My previous post got a few questions regarding the cost breakdown of the importing process. Some of you wanted to know if importing a Toyota Celsior is more cost effective than buying a low mileage Lexus LS400 stateside, so I'll try and keep a running total of what this endeavor has cost.
Just running some quick numbers in my head, I can already tell the final result is going to depress me, but we car guys don't do it for the money, we do it because we love cars...right? G-guys?
First and foremost is the cost of getting the vehicle to the United States: Galveston, TX to be specific. I won the car at auction for roughly $2,300, and shipping/auction fees/taxes totaled to an additional $3,100, bringing the total to roughly $5,400. After it arrived in Texas, I paid a broker $900 and that took care of US import taxes, as well as shipping the car from Galveston to El Paso. If you are interested in importing yourself, this is where money can easily be saved. Add in another roughly $500 for Texas registration/taxes/inspection, and $170 for tune up parts, my cost at that point was about $6,970. That number would soon change.
Where we last left off, I was recovering from a tune-up gone awry (admittedly, by my own hand). I was now happily LARPing as a 1990s Japanese salaryman (サラリーマン), driving to and from work in my imported, right hand drive executive sedan. Winter had now set in, and the heater worked just as well as the air conditioning, thankfully, although my Celsior does, unfortunately, lack seat heaters.
The arrival of cold weather brought with it an issue that I still have not resolved: on very cold mornings, my ABS and traction control lights illuminate. I haven’t really delved into this one, because the issue is fairly intermittent, and when it does occur, turning the car off and on again fixes it. I would say it’s a quirk, but Doug ruined that word for all of us. Will I have to address it in the future? I don’t know. Probably not. I hope not. Please no, please.
Winter in El Paso can get pretty cold, but it's usually mild. In the tail end of winter it’s basically nice, sunny days, and it was during this time last year that I decided to turn on the A/C during my drive home.
When I pulled into my driveway, I got out of the car to open my garage using the keypad, as I lost my remote opener the moment I bought my house. As I stepped out, I noticed a noise. It was a fast, metallic rattle, and let me tell you, it didn’t sound nice. With the wind taken from my sails, I popped the long hood that kept my 1UZ-FE sheltered from the elements. I poked around for a minute, and after discovering the sound changed with engine speed, I was a little less sad after narrowing it down to my A/C compressor. I returned the driver’s seat, and sure enough, the A/C button on my dash now acted as an on/off switch for a godawful racket. Losing the garage door opener was now a strategic effort on my part, as I would never have heard the compressor rattle inside my plush cocoon of velour, metal, and glass. The Celsior insulated me from its shame.
Now, when I did the tune-up, I had made a note of the location of the A/C compressor, and how it seemed like a bitch. That mental note was now brought front and center, as I ordered a new compressor, drier, and expansion valve from Rock Auto and weighed my options. I know I said I usually tackle most jobs, but after a quick cost/benefit analysis, I decided to leave this one to a local mechanic that I do my inspections with. The vehicle was also still filled with R-12 refrigerant, and I didn’t want to be the person to vent that shit to atmosphere.
This shop is usually very busy, and I told them the job was no rush, as I have other cars I could drive. They were very liberal with this statement, and about a month later I was called to pick up my R-134a converted, new compressor Celsior. During the wait time, like a good caretaker, I was thinking ahead to the next maintenance that needed to be done, and the timing belt was at the top. I had already ordered the timing kit, water pump, and serpentine belt, and told the mechanic after I paid that the timing belt would be next (is this what they call foreshadowing?) and got a quote, and told them I would bring the car back next month. I took a happy trip home with cold A/C, and parked the Celsior in my driveway, ready to relive my salaryman fantasy the next morning.
The next day as I left for work, I appreciated once more how smooth and comfortable the Celsior's ride was compared to my Land Cruiser, which I'd been commuting in for the past month. The difference was night and day. It was a rather warm morning, and I went to turn the A/C on, but was disappointed to discover it not cooling as well as the day before. To add insult to injury, the passenger side vents were much cooler than the driver's. I surmised there must be a refrigerant leak: no big deal, I’ll stop by the mechanic shop on the way home. I depressed the accelerator deep into the carpet and the Celsior happily, and oh, so smoothly, sped up the mountain pass I take to work. At the top of the pass, I felt a hiccup. Small, so small I wondered if it was my imagination. No way. No, I didn’t feel anything, I’m being paranoid…right?