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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • bgr1bgr1 Posts: 2
    I have a 2000 RX300, i am the original owner and have always had it serviced as supposed to. It has 77k miles.

    As i was driving near my home my car just stopped and would not go into any gear. I just had it in a lexus dealership for a quote on the knock sensor two weeks prior.

    I have mentioned several times to this dealer and a dealer in another state that the transmission seemed to slip periodically (about 6 times) over the last 2 years while going into reverse. And now i see these posts and am furious. They all acted like they had no idea why it would be doing this and did not even recommend i have the transmission looked at.

    I see what seems like lots of folks getting help from Lexus and from the dealerships in offsetting the cost of the new transmission. Has anyone been refused assistance?

    Does anyone know of any OTHER shops in milwaukee area that will give me a more reasonable quote should i decide not to spend time fighting with Lexus?

  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    If it was me, I would stick with dealing with a Lexus dealer on this issue, even if you get better results by going to a different Lexus dealer. I would recommend remaining calm and polite, yet firm. I would show the Lexus rep that you've been requesting assistance with the transmission all along and that the response you recieved was to wait for it to suffer a common failure. Lexus had issued many TSB (technical service bulletins) on this issue.

    "Normal" service does not include the transmission until failure, as you've undoubtedly read or found out by now.

    I'm not the biggest advocate of any brand's dealer service. However, in your case I'd stick with Lexus on this issue because it's likely they will help you if they feel it's in the interest of continued customer loyalty. Also, the transmissions sourced from Lexus are more likely to have updated hardware (better than original) than one sourced from a third-party transmission shop that was rebuilt with aftermarket parts. I'm guessing you don't want to spend a few thousand dollars and risk having the same trouble again in a couple years. My new Lexus transmission is great, after having it replaced under warrantee. And the new one does not show wear in the fluid (burning color & smell) like the original did. I expect the replacement to be much more durable.

    Please report back and let others know how you were treated and how it worked out. Hopefully, Lexus will agree to pick up the tab for a good percentage, bringing your cost into reason. Good luck.
  • usdscubausdscuba Posts: 2
    Lexus RX300 4WD purchased new, dealer serviced. Right after being serviced at dealer for 80K service the transmission failed, totally. Our family has owned 100 assorted cars and trucks over the last 50 years, 5 Lexus, and never had to replace a transmission before. It is bad enough that Lexus dealer charges $400.00 for a replacement HID head light bulb, but $5,500.00 for a transmission seems crazy, and typical. My 100K Lexus extended warranty would not cover it. The Lexus RX transmission is a defective product! Study all the thousands of Toyota transmission failure reports out there, these should be replaced at no charge, or a class action lawsuit started. Another unhappy Lexus owner stuck with two 2001 RX300's doomed to sit on the side of the road and strand the owner.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...Lexus extended warranty would not cover...."


    What excuse was given for THAT...??
  • I was a bit surprised too when I read that statement. I have '02 RX300 with around 85K miles on it and in the middle of 100K extended warranty.

    When I purchased the warranty, there were two kinds of warranty. One regular warranty and other full warranty, obviously expensive than the first one. I opted for the second (full). Hope the above statement refers to the regular warranty. If not, I will have to double-check with my dealer who said everything is covered (except battery, etc).

    Please check once again what kind of warranty you have!!
  • usdscubausdscuba Posts: 2
    I have owned 5 new Lexus vehicles including two 2001 RX300 models, and all were well maintained at the local Lexus dealership. However, the RX300 seems to be problem prone. This was purchased new with an extended 100,000 warranty and right after the 83,000 mile service at the Lexus dealer a serious transmission problem developed, making the vehicle unusable. While these type of problems might be expected with a KIA or Chevy, I would assume that a serious drive train problem would be extremely rare for a Toyota product that has always been professionally cared for with expensive dealer service. This is the 2nd time the transmission has been an issue. The first defect being caused by a defect in a critical motor / transmission gasket seal.
    I am extremely unhappy with the fact this was not discovered during the road test, and that Lexus will not warranty or support the defective transmission product. Chronic and expensive transmission problems represent the weak link with Lexus RX vehicles. I have lost faith and piece of mind in both the product and Lexus customer support structure which offers nothing to the owner. I am now ready to join the Lexus class action lawsuit.
  • To usdscuba

    You mentioned that your vehicle was under extended warranty. Did the warranty cover the transmission problem you are talking about?

