I was asked recently whether the buttons and interface on the Nissan Elgrand could be changed from Japanese to English. This seems to be asked frequently, so I thought I’d post my response to the question. The following is based on the most commonly encountered Nissan E51 Elgrand as per this article.
Nissan Elgrand Japanese to English conversion: what’s the problem?
We should start by considering the problem. Most, although not all Elgrands have a screen to the left of the main dials. This is used for navigation, car information, TV and DVD player or AV input where fitted. These items are controlled by a set of buttons immediately in front of the screen, or by remote controls in the case of the in car entertainment.
The buttons all have Japanese labels and the car information/warning messages are all in Japanese. The messages are things like a low fuel warning or service warning. The service warning amuses me because it features the English word “pit” creating in my wandering mind a scene of Grand Prix competition in an Elgrand!
What will work? What won’t? What can be converted?
This only works in Japan and cannot be converted within the existing system. I’d love to tell you it is as simple as uploading a new map file, but it isn’t.
Many double DIN systems include navigation, so this is a route (no pun intended) to built in working satellite navigation in the Elgrand (see later).
Car information system
This gives car-related warnings and information as described above. They are all in Japanese and cannot be converted to English, so are there to stay. I’ve read of people taking a picture of the message on their phone and using Google translate on the picture to work out what the message is saying.
Your car may or may not have a DVD player. If it has one, there are potential region and format issues. In the UK we use PAL format DVDs. DVDs for the Japanese market have a different region code and are in NTSC format. This means you’d need to rip, re-encode and burn your DVDs if you wanted them to work in the stock DVD player.
If DVD playing is all you want, you could plug an external DVD player into the auxiliary AV in plugs at the side of the rear seats. A smaller solution would be a multimedia player which could play films & music from SD cards. A number of these run on 100-240v. In Japan the mains voltage is 100 volts and many Elgrands have 100v power sockets built in, so you’d just need to make sure you got an adapter with the correct plug.
The TV won’t work at all. You’d need a digital TV box to continue enjoying this functionality in the UK, connected in the same way as the DVD/multimedia player described above.
Japan uses different FM frequencies to the UK, so in the UK you’d only be able to listen to Radio 2 with the radio ‘as is.’ If this is the only issue to be resolved, it can be fixed with a band expander connected between the aerial and head unit for relatively little outlay.
The dashboard buttons for the heating and air conditioning mostly use internationally recognisable symbols so these should be fine. The buttons for the DVD, TV and navigation are in Japanese and as far as I know there isn’t a replacement panel with English labels available. I’ve seen some people make their own individual labels for the buttons and stick them over the Japanese labels.
However, as I’ve already mentioned, a lot of the built in features controlled by these buttons won’t work anyway.
Most Elgrands have 2 remote controls for the rear passengers. One for the TV/DVD/auxiliary video input and one for the sunroof, rear aircon, audio and lights. The second of these will probably be more useful, and you can get/make stickers with English translations of the main functions.
The Elgrand has a clock in the upper centre console (above the rear view mirror) which receives an external time signal so it is always correct. Unfortunately this is always correct to Japan time and cannot be changed. The only way to alter this would be to wire in a new clock module in place of the original. This is a fairly involved process and I think most people just accept the clock telling the wrong time.
So is E51 Nissan Elgrand Japanese to English conversion possible?
As always, this is a yes and no answer. Yes for the audio, navigation and DVD. No for the car information system, TV and control buttons.
The best solution to the audio visual problems in my opinion is to fit/have fitted a replacement double DIN in car entertainment system. There are some really nice Android based devices available with navigation, bluetooth handsfree, radio and multimedia built in. I’ll be reviewing one of these in a future post.
You may or may not need a replacement centre console fascia panel, depending on whether yours already has a double-din sized slot. These are readily available if you need one.
Replacing the head unit sorts the radio, navigation and DVD issues. The video output can be routed to the front and rear screens. If your car has a reversing camera it should still work and the steering wheel stereo controls can also be wired up to work properly.
I hope this has reassured you rather than put you off Elgrand ownership!