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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • avery1avery1 Posts: 372
    To be a little more specific my '99 is AWD and I'm thinking of one very steep hill that is 3/4 of a mile long. I go down it 3 times a week. I put it into Low and still have to use the brakes some as the revs get up to 3000 or more. I could just keep it in Drive and use the brakes if you all think that would make any difference.

    I will go ahead and have them drop the pan next service. I have been rather particular about only doing what is in the manual but this looks like an exception.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Since the '99 RX300 transaxles appear to be subject to premature failures I would not "push" the issue via engine braking.
  • I purchased a 1999 Lexus RX300 at a very resonable price. The price was to reflect the price of replacing the transmission. To make this a short story I will say that there is some bad information about the amount of fluid to put in the transmission after a filter change. It seems that the correct way to check the fluid level is to first warm the car up by running the engine until the coolant temperature has been up to normal for at least 5 minutes. Then, with the brakes applied, move the transmission into each selector location for about 3 seconds and then back to park. That is to put the selector into L, then 2, then D, then N, then R, for three seconds each. Now return the selector back to P and with the engine still running get out and check the fluid level. Look at the front and back of the transmission dip stick in order to get an accurate reading. I have read so many of these messages which seem to say that the trouble started shortly after the car was serviced. The book I used said to fill with 4 quarts and the same book said to check the fluid just like I have stated. When I checked the fluid this way the transmission needed about 6 quarts to bring the level to the full location on the dip stick. This method of checking can be done by most anyone. Maybe the fluid level should be checked at home to make sure that the garage is putting in the correct amount of fluid after service. If you decide to add more fluid, the book also calls for a type four fluid. This may only work on my vehicle but it doesn't take very much time and effort to check the fluid level for yourself. The transmission was slipping very badly when I got the car. I changed the fluid, filter, and added 1 can of Lucas transmission additive and have just returned from a 1150 mile trip across the mountains and the transmission worked flawlessly. Good Luck
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347

    You make valid points. My '99 2WD took more fluid than the owners manual shows. A lot more. I was trying to be careful not to overfill it (which would have been even worse), and was surprised how much more it took after my second trip to get more from the parts dept. Finally, I went over to the service dept. at the Toyota dealer to have them double-check that I didn't overfill it regardless of the dipstick, and they were sure it did take more, and topped it off for me free.

    Maybe some do hold more than others. Mine with an extra cooler was nearly 7 quarts without dropping the pan, and that's not 4WD.

    Also your point about the type of fluid is important. Many times Type IV fluid is not in stock at an independent shop. When (if) they order the quantity specified in the service manual and run short, they start adding Dextron III. I cringed when I saw this done to me. Make sure you have enough. It's a good idea to have a few spare quarts on hand, even if you have a qualified shop do the work. That way you can say "I have more if it takes more than you have on hand".

    As for the additive, please let us know how that works out. I like Lucas brand stuff, but hesitate to put anything in the tranny but type IV.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    On my '01 AWD RX300 when I did a simple drain I did not at first know that the diff'l must be drained along with the transaxle itself. The second time I drained the diff'l also and it took 5 quarts to refill.

    With a simple "gravity" drain, including the diff'l, I am of the belief that if you put in more than 5 quarts of ATF something is very seriously WRONG.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    For something to be seriously wrong, the extra fluid would have to be going somewhere where it's not supposed to or causing foaming or other overfilling problems.

    Lexus made many "updates" to the original design each year. They also replaced some under warrantee with newer designs. Apparently, some just have larger capacities than others (and the owners manual). Mine like many others does not have the original transmission, and even takes a different filter than the manual calls for (original used a filter screen). I don't know that is what accounts for the difference, since I'm not qualified to say. The extra added cooler and lines could only add a few extra ounces, less than a pint at the most; it's the thin stacked-plate design. And there has not been any foaming or other signs of overfilling.

    The point of the original post was that some may be underfilled (causing problems first mimicking, then leading to failure) when adding only what the manual calls for and not checking it again to make sure it's right, and that's definately been my experience, too. But sure, be careful not to overfill it. That can be pretty bad, too.