  • accproaccpro Posts: 4
    I had a 2000 Lexus RX300 module, recently I just got rid of it, because this was the second time that the transmission failed on me. The first time when the transmission failed, I was driving the vehicle on the highway, and I felt some thing wrong with the car, so I exited the highway, suddenly the car stopped on me when I was exiting the ramp. This would have caused a big chain accident if I was continue driving the car on the highway at that moment.

    I suggest all the year 2000 Lexus RX300 owner, carefully check your transmissions with your mechanic. Do not drive on the higway unless you are sure there is no problem with your transmission.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    It appears to me that the '99 & '00 RX300s have the highest rate of premature transaxle failures. Also, and many posters seem to be of the opinion that the F/awd versions have an even higher failure rate.

    I just discovered that the F/awd VC, Viscous Clutch/coupling is different for the '99 & '00 RX300 vs the '01 and later RX300s. The '01 F/awd was the first year TC/VSC was adopted so it makes some sense engineering wise that the '01 and later VCs would/could be made less functional.

    That would mean the earlier versions would have had a more robust, quickly acting, VC, and that would of course put more stress on the drivetrain overall.

    While I still remain of the firm belief that the ATF pump motor revision was/is the primary causative factor in these premature transaxle failures it now seems clear to me that the F/awd with the more "solid" VC could be a contributing factor.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I think I understand where you're going with this. It's something to consider. I don't have any accurate stats to prove the correlation between models with a viscous coupling (AWD) and transmission failures, or failure rates in general compared to other models.

    I think it's faulty logic to assume that failure rates attributed to or contributed by extra wear from AWD can be determined by frustrated owners who post public messages. For instance, I'm the original owner of an early '99 (may '98) 2WD model (no extra drag from a viscous coupling, etc.), and it had transmission troubles right out of the box. There were TSB's from the factory that prescribed replacement of faulty valve bodies on 2WD models right away, under warrantee, but the dealer postponed doing anything about the problem until the transmission needed replacement under warrantee. But my friend has a couple hundred thousand miles (LA commuter miles) on his 2000 AWD, without any problems. However, my example is not statistically valid. There may very well be more AWD failures than 2WD, but that's statistically to be expected because there were a lot more RX's sold with AWD. Also, owners with no experience of early failure, or satisfied with replacement under the original long warrantee understandably don't seem to post a lot of messages about their experience, which separates their data from the samples.

    Many (not all) of the messages I've seen posted (not including Mr. West's) take on an understandably angry complaining tone, but don't give details useful to others, except condone the ownership of any vehicle made by the same manufacturer. Not only are those messages not statistically valid at all, but they don't do the poster or readers any justice. The posts from owners who are coping with failures that provide useful details, such as when the TRANSMISSION was specifically serviced (not part of regular service), how transmission service was performed, the way the RX was used, the service department experience, etc. provide helpful information to share with other owners. I'm also curious to know failure rates compared with other competing models.

    I expect many of us bought an RX expecting above average reliability. However almost all models these days seem to have some achilles heel. It would be interesting, and useful, to compare failure stats to other models as well.

    I look forward to posts from owners who can provide information useful to others, including specifics.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    For me the RX330's "conversion" to DBW in order to delay the onset of rising engine torque to "protect the drive train" upon a re-acceleration instances pretty much says everything.

