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Lexus RX Transmission Problems

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Comments

  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    There are 110 complaints about the 1999 RX300 transmission on the NHTSA website.

    According to Lexus, there were 90,338 1999's made that year. I have brought this to light before, and it was a couple of years ago, I think in late 2009, that there were 86 such complaints.

    Sure there are more than 110 cases of where the transmissions may have failed, but I still maintain that this is not as widespread as many would like to believe. People go out of their way to complain, but they don't go out of their way to report the good. If they did, and there was a real problem, I strongly believe there would be more than 110 complaints on a govt. sponsored website.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    edited September 2011
    I agree, I don't think there is a statistically significant amount of failures compared to other competitive vehicles. But that doesn't mean the trannys in the early RX's weren't on the weak side in their design. The original in my early '99 2WD was clearly flawed from the beginning, and got worse early in the life of the vehicle. It never failed, but after a history of warrantee visits about a cold shift anomaly (I don't live in a cold climate or it would have happened more often) and despite three TRANS filter and fluid service visits, it was on it's way out. At almost 70,000 miles (when the powertrain warrantee was about to expire) Lexus did replace it with a brand new and revised trans from Kyushu, so I didn't have a complaint, except they were out of Lexus loaners when I brought it in, so they rented me a Neon from Enterprise. So I lived with a yucky car without cruise that had crank windows for a week and a half, not a big complaint. My point is I doubt I would have had the same experience if the car was a Ford, GM, Toyota, or an expensive German make.
    Check out more at ClubLexus or Lexusownersclub about the same issue. Some models had trannys that were clearly bad right out of the box, but none were very stout, and needed service that was not recommended in the dealer's profit-padded recommended service "specials". Many car enthusiasts have been getting hundreds of thousands of miles before failure by changing fluid often.
    When they fail unexpectedly, it's easy to think "I'll never buy an 'X' again" but it's still not statistically relevant that they all are lemons. I feel really bad for folks who have had more than one failure. There's something going on there, perhaps rebuilding any trans takes a bit of care, and there's a lot to go wrong.
    I still think it's good advice: Keep your eye on the tranny dipstick for wear indicated in the fluid yourself. Don't rely on the dealer to have your best interests in mind, and change the fluid often regardless of the fact it's not recommended by the dealer or mfr. But when something internal fails, the whole tranny still fails.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Sorry, but that "flawed" transaxle is still with us, not only Toyota/Lexus, but most other marques also. The design of the transaxle for the new RX300 included an FE break-through, a new ATF line pressure pumping system. A "real time" line pressure control system wherein line pressure was not sustained between shifts, only supplied on an "as needed" basis.

    That resulted in not being able to accomplished a second shift quickly with the engine (ATF pump "drive") being at idle or closely thereby.

    The "fix", introduced with the RX330, was to use DBW to delay the arrival of rising engine torque for 1-2 seconds until enough pressure could be built up to accomplish a re-acceleration downshift.

    Quick re-acceleration sequence, on-throttle, off-throttle (upshift), ON throttle (downshift/delay).

    New firmware version as of about '08 "watched" the rate at which the "off-throttle, gas pedal lift, occurred and attempted to judge the driver's intent.

    "Slow" (relatively) lift of the gas pedal was deemed to mean the driver simply wished to enter cruise mode and the transaxle would upshift appropriately.

    "Fast" lift was deemed to mean, most likely, that the driver wished to remain in the lower gear for engine compression coastdown.

    3 of the instances wherein one might expect to encounter this 1-2 second downshift delay/hesitation are well defined in a TSB issued for the Camry in the spring of '03.

    Accelerating down an on-ramp, look over your shoulder for a merge opening. lift the throttle (upshift, engine goes to idle), spot an opening, accelerate to match/merge....WHAT, no engine....!!!??
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I'm thankful my RX300 doesn't have that delayed accel problem. Another reason to keep the ol' beast around, although I'm not in a position to buy a new car, and if I was, I'd still prefer a manual - if it was even available.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    edited September 2011
    FWD and manual transmissions are such a hazard for the average John Q Public that they are becoming less common each day. VW has developed a new engine up-rev technique(***) that somewhat alleviate the hazardous nature of the beast, but we'll have to wait and see if it is successful industry wide in turning things around.

