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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?

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  • I had the transmission software updated about three weeks ago on my '05 330 -- so far, so good. It essentially eliminated the lag, but did not fix the sudden surge. So when I'm in stop-and-go traffic (which is nearly all the time), the car is more responsive than before, but still lurches forward rather than gradually. I share the negative feelings that others here have expressed about Lexus's response to the problem. The new software is an improvement (so far), and I feel lucky that it came just 4 months after I started complaining to them about the problem. I really feel for all you out there who have been fighting this for the past couple years. Well, I have learned my lesson, and will never buy a Lexus again. Back to Acura, or maybe Infiniti.
  • smirrorsmirror Posts: 3
    I asked a service representative in a Lexus dealer and also called Lexus customer service about the recent TSB. They all said only ES330s with certain VIN are in the list for the TSB and my 05 ES330 (bought in 11/04) happens to be not in the list, although it has a very serious hesitation problem. For the people who have the update done, how did you get them to do the update for you? Was your VIN in the list? Thanks for your input.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    A poster on the Engine Hesitation forum just had a solenoid replaced and tranny fluid level reduced and his first day results are no hesitation. He previously had the software upgrade to no avail.

    About the tranny fluid, some owners were noting that the tranny fluid level was well over the maximum line when hot. Excessive tranny fluid could cause it to froth and end result could be hesitation. It would be very strange if this was the cause of the problem all along, but I doubt it. It would be interesting if others with hesitation could check the level of transmission fluid.

    Will never know if bkinblk's (on the Engine Hesitation forum) results are due to the fluid level being drained or the new solenoid since both were done at the same time..
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    I never had a software upgrade on my Toyota, since none is yet available. However, by process of elimination, I would first check the transmission fluid. Turn off the engine, wait about 5 minutes and pull the orange dipstick. Do this 3 or 4 times to be sure. If it is 1" over the hot-notch on the stick, (like mine), then you better get some drained. After day -one with a new solenoid and lower fluid, my car seems fine, but I am very cautiously optimistic- only time will tell. In case this "fix" doesn't work, I now have documentation from Toyota that my fluid was filled too high at the factory. BTW, it's a new 05 V6 XLE with 2500 miles.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    Sorry about that. Thanks for the correction.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    My dealer told me the same thing regarding VINs. That is, there is a VIN list of vehicles to which the upgrade might apply.

    This indicates to me that some cars have the upgraded firmware out of the factory. It makes it difficult to do apples-to-apples comparisons of the problem on this board, because people generally won't know whether or not their vehicle has the upgrade version of the firmware. Another irritant.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    This is a post I made to the Lexus Owners Club:

    "I started this thread on May 20, 2003, so if you go back to my first post it'll explain why I absolutely hated this ES's performance, from the time I picked up this brand new car from my Lexus dealer.

    Well, I can finally tell you that I'm completely satisfied with this new transmission calibration. Gone is the hesitation! Gone is the transmission hunting for the proper gear to go into! Gone is the lagging feeling as you go from a standing start.

    Today I picked up the car and immediately noticed a vast difference as I drove off the first time. Mind you, the transmission didn't even know my driving habits, so it didn't make any minor electronic adjustments to make it feel any better.

    Now the car responds like a good transmission is supposed to.....downshifts at the proper RPM and upshifts at the proper RPM. Like steviej said in an above post, it sorta feels like a manual transmission, where you would normally shift the car. It's beautiful.

    There is no more of having to adjust your driving style as you had to do before this upgrade. It now knows!!

    Lexus finally got it right!"
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    Please keep us updated. It would be great to know if the car DOES NOT re-learn your driving habits and revert to its old ways. Please post also on the Engine Hesitation forum.
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    That's great news for all owners of Toyota-Lexus products with the V6. Not to be a killjoy, but we have had experiences of initial excitement turn into disillusionment after time and miles were put on the car (when it fell off the wagon, the computer took over, and reverted back to it's old habits). I wish you much satisfaction with the new fix and genuinely hope it remains "fixed". Please keep us posted with updates.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    OK.......I have only driven about 300 miles on my car(2003 ES) since this re-flash of the ECM and so far everything is about the same as the day I picked it up from my dealer......great!

    One of the other members(steviej-2002 ES), from from the 'Lexus Owners' messageboard has driven his car approximately 1500 miles, and here are his findings:

    "It has been almost 1500 miles since the reflash. (A round trip from Boston to Toronto will do that to your odometer)

    1. The shifting is still very pleasing to me.
    2. There is no joggle at 40 mph.
    3. The shifting on the highway is very nice when passing and getting up to speed rapidly.
    4. Only once did I feel the dreaded redline and no shifting. However, it was from 10 mph, I floored it, going up a steep hill while turning right coming out of a mall.
    5. I am in learning mode too, so I am still getting used to the shifting. I keep expecting the old tranny to come back. So far so good.

    My travel to Toronto and back was all major highways. I averaged 29.5 mpg for the entire trip, and it was mostly driving 75-80 mph.

    I will post in two or three tankfuls the mpg for around town driving.

    steviej"

    So, at this point I have to say that everything seems to be A-OK.

    Alan
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    Thanks so much for the update. I hope other Lexus owners with the same upgrade will report as you have. Maybe the "poor mans Lexus" er, a , I mean, Toyota people, will provide us with an effective ECU reprogram in the near future.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I have posted my impressions of the ES 300 transmission many times on this website over the past 2 years of my experience driving this vehicle.
    I had the latest software "patch" completed about 3 weeks ago and have subsequently driven about 1300 miles. This was mostly highway driving at speeds of 60-80 mph, but at least 300 miles of city stop and go and speeds from 0 - 50.

    I will be as objective as I can, since I think this is extremely important given the significant (3+ years) history of documented problems with the 2002-2005 ES 300/330 transmission.

