How to Convert a Vehicle from Right to Left-Hand Drive 

At present, around one-fourth of the countries in the world use the right-hand driving system which was popularized by Great Britain. Even though the US claims that left-hand drive vehicles are safer, no evidence supports this claim.

Surprisingly, in Japan, right-hand drive vehicles are customary, but left-hand drive vehicles are also legally allowed. However, not all countries impose the same rules and regulations. If you are planning to import a used car from Japan, it is always best that you check on the road rules on your country so you’d know if you need to have your pre-purchased vehicle converted prior to shipping.

What You Need to Know about Converting Vehicles

Exuding unparalleled quality and performance, Japanese cars are exported around the globe on a monthly basis. Nonetheless, although converting a vehicle from right to left-hand drive may not be mandatory in some countries, others require pre-shipping conversion because of strict road rules and regulations.

Since the Japanese are known for integrating sophisticated technology into their work, it is wiser and more convenient to have the vehicle converted before shipment.

To give you an idea, below are some of the important steering conversion procedures performed on Japanese used cars:

  • Steering wheel positioning
  • Dashboard positioning and repainting
  • Air conditioning evaporator duct positioning
  • Rack and pinion exchange
  • Side mirror positioning and angle adjustment
  • Shift knob replacement

What is Steering Conversion? 

As the name implies, steering conversion completely changes the driving system of a brand new or a pre-used vehicle. Since most cars manufactured in Japan are designed with a right-hand driving system, you need to have it converted if you live in a country that does not allow right-hand drive vehicles on the road.

What to Expect from a Steering Conversion 

Converting a vehicle from right to left-hand drive is a complex process that involves not only technical, but electrical work as well. To optimize driving comfort and convenience, other car features like power-assisted steering, center locking and electric windows need to be reinstalled, and this requires the assistance of a professional electrician.

Aside from this, below are some of the critical steps in a steering conversion procedure:

  • Since the dashboard is designed for a right-hand driving system, it has to be removed and replaced with a left-hand drive dashboard.
  • The car’s existing steering rack must also be replaced with a left-hand drive steering rack.
  • The car’s brake master cylinder has to be repositioned and realigned by a professional. Otherwise, your safety can be in jeopardy.
  • The pedal assembly of the vehicle must also be repositioned.
  • The wiper’s motor and mechanism can either be replaced or inverted.
  • The car’s wiring harness, which is positioned behind the dashboard, does not have to be replaced. However, it has to be inverted.
  • The car’s air bag will also be affected by the conversion.
  • To facilitate access for the accessories and the firewall, the car engine and transmission must be detached.
  • If the car model and make has pre-installed controls on the door, the doors have to be removed and replaced. However, if the controls are in the middle section of the vehicle, the doors do not need to be replaced.
  • The accessories situated at the firewall (e.g., heater core, cables, wires, blower motor and air conditioning ducts) must be removed and repositioned.
  • If you are buying a used car with automatic transmission, the floor console and the gear selectors may have to be removed and replaced to facilitate comfort and safety.
  • Once all the procedures are performed, the car will be inspected for safety. If it passes the inspection, the door trims must be completely fixed.

The Risks Associated with Converting a Vehicle from Right to Left-Hand Drive

Steering conversion is a process that requires expertise, especially since important internal features like the braking system, the steering system and the car engine and transmission must be modified. Add to that, other safety car components like the air bag and the gear selector can also be affected in the process.

Nonetheless, when performed by a professional, your car can be just as good as new. So if you are planning to import a used car from Japan, look for a professional service provider that is registered in Japan. By doing so, you can avoid shipping and car-related problems along the way.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to have the car converted in your home country, it is best that you first research on whether your country legally allows the shipment of right-hand drive vehicles. If so, inquire about the availability of the parts needed for the conversion and find a reputable car servicing center that can proficiently change the steering orientation of your imported vehicle.

Always remember, it is better to spend money on service providers who can provide you compelling services than to cut down on your budget and put your vehicle at risk.



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