    *** A form of ABS for engine compression braking.
  • apn3apn3 Posts: 1
    I own a '02 Lexus rx300. The transmission went at 120k. I was on the highway with my 18mth old daughter at the time. I was so upset - there was absolutely no warning. The lights came on as the car was dying. I called Lexus and the explained what had happened. They were very apologetic. She recommended to submit my invoice for the repairs and Lexus would review and try to reimburse me at least a portion of the cost. So, I had my car fixed, submitted my invoice and was assigned a case manager. The case manager was very condescending and downright rude! I lovED my car. I never had any problems until the transmission. I was planning on purchasing a newer model but after this incident and knowing that Lexus did not stand by their product I most likely will not purchase another Lexus. Sorry Lexus. You turned away a loyal customer.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I am quite sure that every one of the 2001 RX300's came from the factory with an owners manual that stated, or implied, that the transaxle ATF was expected to be good for the life of the vehicle.

    At ~40,000 miles, and again at 80,000 miles, the ATF in my '01 appeared quite dirty and had a definite burned odor. At the initial event I was to soon learn that the factory recommended life of the ATF was now 15,000 miles. That was later changed to inspect the ATF at each oil/filter change and address the issue accordingly.

    So, yes, I doubt that you will find very many reports of transaxle failures for the '01 RX series. But would'nt you agree that the entire lot was shipped from the factory with an apparently unforeseeable design flaw...?

    Knowing and understanding the design change made in favor of FE during the design of the '99-'00 RX300 I personally have no doubt that these, too, also come from the factory with a design flaw that the engineers had not foreseen, forecast.

    There were several changes made for the '01 series to help alleviate the failure issue. I suspect some "adjustments" were made between the '99 model and the '00 model as the number of complaints of the '99 vs the '00 seem to be substantually greater.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    As of the RX330 model year Lexus appears to have successfully addressed the premature transaxle failures. Plus which, the design aspect, FE improvement, that lead to those failures has now been introduced throughout the industry.

    The RX330 "fix" was to use DBW to delay the onset of raising engine torque for a "re-acceleration" event until the transaxle could complete the required downshift. In about '08 the transaxle shift pattern control firmware was revised such that it attempts to detect an upcoming re-acceleration event. You will still encounter the 1-2 downshift delay/hesitation just more rarely.

    Additionally the 2010 and after RX's have a more functional F/awd system should you have need of such utility.

    Not pushing RX's, just saying they should remain on your shopping list, possibly along with the to big/bulky Acura MDX is you do have need of F/awd.
  • ja8669ja8669 Posts: 2
    edited October 2011
    Our 2002 RX 300 2wd has 85k miles and have never had a problem with the transmission. We had to replace the o2 sensors, oil and tires but that's it. In 2006 my friend's 2000 RX 300 transmission went and the the dealer paid for parts. My nephew has a 2001 and another has a 2004 RX 330, all so far so good.

