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Lexus RX Transmission Problems

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Comments

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    When the RX was being designed the Camry transaxle was chosen as the base for what was to become a more robust unit for driving not just a heavier vehicle but also a F/awd SPORTS UTILITY vehicle.

    When you mount a 3.0L V6 sideways in the engine compartment there's not much room left for the transaxle, now the engineers had to come up with a stronger, more robust one.

    In order to do so some elements, long standing operational aspects, of the Camry's old transaxle were discarded. Along with providing more room the new design did provide for increased operational efficiency.

    Google for:

    wwest abolition hesitation dfg

    For more detail.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 372
    I've been holding my breath. I have a '99 RX with 157,000 and just got word that it needs a new transmission at a cost of $5767. I have been having my service done at Toyota for years so I can't expect much in the way of loyalty discount. I am going to shop around other dealers. At my last major service abt 1,000 miles ago I finally had a transmission flush done thinking it would help extend the life of the vehicle. Now I have to decide if I want to invest that much in the car.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    157,000 is pretty good... "New" transmission? Exchange rebuilt transmission? Rebuild your transmission?

    Just as a "flush" is not quite the same as transmission "service" (changing the filter and checking the debris in the pan) there is a difference. I was lucky. The dealer replaced mine with a genuinely new (from the Kyushu plant) transmission after trying two rebuilt (exchange) transmissions off the local shelf, all under warrantee at 70,000 miles.

    I would shop around. There are transmission shops (maybe even another dealer) who would love to have your business. Look for a reputable one that will rebuild yours with the modernized Lexus spec parts, rather than one off-the-shelf, if it's not a genuinely new transmission.

    The new transmission (four years ago) in mine doesn't exhibit any of the mis-designed or under-designed traits that (presumably) led to durability issues like the original had. The original was clearly flawed. With the new one, there is no hesitation upshifting or down, no rough shifts, and no burning of the fluid like the original from 5/98 (early '99 model).

    Good luck. I hope you let us know what transpires.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 372
    The first Lexus dealer quoted the $5700 and he said it was a new OEM transmission. I called another Lexus dealer who quoted me $4337 for a factory remanufactured and said that there were no "new" transmissions only remanufactured. Was yours really new? What is the name of your dealer and where are they? At least I could call them. They are only quoting me 1 year unlimited miles on the warranty for the remanufactured unit.

    I did have a complete transmission service done including the flush.
  • ka1cvyka1cvy Posts: 4
    don't waste your money on a new transmission. you can get a rebuilt with a 1 year warranty for around $3,500. The transmisison guy that rebuilt mine recommended changing the transmission fluid every 30K miles or so which is standard for any transmisison. I had changed mine at 47K which is not bad, but the nature of these light duty trannies makes them go early more times than not. You did very good getting over 150K out of yours, especially since you didn't do any service to it until very recently.
    Ron Ka1cvy
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 372
    I've gotten a quote from a different Lexus dealer for $4300 for the same part. (I checked back with the original dealer and he confirmed he was using a remanufactured part.) I did get a quote from the local Toyota dealer for $4050 but I would still have to pay $300 for the diagnosis and get the car towed to Toyota so I agreed to $4500 at the first Lexus dealer including the diagnosis. I also have their 2010 RX 350 until the work is done so all in all I feel I did as good as possible under the circumstances. Amazing that a few phone calls saved me $1267 at the same dealer.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 372
    Thanks for the link. I've already committed to Lexus doing the work. Too bad. Do you know what the labor is to remove and install one of these?
  • Wow....I am getting cold feet my wife and I were on our way tomorrow to look at a couple of used 2001 rx300's with the intent of buying one of them. They both have aprox 85,000 miles and are one owner cars. I foung this thread and now am very nervous about buying one.
    I did not have time to read the entire thread. Was the 01' less prone to failure than the 99 and 00? Was the 330 better than the 300's.
    Thanks for the input.
    I do not want to purchase one of these and worry and wait for the tranny to go out.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    see also the RX300 forum, and search for more like this one: link title

    Although more common with first year models (1999, including those built in 1998), the transmissions have not always been unusually troublesome. Many people report mileage approaching 200,000 miles without trouble. But there is enough concern that you should be cautious of any SUV style vehicle's transmission.

    Some report hesitation, burned fluid (indicating wear) and failures much earlier. But these concerns don't lead to a hard and fast rule, across the board. My friend's AWD 2000 model is doing great at 200,000 miles. Mine was replaced under warrantee.

    The first model year for the RX330 was 2004. Use a keen eye on those like you would any first-year model since the drivetrain was changed.

