Japanese Cars and grey imports

In the late 1990's when I first worked on 'grey' imports, the Mitsubishi Pajero was the main vehicle imported into the UK. The technical information needed to work on them was not readily available. 'Applied knowledge' was our only option!


Over the years, I've worked on hundreds of grey imports. The most popular models were Eunos Roadster/Mazda MX5, Mitsubishi Pajero, Delica, Nissan Elgrand, Toyota Townace, Subaru Impreza, Nissan GTO/GTR and Nissan Figaro.


By 2003 I was regularly working on the Mazda Bongo Friendee and the equivalent model, Ford Freda. This 8 seater MPV is proving to be the most popular grey import so far. It's a very versatile vehicle and its elevating roof makes it a natural choice for conversion to a campervan. 

What is a Japanese 'grey' import?

They are vehicles manufactured for the local Japanese market, that are not imported into the UK by main dealers. They are generally imported by small companies or individuals.   


Japanese vehicles are strictly tested in Japan. The 'Shaken' test and repairs are relatively more expensive than the UK MOT. If a vehicle is likely to fail the test, it can make economical sense for it to be sold and a new one purchased. The used vehicles are sold at auction in Japan. The auctions are fast moving. Vehicle details are shown on screens, listed by chassis number and auction grade.

The grade is decided by the auction house. There are a lot of Japanese auction houses and their standard requirements vary. Generally, sellers are expected to declare known faults and the vehicles are inspected prior to the auction.


The vehicles can stand on the dock for weeks, waiting for auction and export. Japanese vehicles aren't undersealed, because they don't use salt on their roads. The unprotected metal has been exposed to dockside salty air, then will be driven on our salt-gritted winter roads, I recommend undersealing on arrival in the UK.


In the UK, a Japanese grey import will need a new speedo face, rear foglight and illuminated foglight switch to be UK legal. Most need an 'IVA' test to ensure they meet our standards.


There's advice on importing a Japanese vehicle on this link


Please get in touch if you'd like your Japanese import serviced, checked and undersealed in Plymouth, Devon.

Japanese Auction Sheet

Japanese auction sheet with grades Japanese auction sheet explained.

Mazda MX5, Eunos Roadster

I worked on the MX5 and other Mazda models for several years at a Mazda main dealer, before I started my own garage in Plymouth. I regularly service and repair both models and have undersealed several  MX5 and Roadster.


Widely recognised as the sportscar to end all sportscars, the Mazda MX5 is the UK version of the Eunos Roadster. The Eunos is imported to the UK from Japan, by independent importers, not main dealers.

The models have an interesting history.

Mk1 models were built from 1989 - 1998 and have distinctive pop-up headlights.

The Mk2 models were built from 1998 - 2000 and had fixed headlights.

In 2000 it was given a facelift, had fog lights in the lower bumper, and transformed into the Mk2.5.

In 2005, the Mk3 was produced, with a 1.8 or a 2.0 litre engine option.

The face lifted MK3.5 appeared in 2009.

And in 2011, Mazda Japan announced that 900,000 MX5’s had rolled off its production line! 

Now into its fourth generation, well over one million have been sold around the world!


Phone, text or email to book your Eunos Roadster or MX5 service or repair.

Mitsubishi Pajero

I had an old, red 2.5 SWB Mitsubishi Pajero that I used regularly. It was a work horse! In the winter it kept going through standing water, ice and snow.

It was an unusual set up for a 2.5! If you were a Pajero enthusiast, you'll recognise the differences. 

It was a 4DV6 on an 'L' plate, first registered in 1994.

It had a twin belt alternator, not a single belt alternator. The power steering belt was not a V-belt, it was ribbed. It had a water cooled turbo and a glowplug light instead of the quick start system. The speedo was electric, not cable driven. There was no sunroof and the aerial was pillar mounted, not on the wing. With a large bore exhaust and roof rails, it was the most responsive 2.5d Pajero I've driven! I think it must have been owned by an enthusiast in Japan, before exporting to the UK. We've now parted company but it's gone to another Pajero enthusiast with the time to maintain this great vehicle. 

Mitsubishi Pajero EGR: Blank it or leave it?

Blanking the EGR is now an MOT fail, so many owners now clean and repair them. Over the years, I've had enquiries about excessive smoking on Mitsubishi Pajeros and consequently how to blank the EGR valve, even where the cause of the smoke is unknown. My thoughts are that if the Pajero EGR is working properly, there's no reason to blank it, unless you want to. If the EGR is faulty, you could fix it or blank it. I have compiled this so you can make up your own mind about blanking a Pajero EGR system.


Here’s my understanding of how the EGR works on the Mitsubishi Pajero.

1. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) detects accelerator position, engine speed & transmission information. It decides when the EGR is needed. When needed, it sends a signal to the EGR. It should not trigger EGR at idling, low load, or full load.
2. The signal activates a solenoid, which opens a vacuum line.
3. Vacuum is separately generated by a pump as a diesel engine does not have vacuum at inlet manifold. The same vacuum is used for brake booster.
4. The spindle in the EGR valve moves when the vacuum is applied. This allows inert exhaust gas to be introduced to the engine.
5. The inert gas (exhaust) has of course been produced by the engine.
6. The engine responds to inert gas. Oxygen concentration is decreased by addition of inert gas, resulting in lower combustion temperature, and thus less nitrous oxide.


There are 3 general operating modes for the EGR system.

Mode 1: EGR works properly: Engine produces less nitrous oxide.

Mode 2: Excess EGR: Poor idling, smoke when idling, flat spots when accelerating, lack of power at full power.

The main causes for this failure are:

ECU generates the wrong signal: Replace ECU.

Control signal not received by solenoid: Check wiring.

Solenoid not moving: Replace.

EGR valve spindle travels too far: Spring weak – Replace.

EGR valve spindle does not move: Stuck by debris in open, closed or intermediate
position (intermittent or persistent): Clean valve or replace.

EGR valve spindle does not move: Diaphragm torn: Replace.

Idle speed too high - fix.

Exhaust back pressure: Possible obstruction: Replace exhaust.


Mode 3: No EGR effect: Combustion temperature rises, adding thermal stress to engine, consider the possibility of adverse long term reliability. (I understand that in 10+ years, nobody has proved ill effect. (Please advise if you know different.)
Increased Nitrous oxide production, therefore increased pollution.
Possible causes of this are:
Same as points 1-5 above.

Vacuum line blocked or deliberately plugged: Check vacuum pressure.

Blockage (blanking plate!) in pipe.

Is the Pajero EGR valve working? Try these 2 simple tests.
1. If you can access your EGR valve stem, push it against spring pressure. It should move freely and return fully. If it doesn’t, remove the valve for cleaning or replacement.
2. With the engine at normal operating temperature, open the throttle to 2,500rpm while watching the EGR valve stem. It should move, then return. If it doesn't, remove the hose and feel for vacuum as you rev it again. If you feel vacuum, the valve's at fault.

If there’s no vacuum, see mode 3 above.


Should you blank the Pajero EGR?
Excess EGR (mode 2) reduces the performance of the vehicle. In this case, it is possible to disable the EGR system entirely, so that it operates in mode 3. This may have some possible negative consequences, including possible hotter combustion temperature, which might reduce engine life. But I'm not aware of this theory being proved. (If you know different, let me know.)

If you plug the vacuum line with a ball bearing and the EGR valve is stuck in an open position, it will have no effect. In my opinion, blanking the Pajero EGR with a blanking plate is better than using a ball bearing. EGR blanking plates for the Pajero will need to withstand very high temperatures, so quality stainless steel would do the trick. (Don't use layers of thin steel or a coin as these have been known to disintegrate and cause damage.) There is also the option of cleaning the EGR system.


Mitsubishi Delica and Spacegear

You can fit a lot of people and equipment into a Delica! They're a great all round vehicle with good off road capability.

The Mitsubishi Delica has an interesting history since its first production as a commercial vehicle in 1963. The Delica was so popular, a year later two more versions were produced, including the Star Wagon that could comfortably seat 9 passengers!

In 1979, 10 model variations were added. And in 1982 the first 4 wheel drive model was introduced, establishing the Mitsubishi Delica’s reputation for reliability and performance.

A more aerodynamic model appeared in 1986; more stylish, with an additional number of safety features, coupled with reliable 4wd capability. It was a popular recreational vehicle.

The Mitsubishi Space Gear followed in 1994. Known here as the L200, the Mitsubishi Space Gear’s safety features, reliability and 4wd performance extended its appeal for almost another 20 years.


How to check Nissan Largo oil level.
The Largo oil dipstick is under the passenger seat.Undo the 2 clips that hold down the seat. Tip the seat back.There's a wing nut under the front section of carpet. Undo this and slide the panel out. The yellow dipstick is towards the front. The black oil filler cap is higher up, at the back of the opening. Remove this to top up the oil.


How overdrive works on a Toyota Estima.

Overdrive Light on = Overdrive off.

Overdrive light off = Overdrive on.

When overdrive is on, the engine will produce less revs and may save fuel.


How to check oil level on a Toyota Estima.

The oil dipstick is under the passenger seat: Tip the seat back, open the inspection hatch. The dip stick has a red & white top. Oil level can be checked at operating temperature with gear selector in ‘park’ position.

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