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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • I would like to say that the ES300 would be awesome if it weren't for the transmission issues. I transport little kids around town and I can tell you, the car feels very safe and build quality is very good. The car has 15k miles now and has not broke down or had any other problems. So while annoying, it does not appear to be a reliability issue.
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    Dealer rebate is expired... (for my NJ zip code) shows price at 33,360 (1K higher compare to March) for a car listed at 36,552

    Yes.. I totally agree with es300trans... ES300 is an awesome car...

    I hope they will find solution for your car transmission...
    Also, I heard from Edmunds.. some people (2)complained with Lexus and got a $2000 voucher... from Lexus toward purchasing any Toyota or Lexus... Why don't you give it a shot...
  • rtorrecartorreca Posts: 74
    I was exactly in the same boat as you more than 13 months ago. Before I bought my 02 ES300, I've heard some rumblings about the transmission problems but made exactly the same assumption you have - that I might be lucky enough NOT to be in the .1% that's having the problem. I guess I was not that lucky. Now, I absolutely loathe this car. If I can do it all over, I would have stuck with my 99 EX-V6 Accord. Man I miss that car!

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy your new lexus. I know there's plenty of people here who absolutely enjoy theirs. Good luck and keep crossing those fingers!
  • I think that the number is higher than .1%. Just because only 50 or so people have posted issues regarding the es300 transmission does not imply that the % is .1. I would argue that only a certain personality type with decent computer skills would post on the internet. For example, I am a type A and am 37 years old with decent computer skills. If someone could figure out what % of Lexus es300 owners have this personality type, then we would be closer to the true number. Since the average age of lexus owners in mid 50s, I would conjecture that only a small group of this age group would understand the computer well enough to post on the internet. The % type A? Your guess is as good as mine. But lets conservatively assume that 10% of ES300 owners have good enough computer skills and 10% of the population of ES300 owners have a type A personality. Time to post is also another factor. But lets keep it simple. This would imply that approx. 10% of 2002 Lexus ES300 owners have the problem. Who knows what the true number is. But its a lot larger than .1%.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    in two years of researching lemon law cases, I have never seen an ES300 transmission or engine management problem. I look at cases all over the Northeast and there are plenty of ES300s in our area.
  • rtorrecartorreca Posts: 74
    I agree with you that it's much higher than .1% but I used that number just for the sake of argument. It's pointless to try and figure out the real number since there really is no way of finding out - unless you have access to lexus service records.
  • It's early in the process. You need to wait approx. 18 months before you can file Lemon Law in my state. You may see some cases with the 2002 shortly. As you can see below from, you need to attempt to have the car repaired a number of times before you can use the law to the fullest extent:

    What is a "lemon"? A "lemon" is a vehicle that continues to have a defect that substantially impairs its use, value or safety. In general, if the vehicle has undergone a "reasonable" number of repair attempts for the same warranted defect within the warranty period, and the defect has not been repaired, the vehicle qualifies as a "lemon" under the "lemon laws" of most states. The number of "repair attempts" needed before the lemon law applies varies by state and may also depend on the defect: typically, safety-related defects require fewer repair attempts. However, keep in mind that if the defect is not covered by a warranty, it is not likely to be covered by your state’s lemon law
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    You need to have "repetitive or unrepaired problems" that "substantially impair the use, safety or value" of a vehicle - (Magnusson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act.

    You don't have to wait 18 months - the problems have to have had occured within the FIRST 18 months of ownership.

    Additionally, a vehicle doesn't have to meet the requirement of your state's lemon law for you to seek damages under Mag-Moss.
  • but it takes time to build a case. Plus, Lexus may fix the problem in which case, there is no need to push the issue. I am in a wait and see position myself, as I am sure, many other 2002 ES300 owners are.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    I certainly know what a "lemon" is - I've seen about 4,000 of them in the last 2 years! That word is overused to describe vehicles that don't meet the guidelines.
  • While the transmission and lean engine stumble issues are annoying, they may not meet the Lemon Law guidelines. I am not going to waste my time fighting Lexus. Its not worth it.