    The moral is: I'd be suspicious of any used car I'm considering. But that doesn't mean you won't find what you're looking for (a great car with lots of life left). Knowing what to look for is helpful. Look for signs of city mileage, which tends to be hard on a car. Roadtest the transmission thoroughly under widely varying conditions. Pull the dipstick and wipe it on a paper towel. Check for a burned smell, indicating wear. New fluid is a cherry-pink color, with the smell of a petroleum based product, absent of burned odor and brownish tint.

    Check RX's like you would any used car. There are good ones. An early model that had the transmission replaced under warrantee might also be worth considering. Private party or dealer, one with complete service records including tranny service (which is not incl in regular maint "packages") is your best bet.

    Please report back what you find. Good luck!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    My '01 F/awd RX300 had the ATF drained and refilled twice at about 40,000 miles because the ATF was looking dirty and smelled burned. I am now at ~75,000 miles and am checking the ATF condition on a regular basis, each oil/filer change. I have mentally prepared myself for a DIY transaxle overhaul before it reaches 100K.

    If that happens then it will also get converted to R/awd at the same time. I may also design a circuit that will automatically hold the tranasaxle in the current gear, prevent an upshift, for 10 seconds or so even if/when the gas pedal is fully released. Obviously the new circuit would need to be disabled if the OAT declines to or close to freezing.

    The RX330 and later RX models use DBW to "protect the drive train" but that "fix" came with yet another set of short-comings, the inability to accelerate immediately after, 1-2 seconds, a brief period of coastdown.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Beginning with the RX330 Lexus used DBW to prevent the engine from rising in RPM until a previously engine/transaxle control ECU "commanded" transaxle downshift ran to completion.

    Since the earlier RX300 used a mechanical coupling between the gas pedal and throttle plate the same technique could not be used.

    On the other hand my '01's TC, Traction Control, dethrottles the engine via EFI fuel starvation control. Why couldn't Lexus use this same technique to "hold off" rising engine RPM/Torque for downshift delays...??

    The throttle plate would still open, just as it does/is with TC activation, but the only harm in that is the engine ROARING to life once the downshift is completed. On the other hand there are circumstances with my RX300 wherein VSC activates and I am forced to completely release and the re-apply pressure to the gas pedal before the engine will respond at all.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Did I just prevent Lexus from using an otherwise viable solution..??

    Recently you submitted a question to the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Department.

    Subject
    Fw: Idea

    Discussion Thread
    Response (DCha) 07/15/2009 07:45 AM
    Dear Mr. West:

    Thank you for contacting the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Department advising us of your product idea. We appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to share your thoughts and comments with us. Lexus is a division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS). It is against the policy of TMS to accept unsolicited ideas from persons outside of the Toyota organization. The possibility of a conflict between developments from within the Toyota organizations and ideas submitted by interested persons, such as yourself, make this policy necessary. In accordance with this long-standing policy, we apologize that we are unable to accept your idea.May I take this opportunity to thank you once again for writing and best wishes to you.

    If you require further assistance, please respond to this e-mail, or contact Lexus Customer Satisfaction at 1-800-255-3987, Monday through Friday, 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Pacific Time.

    Sincerely,

    Danielle Curtis

    Lexus Customer Satisfaction
    Customer (willard west) 07/13/2009 10:43 AM
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Vera & Willard West
    To: customer-satisfaction-inquiry@lexus.com
    Sent: Monday, July 13, 2009 10:24 AM
    Subject: Idea

    Beginning with the RX330 Lexus used DBW to prevent the engine from rising in RPM until a previously engine/transaxle control ECU "commanded" transaxle downshift ran to completion.

    Since the earlier RX300 used a mechanical coupling between the gas pedal and throttle plate the same technique could not be used.

    On the other hand my '01's TC, Traction Control, dethrottles the engine via EFI fuel starvation control. Why couldn't Lexus use this same technique to "hold off" rising engine RPM/Torque for downshift delays...??

    The throttle plate would still open, just as it does/is with TC activation, but the only harm in that is the engine ROARING to life once the downshift is completed. On the other hand there are circumstances with my RX300 wherein VSC activates and I am forced to completely release and the re-apply pressure to the gas pedal before the engine will respond at all.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,915
    Usually when a company does that, they don't even look at the suggested idea so they can avoid any claims later if they come up with a similar idea in-house.