    First of all, the service writer at my Lexus dealership (whom I have the greatest respect for) told me that I should expect the car to drive "just like it did when it was new". I have read this comment in several posts above and believe that it comes from Lexus headquarters. He also described that the change is primarily in adding new "shift points" which have been set higher to allow higher rpm and vehicle speed prior to shifting. He also said that it will take several thousand miles for the car to re-learn my driving habits - as before and as is characteristic of the "drive by wire" throttle system on the ES, RX, etc.

    My experience is that the shift points are indeed higher. Shifting from 1st to 2nd is not noticeable, but shifting from 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to 4th occurs at rpm close to 4000. I believe the car use to shift at around 2300rpm. The result is that I have noticed that the engine tends to "race" a bit when accelerating quickly from stop to highway speed. Personally I don't mind this change.

    The other noticeable improvement is that when driving in stop and go traffic below 25 mph, the transmission doesn't "search" for the appropriate gear as much as before. It stays in 2nd longer and therefore the "abrupt" and "rough" shifting that was extremely annoying to me while in rush hour commuting (characteristic of the ES) is significantly improved.

    The most noticeable "rough" shifting has occurred while accelerating up hill at around 30-40 mph. This was very rough and "worse" than I had remembered experiencing before the "upgrade".

    I averaged about 28.5 mpg on a highway trip of 1000 miles, which I believe is similar to slightly better than what I had experienced prior to the upgrade. My usual daily commute average was closer to 22.5 mpg prior to upgrade, and I'm anxious to see how that compares - post upgrade.

    Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that I will see some improvement. To quote Ronald Reagan, "trust but verify".

    One other observation: while my '03 was in getting service, I was given a '05 model that demonstrated the same "hesitation, rough-shifting", and "gear-searching" that has been reported frequently in the posts above. I can't understand why some drivers of the ES don't notice these problems, which are clearly present in every ES that I have driven since 2002. I assumed that the loaner hadn't had the "upgrade" completed yet. It had about 8,000 miles on the odo, if I remember.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Thanks for the informative summary. I just had the upgrade installed on my 2002 ES300 yesterday. I have driven about 100 miles of pure highway (60-75 mph) driving since the upgrade.

    I feel as though the experience is rougher on the highway than it was before the upgrade, which is what has been advertised. There was a little bit of slipping/surging but it is not too bad, however.

    Perhaps my highway experience stems from the upgraded transmission not having learned my driving style but I doubt it. I have driven numerous ES300/ES330s and my experience is that the "learning" thing does not have a large impact. I do not experience my own vehicle (which supposedly knows my driving style) much differently than I do the loaners I have driven.

    When I have driven more in-city stop and go driving, I'll provide an update on that.

    By the way, toydriver, I am with you in that I do not understand how some owners do not experience the symptom.
  • gsb300gsb300 Posts: 2
    I had posted a few weeks back that I had the new upgrade put on my car. After looking at the work order closely it said it had been installed which I assume was the upgrade I had done about a year ago. I reported that the car was running great. Well it only lasted about 2 weeks. I guess when the firmware level was check it reset the computer.
  • bikegalbikegal Posts: 50
    Not every lexus owner reports the problem because not everyone has it. My 2005 has 7,000 miles and knock wood, not the problems you all have.

    I have driven some with the issue and some without.

    I do hope the latest fix is truly that because a lot of folks are unhappy.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I hope for your sake that your car remains problem free. Many ES owners began to experience the transmission issues after several thousand miles. On the other hand, maybe your car had the upgrade at the factory.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Well, you have to believe one of two things:

    1) This is a Toyota drive-train design issue
    or

    2) It is not a design issue, but some individual vehicle issue.

    I believe it is a design issue, which means that all vehicles are impacted to one degree or another. I have driven 7 or 8 ES300/330s and have been able to repeat the problem in all of them. The problem does not feel identical in all vehicles, but it is close enough for me to conclude it is the same problem and it is in all vehicles. I am convinced that differences among drivers' experiences are more a result of varying driver perception than of actual design or manufacturing differences from one vehicle to the next. I might take it one step further and say that driver perception depends somewhat on the gap between drivers' expectations of what it should feel like versus what it really does feel like. I recall my sister saying she felt it but did not think it was a big deal.

    I agree with many on this forum. It may not be a big deal on a less expensive car, but this is supposed to be a high class somewhat luxurious vehicle. The hesitating drive train should be somewhat of an embarrassment to a company who touts its "passionate pursuit of perfection". Well, they missed the mark on this one and it seems they should take responsibility for it. That they refuse to admit or accept that they missed the perfection mark on this vehicle is almost as irritating to me as is the problem itself and I suspect that a lot of owners share my sentiments.
  • shocasershocaser Posts: 36
    I agree that this is a design issue. What I find amazing is that many people on this forum write about how they hope that Lexus fixes this problem because they really want to get an ES-330. I think that any car company, especially a "premier" company such as Lexus, that treats owners the way that ES-330 owners have been treated, is not to be trusted.

    I view the ES-330 as an entry level vehicle for Lexus. If this is how Lexus is going to treat me with the ES, there is no way that I will move up the model chain. As the saying goes, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    I think Lexus is merely a division of Toyota isn't it?

    FWIW: there are owners in the Engine Hesitation - All Makes and Models forum reporting hesitation in Camry and Highlander vehicles as well for those interested in the topic.
  • shocasershocaser Posts: 36
    I agree. Lexus is a division of Toyota. However, Lexus is presented as the luxury division of Toyota, with a "Relentless Pursuit of Perfection". It is difficult to accept the poor treatment that Lexus (a division of Toyota) has given me when realizing that I paid a premium to purchase my Lexus (which I understand is built by a division of Toyota), expecting to receive premium customer service.
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