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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • This issue extends beyond the Lexus line of vehicles. It extends into the Toyota cars too with drive by wire and the 5 sp automatic.

    I have a 2004 Sienna with the same engine/tranny config as the ES. The hesitation is terrible there too. Even my wife, who never has any complaints about acceleration says it is terrible.

    I attended Lexus' Taste of Luxury event this weekend, and let me tell you the hesitation is painfully obvious when you move from one car back to the ES or RX. You can floor it and wait for 1-2 seconds for it to respond. Try flooring the BMW 330 or 530 or the Infiniti G and see what happens.

    Overall Lexus/Toyota build great cars but the new trannys need help.
  • cesces Posts: 2
    The ES330 transmission "learns" your driving pattern. If you are an aggressive driver, you will regret your decision to purchase this vehicle. The transmission problems are real and Lexus corporate doesn't care. The drive by wire lag is not the major problem, it is the inability of the car to decide what gear it needs to be in that is really annoying.
  • cesces Posts: 2
    The transmission problems are very real. The drive by wire lag is not the biggest issue. The main issue is the transmission cannot decide what gear to shift into and hesitates. I am used to the drive by wire lag, but the hesitation the car has while the transmission decides what gear to use is an engineering defect. The only thing worse than the defect is the Lexus "head in the sand" approach to the problem. The 2004 ES330 that I have is my first and last Lexus.
  • i test drove a fully loaded 2005 ES 330 and definitely noticed the transmission problem. at every stop sign, when i stepped on the gas, the car would hesitate for a couple of seconds before picking up.

    i also test drove a 2005 camry xle v6 and noticed the same problem there as well. no wonder toyota has already started giving $500 cash back on the camry's in barely their first month of the new model year!

    other than this, the es330 had a smooth and quiet ride with a luxurious feel. after the es330 experience i was hoping to test drive the acura tl, but its interior was revolting, to say the least. we didn't even bother for a test drive on the acura.

    it's amazing that inspite of this being a known issue for a long time, toyota/lexus has not bothered to rectify it for the new model year.
  • igibanigiban Posts: 530
    Hesitation from low speed has been mentioned quite often, and that seems to bother some more than the others due to how aggressively one drives. Has anyone experienced shuddering at freeway speed (around 65 mph) on ES 02+? Almost every driver drives in that mode on daily basis.
  • ddm2ddm2 Posts: 15
    I am not sure what you have been buying in the last 15 years ...I agree that there is a problem with the transmission and the dealer has acknowledged the problem and tried to install a software patch to improve the situation. The problem hasn't gone completely but it's an improvement - it's a 2003 ES300 - a little over a year old. However, I still find the car very luxurious, comfortable, and the service at the dealership (Lexus of Greenwich in CT.) fantastic. The pros far outweigh any cons and I am writing this for the benefit of anyone who is considering buying this car. I truly believe that the problem isn't an issue for a safe and steady driver and that even as I write this note Lexus is working hard to fix the problem.
  • As for safety - I was nearly rear-ended three times last week. There are times (particularly in busy cities) when stepping on the gas means you really need to go. When the car sits there twiddling its thumbs, you have a problem. And as for Lexus working hard to fix the problem, what makes you think that? If they came out and said "we have a problem with the ES330 and are working on a fix and will provide it as soon as possible", most people would be happy. Instead, they keep denying that there's a problem. I'm going through arbitration right now because they just plain won't admit that there's a problem. What makes you think they're actually planning to fix a a problem that they deny exists?
  • ddm2ddm2 Posts: 15
    It takes years to build a brand and Lexus will be foolish to ignore this issue - however trivial it may appear to them. They may not classify it as a "problem" in a technical way but are obviously aware of the issue and I am sure are working to fix/improve it. I must admit though that they have been aware of this issue/problem for the past 2 years and it must be really something for them to take so much time to rectify it. I do think that you are in a unique situation... assuming that this wasn't happening to you in other cars that you have driven, this car must be really bad. I live in the metro NY area and believe it qualifies to be a "busy" area and yet have never experienced what seems to be happening to you - rear-end situations 3 times per week! Good luck with the arbitration!
  • You cannot place the same weight of value on a transmission as you do the amenities in a car. Most people would agree that a tramsmission is far more important than dual climate controls or leather seats. Obviously, if you get rear-ended because your transmission can't figure out what to do, your dual climate control doesn't mean much. Safety always comes before aesthetics. If you take away the engine and transmission, you have nothing. The very fact that the older transmissions were more responsive seems to indicate that the technology is there, but it was not implemented properly this time. I personally would not spend $35,000 on a car with a transmission that does not run as good as one two or three years ago. Most would expect it to be better not worse. Recommending a car to someone when you know it has these transmission problems is questionable at best.
  • ddm2ddm2 Posts: 15
    The very fact that there has been no recall on the car despite the problem having persisted for over 2 years tells me that it isn't as much of a safety issue as is being made out on this message board. If it was really a safety issue, our friend would be considering suing Lexus rather than looking at arbitration! We may still get there some day but not just yet. I agree with your assessment about the importance of the transmission over luxury. As far as I know this is new technology and they need to debug the kinks in the software or replace the current software with something new. Basically, the function that used to be done with hard wires is now done with software and that's obviously not been successful. Perhaps they should revert to the old technology in the 2001 and earlier models - not sure if that is an option. The reliability, quietness, and comfort of the ride, combined with the proven Lexus track record and great customer service make me still recommend it although I do respect your opinion.
  • You've reached a couple of pretty bizarre conclusions.