    Now you can race them to the patent office. :D
  • bikingbiking Posts: 3
    I have a 2003 RX300 SUV 70,000 miles - transmission died, like most, I have had all services done as scheduled at the Lexus dealer. I have spent 1 1/2 weeks calling customer service trying to get help paying for the estimated $5300 "new" transmission. No one returns calls, I am so frustrated (and yet very happy to be driving the Chrysler PT cruiser convertible they loaned me). Has anyone had trouble with 2003 or this low mileage issue? Warranty was 6 years (which was up end of Dec) or 70,000 miles. This just disgusts me. I welcome all suggestions.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Suggestions? Be polite and positive with the CS folks, but keep pressuring them. It seems out-of-warrantee concessions are made based on loyalty both in the past as well as future. It's certainly no secret that the original transmission is not terribly stout (it seems especially so on low mileage service), and normal maintainence does not include proper transmission service. The service reps know about all the Technical Service Bulletins on this model. Other folks with out-of warrantee claims have earned big discounts toward the cost of a replacement, especially to loyal customers just barely out of warrantee. Keep on them politely.

    Read more about other experiences in this forum. Please report back.

    Good luck. It sounds like your car is worth a new transmission, if that's any consolation to you at all.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 372
    If polite pressure doesn't work call several other Lexus dealers for their price and then call Toyota dealers. Some Toyota dealers work on Lexi and some don't. The Lexus dealer where I bought my car in '99 (now with 157,000 miles) hadn't seen me since the warranty ran out so I wasn't about to get a good customer discount. They originally quoted me $5700 for the "remanufactured" transmission. Another dealer 15 miles away quoted $4300 and the Toyota dealer 2 miles away quoted $4000. I got them to do it for $4300. That seemed reasonable since I would have owed them the cost of diagnosis and would have had to transport the car to the Toyota dealer and I thought it best to have Lexus do the work and I got to drive a new 2010 RX for the duration. From what I've read you can get it done even cheaper if you really check around, even with independent shops.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Very good points. It pays to shop, especially if your preferred Lexus dealer matches another shops' price and still gives Lexus levels of service like a nice loaner.

    It also seems that if you catch the problem in time while it's still driveable and they know you can take it to another shop, they are more likely to better their price. There does seem to be some competition even between Lexus dealers, especially if it's not so far gone that you can't drive it out of their shop.

    But in your case, since you were just barely out of warrantee, I'd keep the pressure on for even more discount... but you have to be willing to be patient.

    Please let everyone know what happens.
  • bikingbiking Posts: 3
    Well, as it turns out, the transmission seems to be fine and the whole mess appears to stem from a bad celenoid. The service people apparently didn't pay attention when I explained the problem (which was that the car refused to move out of park into any other gear). However, until this new diagnosis, the Lexus company was offering to cover the cost of parts and my Lexus dealer was going to pay 20% of the labor cost. My portion was going to be about $1800 out of the original quote of $5300. All in all, I am pleased with how it turned out (as of right now). If anything new comes up I will post again.
  • Our 2000 RX300 lost reverse gear in April 2008. After considerable arm twisting and documented references to online citations of transaxle failures in this vehicle, we shared the repair cost with Lexus, our part being $1,400. The one year warranty on the rebuilt transaxle replacement would lapse end of April 2009, so we documented on a Lexus service order (timing belt change) that the transaxle never had shifted properly and was getting worse by the day.

    For the past 2 months, wife has been complaining about a high pitched whine coming from beneath the engine, nearby the transaxle. Sure enough, the hum got louder with time and yesterday the tach showed over-reving while at cruise, at a steady cruise of 40 mph, the engine would rev to 4,000 rpm, remain there while the vehicle under its own momentum, and then eventually pull back to 2,300 rpm or lower.

    Driving down the parkway here in Bend at 50 mph, the clutch seemed to disengage, over-rev to 4,000 rpm and then re-engage the drive train with a distinct clunk. Pulled up to Cooley Road on 97 and waited in the turn lane 2 minutes while the traffic signals changed. Hit the throttle and the RX would not move forward, only showing 4,000+ rpm. Shifted to L on the gear shifter and limped out into traffic...such a dangerous situation! Pulled to the roadside and shut down the engine for 2 minutes and was then able to limp over to Lowe's parking lot where Consolidated Towing eventually brought a flatbed for the journey to Eugene.

    We have yet to see if Lexus will honor the one-year warranty on the 2008 tranny job and IF they will also reimburse for the $130 of overmiles beyond my GE road club 100 mile limit. Obviously, we are distraught but have a loaner RX350 for free from the helpful, fantastically helpful, dealer in Eugene. Stay tuned for an update to this post and hope for the best outcome possible...no $$.

    I cannot stress enough how dangerous this transmission issue was yesterday, to be caught in traffic and unable to control the driving process. There is no cell phone coverage for roughly 65% of the 126 miles to the dealer/repair shop, hence the other reason for taking the road club option on the car transport.
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