up and block the second set. This blockage can cause severe damage to the engine. In many cases I doubt it would be economical to repair or replace the engine once this has happened.

      I’ve done the same ebay search as you and as you say there are quite a few cars being broken. I’m sure they all have an interesting story to tell! Some might have experienced engine failure that isn’t economical to repair, others might have been bought at auction in Japan without prior inspection and turned out to be duffers on arrival, with so many problems that breaking is more cost effective than fixing for sale. Others still might have been imported deliberately to be sold for parts.

      In summary, based on what I’ve seen and read, the Elgrand does have more problems than its Toyota (Alphard) counterpart. A few of these problems can get very expensive. It is a bit more tricky to say for certain with the Hondas, because there are less of them about. The Stepwagon seems pretty reliable, as does the 2.4 Elysion.

      Best wishes

  • A Wynne

    Hi i have a toyota litace 2200cc 1996 , looking for rear door hindges cna you help thank you Mrr A Wynne

    • Andrew

      Hi, sorry I can’t help you with those. If I was looking for some, I’d be searching eBay on a regular basis for a Toyota Liteace being broken for spares.

      If you’re getting desperate, you could try a Toyota dealer – this assumes the hinges are still made of course.

      Another thing to do would be to find the part number as described in this post, then research whether the hinges are common to other Toyotas (it is quite likely that they are). This then gives you a wider range of cars to target when searching for cars being broken for spares.

      Hope this helps