Whilst waiting for the elusive 10th member to 'go live' I decided that on the Skyline Owners Forum we often see posts in the vein of "what is this sticker for?" So was going to post about the various legal badges that you may find stuck around your cars body, but instead found myself drawn into the world of the Japanese Road Worthiness test or as it is known 'the Shaken'
The reliability of Japanese automobiles is legendary. The reliability of Japanese automobiles in Japan, even more so. So what is the secret? Is Japan a country full of obsessive compulsive gear-heads? Or perhaps it is the legendary strict shaken bi-annual car inspection?
The strict inspection regime certainly has a lot to do with keeping cars in good working order. But there is another component to the whole system: (semi-) legally obligated car maintenance.
12-Month Annual Maintenance
Believe it or not, the legal inspection obligations do not end with the regular (and costly) shaken (車検) inspections. According to "The Man", the Japanese are obliged to have their cars inspected every 12 months as part of the "legally mandated 12-month check and maintenance" (hotei juni-ka-getsu seibi 法定 ヶ月点検整備). The criteria in this check is set by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) and pretty much covers all the 60 or so points set down in the shaken. If you read a bit of Japanese, Toyota has a good list of what is covered.
You may notice that just about every car on the road in Japan has a round, disc like sticker stuck on the top left of the front window. This seal indicates the date the car needs to be inspected, on the rear, indicates the place the car was checked and when it needs to be renewed. The date, like most official business, is written in Japanese years. The seals are usually change color every year for easy identification. This is called the tenken seibi-zumi shiiru (点検整備済シール) and it is issued by the Japan Regular Check and Maintence Inspection Promotion Association (teiki tenken seibi suishin kyokai 定期点検整備推進協会) in cooperation with the National Police Agency (keisatsu-cho 警察庁), and MLIT. Just to confuse things, it is not an obligation to display the disc.
The inspection itself costs about 10,000 yen if done at a dealer. This is only the check/maintenance cost. Oil changing, necessary maintenance, and so on cost extra. In some cases, new and used car dealers may throw in a year or two of free checks to sweeten a deal, although this usually only covers the basic costs. Some repairs, however, may be covered under new or used car warranties.
It is not uncommon to have this inspection done at the same time as the shaken. Many shaken garages actually include this in the cost of their services.
6-Month Annual Maintenance
Most car dealers recommend a 6-month annual maintenance regimen which is less through than the 12-month check/maintenance and designed to keep your car running in good shape. In my experience, this costs about 4,000-5,000 yen minus any incidental maintenance. This often includes an oil change.
However, word on the Japanese interweb is that most car owners should forgo this inspection as it seems suspiciously like a plot by auto dealers to get more money (the one constant is that everyone wants to make a buck out of car owners). The best thing you can do is get your oil and oil filter changed regularly.
Believe it or not, the Japanese are legally obligated to preform check/maintenance on your vehicle every 12 months. Cars without valid maintenance seals are technically running afoul of the law, but rarely, if ever, people are pulled over on account of an out of date check/maintenance sticker. Additionally, this legal obligation has no penalty attached and the worst thing that can happen is that the shaken authorities will give the driver a hard time.
When going for a shaken you are required to submit a 点検整備記録簿 (tenken seibi kiroku-bo) that lists the condition of all the 60 important areas checked during inspection. This list is usually checked off by a mechanic, however it can be downloaded, printed out, and checked by yourself. Many big cities even have DIY garages where drivers can check do their own maintenance and borrow tools for basic repairs.
Shaken (車検) is the name given to the checks and taxes levied on a vehicle in Japan. If you are a car owner, you better get familiar with it!
This is usually performed every 2 years, with some exceptions:
Brand new cars do not require a shaken for the first 3 years
Some specialist vehicles need to be tested every year (including some vans)
Presuming you're driving a standard car (yellow-plate or white-plate with no spade arms or water cannons), yours will be every 2 years.
You can check when it is due by consulting the square sticker (usually) in the middle of your windscreen.
What is it?
Essentially a 60-point test on your car, some running checks, and various charges - normally just the 2-year compulsory insurance, and weight tax.
You may well be given a courtesy car for the 2-3 days it typically takes.
How much is it?
A typical commercial charge for shaken inspection on a white-plate car might be somewhere around 70,000 yen. If any work needs doing to the car, of course, expect that number to rise.
A yellow-plate car will be cheaper because the weight tax is significantly less. These cars have a weight tax of just 7,600 yen compared to the average of 20-30,000 for a white-plate.
A cheaper shop option is Clear 25, which is an up-and-coming bare-bones fast-track inspection centre promising not to do any work on your car unless absolutely necessary. Prices start from around 54,000 yen for a yellow-plate and between 70-90,000 for the average white-plate.User-Shaken (ユーザー車検)
It's possible to do the 60-point check yourself (or pay someone to do so), and then drive to a user-shaken centre and run the car through a ten minute test shed, fill out some paperwork and pay the fees. The tests require no skills, though will take a little time. You may also need to drive a little way to find your designated centre.
Cost (presuming no work needs doing and you do the tests yourself):
Yellow-plate: around 33-35,000 yen
White-plate: average around 50-60,000 yen
With thanks to fellow enthusiast Aki and the AccessJ website for valuable information.