    I told them about the problems which they admitted to me. The dealer has been really great in trying to help me out, but they don't have a fix. This decision needs to come from Toyota Sr. Mgmt.
  • ramza39ramza39 Posts: 23
    thanks for your very detailed analysis and i will try to perform many sudden acceleration during the test drive. i am also considering some other cars: TL, 325i, A4 3.0 and accord V6. you have any experiences with these cars?

    A4 3.0 - very good fit and finish; you open the hood and the layout of the engine is very nice; interior quality is very good except the position of the hand brake is awkward; test drove it twice and i think the exhaust is a bit loud

    TL - average fit and finish; paint isn't good as i expected and the interior is rather dumb, so i didn't test drive it

    325i - test drove a 330i two years ago and it was the best at that time; will test drive it soon but in my opinion, the options are expensive

    accord - haven't been to the dealer yet

    ES300 - the styling is pretty elegant and the fit and finish is good; very comfortable and lots of leg room but there is one thing i don't like: have you noticed the tailpipe has a very large clearance with the chasis and it is like hanging loose and i don't understand why toyota would make this mistake because i have noticed corolla and camry also have this problem.
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    Consumer review
    Consumer guide rate ES300 at 70 point... highest score in its class
     ( /23264.htm)

    You should read Consumer report Auto buying guide 03 (come out this month April)
      TL and ES300 are recommended... Accord V6 (240hp) is also a nice car
      I didn't pay attention at other cars...
      About Reliability: TL top then ES300 (better than avg).... 3 series on the other side (worse than avg)

    A4 and 3 series: They are kind of small.. about the size of corolla or civic...
    (I even feel the back seat has less room)
     My friend got his 325 last Dec... his car is fine.. he doesn't have any problem's a nice car.. but I can't sit in the back of his car...
     I consider they are like a luxury version of honda civic with rear wheel drive

    - I would not go for A4 or 3 series... If you like rear wheel drive performance... go for IS300 or G35 (260hp - motor trend car of the year)
    - Accord V6... good value, strong performance, nice car, close but not reach luxury level yet... (save a place for TL)
    - TL (a luxury version of Accord)...03 is the last year model... the new design 04 is comming soon
    - ES300 (a luxury version of Camry with a lot of borrowing from LS430) is a family sedan with conservative driving... if you like to enjoy driving.. Lexus also has IS or GS
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    Here are how I choose my car.. hope it may help..

    - Find out all cars in market that in the range that you think you can afford..
    (if you are not rush.. look for future cars too... own the car we like is priceless... thus... it's worth to wait)
    - Eliminate cars that you don't like
    - Research (internet, news, friends) for the cars that on the list
       . concentrate on reliability... and don't care much about performance (you should do the drive test yourself)
    or style (people's styles are different)
       . listen for advice... and make decision yourself...
       . don't forget to check the insurance rate (you will be suprised to find out.. Accord is little bit higher than more expensive ES)
       . you should also take a look at "true cost to own" from edmuns.. thus you can check with your bugde...
       . narrow your list by eliminate cars that have too much trouble

    - Go to dealers... have close look, have personal feeling and drive test the car...
    - Your list now should have very few cars
            . good reliability
    . in the range you can afford.
            . pass all of your research

    - Finally, go with your feeling and your heart...
    if you are still not sure.. why not drive test again and again... try to do all of them in the same days...
  • mmccloskeymmccloskey Posts: 168
    Greetings all:

    I have been the proud owner of a 2002 ES300 (everything but AVS) for nearly nine months and have yet to experience the transmission issue that has plagued some owners. My vehicle was manufactured in June 2002, and I purchased it in mid-July of 2002. I have a bit over 7,000 perfect miles and look forward to many more.

    Most of my driving is highway and the car accelerates in a very smooth manner without any kicks, jiggling or abrupt shifting.