    First, you conclude that there's no safety issue because someone is going for arbitration instead of suing. Did it ever occur to you to read your manual? You HAVE to go to arbitration first. If you sue first, it will get thrown out of court. Not to mention that the evidentiary demands are greater if you sue - AND the cost.

    Then you conclude that the car is safe because it hasn't yet been recalled. So the Ford Explorer was safe the day before NHTSA recalled it, but suddenly became unsafe the day after? The fact that NHTSA hasn't gotten around to it doesn't mean anything. They tend to go for the higher volume vehicles first. Now, if you had some evidence that they had investigated the matter and decided not to pursue it, you might have a point. But since that's not the case, you're wrong.

    I drive the car every day. There are many, many occasions where the long lag time before it accelerates creates an unsafe condition.
  • dennydenny Posts: 17
    I will certainly second jragosta's statement that the hesitation is a safety issue. I have been nearly hit on several occasions because of the hesitation problem. And keep in mind that this is one of many things this transmission and/or throttle response does poorly as has been posted here often. The volume of comments on this board should convince folks that there are some real problems with the car and all Lexus does is say the car is operating as designed.
  • have any of you tried class action lawsuit?
  • Not that I've heard of - but if someone starts one, I'll join.
  • Do Toyota and Lexus deliver the safety and customer satisfaction they claim?
    At Toyota and Lexus dealers, and the Edmunds Town Hall website, owners frequently complain of hesitation and surging in 2004 models (Camry, Highlander, Sienna, ES330 and RX330). Yet, Toyota claims there is no defect, and no safety problem with the transaxle and drive by wire throttle/software system—this is “normal” performance because all their cars do it.

    Based on the NHTSA database of 2004 owner reports:
    • There are 13 reports of accidents with property damage, personal injury and one death related to the transmission/throttle system. (7 times the equivalent Ford and Honda accident rate!).
    • Owners of V6 models (Sienna, ES330 and RX330) are 15 times more likely than Ford and Honda owners to file a hesitation/surging complaint—Could it be because a) they have more problems b) Toyota refuses to acknowledge (or fix) the problem and c) it’s NHTSA’s job to step in when a manufacturer won’t voluntarily correct their safety defects?
    • The majority of V6 Toyota owners filing a hesitation/surging complaint state the car is unsafe. (Of the significantly fewer transmission complaints from Ford and Honda owners, none reported it as a safety hazard!)
  • bill14bill14 Posts: 3
    I have a 2004 Lexus ES 330 and have a rattle in the front passenger seat for months. It usually occurs at about 60 miles an hour. I have taken to the dealer 3 times and they can not duplicate the sound. Therefore, there is no attempt to fix it. Has anyone else had this problem and had it fixed?
  • morehpmorehp Posts: 30
    Does this rattle only occur when the seatbelt is unfastened? If so, ensure that it isn't just the seatbelt buckle rattling between the seat and the B-pillar.

    I thought our ES330 had a seat rattle until I figured this out.
  • I too have a 2004 ES with an annoying rattle from either the front passenger seat or door. I can't seem to figure out the source of the noise. I'm pretty sure that if I move the passenger seat all the way forward the noise disappears.
    I asked the dealer to look into it a the 5K check but they were unable to duplicate it.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • bill14bill14 Posts: 3
    Why does the dealer have to duplicate the sound before they try to fix it? I have exactly the same problem with the same dealer response.Why can't they take your word for it and attempt to correct the problem? My dealer told me that it was a problem with all 2004 ES 330s and they were waiting for a service bulletin from Lexus.
  • tmarttmart Spring, TXPosts: 1,191
    "Why does the dealer have to duplicate the sound before they try to fix it? I have exactly the same problem with the same dealer response.Why can't they take your word for it and attempt to correct the problem?"

    Initially I thought you were kidding with this response, but I think you're serious. How can your dealer fix something that doesn't appear to be broken. If your problem can't be duplicated, what is he supposed to fix? Surely, you can't expect them to replace the whole seat when it appears fine. Let's say you have a leak in your roof, but it only leaks when the rain comes from one direction with high wind, but you don't know the direction. Before the roofer can see you there are several more storms, but no leaks. Unless the exact shingle can be found, do you expect a new roof? One has to find the source of a problem to fix it.
  • I had my arbitration hearing today.

    To start, they asked if I wanted to negotiate with Lexus to solve the problem. I agreed and they left the room. All Lexus wanted to do was let me trade my car in on a different model and pay the difference. That's not much of a resolution - since I can do that any time I want. I declined.

