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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • Well, my wife and I took an hour drive today and I noticed a new problem as a result of the upgrade. While cruising along at 20mph with my foot off of the gas, the car suddenly surged forward, yikes. I asked my wife about it since she now drives the car to work. She told me that this happens all the time.

    I've traded stumble and shuddering problems for surging. I am not sure which one is worse. What I do know is that I will never by a Lexus again.

    P.S. I had the front rotors replaced at 7K miles since they were defective.
  • i have a 1996 lexus es 300. 2 days ago i noticed this grinding noise coming from the front driver side whenever i turned my wheel left. today, when i went to drive my car, the noise was twice as loud and prevented me from even moving the vehicle. as soon as i shift the car from park to neutral/drive/ or reverse it makes the loudest grinding noise and does not move at all. its as if the car completely locks up!!!
     any suggestions?
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    Sorry to hear about your transmission problem. The tranny problem most of the people on this board are having is related to the software given the '02 and '03's. It may be a problem for the '04 as well. Grinding isn't a software issue. Better spend the dough on a mechanic.
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    I talked with a manufacturer's rep in the Atlanta office on Thursday. He acknowledged that many people are unhappy with the transmission. He said the Lexus engineers are happy with the latest software upgrade for the transmission and that no other upgrades will be forthcoming. Wish I could find a lawyer. Unfortunately the lawyers want me injured or dead before I contact them. It makes their case so much easier. If I get fat from eating at McDonald's I can find any attorney to represent me. But, make it a dangerous mechanical problem and they want people hurt. Please file your grievances with the National Highway Transportation Agency. By constant complaining, it's one of the best and cheapest ways to get Lexus to fix this problem. Please don't let this website be your only outlet to get Lexus to fix this transmission issue.
  • The transmission on my 2002 ES300 lurches when accelerating after slowing almost to a stop. When I press hard on the accelerator on the freeway to pass, the transmission hesitates and then downshifts two gears and the engine goes up to over 4000 rpm. After this 2 or 3 second delay, the car speeds up. I consider that dangerous! When going up a hill near home, the transmission gets up to 3000 rpm and will not downshift. Switching from D to 4 and back causes the transmission to up-shift to a comfortable rpm. I have mentioned it several times and I always get put off by the service representative. I guess I need to go higher!
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    I just received the new issue of Consumers Reports. In this issue they tested the 2004 Lexus ES330. Here is a quote concerning the transmission: "The five-speed automatic transmission is smooth, but not always responsive when downshifting." This unresponsiveness has been an ongoing gripe among many owners of '02-'04 ES's.
  • It's time for the second oil change on my '03 ES300 and I've been pondering the "chip" change to improve transmission performance. I received my "letter" from Lexus in September '03. Before agreeing to it, however, I wanted to read these boards and am now glad I did.

    My experience has been like that of many owners, however, I think I'll stick with what I've got instead of going for the "enhancement" which probably won't ensure perfection. This is what I suspected...........

    My shifting problems only occur occasionally, and usually when I'm on a "hill" here in the L.A. area. When going downhill, just coasting and braking, THAT'S when the problem is the worst. Luckily, I don't have to do that too often.

    On freeways (NOT commute times, LOL) the car is a dream, truly -- it accelerates beautifully, reaching cruising speed quickly and without glitch. It rolls along steadily and quietly with no problems and de-celerates nicely. It's just those darned "hills" on occasion, but on a steep grade such as the Conejo in Ventura County, again the car accelerates perfectly and without hesitation. I zoom from 25 to 75 in a couple of seconds, passing every vehicle on the road without so much as a hint of transmission change. That would NOT be true, of course, if someone got in my way and I had to brake or remove my foot from the gas pedal.

    Even more rarely, on a city street, if I accelerate quickly away from a stop sign or light without having come to a complete stop first, the car will lurch forward but it doesn't seem dangerous to me as it doesn't move all that much. I see this as a good reminder to me to come to complete stops.

    To sum up, it seems that quickie stops and starts are what cause the transmission jerkiness most often. This should NOT be happening, of course, but overall this is a great car and most of the time the "jerking" can be avoided.

    I will tell the dealership about my decision NOT to put in the "enhancement" and WHY, and I will definitely tell them I am NOT 100% pleased with the transmission, as they need to know how we all feel.

    Unless something else happens down the line, however, I will not be seeking legal counsel, etc., as some here have chosen to do. I agree with voicing displeasure and even if the majority of owners do not complain, the numbers are significant enough that Toyota/Lexus SHOULD make restitution to the really dissatisfied owners.