    I was out and about today in the Lexus and payed very close attention to the behavior of the transmission and did notice a slight 'lugging' at 40-45 mph and the RPM's were about 1,400, maybe less. I then pressed the accelerator and the car downshifted and accelerated without delay or hesitation. I have used premium since day one, changed the oil twice in 7,000 miles with Mobil-1 5W30 and have nothing but praise for this finely crafted automobile.

    I have monitored this forum for some time and do hope that those with the tranny problem will be provided a 'fix' by Lexus. I feel I made the best choice in purchasing this car and I would to it all over again if given the chance.

    Smooth and serene motoring to all!

    M. J. McCloskey
  • bartalk2bartalk2 Posts: 326
    Daytona01 claims his research on this board yielded many complaints of transmission problems on '02 models, but few or none on '03s.

    Is this true? Anybody with an '03 having the common transmission problems discussed here? Please report. If not, maybe Lexus fixed the problem after all.
  • kennynmdkennynmd Posts: 424
    I bought an 03 last year and it has no problems whatsoever. Not sure if the problem is fixed or did I just get lucky. Haven't owned many vehicles because I'm young but this by far is the best vehicle I've driven and rode in.
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    bartalk2: not just this Edmunds board... I use google, yahoo search engine to search for "ES 300 transmission problem"... I also went to, read owners and editor review at,, yahoo groups...

    And read review at other auto websites such as:
    motor trend, caranddrive,,, epinions, consumerguide, consumerreview, canadadrive... etc...

    (Worked with the internet is my daily job since 96.. my work experience include part of a team development website for an auto site in 98)

    My count (as I have previous declared.. there're probably many more)... doesn't represent the real number....

      - some owners who have problem and very mad... they posted the problem everywhere.. (so I may counted multiple time... if I see same name I counted just one)
      - some owners didn't know they have problem
      - some owners don't know (or didn't use internet) how to post it internet..
      - they may post their messages at some board... I didn't visit

    (*) Lexus is the one who has the most accurate counter... Unfortunately, they didn't post it on internet...:-(
  • bartalk2bartalk2 Posts: 326
    Very thorough search! Waiting for '03 owners to chime in, whether or not they're having transmission problems.
  • richm4richm4 Posts: 169
    I really would have liked to have bought the ES300 because it's a beautiful car, but the transmission problem was too much of a risk for me.

    I'm buying a different car tomorrow, but am hoping that when I'm in the market again in 3 years or so, the transmission problem will have been fixed.
    I wonder how many potential customers Lexus is losing due to their inability to fix this problem.
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    (*) I'm now a Lexus owner... so I don't deny I'm getting become kinda pro-lexus :-)..

    Another reason that we can be more confidence with the transmission in 03 model..

    Toyota puts the 5 speeds transmission into 03 Camry, a cousin of ES300....

    They sell 400+ thousands Camry a year... it will be a suicide mission for them... if they are not sure with their 5 speeds transmission...

    - Did they fix the problem for 03 ?.. no confirm
    - 03 has problem ?.. no confirm (so far)..
    if you own an ES 03 and have problem with transmission.. we are dying to hear from you...
    - chance of having a problem with 03...??... believe should be very low....

    For whom has problem with 02 model: you should try again with dealer.. or ask for replacing the entire transmission for you...
    The problem as you've described... not just annoy but link to safety issue...: delay in passing, can't merge on highway => really dangerous... It won't be rude.. if you threat them with law suit....

    richm4: I see there are some inconsistent in what you have been posted in Edmund... I'm suprised to hear that you gave up ES 300 (have it ever in your list)... Based on what I read... you are in favor with Pontiac...

    Anyway, if you like more sporty car.. then ES 300 is absolutely not suitable for you.... it is conservative style driving...
    Are you picking up your new Pontiac GP tomorrow ?... Good luck with your purchase
  • richm4richm4 Posts: 169
    Yes, I am picking up a newly redesigned 2004 Grand Prix tomorrow (no American car bashing, please). I was debating buying sporty this time, or buying luxury, and I picked sporty this time. Next time I'm pretty sure I'll go the luxury route since I'll be over 40 then :(

    I'm partial towards GM due to significant discounts that I can get as a relative as a GM employee, although I would have gladly forgone those discounts to have bought the ES300.