    I will be checking the ATF when I get home. Fingers and toes crossed. Wish I could afford a new one.
  • The new transmission is performing beautifully! Drove it from Colorado Springs to Elkhart IN and back and was totally impressed of this cars' performance, until I get back. Had a puddle of engine oil on the driveway!! Had the timing belt replaced with a kit that included pullies, tentioner and water pump prior to this trip. The oil was leaking passed the camshaft seals, right behind the pullies that were just replaced. Each job, timing belt and cam seals, call for 4.5 labor hours, but both could have been done while it was all apart saving at least 4 labor hours. Bottom line-when your timing belt is due replacement insist on a kit that includes all the oil seals too. I'm at 136,000 miles now. :sick:
  • Along those lines - when my tranny was replaced, the dealer didn't replace the main seal - DUH - now it leaks. Also, when the dealer did a brake job, they apparently didn't grease the slide pins - so 3 of my calipers seized & have chewed up my brakes. Dealer also wanted to replace the VVTI, but my independent mechanic says it's not throwing a code. I'm not happy with my dealer!!!!
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I found long ago, definite differences between the quality of service at different dealers, and it varies from time to time. I haven't taken the car to a dealer for a while, thankfully. I'm not sure what I would do if I was in your shoes, but obvious is go back and ask them to make it right. If that doesn't work, take it to Lexus Customer Service. Good luck, and let us all know what happens.
  • navin_711navin_711 Posts: 2
    edited December 2011
    Just replaced the tranny in our 88,000 mile RX300. On the drive home from the shop, the traction control light comes on, alarm sounds, vehicle becomes possessed and tries to assume control from me, the supposed driver. It was truly a puckering moment. I wonder, if this had happened at 70 mph, would I be here typing this message? Doubtful... Anyway, my wife purchased this car, then the transmission went out 3 days later. $3300... So, we have no experience with this car. Is it normal for the VTC to kick in like that?? Is it normal for the shop to tell me that the Yaw Sensor in the streering wheel is the culprit and that I now need a front end alignment? Admittedly, the steering wheel was straight when we dropped off the vehicle, and now it's tilted to the right about 20 degrees (the shope denies having anything to do with the steering wheel tilt...)

    Thanks!
  • Oh... My post was number 666. This car is evil. Anyone in the market for a used RX300 with a brand spanking new tranny!? LOL...
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,895
    Post #1 was deleted for some reason so you're safe.

    Opps, that means your second post was #666. You're toast. :shades:

    Moderator
    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Sorry you are having trouble with your car. I'm not sure what to make of your post. Are you looking for advice? Obviously, with hundreds of thousands of RX's on the road that aren't "posessed" it's hard to know how to respond, other than "no, they are not all that way". Sensors do go bad on cars this age. I don't know if there is any connection of the yaw sensor or wheel alignment to the transmission, but I think it's not very likely.

    Again, It's terrible you are having trouble. I hope you get it fixed.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    In what way does it "try to take control" from you? Stability/ABS pulse?
  • The transmission on our 2001 Lexus RX300 with only 83,000 and fully serviced at Lexus just failed. I spoke with a service technicians at the Lexus dealer, and off the record, he informed me that the problem is rampant and its quite rare for a transmission not to fail on this model year and the 1999 and 2000 RX 300, even if the mileage is very low and fully serviced at Lexus. My understanding is that the problem rarely gets reported because most Lexus owners trade in their RX300 with the damaged transmission for a new RX350 at a generous trade in value, and do not follow-up with complaints. What concerns me is that this technician informed me that most owners that do replace the transmission have transmission problems within the year. Has anyone recently replaced the transmission and have there been problems? Also, what did Lexus offer you in terms of a price reduction as my understanding is that they typically pay half the cost of installing a new transmission.
  • Our 1999 RX 300 failed with 93,000 miles on it in May 2010. We have 107000 on it and it is still going. We received $1800 check to cover parts from Lexus which went against our total bill of $5500. Good Luck to you.
  • I replaced mine about 9 months ago. Vehicle had acout 145K. Call Lexus customer satisfaction as they may help on the cost of replacing/repairing.
  • My 2001 Lexus RX300 with only 83,000, and Lexus serviced, recently needed a transmission replacement. I have since done a significant amount of research on this and have started to make numerous inquiries to local Lexus dealers. What I'm discovering is that the transmission problem is quite pervasive and its rare for the 1999 to 2001 RX models not to have any transmission problems. Based on my research and inquiries it seems that the overwhelming majority of 1999-2001 Lexus RX owners with faulty transmission have traded their cars in with Lexus for a new or certified Lexus and have received generous trade-in settlements. Very few of these new owners have bothered to file complaints which is what Lexus obviously prefers.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    The transmission on my 1999 RX300 2WD had problems from the start, original owner. Lexus service does not include transmission service. I could tell the fluid was getting burned and contaminated, so I proactively had the transmission serviced, even though it was not part of the service schedule or on the Lexus service menu. I had the car in for warrantee items, and they always claimed "no problem found" with the transmission. I never experienced failure.
    But in 2004, just before the original powertrain warrantee was to expire at 70,000 miles I took it in again (different Lexus dealer) and explained I had documented "no problem found" previously, and wanted to have the transmission serviced and asked them to report their findings. They volunteered to have the transmission replaced under warrantee, and since then I have not experienced any of the problems the original transmission had. I now have more than double that mileage, and if the fluid condition can be any indicator (in this case I think it is) I expect this transmission will last a long time. So to answer your question, yes I feel my new transmission is reliable in the long run. I don't know if you can say the same for some third-party rebuilds. As a precaution, I change the fluid every year, even when I'm only driving low mileage.
    "Lexus Service" by itself absolutely does not mean they were servicing the transmission at all. And although the design of this transmission is not rugged, it is common that Lexus would rather wait for transmission failure rather than offer effective preventative maintenence which is easily done at home or a reputable transmission shop. This may account for a seemingly high number of failure complaints you see on websites, although statistically not relevant because these are only the complaints and not reports from owners who drove the RX many hundreds of thousands of miles without transmission trouble (yes, they do also exist). My advice: If you like the car and are otherwise happy with it, and it is in good shape, it's easily worth the cost of the transmission. If you have other troubles and/or don't like the car, well you know where I'm going from here. Good luck, and please share
    your experience bad or good.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The transaxle design flaw introduced with the '99 RX300 was not successfuly fixed until the arrival of the RX330 using DBW "to protect the drive train.