    My last car was a '93 Nissan Altima, 4 cyl. engine. That little car could zoom around, too, but believe me, it was NO pleasure trying to reach higher speeds on freeways or accelerating up any hills whatsoever. Talk about feeling the gears shifting. WHOA!!!!

    I have been told over and over that the ES300 is NOT a high performance car -- the salespersons at Lexus admitted the G35 Infiniti has taken quite a bite out of their sales for that very reason. I note there are a lot of young males driving that G35, probably due to its "performance." I had thought about the G35 for myself, and drove one, but for my needs, the ES300 was better, i.e, middle-aged female who is not the "high performance" type.

    Good luck to all with your ES cars.
  • I wonder if there is a problem connection between a transmission with Vehicle Stability Control and one without it? Could that be the differewnce between owners who have problems and those who dont?
  • encinowoman, when did you get your 03 and what's the mfg date (mm/yy) of the car? Is the letter supposed to be received by all 03/02 owners after certain months from the purchase date?

    shopper652, why did you think it to do with VSC or not? Mine has no VSC and I've not experienced the said tranny problems yet. I think my 03 was made right b4 they stopped 03 production.
  • I am not a mechanic, my comment about whether or not the VSC could have some effect on the problems I have been reading here, is based on the fact that I do not see anyone comment if they have VSC or not. I thought it might have by pure speculation on my part. Since I intend to purchase one soon it was something I am interested in. Id still like to know if the Trans problems are with both VSC cars and those without. Thanks.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Notice that people report transmission problems whether or not their cars have VSC. I don't understand how VSC could be related to the transmission problems anyway. I thought the VSC was a braking system to prevent sideway skid. I know it also involves decreasing power or shutting off the cruise control (if it is on) and the wheels start to skid.

     My ES' problem is very similar to that described by "encinowoman". It downshifts hard when it is going down hill or decelerating. Otherwise, it behaves well.
  • My thanks to all who commented on the trans problems of the ES330 and any possible connection of cars with or without VSC.
  • Mine does not have VSC
  • Lexusrock, I bought my ES300 exactly one year ago, mid January, 2003. I can't find the manufactured date, but I recall that the car had been on the dealer's lot less than two weeks, and came in through Long Beach. I THINK I remember seeing something somewhere about the car having been being built early fall of 2002. I gather you got your car much more recently than Jan. 2003.

    As for the VSC, I do not believe I have that feature, but many here say it makes no difference anyway. All in all, I am VERY happy with the car and have figured out how to drive it to avoid almost all of the transmission jerking people talk about.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    to a tee. I could not have said it better. I will not have the transmission upgrade.

    I have also learned to drive my car to minimize the problem.

    I think a key issue is that we both live in So Cal, where the weather is relatively warm (above freezing) most of the time we are driving. However I live in the desert, where it can get significantly colder in the winter than in LA. Below 32 degrees, my transmission exhibits worse behavior than in warmer temperatures.

    Even though it is colder here than it is nearer the coast, it seldom is below 32 degrees out during times when I am driving. I do not have a lot of data for driving in cold weather. I just know that the two times I have had a significant "kick" from the transmission was in below 30 degree temps. I believe that if my transmission behaved often as badly as it did those two times, I might feel as texas83 and rtorecca and vcheng do about the issue.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    You have both described my ES' transmission "issues" very precisely. "It's the darned hills" or coasting to a stop when the car surges as it down shifts from 5 to 4. I am also "learning" to live with it and adjust my driving patterns to avoid "quickie" starts and stops. I also have felt an improvement when I drive in 4 rather than D - only below 50mph. Otherwise I have been happy with the car, but it is clearly not a "performance" car and it doesn't like to be driven aggressively. I am not completely satisfied because the new ES transmission clearly is NOT UP TO THE STANDARDS
    of any Lexus or Toyota product I have ever owned or driven.
    I haven't decided whether to do the upgrade or not. Can either of you convince me one way or the other??
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    I am not upgrading because of reports on this thread from folks who have upgraded. Those who have the upgrade report that there are different problems.