    I just can't justify paying $35K for a car that has those dangerous transmission issues.

    And yes, I test drove an 03 and was able to reproduce the 1-2 second hesitation at 40 mph that many have experienced.
  • Hi,
      I know this isnt a real fix, but maybe you all should just manually shift into 4th gear when driving aggresively (also more fun). Regarding the mixture, for about 300-500 you can buy JET perfromance chip to increase performance while fixing the problem. The fuel maps are changed.
      Im in the process of buying an 02 ES300. I need suggestions for any Inspection services because I am quite far away from the car.

    Good Luck.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    chip may do something for you, you can throw your factory warranty and extended warranty out the window.
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    es300trans, wrd, pkorman1,rtorreca and others (who have trans. problem):

    I've started to see some patterns with the problem... I think... I got some idea that may be helpfull...
    (I have M.S. in Computer Science from a Engineering school, Polytechnic Unv... so why don't let me try)

    First, I need some of your information:

     1. What month/year was your car made ?
     (you can see on your driver side door)

     2. When problem started to occur:
        odometter reading: xxx miles
        months: xxx months
        at what speed: xxx mph

     3. Do your car has VSC/Traction control ?

     4. During the first 1000 miles:
        - did you have hard acclerations ?
        - did you drive (constantly) at about same speed ?
     5. What kind of gas (regular, premium) do you use ?

     6. Overall:
     What is your highest speed you ever drive with your ES ?
    (hope not 140mph :-)
     What is your avg speed (mph)?...
      you can estimate.. or You can see it in computer info by using the button on the left of your steering wheel...
  • canuck13canuck13 Posts: 73
    Toyota have agreed that my transmission is defective and are in the process of replacing it with a new one. I think my problem is much more severe than anything I've seen here. I havn't seen any other reports that match my experience precisely. Does anyone know for sure if the transmission in the 04 Sienna is identical to the ES300?
  • akw3akw3 Posts: 14
    I am a owner of a 2002 ES300 with 16000km on it. I haven't experienced any transmission problem as noted in this discussion. But my car does have hesitation off the line. When I went in the dealer this Saturaday for my service and I asked the service advisor is there a fix for the transmission problem which I heard lots about it, and also mentioned about the hesitation with my car. He told me Lexus just came up with a fix by changing the engine computer to a updated one and they just got 2 in the parts department. So I was more than happy to have my changed, the part number is: 89666-33442 Engine Computer ,and it only took 45 minutes.

    And what a big different, now my car get off the line with much more push and it actually feels more lively when I accelerate. I think they somehow changed the transmission shift point and it really help this ES300 with the lazy transmission. You guys should ask your dealer about this.
  • richm4richm4 Posts: 169
    It would have been nice if Lexus would have admitted the problem in the first place and then announced the upcoming fix. If I would have known, I would have purchased an ES300 this spring. :(

    Too late since I just bought another car a week ago. Maybe I'll consider the ES300 in a few years when I'm looking again.
  • bartalk2bartalk2 Posts: 326
    Is the new Lexus computer chip mentioned above by akw3 the answer to the transmission problems that have plagued members of this board for so long? Let's hear it.
  • rtorrecartorreca Posts: 74
    This got me all excited and I immediately called my dealership about it. The service guy said "it's not supposed to be public knowledge." Upon realizing what he said, he took it back. Why keep the fix a secret? Well for one thing, they don't want to admit there was a problem in the first place.

    They don't have the part in stock and said he couldn't find any TSB's about from lexus' secure site, so he doesn't know if it would indeed fix the shudder and other tranny problems but he would ask the manager about it. The manager is on vacation and I won't get an answer until next week.
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