RightHandDrive.ca/blog Canadian Right Hand Drive News and Thoughts


My Japanese-speaking turbo timer

When importing a car from a different continent, you might get some unusual goodies along with it. My friends have found Japanese Yen, subway tickets, cigarette packs, and random notes. You also might get goodies like turbo timers, blow-off valves and other engine tweaks.

My favourite goodie is my turbo timer. It speaks Japanese when I turn the car on or off (if the timer is on). For a long time I didn't know what it was saying. I took a Japanese course at university (I needed some arts credits, and, why not?) and all I knew was that she was saying 'something something is ok'.

It got funnier as time went on, as I knew the rhythm and tune she said her sentences, but not what she was saying.

And here it is!

My friend was kind enough to translate for me, you can see it in the youtube comments.

Standby: OK Desu (Standby is ok)
Countdown: Starto shimasu. (Starting countdown)

Pretty fun to have these quirky things with your pretty unique import.

Thanks "foomeister2347"!

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More Skylines Seized in California

I talked about this not so long ago. There are a few RHD cars that are legal to import into the USA,and Skylines are on that list. But, Skylines need modifications to meet the standards in the USA, and my understanding is that there is no shops that can do that work.

So, that means that most RHDs in the states have been imported illegally, and this can happen: 2 more Skylines have been seized, and will likely be crushed. I found the link on Jalopnik here. The original article, that is more fleshed-out can be found here on Nicoclub.com.

To the people who have lost their cars: I'm sorry. That sucks. Best of luck in the fight to get them back.


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JDM Radio – Surprises after importing

Stock radio from a Nissan Figaro - Click for larger image

There's a number of strange little things about JDM right hand drives that some people might not expect when they're importing.

One of these things is that a lot of people that import their own JDM don't think about is that Japan runs on a different radio band. Turns out that's the case!

In most of the world the FM broadcast band, used for broadcasting FM radio stations, goes from 87.5 to 108.0 MHz. Japan's FM broadcast band is 76–90 MHz, the only country to use this span. (From Wikipedia)

So, as the first owner of a fresh JDM in Canada, you might be wondering why you can only get the first few FM channels.... this is why.  The AM radio band is the same, and will work, and if your area is anything like mine you'll be listening to a lot of informational programming. I always say that owning a right hand drive has taught me a lot, and this is one of the reasons why!

JDM radio tuned to a North American impossibility.

It's actually also funny to see what kinds toys come with these radios.  I've seen MiniDisc players, tape and some crazy Non-english undefinable peripherals.

So, when importing your own JDM right hand drive, or checking out one that's already landed... check out the radio - if you're really into FM radio it might cost you a bunch to swap out the radio. Speaking from experience... there might not be a simple way to hook up your new North American spec radio either.

You'll notice that I used the term 'JDM Radio' and 'JDM right hand drive'. This is because this particular problem is specific to vehicles from Japan... if you import a right hand drive from the UK or other right hand drive country you won't have this problem.

Big thanks to ST and friend for the images.



Importing a Right Hand Drive into the USA

I realize this is a .ca domain... but I have a substantial amount of traffic from the USA, and don't want to leave them out in the cold. So, today's topic, how to import a Right Hand Drive into the States.

WAIVER: I don't know a lot about this, but I'm sharing what I know.

The USA has an interesting way of banning these vehicles: They are not allowed to be imported. Once imported you can register them. This isn't saying that it'll be _easy_ to register them... some insurers might be completely unprepared to register a Daihatsu Midget. Operator: "Uhhh, that's not in our system".  Be prepared to find someone who knows how to handle edge cases like that.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in charge of controlling what hits the roads in the States.  Their site is http://www.nhtsa.gov/ and the site we care about is the Importation Requirements page. On the requirements page there are a bunch of interesting documents, and an outline of thing like what you can import easily, who modifies vehicles for use on the road, and so on.

If you're considering importing a RHD, the first thing you should look at is the List of Nonconforming Vehicles Eligible for Importation. On this document you can see which cars are available to import.

The 25 Year Rule

Much like Canada's 15 year rule, the USA has a 25 year rule. From the List of Nonconforming Vehicles Eligible for Importation document

(a) All passenger cars less than 25 years old that were manufactured before September 1, 1989;

I believe this is a sliding window, but if it's not, then the RHD needs new seatbelts that are DOT standard, instead of JIS.

All the vehicles on the list that are RHD are marked as so.  If you do a quick 'find' on the document you can quickly see which RHDs are available for import. Sadly, there's so few I can list them here in short order.

  • Bently Azure - 1998
  • Honda Accord - 1994 to 1997
  • Jeep Cherokee - 1994 to 2001 (Postal Jeeps!)
  • Nissan Skyline - 1996 to 1998 (that's the R33) GTS and GTR

Annnnnd... that's it.

Other things to note on the Rules Site is the Vehicle Importation Guidelines (Non-Canadian). Even if your RHD comes THROUGH Canada, it's not Canadian, and falls under this umbrella. There is a list of "Registered importers who conform vehicles manufactured for sale in Other countries than Canada".  Sounds like a major cash-grab situation.  I haven't heard a review of what they might have to do to get, say, an RX-7 street legal. In my opinion moving the steering wheel is out of the question.