    IMMHO the abolition of the old style ATF pump motor line pressure control and pressure sustaining accumulator during the RX300's design phase is the primary case of the early RX300 transaxke failures. Obviously any additional stress resulting from the addition of the F/awd system and the more robust VC would ahev served to excerbate matters in this regard.

    Note that along with the adoption of DBW for the RX330 the VC was also dropped entirely. IMMHO the adoption of TC in '01 eliminated the possibility that the VC, ANY VC, would ever become functional, be of any real service, in any case.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Is '01 when they went from a normal (no slip) 50/50 torque split (nicer for cornering) to the more fuel-efficient 95/5 front/rear split? Is that because they eliminated the viscous clutch?

    I bought the '99 2WD (FWD) with Traction Control on purpose, to maximize fuel economy, acceleration, and carrying capacity, which it apparently does. TC was not available on AWD until it's inclusion with the adoption of VSC, I think 2001. The 2000 AWD models I've driven did feel better in the curves (torque from the center of the vehicle is noticeable on comparison to my '99 2WD where the torque is "pulling" from the front) but that advantage was apparently lost when the 95/5 split was adopted.

    Since the FWD model with the skinny 225/70R16 stock tires did tend to obnoxiously slip the inside front wheel very easily, the TC would activate often to stop the slip (and also retard engine efficiency and the ease of making a quick maneuver -in a really ungraceful way- unless you pushed the "off" button quickly). I'm kinda picky about such things, and it bothered me. Other than the sloppy, overprotective way the TC nanny would slap my hands on the steering wheel and scary-slow left turn capabilities, I always wondered about the extra wear on the drivetrain and front brakes. Then I just put the widest and grippiest tire I could mount on the stock rims (255/65/HR16 Mich Cross-Terrain with hub-centric rear wheel spacers), which eliminated almost all slippage until the TC appropriately thumps in, in a more buffered manner.

    So what's harder on the transmission, drivetrain, and brakes? :confuse: Drag from the TC activating more often on 2WD? Viscous Coupling and AWD? AWD without VC? Maybe the weakness (Achilles heal) is the light-duty, less-than-robust design of the transmission. :sick: And to me, the lack of a "handling package" to flatten the cornering, but I'm the only one who seems to complain about that :mad:

    So on a side-note, the thought of selling my RX because of it's weaknesses reminds me that competing models with superior handling characteristics might punch a hole in my wallet much more than the cost of a replacement transmission, even if I had to pay for it, which isn't likely for me for a long time. Those models are not exempt from $4000 repairs, either. Check the Audi, BMW, and VW sites, not to mention the domestics.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..So what's harder on the transmission, drivetrain, and brakes?.."

    TC braking is selective, mostly only on the slipping wheel(s), and only on the relatively rare instances of actual wheelspin/slip, and even then with INSTANT engine dethrottling. So TC would likely only reduce the life of the brake pads and rotors.

    A VC that "stiffens" rather quickly, as in, probably, the '99 & '00 models, would add stress to the drivetrain only in instances of some wheels having moderate to highly tractive conditions, resulting in driveline windup and/or tire scrubbing. A fairly common circumstance therefore a possible contributor to the premature transaxle failures of the '99 and '00 models.

    F/awd without VC..?? Probably an advantage with a sports car on a a race track but virtually USELESS otherwise, just has now been proven by Toyota and Lexus via the HL, Sienna, and RX. VC not available, or at least not a functional one, and a TC system as backup which you often must turn off in order to get up and going in the very conditions for which you bought the F/awd version to begin with.

    So the new Venza and 2010 RX350's F/awd system is/will be a definite improvement, but still not nearly as adequate as the SH-AWD system. Personally I'd much rather have a R/awd or even a RWD wherein primary propulsion is left to the rear tires and the front traction coefficient is primarily dedicated to mainatinaing directional control.

