• Oct 7th 2008 at 11:02AM
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Interested in a Toyota 4Runner but wish it had a diesel powerplant? In the U.S., your engine options are limited to a 4 liter V6 or a 4.7 liter V8 (and you don't get the V8 in all states). But, if you're not in the U.S. and buying a Toyota Hilux Surf (i.e., a 4Runner with a different name), then you can opt for a diesel engine. Since a diesel engine is made for this vehicle, AutoblogGreen reader Mark G. had an idea. He wrote in to tell us about how he went about taking his 1999 U.S. 4Runner into a diesel SUV (importing an engine from Japan), and then had the engine converted over to run on veggie oil by Diesel Toyz. He writes:

Everything is completely factory in appearance and function. I now am getting 35+ mpg in a Toyota 4runner with 4wd that I used to get 15mpg. I am also now running on a waste product like waste vegetable oil. The ridiculous thing is that the rest of the world gets these vehicles standard, we have to pay to convert them.

That's quite a jump in miles per gallon, but we know that diesel get inherently more mpg than petrol engines. I've asked Mark how much these conversions cost him, but suffice to say this is one way to get the car you want to run on the fuel you want.

UPDATE: Mark responded:

The conversion including engine, trans, wiring, gauges, and labor to install was around $15k. They gave me all of the gas engine etc back and I sold them on eBay and recouped approx. $2500. The vegoil conversion added another $3k onto the price. Absolutely the most honest, straight-forward guys I've ever dealt with.

[Source: Diesel Toyz]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      Todd -

      Thanks for checking in here at AutoblogGreen!

      So... The first obvious question is: Is it legal in the US?

      Depending on what state you live in (as well as federal regulations), it's my understanding that, in general, you can't retrofit an engine in a car for which that engine wasn't originally certified. So: You can retrofit a diesel into a vehicle if some versions of that vehicle came from the OEM with a US-legal diesel. Installing a non-US-spec diesel - particularly when that engine hasn't met US standards in years - looks like it would be a problem.

      My state (MD) isn't as emissions-tough as CA - but my emissions notifications already know what fuel my car uses. I don't know what would happen if I show up at the emissions inspection station with a diesel when my paperwork says I should be burning gasoline. How have the conversions you've supported dealt with this situation?

      I'll also extend the question I alluded to above: Do you know of people who have performed similar conversions on cars, particularly some of the smaller European diesels we don't get in the US?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Cool project - but not likely legal in most parts of the US, even if you can twist some regulations or simply game the system.

      That said, you can probably get away with it except in states with heavily-enforced emissions laws (California, et al.).

      Hmmmm - Has anyone looked into similar projects with small car (not truck) diesels that are readily available in Europe, and share platforms with models in the US?

      Warning: The Diesel Toyz web site is thoroughly annoying; goofball graphics design causes some browsers to black out text.
        • 8 Months Ago
        The difficulty with small cars is that most are FWD with transaxles. Body on frame trucks with RWD or FWD provide a simpler platform to engineer an engine swap. One they have more room in the engine compartment. The engine, transmission, transfer case in for 4WD and axles are all separate units. The first problems you need answers to are, does the engine and transmission bolt together seamlessly or do you need an adapter and can the replacement engine use the same motor mounts?

        Assuming you need an adapter, the engine can slide forward (which may create other problems) to compensate for the thickness of the adapter plate and if new motor mounts are needed the existing ones can be cut off and new ones fabricated.

