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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • Maintenance on my SUV had been performed on schedule, no problems. At about 86k, I took it in to be checked after the tranny slipped a couple of times. Lexus flushed and replaced the transmission fluid and said all was fine, never mentioning the record on this model's transmission. At 98k the transmission failed. Lexus wanted $4400 to repair. After searching the Net, I found this site and the record for this model. I called Lexus, told them I was aware of the history of problems and requested their assistance. One day later service rep called back to say the dealership would split the cost 50/50. Thanks guys!
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I'm glad to hear they are still offering the "goodwill". It sounds like you are getting a good deal for a Lexus rebuilt tranny in the hopes of earning your continued loyalty. I hope (and expect) it will work out well for you in the long run. That's a lot better than the out-of-warrantee coverage that would be offered to you from other equally expensive makes.

    Please let us know how your experience goes.
  • I own a 2002 RX300 AWD and happy with it (so far). I have a question. I have been reading lot of stories about the transmission failing, etc and was wondering about that w.r.t. my vehicle. I have never had any issue so far but only issue(s) I can think of is when the transmission is in 'D' (say in highway), when my hand accidentally brushes the transmission stick, it slips to 'N'. I have had this happen couple of occasions. I know its not supposed to change unless I press the button on top of the stick (probably I might have stepped on the brakes during that moment). Is this some sign of a serious under-lying problem :confuse: ? I bought this vehicle used 18 months back and was thoughtful enough to buy an extended warranty (3 years). So I would say my vehicle is still under Lexus warranty. Any input is deeply appreciated. Thanks
  • No need to worry. I think you will find that under normal driving conditions, you are always able to move the gear lever from D to N without having your foot on the break and without pushing the button on the lever. This is the way most cars operate, and it is not in any way indicative of premature failure of your transmission. Enjoy the car, they are really great vehicles!!
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    More likely, you're probably not used to the mid-dash location of the shift lever. Yes, it's proper that you can go from D to N without pressing anything, if you move the lever. Just be careful. And if it happens again, try not to put it back in gear when you're on the accelerator.

    Tips about transmission life:

    1. Service the transmission (not flush!) by having the pan dropped and filter inspected and replaced often, especially for low-mileage usage such as short trips as well as driving in traffic and/or extended idling. The factory recommended service interval often reflects transmission replacement rather than preventive maintainence.

    2. Make sure the service is being done with TYPE IV fluid, not the Dextron/Mercron with additive most lube shops use. Even a transmission shop will not likely stock the right fluid. They mix it from generic fluid and additive. Offer to pick it up at a Toyota dealer or Napa parts store yourself, and get an extra quart or two to make sure there's enough. Regardless of what the manual states, some models are known for having a larger refill capacity than the manual calls for.
  • Thanks la4mead. Some useful inputs.
    Will keep those in mind.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    On the other hand, with the exception of the flawed design in many of the toyota and lexus transaxles, say '98 to present, 99.999% of us can simply ignore the ATF issue, drive the car for 150,000 miles, and then take notice of any ATF "needs".
  • My RX300 would not shift to OD. I was told that it was the shift solenoids.
    My mechanic and I were trying to find were the shift solenoids were. After looking
    for about 20-30mins. we arrived to the conclusion that the solenoids are inside the
    transmission itself. Has anybody experienced this same shifting problem and what
    have you done to solve the problem/s? Let us know. Thanks.
  • Is anyone aware if Lexus has provided specific warranty coverage for their defective transmissions in the RX 300s? Any recalls or class actions in process? My daughter has one broken down in Columbia, SC and sister has one parked in the garage with the same problem in WV. While my daughters was towed to the local dealer there was another tow truck their with an RX with the same problem. This sounds like a situation that Lexus should address or face the consequences. : :(
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    The transmissions are definitely a weak spot (like many modern cars these days), not what I would consider a stout design, and I'm sorry to hear you're stuck with two out-of-warrantee failures in your family. Personally, I don't know about a recall or class action, possibly because Lexus has been helpful in many cases. I don't think they consider failures after 7/70 "defective" in the same way the owner/operator who is stuck with the car in the driveway does. Lexus did issue some service bulletins about the original transmission depending on model and year, and stepped up to the plate to replace transmissions under the longer-than-usual powertrain warrantee for a lot of owners who noticed problems, even before the transmission failed.