    After all the preliminaries, I started with a description of the problem and documenting evidence (including NHTSA reports were 50% of all ES problems were related to this problem, reports from this board, reports from, and a letter from Lexus admitting that there was a transmission problem).

    Lexus got to respond. They stated that there was no problem and it was simply a matter of my driving style. They argued that the car was within specs.

    I then asked them what the specification on transmission hesistation was. They admitted that there is no spec on this parameter. I asked how they determined that my car was within design parameters if there's no spec. They said that they compare it to other cars of the same year and make. I then said "so if every ES has the same problem, you will then say that mine is normal?". She refused to answer the question.

    One of the arbitrators asked if there was any record of accidents caused by this problem. I wasn't aware of any, nor was Lexus.

    We then did the test drive. The car hesitated right on cue. No question about that.

    After coming back into the room, we each gave our closing statement. Lexus repeated that it was a 'shifting style' problem and not a real problem. I repeated that by Lexus definition, if 100% of the cars had their wheels fall of, it would not be considered a problem. In reality, the hundreds of complaints as well as the results of the test drive show that it was a real problem.

    I'll know within 10 days. If I don't win this, then I'd say that there's little chance of ever winning an arbitration hearing. The evidence was pretty clear.

    I'll let everyone know how it turns out.
  • Sorry that was a copy - paste mistake. The intended message was this one:
    I too have a 2004 ES with an annoying rattle from either the front passenger seat or door. I can't seem to figure out the source of the noise. I'm pretty sure that if I move the passenger seat all the way forward the noise disappears.
    I asked the dealer to look into it a the 5K check but they were unable to duplicate it.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,356
    The dealer has to duplicate the problem because he needs to prove to the factory that he is replacing something defective, either by showing a part to the rep or some affadavit. If he can't prove that to the factory, he eats the repair which of course he is reluctant to do. he can't submit a warranty claim that says "Replace gixbo box #2, didn't solve problem, pay me anyway for time and materials".

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • As someone else has already stated, the larger problem is that the dealer has to know what to replace before he starts. There are thousands of parts in a modern auto and quite a few of them could cause a rattle. What's the dealer supposed to do - start changing parts at random? Or maybe replace every single part in the car that could possibly cause a rattle? Neither of those options is acceptable, obviously.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,356
    The dealer gets, I believe, some token amount for "rattles", some minimum time. He can't really send two people out in your car, one to drive, one to listen, for very long and not start losing money.

    So you see the customer and the factory sort of play "bookends" on the dealer and he plays both sides as best he can.

    Don't presume the relationship between dealer and factory is all warm and cuddley. Far from it, they are often at war, sometimes at peace.

    I think everybody involved wants someone else to be holding the bag, is what it boils down to.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • gottlsgottls Posts: 21
    I've been following this forum for several weeks now deciding on whether or not to buy the 2005 ES330. I do believe that the reported rattles and transmission hesitation complaints are real, but does this effect the majority of the cars, or just a few? I understand that rattles come and go, however a transmission safety problem is a real concern. So, are there people out there who have the ES330 WITHOUT these problems? I sure would like to know before I put this car at the top of my list. Thanks for your time.
  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289
    You may want to ask the question in the regular ES300/ES330 forum also since more ES300/330 owners frequent those boards.
  • poto1xpoto1x Posts: 26
    Why take a chance? If you get one with a transmission problem it's yours and yours alone. Do you want to spend the time filing under the Lemon law or going through arbitration or being involved in an accident?

    ps: The problem isn't always obvious in the test drive because of the adaptive learning "feature", it can first occur after a couple thousand miles!
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I've driven my 03 ES300 for 1 1/2 yrs now and have followed this website for the entire time. The first time I noticed hesitation and rough downshifting was after about 1,000 miles. So, the adaptive feature of the transmission can result in a difficult assessment for prospective buyers.
    Everyone is different. Some think the tranny is dangerous, others don't seem to notice. Such a variation is difficult to explain, but many people think that the transmission performance is consistent from car to car and that the real difference is in "how you drive".
    If you are someone who is very demanding of precision performance or if you have been use to drivng a BMW or similar German-made car, you could be disappointed with the ES.
    On the other hand, if you don't drive aggressively and are moving up to the Lexus brand, you might be satisfied with the ES.
    I would suggest that you talk to as many owners and test drive the ES as much as you can to decide for yourself.
    I've owned Toyotas and earlier model Lexus vehicle and this ES with the 5sp tranny shifts rougher and hesitates far more than my previous '95 Avalon and my wife's 01 RX300.
    Best of luck in your assessment.
  • abe2abe2 Posts: 2
    I am scheduled for es 330 arbritration at the end of Oct. 2005. How did your arb. Go? Any advice? Have you seen Lexus Response to arb. manufacturers response form. They outright lie , and they claim the car must be safe and reliable since I have driven 16,000 miles on the car. Funny, I've been complaining about the acc. lag since week one, What was my altenative to driving the car?
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