Some extra interesting reading here: NHTSA: Importing a Right Hand Drive Vehicle, though I'm not totally sure what to make of it.

Other ways to import

There are other ways to import too.  You can import a vehicle for racing without much hassle (as per the epa).

Apparently.... if you're military returning from service there's a loophole to get basically ANY vehicle into the States. BUT, I can't find any evidence of this on the web.

Also, if you're not using it on the road it's fine.  Racing falls under this category (kind of... though there's a little more paperwork involved). So, farm vehicles or off-road would be relatively simple.


If you can get the car into the States you can insure it.  Importing it incorrectly or illegally could result in the vehicle being seized. This is rare, but if you're importing something nice it'd sure be nice to keep it.


How do people buy RHDs? Part 2

Here's part 2 detailing how people get their right hand drive cars in Canada. Last week was buying one locally, this week is a little more exciting.... importing!

Importing from Japan

This is a book on it's own. I'm going to try to scratch the surface. There's two major ways of importing your own RHD.  Doing it yourself, or going though an importer.

Using an importer - Going through an importer is generally a good idea.  There are people who specialize in just importing cars, others import whatever people want and things they think there will be a market for.  Some importers import as a side business, or fun, and some importers import for a living.  It's usually cheaper to go though an importer since you can save a bundle on shipping.

Basically, importers are packing a shipping container.  They'll charge you either for the square footage it takes up in the container, or some import the car under their name and do a markup on the car when they 'sell it to you' (even though it's coming for you and only you).  Importers generally know where to buy things, and people to pack the containers to send it out to wherever you are.

There's good and bad stories about using importers.  I'm considering bringing in a new truck, and thinking about going this road.

Doin' it yourself - this can go millions of ways.  Let's frame the problem.  You want a car that's in Japan to get here.  99.999% of people use intermodal shipping containers to do this. So you need a contact in Japan to:

  1. Buy a car (your car)
  2. Get a container
  3. put car in container
  4. ship it

You need to trust this person. A lot. There's a lot of money you're putting into this.

How do we make it affordable?  Put other stuff in the container.  The guy I bought my truck from wanted a Hijet... so he brought in a whole container full, selling the other 9, and basically getting his truck for free.  If you're enterprising, have a bunch of money kicking around and  are a good salesperson this is a great way of getting something cool for cheap.

Don't know anyone in Japan?  Check out Alibaba.com.  It's a connecting site to put buyers in direct contact with manufacturers and salespeople abroad. It's kind of ebay-like in the ratings, which gives a lot of people piece of mind. Buyer beware, of course. Keep repeating to yourself "15 years".  Also don't forget about all the other costs involved. Not everything on Alibaba is a deal. But... you sure can find some (minitrucks for $1000!).

Once it gets here, you need to do the proper import process, detailed on riv.ca - Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicles.

It's a lot of work, but you can make it worth it if you're smart.

How do most people get their RHDs?

I'd say most people go through an importer directly or indirectly. Let them do the heavy lifting, and you get all the fun.



Why are are all Right hand drives in Canada 15 years old or more?

"Is it legal to import Right hand drives into Canada?" "Is it legal to import Japanese cars into Canada?" "Why are all right hand drives in Canada old?"

This is a common question, and has a pretty simple answer. This is, of course, Canada specific.  Provinces vary in the way they handle RHD vehicles (*cough cough* Quebec) but at a national level there is a single answer.

When vehicles get imported into Canada, you must go through the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV), whose website is http://www.riv.ca/. The have certain criteria that must be met for a vehicle to be officially imported into Canada. This information can be viewed at their Vehicle Admissibility page.  There you can see a list of vehicles that can be imported into Canada. If your car is on that list, you should have minimal problems.  If it's not... you're trying to import a 'grey market vehicle'.  (Hot tip: all RHDs are grey market vehicles).

Moving down that page, you'll see

Grey market vehicles (excluding buses) less than 15 years old from the date of manufacture and buses (including school buses) manufactured on or after January 1, 1971 are inadmissible for entry into Canada.

Alright.  15 years.  That's our first indicator that we can import our RHD.... where did they pull this magical 15 years from?

Let's go to where our loophole resides.  The Exemptions page.

Vehicles are exempt from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) registration if they are imported under one of the following conditions:

  1. Vehicles older than 15 years
  2. The vehicles (excluding buses) are 15 years old or more based on the date of manufacture, or are buses (including school buses) manufactured before January 1, 1971. The importer must be able to prove the age of the vehicle.

Yay!  This paragraph is why we are allowed to import our RHD cars after they are 15 years old.  They don't have to meet any standards, and are rubber-stamped into the country.

There is a drawback to this.  This also means that your car may or may not meet safety standards for Canada (Kei trucks would never ever ever pass Canadian safety standards....).  They're not designed for this environment, so you have to really watch what you're buying.  I believe that all provinces require a 'safety' before the vehicle can be registered, so that's something, but buyer beware.

So, yes. It is legal to import Japanese cars into Canada.... you just have to be patient.


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