    But life is a continuous series of compromises.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The '01 and up RX300s still had the VC, but I strongly suspect it was severely DERATED. VC was dropped for the entire RX330 product run. Marketing says the RX350 uses a VC (just as they did with the RX330 until caught lying) but none of the factory documenation indicates that is true. The TC system would make a VC virtually useless regardless of its actual existence anyway. But maybe that's why they finally provided a means to turn TC off, so the VC could "come into play"...??

    My '01 F/awd RX300 was only able to "pull", at most, a 75/25 F/R torque distribution reading on a 4 wheel dyno test. 95/5 initially.

    I'd bet, with hindsight, the '99 and '00, new, would have pulled something closer to a 50/50 in the same test.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    "I'd bet, with hindsight, the '99 and '00, new, would have pulled something closer to a 50/50 in the same test."

    So my guess is a 2000 model year with AWD would be more of a smile on the curves, as long as it has a good transmission (or replaced with a more modern one), ATF changed often, and with larger rubber contact patch on the ground.

    What are the chances I can find a retrofit to 5 speed (manual)? Ha ha. Probably the same as finding upgraded sway bars and links. Or maybe just a good used Legacy GT wagon, and give up on all the nice (but minor) features the RX has.
  • phm4phm4 Posts: 1
    My 01 RX 300 had a transmission that died on me this week at 150K miles. I am now deciding to repair it of $5,000 or look for a new car. Just thought I would check in in case any one is recording the information for data purposes.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    150K on the stock tranny? Good for you... you did pretty well. That's about double the mileage compared to what most complaints are about. If you got 150K on most other make's SUV trannies that might be considered above average, too. But I think we all expected a little more attention to reliably robust designs when we bought the RX, and were disappointed with the weak design(s) they used for the transmissions.

    But if the car is otherwise in reliable and decent shape, I'd think it's worth shopping price on the tranny. But I still tend to favor spending a little extra if it's a Lexus replacement transmission; specs to a more modern design. I'm not generally a big advocate for dealer service, but it's worth it if you're not just getting the same type of tranny that failed on you before, with aftermarket parts, compared to one that's from an updated design. Plus, my guess is the Lexus dealer is pretty experienced at transmission replacements. And they might be able to get some kind of discount to you if they get the feeling it's to earn your continued loyalty (business). And cheaper than car payments. Just my hunch.

    Please keep us posted on what you decide, and what happens (and how much it hurts your wallet!)

    Good luck.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Care must be exercised regarding updated designs as those will often require different firmware or maybe even shift control components.

    Our '95 LS400 is now at 225,000 miles and the tranny is still pulling STRONG.

    A lot more room, of course, to put a strong and fully robust, adequate, transmission.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    If it's an updated designed transmission "...Care must be exercised regarding updated designs as those will often require different firmware or maybe even shift control components", (Lexus is the only source I know of for that) Lexus already knows what will work and what won't. Ex: the much-improved new transmission they installed in 2004 in my '99 shifts flawlessly (for an automatic - I prefer manuals) and even the ECT switches that were phased out of later models still do their jobs (Normal, Power, TC off, & Snow functions still work) with the new transmission.

    I'm not a fan of automatics anyway, but I can't see how it could operate any better than the "updated design" new one except if it had paddle shifters (and I thought it was stout enough to shift manually). No hesitation, in fact I would call the downshifts "enthusiastic". All that and it doesn't demonstrate wear (burning fluid) the way the original did.
  • gbryantgbryant Posts: 9
    The tranny in my 2000 RX300 failed the other day at 96000 miles. Lexus has replaced it for $5000 with an offer to contribute $1000 towards that cost. The dealer told me I had an option to take the issue to a non-Lexus arbitration board and they gave me the number to cal. The process has begun with the next step foe me to detail why I believe that the transmission failure should be paid for by the dealer. Any suggestions from those who have gone through this process would be appreciated. I could also use documentation about the failure rater of the subject transmission, recalls, service bulletins, etc.
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