    I hope Bou got a great deal on the car, and it continues to perform well. I'll be curious to hear back about it.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347

    Firstly, you may not have the original transmission. I was led to believe the '99 models had a filter screen and not an actual filter, unless the tranny was replaced with what they called an "updated design". That may account for the extra fluid capacity. And that's how my car is now.

    Secondly and most important for this group, I'm curious what you found when you changed the filter. Was there much debris in the pan? Was the filter filled with worn material, or was it clean?

    Good luck with your "new" car! :D
  • I will answer a couple of the questions raised. The part that I used was titled "oil strainer assembly" Toyota pt.# 35330-06010. None of the local parts stores could match what I had and I must say that it seems like better quality. Next, I did find considerable (maybe one-half teaspoon) metal filings on the three magnets in the fluid pan and the fluid had a burned smell to it. The fluid was slightly dark and the old strainer was dark (unclean) but no debris in it. Again, as stated by one of the responders to my message, I was only trying to make people aware that there seems to be some erroneous information about how much fluid should be in the unit. I am going to change my fluid and strainer again at about 2500 miles and see what the inside looks then. As for the Lucas additive, I have had good luck with their fuel additive and this was recommended by two "professionals". Thanks
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    According to the owners manual my '01 AWD RX300 w/towing package does not require any ATF service for the life of the vehicle. Luckily I always check the ATF level and condition at each and every oil change and at only 40,000 miles my ATF smelled burned and was dark brown, murky, in color.

    The second time (42,000 miles, the first drain/refill did not clear things up) I drained the ATF I also dropped the pan. The "filter" screen was quite clean and the three magnets had some small amount of metal filings but not enough to worry me. The bottom of the pan was covered with about 1/8" of fine power which looked much like ground up pencil lead.

    Now above 70,000 miles and the ATF still looks and smells reasonably new.
  • jbetzjbetz Posts: 1
    I bought a 2001 RX 300 from Carmax 30 months ago. The car had about 110,000 miles on it. I have put another 19000 miles on the car. Two weeks ago the transmission went out and a Lexus car dealer wants $6000 to repair it. I have been in contact with Lexus Corp. about this and they have pretty much been non-responsive. Last week they said they would pay 25% of the repair bill. Ever since I owned the car I have had it serviced at a Lexus dealer. I don't feel the transmission should have gone out. I feel Lexus has a problem with the transmissions on these cars and should fix or recall the cars at no charge. All the maintenance had been done to my car as required by the manual. My question is this. Should I get the transmission repaired if I have to pay for it? The service manager at the Lexus dealer said my car was too old and had too many miles. Is this true? Are Lexus cars only good for 130000 miles?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The KBB market value of your '01 RX is not more than $10,000, maybe as little as $5,000 depending on conditional factors, AWD, Nav, etc. The dealer is telling you that your RX is not worth spending $6,000 on.

    Lexus is very well aware of the premature failure problems, failures at 70,000 miles seem to be the norm, with the RX series transaxles and will usually split the cost 50/50, but at 110,000...??

    In this case Lexus is being kind only because the dealer's price quote should be more like $4,000. Find a Lexus dealer that will do it for the more typical price and have Lexus pay the 25% and you're good to go.
  • That's a tough one...I'm in a similar situation although it was not the tranny, it was the engine. See if you can get it done any cheaper at another mechanic...I wouldn't be surprised if you could cut that in half.
  • Here's the deal, I've got a 2002 RX300 with 83,000 miles on it. It was meticulously maintained and oil changed every 3000 miles. I often used Mobil 1 too.

    Last week as I'm driving home from a road trip around 300 miles, the oil light comes on. I just changed the oil a few days before going on vacation....I pull into a gas station and the dip stick is dry! I have to add 3 full qts to get it back in range. I got home and noticed it was low again...I decided to take it into Lexus at that point and not drive it.