        I am aware of people investigating the conversion of NAS VW Eurovans to diesel using parts from diesel versions of the van that is sold in Europe. It turned out that there were significant differences in the gas-diesel versions that precluded an easy swap. The same maybe true for many FWD cars.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Phil, with all respect, you're talking through your hat. Last year I purchased a 4Runner that was converted to a diesel engine at a small dealership in Tennessee called National Auto Warehouse. I brought it home to California and the registration was no problem: I pulled in to the inspection lane, the guy came out, looked at the engine, said, "Yup, that's a diesel," and that was it. Any used diesel vehicle purchased out of state with over 7,500 miles can be registered in California. They will not allow new diesels to be sold (changing in 2009 with so-called clean diesel engines), but the have to allow used diesels. Also, they understand that people sometimes change engines in their vehicles, sometimes from gas to diesel. This is legal and allowed.
        • 8 Months Ago
        4Runner Rick -

        Very interesting. Based on some things I've seen on-line (like http://www.jagsthatrun.com/Pages/Chevrolet_S-10_V-8_Smog.html and similar), I was under the impression this was much more difficult.

        Question: Does this also apply if the vehicle in question was never offered in the US with a diesel engine option?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Here's the payoff: I can make my own fuel. Can you?
        • 8 Months Ago
        4Runner Rick -

        I'm replying here, too - because you won't see my original response above. C'mon ABG: It'd be nice to have a better way to manage reply notification, particularly when several-month-old threads come back to life...


        Very interesting. Based on some things I've seen on-line (like http://www.jagsthatrun.com/Pages/Chevrolet_S-10_V-8_Smog.html and similar), I was under the impression this was much more difficult.

        Question: Does this also apply if the vehicle in question was never offered in the US with a diesel engine option? Or if the diesel engine used for the conversion hasn't been been sold in the US?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Well, after hiring lawyers (ouch$$) and lengthy conversations with EPA officials, and 5+ years doing conversions, the legality is one big grey area. What I have been told (grain of salt) is that since diesel engines have historically not had an emissions inspection (tailpipe test) other than an opacity test, even if the engines [u]were[/u] inspected, they'd pass by default. You have to be operating an engine that is out of compliance (blowing opaque smoke) to get in trouble. Just because the engines are not certified for use in the United States just means that they have not been tested. For someone to prosecute you, you'd have to be in violation of emissions compliance for the year/make/model of vehicle. Since diesels had none for the year models we convert = another grey area. From what we were told, the laws largely outline vehicles which use catalytic converters (gas engines). Since they wouldn't want you taking out a 4 cylinder and replacing it with a v8 gas hog thereby bypassing emissions standards for that year/make/model. We are not importing the engines so we are not responsible for them. We have the customer provide us with the engines and we install them. Contrary to what we previously thought, CA is one of the easier states to register a diesel conversion. We have 5 of them running around CA and each customer has reported no issues registering them or driving them. I know companies that make their living stuffing heavy duty cummins engines into Jeeps and this is just as big of a grey area as anything we're doing. In the 5+ years of doing these conversions, we have had no customers running into legal problems.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Todd: sounds like you have a shop. Where you located and a phone #...thanks, Brian
        • 8 Months Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      Would it not be cleaner and much cheaper to convert the existing engine to run on CNG/LPG?
        • 8 Months Ago
        GM did that in the late 70's and early 80's with a 350 cid diesel that was developed from the 350 cid V8 whose engine family will forever be known as the small block Chevy.

        That diesel was so bad that it pretty much destroyed the reputation of diesel engines in passenger cars.
        • 8 Months Ago
        What? That has nothing to do with what I said.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Hey there guys.. I was told to check out this posting. Ask away
      • 8 Months Ago
      Maybe one way to look at this is as yet another direction to look.

      It does seem like a rather super-human effort (and kudos to you, Mark, for taking this idea the full distance). Any idea that means we don't throw away one pile of metal, plastic, etc. to chase after another slightly-more-fuel-efficient pile of metal, plastic, etc., allows more regular folks stay mobile and eventually cross the bridge to ... could it be? ... fuel independence.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Someone made a good point about how expensive this is. But this is only a good point in that THIS conversion was extremely expensive. I'm doing one, and it's about done, and I've spent about $3200 (when I subtract all the gas stuff, and extra parts I didn't need that I've sold throughout the process.) I might still spend a bit more to clean up some wire, but only because I'm a tiny bit OCD. But I could drive this thing ('87 4Runner) as is, and it's running GREAT! I love this Toyota diesel. So my question is why did this guy spend so much??

