By on November 6, 2015

Kreutzer headlight install

Since the last installment in this series, my attempt to get the family Town & Country officially licensed here in Japan has slogged relentlessly forward.

After a week of such little progress that I saw no need to report upon it (action was limited to the receipt of my official approval from the recycle bureau), I can begin this by saying that over the past week important things are once again happening. Notice that I didn’t write: “Important progress has been made…”

When last we saw our intrepid hero, he had visited the mechanic who would be inspecting the vehicle to inquire about the legality of left-hand-drive headlights in a right-hand-drive world. After seeing the T&C on the test rig, it was readily apparent that the answer was no, they were not and thus he was left to source new headlight assemblies with right-hand-drive optics.

kreutzer light boxes

Those headlamps arrived yesterday afternoon and, just as soon as I got home from work, I spent an hour or two getting them mounted and adjusted. As expected, the lights fit perfectly but I noted a few important differences. To begin with, there is an extra adjustment screw on these “export” lights that allows for side to side adjustment. Additionally, the orange row of running lights at the outer edge of the assemblies is gone, replaced with a reflector. The plug that had powered the now missing strip of lights is still used, however, and is now powering a small “city-light” located above the low beam where it shines down into the reflector and illuminates the inside of the assembly. Overall, the effect is quite nice.

Kreutzer city lights

With the new headlights installed, I took the van in for its inspection first thing this morning. While I was expecting good news, I left disappointed.

On the plus side, the new headlights were able to be adjusted to within the legal specifications and, with a couple of exceptions, the T&C passed the rest of the inspection with flying colors. On the negative side, however, there are two unexpected problems that need to be rectified before I can be declared totally street legal and, oddly enough, they both involve lights as well.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the underlying logic, but the first problem appears to be with the running lights. As I understand it, under Japanese law, orange lights are always directional signals, including the ones on the front of a vehicle. This means the dual filament running-light/directional signals that have been used on American cars since time immemorial don’t meet the code. Apparently, I must find a way to deactivate the running light while leaving the blinkers untouched to get legal.

While I am capable of wiring in a new socket, it isn’t something I really want to do. After giving it some thought, however, I think the answer is going to involve putting a small piece of electrical tape over one of the contacts on the bottom of the light. I haven’t been able to get under the hood yet to see if my idea actually works, so I’ll update on that situation later. Hopefully I don’t get an idiot light telling me I have a burned out bulb.

The other issue is the side markers. JDM vehicles, like the one in the photo below, have a side marker on the front fender behind the wheel well, but the T&C does not. Adding one is going to be a little more complicated than I would like and, since the garage tells me they can take care of this for a couple of hundred dollars, I think I’m going to defer to them in the hopes of getting everything resolved as quickly as possible. The countdown clock is still ticking after all, and truth be told, I’m starting to get a little frustrated. It’s probably better if I take a step back at this point.


In other news, I’ve checked into mounting the Japanese license plates and realized that my current solution for mounting the new plates, which are slightly bigger than standard US plates and have different mounting holes, isn’t going to work for anything other than the temp plates currently on the van. As a result, I’ve reached out to my old friends at Mooneyes, who are experienced with sort of thing, to provide me with the appropriate adaptors. These cost a little more than I would normally like to pay — 4000 yen, or $32.80 USD, for the pair — but I know they are a quality product that should work without too much fuss. Besides, at this point, I’m already in deep enough that another few bucks isn’t going to break the bank.

Once everything is in place, the garage tells me they should have the side markers by the middle of next week, I should clear the final real hurdle and be at the LTO in time for our next installment.

Wish me luck, I’m probably going to need it.

Thomas M. Kreutzer currently lives in Kanagawa, Japan with his wife and three children. He has spent most of his adult life overseas with more than nine years in Japan, two years in Jamaica and almost five years as a U.S. Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. Although originally from Snohomish, WA, he has also lived in several places around the United States including Buffalo, NY and Leavenworth, KS. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, Kreutzer has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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38 Comments on “Swimming Upstream: The Final Hurdle...”

  • avatar

    Fascinating. For what it’s worth, the Lancia Voyager version of the current Town and Country had fender-mounted signal repeaters for certain markets, so the parts exist. They are clear-lensed, if that matters, and look a little tacked-on, but I assume would be Japan-legal.

