I’m ready to start the process, what’s involved?
To get started, we ask that you email our sales team detailing your vehicle’s specifics as well as any additional things you’d like done during the conversion process. We will take this information and create an itemized invoice your project. On this invoice will also be your project’s time-slot which is the date your project is scheduled to begin. To secure this conversion time-slot, we’ll need the deposit outlined on the invoice, a signed copy of the invoice and Diesel Toys® policy page.
Where can I get parts/service?
We tell customers to find an experienced Volkswagen diesel mechanic. Why Volkswagen mechanics? Volkswagen has been producing modern, small-displacement diesel vehicles for years so these mechanics are familiar with the similar layouts of these Toyota 4 cylinder diesels. We also sell parts on our online store, however most parts etc. are available through your local Toyota dealership. If you need something specific, give us a call.
How do you calculate your conversion pricing?
We take the cost of the power-train+ components required for the conversion + the nationwide average shop rate of $100/hr and we end up with the total for the conversion project. The typical diesel conversion has 100-120 hours of labor factored into the price. So, that translates into $10,000-$12,000 in billable labor hours. Many times, we have far more labor into a project than that, but since our pricing is ALL-INCLUSIVE, we do NOT bill additional hours to the customer. We are the only fabrication shop around that openly posts our pricing on our website. This comes from being experienced in the fact that we know what the project components cost, and how long it will take us to do it. The average cost of all components needed for a conversion is around $15k so using the cost of components + labor model, one can expect to spend in the neighborhood of $25k for a completed conversion. This can vary wildly depending on the type of conversion project and model of the vehicle. But, this should serve as an effective guide for accurate pricing.
I was figuring $4-5k…
We try to put things into perspective when customers want to convert relatively NEW vehicles to diesel and are somewhat surprised when they see our pricing. The list of companies or individuals that can take your money, and make your vehicle operate exactly how it should is an EXTREMELY short list. In fact, we know of NO OTHER COMPANY that can do what we do. Furthermore, in order to have a successful conversion, we need to purchase a complete, low-mileage donor vehicle, strip it down, and ship all of the components to ourselves in the USA. This is not only costly, but an art-form in and of itself. The reason we do it this way is because we know that it is necessary in order to get all the little components required to make the conversion work. So, the idea that one can just “get and engine and install it” is naive and FAR from reality. An engine by-itself doesn’t do you much good when all the items necessary to make it run are not there.
Do you guys repair stuff during the process?
Through the years, we have had vehicles show up with serious mechanical issues. Sometimes, the owners “assume” that we are rebuilding the entire vehicle so they forget to tell us the fact that the vehicle was totaled, or there was an engine fire etc. The diesel conversion process does NOT include rebuilding items on the vehicle and all pricing is based off a running driving vehicle in good order. For example, we modify (shorten or lengthen) driveshafts in order to suit the diesel powertrain but we need good driveshafts to start with. If you snapped a driveshaft off roading, we will need to replace this at additional cost. If the vehicle has been in a major accident, it is company policy to reject this vehicle outright. If the frame has been compromised through an accident, it can affect fitment and functionality that can cause issues for years to come.
Can I remove my gas power train myself to save some money?
We prefer that the vehicles are running and driving when they arrive at our facility. We perform a multi-point inspection on all vehicles as they enter our shop for conversion. This is helpful to us in identifying any systems on the vehicle that may have a mechanical issue and provides us with a clear picture of what we’re working with. Furthermore, we often need hoses, clamps, brackets, etc. that are on the original gas engine so if the customer were to remove these items, we would have to purchase some of these little odds & ends at additional cost to the customer. In the interest of saving money, we have pulling the gas power trains down to a science and it normally takes our team of specialists a couple hours to strip the engine out of a vehicle. At the current shop rate of $100 per hour, you would only realistically save $200 by removing the engine yourself. Bottom line, we like the vehicles complete when they arrive.
How &%X*!@ long is your waiting list?
Since we opened the doors in 2004, we have been fortunate enough to stay on a 12-14 month waiting list to get into the shop. There are several factors that contribute to this wait that we like to explain to those interested in a conversion.
- Acquiring a low-mileage, quality engine set for your project takes time. From the time that we receive your deposit, we have our overseas buyers get to work in finding your engine set from overseas auctions. Like any auction, market prices, vehicles being offered that week, or vehicle condition play a role in whether we purchase that week or wait to find the right one. In other words, it takes time to simply find the right engine for your project.