    They open it up, run compression tests...and tell me the #2 cylinder is jacked up and the spark plug fouled with oil all over it. In the last 500 miles I burned approximately 6+ quarts of oil. I remember getting something in mail regarding an extended 8 year warranty for oil gel or sludge problems with severe oil burn or oil consumption listed. With great maintenance and at 83000 miles....Lexus tells me I need a short block assembly the tune of $7,800 with part/labor. I was floored...I showed all of my maintenance records, receipts...the stamped book...and they offered me 25% off as a "good will" assistance. With $5,800 the new price tag...I figure (since the vehicle is the prem pkg and in good shape otherwise) that the car is worth around 13k or so...I spent 30 minutes trying to get them to give me other options and the sales mgr says he'll give me $9,000 off a newer model for a trade in...they won't even fix the RX, just auction it off and pass the problem onto the next guy. Sheesh. Anyways, I pulled the RX (it drives fine, no noise...just burning oil like crazy) over to another mechanic I know..and I'm waiting to see if he can prove it's the same issue that the class action suit was all about. He thinks it is based on what he's seen...and has actually worked on a couple 2002 toyota engines with similar problems. (PCV was chg after 02')

    They have a really nice 2005 RX330 with 40k miles on it on the lot and he'd knock the price tag from $27k (before taxes) down to around $17500 or so after my trade. My dilemma is whether or not to go with this....I liked the RX alot for the last four years...until this costly problem. What do you guys think? I'm 30 years old and make a decent living as a financial analyst....but man, I don't have six grand sitting around to throw at a 2002. What if it happens again! DOH. I feel kinda stuck...The RX was so great b/c I'm married with a 14 month old girl. Four door and really nice ride...I'd like another one, but man....any guideance or advice is appreciated. I've test driven other cars...I like the Infinity FX....but I really like the RX 330's and 350's alot. And I can't see trying to get another dealer to pay me more for it...even though they wouldn't know of the oil burn issue unless they opened up the engine...and I doubt in trade they'd do that. Any thoughts? Tanks!
  • I don't think that's a particularly great deal. Unfortunately, the used car market for SUVs has tanked this year so it's hard to gauge what they are worth. One thing is for sure - used car dealerships don't make their money by doing people favors! Look at this deal as you would any other. You should be able to get your engine fixed for a lot less than $7800 and that's only if there's abolutely no evidence that the failure was caused by gelling and therefore covered by Lexus' 8 year goodwill warranty; did they do an inspection and advise you of this?

    If Lexus won't cover this under the gel warranty (try another dealership and/or call Lexus HQ) I'd get it fixed at an independent.
  • I have a Lexus RX 300 with 153,000 miles, and I've taken my car to Lexus many times because I could here a ticking noise in the engine. Lexus told me that they were going to do a oil consumption test to see if they could find out where the ticking noise was coming from. Lexus said that they could not hear a noise. My car stopped on me while driving, and had to be towed to the Lexus dealership. Lexus said that my transmission has failed.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    You should consider yourself lucky, due to the design flaw I fully expect my '01 RX300's transaxle to fail well before 100,000 miles, now at 75,000 miles. Most '99 RX300 transaxle are failing at less than 80,000 miles.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    You mentioned it was being tested for severe oil burn. That indicates a severe engine problem, and is nearly unrelated to transmission condition, unless overheating was part of the problem.

    Before you have the transmission repaired, you may want to find the reasons for the engine tick and severe oil burn. Otherwise you may end up with a good transmission and an engine thats ready to be run into the ground.

    I don't think this is what I would want to hear, but I hope I've helped some.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Hey Bout,

    I'm curious if you got up to your next 2500 miles after the last tranny fluid and filter change. :confuse:

    Did your transmission end up working well after the guess that it was bad, and then you serviced it to see how it would fare?

    Did your fluid come out clean?

    Did the Lucas additive help?

    Share with us your wisdom. ;)
  • We need a reliable second car. I can buy a 2000 Lexus RX with 33,400 miles for $14,000 (probably less with some negotiating) OR a 2003 Lexus RX with 67,500 for $16,500.
    Older with fewer miles or newer with many miles?
    Also, has anyone had a good experience with purchasing extended warranties?
    I feel like I took a walk through the slums this week, after inquiring and talking with reps who seem like stockbrokers and fast talkers from the 1980s.

    Thank you for your input
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I'd get the more refined (esp. reliability) mature-model 2003 RX with more miles. I'd use the higher mileage and slow market as leverage to bargain the price down. I have the impression the earlier models with low mileage would not be the best choice for you, for whatever that's worth. Use the keyword "search" and look in this and the main RX300 forum at similar past posts.

    Good luck and let us know all about it!
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