    What may help you the most is that there are lots of reports that Lexus has been helping some owners who have established relationships by covering a "goodwill" portion of the out-of-warrantee repairs for good customers they want to retain (my humble personal opinion only, and I have no way to back up that claim). Then, you get a transmission rebuilt to the most modern design that Lexus specified, installed at the Lexus dealer with their professionals, at a cost that's more competitive than a third-party trans shop. Check this and the main RX300 thread.

    I hope this helps you. Good luck.
  • No recall, just push on your service rep for assistance with any repairs. Citing this site got me a 50% reduction in repair costs.
  • Thanks. Have initially received a stone wall from local dealer but this problem is too significant for Toy/Lex to ignore. Am following up with Lex. Cust Serv. and local rep gladly gave me their number.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "My RX300 would not shift to OD..."

    This can happen, depending on years/miles/usage. If the engine is "tired" it may not be able to produce the level of torque required in OD at some roadspeeds resulting in low RPM operation. Basically the engine knocks/pings (non-audibly) just ONCE due to "lugging" and the ECU will now avoid those situations for teh current drive cycle.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..or face the consequences.."

    To what consequences do you refer...?

    This "episode" started with/during the design of the original RX300, introduced back in '98, ten years ago now and the problem still has not been adequately addressed, only makeshift, QUICK, band aid, fixes. In order to build a more "robust" Camry transaxle for use in a much heavier vehicle, SUV, F/AWD SUV, some sacrfices were made.

    Goodle for:

    wwest abolition transaxle -dfg
  • at best . . . no repeat Lexus sales. . . at worst gov. complaint filed with potential class action for defective design. . . engine sludge is a good example of a defective design toy.lex. settled.
  • jensadjensad Posts: 388
    I purchased my rx330 in 04. I began to read up on the problems that Toyota had with "sludge" in the bottom of the trannys.

    I suggest this is not a new problem with the 300 and some 330s. Take a look at this thread post # 10 and others. I expected excellent vehicle quality with little repairs, and that was the reason I purchased Toyotas and Hondas over the years.

    However, I subsequently sold my 330 when I started to see other owners of rx 330/330 have tranny issues and as I was getting close to 50k, I did not want to incrure the cost of repair/replace for a tranny. (Never had to replace a Toyota or Honda car tranny. Indeed all 6 dirvers in our family have not had to replace a Toyota or Honda vehicle tranny.)

    Its a shame that when one buys a supposedly high end/quality vehcile, that he/she cannot count on the car to get the 150k we got on our old 95 Honda Accord and our 89 Toyota Camry. And we have owned Toyotas and Hondas since 1972.

    I do not believe today in the old Toyota quality I thought was the basis of Lexus. I went back to Acura now, and have an rl. I hope this post helps someone. I didnot post this to get people angry, just to suggest that you look into some of the older posts.

    Gist is that this is not a new problem.

    Good luck to all in the new year and stay safe

    jensad :)
  • mikey00mikey00 Posts: 462
    First question is do you have a check engine light on? Even if it's on for an issue unrelated to the transmission, it will prevent your trans from shifting into overdrive. This is by design. Often some simple unrelated engine problems cause a check engine light and get mis-diagnosed as a trans problem.
    Shift solenoids are inside the trans. The whole valve body gets changed, not just a solenoid. It is so expensive to change the valve body is usually only makes sense to do a whole trans rebuild at the same time. If it is truly a shift solenoid not working correctly, this is usually not due to a solenoid failure, but due to other trans parts deteriorating and hanging up the solenoid.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...'sludge' in the bottom of the trannys..."


    I would be extremely surprised if I dropped the pan/sump on a "tranny" with more than 50,000 miles and didn't find...."SLUDGE".

    The clutch (and bands for the oldies) frictional surfaces wear over time and use. ATF is specifically formulated to not hold the resulting debris in suspension so it settles to the bottom.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Changing out one of the transaxle control solenoids, or even the valve body, is a piece of cake, literally, in comparison to an overhaul. Anyone experienced at changing engine oil and filter would NOT be challenged with the task of changing a transaxle control solenoid OR a valve body.

    Tearing the damn thing down, removing it first, enough to replace clutch frictional surfaces and seals would be a nightmare in comparison.
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