- Once we find the right engine, we have to meticulously strip the vehicle down and crate it up for transport. Shipping comes via oceanic freight so average transit time door-to-door is in the 45-60 day range.
So, taking these items into account, the average time it takes for us to buy an engine, crate it up and ship it to ourselves is a “minimum” of 10-12 weeks. Lastly, we have customers that have already placed deposits and are on the waiting list. While we are waiting for your engine set to arrive, we are busy buying parts for your project as well as finishing up other customers’ vehicles. Every now and then, we get calls from people who say “I found this guy on the internet that said he can get me right in…”. Would you really feel comfortable doling out $20k to a guy you found on the internet that has no work coming in? Why is no one else using him? The reality is that the list of companies that can take your money and actually deliver a quality finished product is an extremely short list. We know of none else converting vehicles on anything newer than 1990 using anything other than 4BT cummins engines.
Can you guys use a VW TDI engine for a Conversion?
We are emailed several times a month with folks requesting TDI conversions into various types of vehicles. We pioneered the TDI-Toyota conversions years ago with VERY lackluster results. The biggest issue we had was that the small displacement TDI (1.9 liter) and a larger 4WD truck simply did not mix well. The stock 90hp ALH TDI engine did not have have enough power to be driven safely; often having difficulty maintaining highway speeds. A proposed remedy to this shortcoming is that you can chip-tune the TDI engines to achieve better performance. Well, once you do that the economy goes out the window. So, any economy gains you would realize by converting your vehicle to diesel are lost. Another issue is that the TDI engines are highly electronic in nature often requiring a standalone drive by wire system and a completely hand-built wiring harness. This makes the installation not only complicated, but expensive. Lastly, the fit and finish of the TDI-Toyota conversions is terrible. Folks viewing the finished product were immediately aware that it was a conversion as almost every component had to be custom fabricated to suit the new location in the Toyota’s engine bay. So, while the TDI’s can be MADE to work they are almost always considered the last option in anything other than a Volkswagen. TDI conversions make even less sense when one can use a Toyota-designed, ultra-reliable engine with none of the fitment or reliability issues that the TDI conversions have. The later TDI engines (read: PD engines) are notoriously unreliable and complicated engines so they are still a terrible conversion engine choice.
I would like to do my own conversion, can you guys do the odds & ends for me?
Once upon a time, we did assist a few folks in getting their conversions sorted out. The real issue with this is time. It is VERY time consuming to be on the phone or answering emails helping people through their conversions with no financial compensation. The mechanical aptitude for these conversions is pegged on the high end of the scale. Extensive experience in automobile wiring, fabrication, and Toyotas in general is required in order to have a successful conversion. These conversions are deceptively difficult! Many shade-tree mechanics will gladly take on the project only to figure out 12-14 months down the road (and on your dime) that they CANNOT get it running properly, have bricked the ECU, and hacked up your wiring harness, then disappear into the woodwork. We routinely get calls where the person’s conversion has been at their mechanic’s shop for over a year, it doesnt run, and they cant find ANYONE who knows anything about these things other than us. At this point, it is MUCH more difficult (and costly) for us to come in and troubleshoot as we dont know what THEY did. They there’s the additional expense of having to package everything up, ship the vehicle to us etc. We have also had instances where we would do a conversion wiring harness for a shop, ship it back to them with installation instructions, and they STILL have a difficult time finishing it up. They will then keep us on the phone for hours at a time asking tons of questions in an effort to glean as much FREE information from us as possible. For that $500 harness, we spent $2,000 worth of time on the phone educating the guy on everything BUT the wiring harness.
I’m doing my own conversion and have a quick technical question …
We make our living performing these conversions. 100% of the information we have learned on successful conversion methods, parts aquisition/sources, and wiring was learned by doing. We consider this information highly proprietary in nature and not shared under ANY circumstances. If you’re determined to do your own conversion, do your own research. Foregoing our services and performing your own conversion only to try and rely on our expertise during the conversion would put us out of business in a real hurry.
Do you have any converted vehicles for sale?
Rarely. Originally, our business model was to sell converted vehicles on the internet. We quickly realized that the amount of time it takes to build and convert them far outstrips the time it takes to sell them. So, we shifted our business model to converting customer’s vehicles. From time to time, we have vehicles for sale on our website so you can check back with us periodically.
Can I legally register my conversion in places like California?