      Also, this is legal. Well, of course if you get very clinical about this, legal is a nonstop gray area discussion. But it CAN be registered and driven completely legally in probably about every state, and once it's registered what else do you want? No one can say otherwise--done. But of course, as most things in this country, I'm sure there's some government agency somewhere that could equally say it's not legal, with all the contradictions in our laws. But on a day to day basis--it's legal. At least here in CA. I've registered 2 gas-to-diesel conversions, without a hitch (in fact I called the state DMV office in the capital before my first, and the guy I talked to thought it was such a cool idea. He drove a VW diesel rabbit.) And this 4Runner will be my third.

      Also would like to point out that, on one of those two other diesels I did veggie oil. And let me tell you, the verdict is that, unless you are a great shade-tree mechanic, it IS a false economy. I had to deal with so much maintenance, it was ridiculous. Cars weren't designed for all the junk you have to strap on to run on veggie. And unless you like tinkering with the car every weekend, don't mess with it. And don't let the kit makers tell you otherwise. They're in the biz of selling kits, of course they'll tell you I'm full of crap. I learned my lesson. Instead: go biodiesel. It's ready for the diesel engine... or I should say the engine is ready for it. I didn't want to believe all this, especially when the guys on the forums were trying to talk me out of it. I thought they all worked for the biodiesel consortiums. But I found out later with the bill for a blown head gasket (caused by a coolant hose blowing off on a packed 101S at evening rush hour--a coolant hose used to heat veggie oil.) That and other problems. Someday however, it will truly be amazing when (if, really) the manufacturers ever put their R&D into designing modern diesels to run veggie, without having to put those shoddy, engine-ruining add-ons onto our great diesel engines. Then that will be the dream.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I'm looking to install a 4.7 diesel into a 08 tundra
      • 6 Years Ago
      Folks who just want to drive to the fueling station and buy diesel will never be good candidates for something like this. For most of our customers, their vehicles are paid for and in great shape. The average Diesel Toyz customer wants more torque, better economy, and extended range. We all know Toyota makes great gas engines, but their diesel engines are fantastic. Add to all of this, the ability to make their own fuel when unleaded goes north of $4/gal and you have a combination that is very attractive to alot of folks. Many want to unplug from the grid and have a real world hybrid that is not obsolete when the $10k battery pack fails. These are things a gas engine cannot give them. There is a reason over 70% of the cars sold elsewhere are diesels. Modern diesels provide more longevity, better power, upgradeability, longer service intervals, 25-30% better fuel economy, and the ability to run on WVO or biodiesel. You can spend well over $25k on a new car with half the functionality of one of our conversions. Now, if you think this is a bad idea I can assure you that you are in the minority. We have had a 10 month to a year waiting list since we opened our doors in 2002.
      • 8 Months Ago
      yeah cool project but if you care about efficiency why not do this with a smaller car? This 4-runner also is likely to have illegal emissions.

      Personally the diesel that would be perfect IMO is the VW GTD. Basically a diesel GTI. All the sport look and handling (minus acceleration) plus excellent mileage.

      Honda and Toyota are planning to bring diesels to the states soon from what i hear. Now if we could only get that diesel price down or replace it with homegrown biodiesel.
      • 8 Months Ago
      This diesel engine is great, i've driven several when I was abroad in Oz, great power and even better fuel economy. Its nice that he had it converted, but technically it isnt street legal ANYWHERE in the United States, as per federal law.
      State emissions/registration laws aside take second fiddle. Even in Florida where there isn't a mandatory emissions inspection, its technically illegal federally.
      See this bureaucratic, poorly researched and biased document from the EPA that is still in effect for over 17 years... -> http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/civil/caa/mobile/engswitch.pdf specifically the middle of page 2

      I love how relevant the cars used in examples are, Pontiac Grand Am with Olds Calais... ha

      another link
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