    MAJOR changes were made in the overall drive train with the introduction of the '01 RX300.

    1) mechanical LSD option was dropped.

    2) VC, Viscous Clutch, fluid formulation was changed in a way to make the functionality virtually ZERO.

    3) Towing package, inclusive of external ATF cooler, became a standard factory installed "option" on the F/awd versions.

    4) In leu of VC F/awd functionality the MB320 braking system was adopted/used to apportion torque to the rear but ONLY after/upon/after the fact, detection of front wheelspin/slip.

    5) The minimum level of "real-time" ATF line pressure was raised. This one may go back to the '00 RX300 model year as it is clear that the '00 model did not have a transaxle failure rate as high as the '99.

    Number 5 is undoubtedly the reason the '01 requires ATF service at least every 35-40,000 miles. The owners manual for my '01 does not call for ATF service for the life of the vehicle. When I discovered that my ATF was dark brown and smelled burned at only ~40,000 miles I enquired of the dealer and then the factory. The dealer response was that the ATF in my '01 required service each 15,000. In disbelief I pursued this issue with the factory rep who confirmed the dealer statement.

    Some years later I became aware that the ATF service directive had been changed to "inspect the ATF condition during each engine oil/filter change and react accrdingly".
  • hay what are you doing with this car?
  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    Your message makes no sense. Try again.
  • the transmission failed at 230,000 miles. lexus agreed to split the difference with us, as we are good customers with another lexus and have always serviced our cars at the dealership. we want to sell the car privately. how do i word the ad? say it has all those miles or that it has a new transmission or both? the car is in great condition with only a little wear on the side of the front passenger seat.
    also when pricing it, the sites price it around $5800, but that's with a transmission with 230,000 miles on it, not a new transmission. should i price it higher because it will now have a new transmission?
    or should i just try to sell it as is without a transmission? or donate it??????
    thanks
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    You managed to drive a 2000 RX300 for 230,000 miles before the transaxle failed..?

    Even if only FWD something just short of miraculous, that.

    99-00 have such a bad reputation in this regard I doubt if any wording will make much difference.
  • so what do you think i should do with it????? it is fwd.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Be satisfied with the blue book estimate or highest offer close to.
  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    That's a pretty generous offer, to split the cost of a new transmission on a 12 year old car with 230k miles on it.

    Seems to me that this would be the perfect selling point for an ad should you choose to get it fixed. Either way, honesty is the best policy.
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