YES. We have been performing these conversions since 2004. Since then, several dozen vehicles have gone to California residents. This means from 1986 Pickups to 2012 Tacomas. While there have been no reported problems, there are some recommendations from past customers that we can highlight in order to help the registration process go as smoothly as possible.
I’ve read on the inter-web that diesel conversions are ILLEGAL for on-highway use in California. True?
This is patently false. For any engine conversion (regardless of fuel type) it will have to be tested AND FAIL in order to be denied legal registration. By following local guidelines and assuring that all original equipment is left unmodified, most converted vehicles have NO problems legally registering and driving their conversion on the highway.
Statement of Fact Sheet
This form is required for all conversions registered in the state of California. You will check the “Motive power change” box and a DMV official will visually inspect the vehicle to verify that it is in fact running on diesel fuel. The key to passing the visual test is to have everything appear as factory as possible. Nothing raises red-flags to these guys like wiring going all over, aftermarket air filters, etc. Since all Diesel Toys conversions appear completely factory, this should not be an issue.[/spoiler]
For anything newer than 2007, an emissions test will be required by a diesel-specific testing station. There’s a great article in Diesel Power ™ magazine covering this in more detail here:
Can I use biodiesel in higher concentrations in order to pass emissions tests?
With using biodiesel in higher concentrations, you will see a dramatic improvement in emissions output. Most of the time, the vehicle will be burning so clean it won’t even register on their machine. You will also need to pass a visual inspection to ensure no emissions equipment has been removed.
What is an “Engine Set?” or “Half Cut”
An “engine set” is basically all of the components from a “Half Cut” just removed and placed into a wooden shipping box. A “Half Cut” (aka front clip) is a vehicle purchased at auction in Japan which is cut in half in order to save space in a large shipping container. These vehicles consist of a complete running/driving vehicle without the rear half quite literally. All half cuts include the engine, transmission, computer, all associated wiring and gauges, fuel system, and cooling system.
I’m doing my own conversion, can you supply me with an Engine Set/Half Cut?
No. Half cuts/engine sets are becoming increasingly scarce. Our suppliers overseas are having a difficult time as it is supplying just us. If we tried to supply others with half cuts, it would short change our own supply and make the job of finding the parts necessary to convert our customers vehicles more difficult.
How long does the conversion take?
All Diesel Toys conversions are done on an individual basis and are custom by nature. We focus on quality, not getting your vehicle slapped together and out as quickly as possible in order to bring the next guy in. Our conversions can take as little as 3 weeks to as long as a year. This depends heavily on what we’re doing to your vehicle, and the options being installed. For example, a solid axle swap v.s. a frame off restoration.
What kind of mpg can I expect once the conversion is finished?
Most customers are reporting 25-28 mpg in a Truck/Tacoma/4runner platform. Add a front mount intercooler and highway mileage goes up into the low 30’s. Most Landcruiser customers are reporting 22-26mpg in an FJ60/80 Landcruiser. This depends on driving habits, elevation, etc.
Can I run my converted vehicle on WVO/biodiesel?
All engines we use are compatible with biodiesel and no modifications are necessary to use “ASTM Certified” biodiesel in any desired ratio. WVO systems, however, require the installation of a heating/filtration/and valve control system in order for the vehicles to safely operate on WVO. The WVO industry in the last few years has really dried up. The secret got out a few years ago and commercial biodiesel producers have cornered the market. This has made finding WVO virtually impossible. The WVO parts suppliers, component developers, and manufacturers have simply gone out of business.
How do I register my conversion in my state?
Every state has different laws regarding emissions testing and procedures. What’s legal in Texas may not be legal in Kansas etc. Many folks email us starting with “I read on the internet that I cant register my conversion here in…”. In the 8+ years we’ve been converting vehicles, we have NEVER had a customer unable to legally register their conversion. Regarding EPA certification: a popular myth is that because an engine is not sold in this country it automatically fails. This is patently FALSE. A NON-EPA certified engine simply means that it has not been certified by the EPA and may be subject to emissions testing (where applicable). Now, if it fails the emissions test, then it WILL need to be brought into compliance (sometimes at considerable expense). Bottom line, if you are concerned about legality and registerability for ON-HIGHWAY USE, we always recommend that you check with your local and state offices to determine legality. Diesel Toys DOES NOT imply legality and offers conversion services “FOR OFF-ROAD USE ONLY”.