  • avatar

    You should be able to get around the orange parking light issue by installing a single-filament bulb with the same base as your current dual-filament bulb in each socket.

    With the export housings and the side markers, your van is going to have a JDM tyte yo! look. A bit strange on a Chrysler.

  • avatar

    I remember when changing the headlights involved 4 screws and a trim ring.

    Now you have to take the whole front fascia off.


  • avatar

    The Japanese make really cool vans for their home market, but you probably already know that.

  • avatar

    2x White/Amber 60-SMD LED Switchback Signal Lights Bulbs 3157 3155 3156 3757 should work nicely

    it stays white until you use the turn signal, then flashes amber.

    it will likely need a resistor wired in to bring the flash rate back down

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t even know they made such things. Now that I do, I will seek one out. Thanks for the suggestion, I appreciate it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        Failing that, a conventional 3156 bulb should snap into the same socket, but omits the running light element.

      • 0 avatar

        Autobacs should have single filament only.I am glad I can follow u so I can fix all of my stuff.I have to get my side marker rewired as well -_- but for the turn signals its a 230 yen fix.I gotta get 7440 or w21w bulbs from autobacs.I hate that my new car gonna have some wiring done to it.Wish the us version was the same as the eu and jspec version of my car.Also I couldnt watch jata test my car but they sent me home because they were like its gonna pass lol.Sound test on the 11th for me and I got a plate adapter from the guy I suggested.If u want to see how it looks go to blogspot kenlab keepin ot sideways.He didnt have to add rivets.He just screwed in the adapter and the adapter has the holes for the J plates.For the front autobacs has plate brackets I am using a perrin that uses my tow hook hole.Gl man I cant wait to see the car registered I am tired of kari number plates myself.Oh and if u had turn signals on your mirrors you would have been golden.

  • avatar

    This is normally the part where I chime in to tell you to just buy a Delica already. But today is not that day.

    Mine is currently sidelined with what I hope is a blown head gasket (and not a cracked head) while I prepare to go through the next month or so (a.k.a the start of winter) in a 26 year old convertible.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sorry to hear about that. If Mitsubishi sold a 4 wheel drive version of the Delica in the US, that’s probably what I wold be driving right now. With the different sort of assignments I get, we could end up almost anywhere. I’d like the extra capability the 4 wheel drive gets and, honestly, the styling of the D5 has grown on me since its introduction.

  • avatar

    Sounds almost as bad as France in the ’60s. My father and a friend of his both had to renew temporary (one year) plates. It took several days as I remember it. When they compared notes, the procedures had been somewhat different. AND, as we found out when my father was trying to get the Peugeot on the boat to be shipped home after our year was up, the bureaucrats should have had a new number painted on the temp plates, but they didn’t, which made for a hairy few hours.

    Ironically, this discrepancy had not been discovered at probably 6-7 border crossings, including when we entered two iron curtain countries (Hungary and Czechoslovakia). More surprisingly, even the Germans didn’t discover it!

  • avatar

    These are easy fixes.

    Regarding the amber running lights, the easy answer is to remove the existing dual-filament bulb aND replace it with the single-filament version of the same bulb. Make sure it’s the 21-watt version so the brightness of the turn signal will remain the same.

    With the city lights in your new headlight housing, you no longer need the amber running lights anyway.

    With regard to the side marker, are you sure it’s meant to be a side marker light or is it supposed to be a turn signal repeater? Either way I’d probably let the shop handle that. I don’t trust myself to cut holes in the body. But the installation should be quite straightforward.

    • 0 avatar

      The lights on the fender are turn signals, you are correct. At this point, I’m not sure how they are going to mount, I just hope the mechanic does a decent job of it. I wonder though, if the van had been optioned with the mirror mounted blinkers, would it have passed?

      • 0 avatar

        Thomas, the Lancia Voyager is equipped with the mirror-mounted repeaters that are standard on the T&C Limited. So those would work, but at the cost of replacing your mirrors.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s a good question. You should ask them! If so, you could probably retrofit them. Though that’s likely to cost more than just having the lights installed in the fenders.

  • avatar

    All this work reminds me of Jack’s recent story about his friend and a dead transmission:

    “The most important lesson I took away from Deep Survival is this: Don’t ever let the momentum of one decision carry on into the next.”

