How to Buy a JDM Imported Motor

How to Buy a JDM Imported Motor


Despite the contrary, purchasing an imported motor isn’t always a crapshoot but without the proper homework or preparation it can be disastrous. Raising the stakes is the money it requires to purchase a complete front clip or JDM imported motor. So as any decision to purchase a large ticket item, the proper research should be conducted with the importer in question.

Here are a few of the very important tips you must follow in order to maximize your purchasing dollar when looking for a imported JDM engine. Have any questions about our How to Buy a JDM Imported Motor Guide? Leave them for us below!


What’s included?

The first point of our How to Buy a JDM Imported Motor article is checking what is included with your motor swap. Whatever engine platform you decide to swap into your chassis, what’s most important when shopping for an engine is to find out what is included. Most importers will tell you what harnesses, accessories and sensors are present. This should be your deciding factor as costs can be offset by components that can be sold from the engine swap or the front clip.

Especially when you are working within a set budget for your engine swap project and parts may be difficult or expensive to source. When you are spending as much money as most engine swaps or front clips cost, this is a very important factor.

Sources for JDM engines are plentiful making it easy to find a used motor
Sources for JDM engines are plentiful making it easy to find a used motor

Air Conditioning compressors, turbos and manifolds are just a couple of examples of parts you might not be using in your swap, but valuable to others. Because of the nature of these imported motors, many of them can be modified or even slapped together in a mix match of parts.

Be careful and try to pick a motor that you can clearly see has the correct transmission or harness. Which brings us to our next point.

Inspect the goods

Try to look for local importers in your area that allow you to inspect the engine in their yard. If there are none in your area, try any number of JDM importers listed at the bottom. If cost is not a factor, consider companies that are willing to work with you and send you information. These are the kinds of companies that usually stand behind something if there’s a problem with the transaction.


Purchasing a engine swap from Ebay or an anonymous lister can often result in disaster, although there are exceptions.Unless it’s a larger company from Ebay with a long reputation for service and being prompt, you are better served through a local importer.


There’s quite a few things you can inspect about the engine from the outside that can tell you lots about the engine. Here’s just a handful of pointers.

  1. Inspect the engine oil cap for any milky residue or sign of a blown head gasket
  2. Smell the engine oil and note excessive fuel or check for the sweet sickly smell of coolant
  3. Check spark plugs
  4. Check oil, any sludginess or watery oil is a sign of possible trouble
  5. Inspect the turbochargers to check for excessive play.
  6. Rotate and spin the turbocharger to see if there’s any scraping or damage of the turbine wheels. When importing engines like the JDM 2JZGTE with ceramic turbines in their turbochargers, checking the turbos is always a good  idea.


Having a good idea on what you are receiving can help you eliminate some surprises and could have you prepared, which will cut down on your engine swap time. As a general rule of thumb, it’s not a good idea to purchase the engine swap or motor set without being able to inspect it or see it.

Plan Ahead

If you have the space and the time to take on a full front clip or engine swap, it’s always nice to sell parts of your imported front clip to recoup the large sum of money that an engine swap costs. Front clips often come with front suspension, brakes and the RHD dash as well as steering column and rack. These components may not be of any use to you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn them for a tidy profit.



This isn’t for everyone, but if you have the means to strip and sell, by all means do it. Most JDM vehicles come with larger, bigger and better suspension components than the USDM versions. If there’s something missing from your clip, ask for another set or maybe the importer will be willing to work with you. There’s always room for haggling with a purchase as large as this, remember that the importers want these motors gone as well. The longer the motors sit, the less they are going to make.

Set a Budget

As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan out your swap’s budget. Staying within this budget may prove difficult, but it’s important you keep a “reserve” for any potential problems you are bound to encounter.

Rarely does any motor swap go smoothly, so it’s good to have this reserve fund available to you to cover these issues. Decide what the ceiling is for the purchase of the motor, and stick to your guns. Your bank account may thank you later.


Common JDM Myths

Like anything as popular as JDM engines can be, there’s quite a bit of misinformation about JDM engines and the conditions under which they are imported here. We’ll be taking some time to dispel some of these common JDM myths.


JDM Myth #1 – Front Clips are Always the best way to buy JDM motors – It’s nice to have all the accessories but front clips aren’t always the best way to purchase JDM motors. Many times these clips have been in collisions, which resulted in being cut apart and shipped overseas. If the collision was up front, more than just the engine or transmission may be damaged. Radiators, intercoolers and wiring harnesses can also become damaged during these accidents.

JDM Myth #2 – All JDM Engines have 40,000km on them – One of the biggest myths out there, there is no “law” that forces people to swap engines in Japan after 40,000 km or miles. Like the junker laws in our country, Japan has a inspection that involves heavy taxation as the vehicle gets older. These inspections typically start after the vehicle’s third year in ownership, as compared to the four years here in the US.

JDM Myth #3 – JDM engines are typically in good condition because of the low mileage – Tying into the second myth, many customers believe that JDM engines do not have a ton of wear and tear on them. Unfortunately enthusiasts in Japan beat on their cars as much if not more than enthusiasts here in the States. Further, lots of these engines can be tossed back together haphazardly when it’s time to scuttle the car.


Remember that lots of things have happened to the engine you are purchasing, and that’s before they are removed, subject to sea moisture and junkyard elements.

JDM Myth #4 – JDM engines newer than my car are automatically legal – This cannot be further from the truth and in fact simply takes one part of legalizing engine swaps here in California, and applies to to JDM engines worldwide. While it is possible to legally BAR and swap your engine into your car, there are several rules that come along with this action. One of which is that the engine must be newer than the car you are putting it into.

For more information on street legality, check our primer on Exhaust legality as well as our How To Legally swap your engine and check your local states emissions laws to see how they pertain to you.