    I can live with the problem the way it is. It is an issue of not wanting to trade the known for the unknown.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    When you described your car's transmission as "exhibiting worse behavior below 32 degrees than when it's warmer outside", was your car completely warmed up or was the ENGINE also cold (first few miles) when you noticed the problem??
    I live in the upper midwest and have noticed more problems since late fall, but it seems to be intermittent (one time it's fine, the next trip - "surge").
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    I found a lawyer and will be talking with him Friday. Wish me luck. I already got a new car via this bad transmission thru lemon law hearing. I don't want another Lexus if I'm successful. You never know, the lawyer idea could flop. Nothing's guaranteed, but I can guarantee I will not succumb to altering my world to appease my transmission... ie. driving in 4th gear, avoiding hills, driving only when it's warm, avoiding stop signs, or having to hold my tongue a certain way for good luck. If you do that and you accept it as top of the line quality which you paid EXTRA for.... then you get what you deserve.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    "Holding your tongue", as you put it, doesn't seem to be your problem anyway.

    Best of luck with your lawyer. Channel your energies through him/her. Lexus is the target.
  • My 2002 Lexus has VSC and all of the options sold by Lexus. Refer back to my description in message 383. The car is excellent except for the transmission problem which was not improved with the software change. All that has happened is that the shifting points occur at higher RPMs and the gas mileage seems to be worse. Not an improvement. Other problems that I have has was tire noise so I changed the tires at 22,000 miles, rear window screen problem which was satifactorily corrected, warped rotor on the right front wheel. The rest seems to be fine. I do love my car but I am afraid to drive it on the freeway during stop and go traffic due to its questionable responsiveness. I feel that it is reprehensible that Lexus has not fixed this or responded with other than a reprogram. I will contact the service rep at my next service which will be within the next month
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    Complaining amongst ourselves has not yet been too productive. I notice that on, I am the only one to have registered a complaint about my ES300's transmission. And that is after two years of complaints and 402 messages on this board. Perhaps making our problem more public would accomplish something. There is nothing like a knowlegable buying public and a drop in sales to motivate a manufacturer.
  • I am extremely surprised to hear that Lexus 2003-04 ES300 or ES330 owners are still having problems with their transmissions. I bought a 2002 ES300 and felt really frustrated with the way in which Lexus dealt with the whole issue. I had some very weird experiences with the service advisors.

    After one year of ownership, I got a lemon lawyer and got my money back. If you have a mechanical problem that admittedly cannot be fixed by the dealerships, and your vehicle manufacturer does not work with you, then go get your four repair attempts and your money back. Simple.

    Good luck to you all. I hope your future car experiences are much more enjoyable.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    Where did everybody go? Was it something I said?
  • cxccxc Posts: 122
    NHTSA is investigating the sudden acceleration of 2002 ES300. We know that the transmission behavior of our ES300 is unpredictable. The government said that there have been more than 30 crashes and many serious injuries. When we reported similar problems to Lexus, they said that it is normal behavior. I hope that this message will alert all owners of 2002-2003 ES300 and 2004 ES330 - Drive very carefully and not get anyone killed or injured because of Toyota's reputation for denying a problem and delaying a solution.
  • mrdlexusmrdlexus Posts: 23
    Just to let you know I purchased a 2004 Es330 and it also has major transmission issues. I have taken it to the dealership 3 times already, with no results. The shifting is rough at times, with definite hesitation in low gear shifting. This does not happen all the time, approxiametly 10% of shifting is problematic, the rest of the time the car shifts normally. I would highly recommend anyone in the market to purchase an ES330 to test drive several cars to see if this problem occurs in any of them. The car that I test drove (not the one I purchased) did not have this problem, if it did I would never have bought it!!!!
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    The problem I have is mostly transmission slip, but it does surge on occassion. Last November, in Austin, I had a bad surging incident. I guess this software is in more than our cars. Maybe with Congress looking into this we can get some results. It's all in the software.

    Houston Chronicle, 3-9-04

    WASHINGTON (AP)- The federal government is investigating reports that some Toyoyta Camry, Camry Solara and Lexus ES 300 vehicles have surged forward without apparent reason, injuring at least five people.
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday it has received reports of 30 crashes due to the alleged defect. In one case, a pedestrian was seriously injured when a vehicle suddenly accelerated, NHSTA said.
    Vehicles from the 2002 and 2003 model years are included in the investigations. An estimated 1,011,000 vehicles could be effected, NHTSA said.
    Toyota Spokesman John Hanson said Monday the company has received similar complaints and is reviewing its records. Drivers reported sudden acceleration as they depress the brake pedal, shifted the transmission or drove at higher speeds using cruise control.
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