  • avatar

    I respect your time and energy but this is beginning to sound quixotic if not for the writing of articles (and I hope some reward monetary or otherwise). Several have already mentioned answers to resolve this and I’m going to bow to them, my wiring knowledge is limited (electrical engineers do that…I just give them mounting holes).

    Still, quite interesting read and it makes me glad I’m not trying to get a vehicle into another country. I do remember from reading up on auto rules before though that lights are normally how countries put up limiting barriers. It’s why so many countries have obnoxious light rules and for the longest time quad lights weren’t fully legal in the states.

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    Thomas – I know this is not the right venue to ask, but why aren’t you at the Tokyo Motor Show? It’s biennial, so it’ll be a while before you can go if you miss this one. I lived in Tsukuba in ’99 and attended the show – by far one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done that didn’t involve birth control.
    Re your T&C, I’ve read every installment of your bureaucratic odyssey and it has brought back some memories. When I lived there the Chevy Astro Van was a popular choice among Japanese tuners, something I still find unsettling. Looking fwd to a happy T&C ending here.

    • 0 avatar

      I still see one or two of those everyday. I’m sure the people who own them think they give off some sort of classic car-vibe but I just shudder. Personally, I think if a person has to own an early ’90s GM van, they should go for the Pontiac Transsport.

      • 0 avatar

        The Astro/Safari were a lot more rugged than the TranSport. The dust buster vans (Lumina APV, TranSport, etc) were literally made of a plastic outer shell. There were some of the most unreliable vehicles of their day. They also did extremley poor in crash tests. The Astro/Safari wasnt a lot better though.

        I have seen many Astro/Safari’s with over 200k and a few with over 250k. Several were hard working vans, cargo versions loaded down with cargo, tools etc. The dust buster vans could only dream of taking such abuse. They were absolute crap.

  • avatar

    Still worth it, Mr. Tom? You’d have been better off buying a UK model T&C and shipping it over instead! They’ve always had fender blinkers, methinks.

    • 0 avatar

      A `13 “Chrysler” RH drive Town and County for whatever reason used the older interior but with the new exterior. It appears to have the signal in the mirror.

      When it became a Lancia it became LH drive only. Oddly enough there’s photos showing the signal in the mirror and the fender on the Lancia models.

      A UK Voyager would at least have a diesel in it :o)

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    This is the kind of international homologation lunacy that just makes me shake my head. You would think that by the second decade of the 21st century automakers would have put their heads together and figured out a way to convince all countries to agree to universal specs. But, no…

    • 0 avatar

      For a long time they didn’t WANT harmony, and actively lobbied against it. Protected the home markets. Now that everybody wants to sell the same thing everywhere, you can bet it will change. The amount of money spent changing the same basic design to meet just slightly different standards has to be enormous.

    • 0 avatar

      It isn’t possible to have universal headlights because of right-hand vs. left-hand-drive. Headlights are angled based upon the side of the road on which the car is most likely to be driven.

      As for parking lights, there are different views on what they are supposed to do. In the US, we use them as running lights. In Europe, they are used to light up the driver’s side of the car while parked, presumably so that cars parked on narrow roads at night are easier to spot. Not everyone has the same needs.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes and no.

        Yes, the manufacturers do the roaring business in selling the retrofit kits with correct aiming for the rules of road. Not to mention the cottage industry selling the adhesive stickers, covering the portion of headlamp lens.

        For some years, the headlamps with dual aiming pattern and filament shield existed. One can easily shift the shield from left to right and vice versa. I have seen those features in older vehicles. Many modern projector lens headlamps do have this feature, yet it is mechanically disabled or set up as to prevent the repointing.

        However, European Union does not want some feeble motorists forgetting to repoint their headlamps when entering different rules of road, i.e. going from the UK to continent and causing wreak havoc.

        Several modern LED and laser headlamps have the ability to manipulate the output effectively. I certainly hope that EU would allow the workaround involving automatic repointing based on GPS location.

  • avatar

    Hang tough Thom ;

    You’re nearly there .

    I go through similar efforts on my worthless old vintage rides here in the U.S. of A. , always worth the effort in the end .


  • avatar

    Thomas, not to add to your pain, but are you keeping a tally of how many hours you have spent on this odyssey so far? That would be a useful data point for anybody thinking about going through this gauntlet in the future.

  • avatar

    Earthquake & radioactivity and they’re worried about the lights of this.. Shame they won’t waiver an exclusion, provided vehicle leaves country with you not remaining sold…

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