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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • I took my ES300 YR2002 in the Putnam Lexus in Redwood City, California for the following problems yesterday. My vehicle has about 7,500 miles.
    1. Tire noise
    2. When Braking - Wheel vibration
    3. Transmission problem - shuddering/hesitation 30-42 mph. There are more detailed explanations of this problem in other message posts.

    They have fixed the #2 brake/rotor problem as discussed in previous messages. The service advisor said it was on the Technical Service Board.

    However, my service advisor said that they cannot replicate #1 and #3. He wanted me to come in and take the mechanic for a test drive. He said that there is no known transmission problem on the Technical Service Board. They did not hear the tire noise nor experience the transmission problem I was reporting.

    I mentioned to him that I have been experiencing the problem since I bought that car and the transmission problem is a known issue. I also cannot take time away from work to go test drive a vehicle with a mechanic (he acknowledged and understood this point). I just want the problem fixed and I don't want to keep bringing the car back to the dealership for the same problem. I also provided him the engine computer part number mentioned in akw3's previous message. He said he would check it out and get back to me.

    He called back 30 minutes later and said this part 89666-33442 is not a Lexus part number. He also wanted me to fax him the information on the internet where I found this part number. He said a lot of information is on the internet and may not be true.

    Well, I left him a message and basically said to keep my car until they fix the problem and don't call me back until they have it fixed. I don't have time to fax him information from the internet nor give driving lessons to a bunch of mechanics. I also mentioned a dealership has actually had a lawsuit filed against them over this transmission issue and I suggest they call other Lexus dealerships around to figure out a solution to this problem.

    My wife followed up with another phone call and explained that their mechanics only drove the car once (probably only around the block!) and I have been driving the car for several thousand miles. She has also felt the same acceleration problems that I have and detailed that to him.

    The service advisor said he would call the manufacturer and try to figure out a solution. He will call around about the part number I gave him.

    As of now, my car is still in the shop and meanwhile, I have a loaner RX300 which drives very nice which gets me around town just fine. No transmission problems on the RX300 I might add. Drives the way a Lexus vehicle is intended to without Lexus' "secret" ES300 transmission problems we have all been experiencing.

    However, I am willing to take this to the next level if Lexus does not own up to their ES300 2002 transmission blunder. I would like to explore a class action law suit if this transmission issue does not get fixed very soon. Believe me, Lexus does not want to have the tranmission problem make their company look bad and hurt sales. I hate being taken advantage of and jerked around...

    I will post the outcome soon.
  • see discussion board ES300 2002 Transmission Problems board I created for latest on my updates regarding the trans issue.
  • I have a 2003 ES300 with 4200 miles. I have had the problem since purchased. My dealership, Lexus of Tampa Bay, also admits to a problem but says a fix is not available and can't give me a time frame when it will be available. She says call back every month. I asked if they would notify those who have complained of a problem and she said no!

    I seem to have 2 problems:

    1) On rapid acceleration, especially from a slow speed, the trans delays a second before kicking in causing the car to die and then lurch forward

    2) when slowing down below aprox. 20 mph and then when I apply th e gas (slow or fast it doesn't matter) the trans will delay before engaging. I don't have a problem from a complete stop or above 20 mph.

    I have also noticed lately when taking my foot off the gas at highway speed the trans does not appear to coast. It feels like the trans is slowing the car down.

    I can cause the trans to shudder by shifting from drive to neutral and back to drive. It shudders under approx. 30 mph when going back into drive.

    It appears these problem arises when the car has to downshift.

    I plan on sending complaint letters to Lexus. Hope everyone will do the same to create some concern. I'm sure the attorneys would love to get involved once someone is injured.
  • Anyone with the trans problem should file a complain at the NHTSA Office of Defects web site. I saw several similar complaints under the ES300 2002 model year.
  • Thanks grandwave22. Very useful. If there are enough complaints, the NHTSA may do something about this issue.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    The lugging sensation mentioned in post#49 is exactly what my 2002 does. It feels like it is in too high a gear. But, it isn't. The tech and service manager at my dealership both say it is a known lean mixture condition and Lexus is aware of it and is supposed to have a fix by July. They gave me a 2003 as a loaner while they were diagnosing my car and the 2003 did the same thing.This is my 3rd Lexus,2 LS400's and this ES300, and I am extremely upset to find that Lexus is no different in their treatment of customers than Ford, GM, Kia etc.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    Spent some time on the phone today with both Lexus Customer Service 800# and my local dealer service dept. Lexus Customer Service was absolutely no help. "A fix is coming, wait for it."My local dealers service manager said that Lexus has instructed all dealers to collect the names of all their ES300 customers with a problem.They denied that there is any fix for the lugging problem at this time. I then called the parts dept. and asked about the engine computer pt#89666-33442 mentioned earlier in this column. The pt# for a ES300 computer is 89666-33441. Maybe the 442 number is a update. My local parts dept. knew nothing about this. Rattle some cages, we will get satisfaction.
  • nogermancarnogermancar Posts: 16
    I see a part number 89666-33253 Engine Control Computer.

    Also no luck with Lexus 800# cutomer service number.
  • rtorrecartorreca Posts: 74
    Well, the new ECU, part # 89666-33253, has been installed on my 02 es300 and I'm sad to report that it DID NOT eliminate the shuddering of the tranny. The dealership had told me that it was not the official fix but they went ahead and changed it as a "gesture of good faith." Don't know what that means but the dealership I got my car from has been very accomodating. They gave me an 02 es300 as a loaner and I was able to replicate the tranny issues.

    I also complained about the foul smell eminating from the A/C on damp days and apparently Lexus has issued a TSB and a fix is now available. My car no longer smells like a sewer.
  • I too join the ranks of those who trusted the quality claims of Lexus. I have a 2003 ES300 with 3500 miles with the same problems mentioned here. Besides the shuddering problem at low speeds my transmission has started to "stick" in certain gears - it may stay in 3rd gear for a time before shifting to 4th or 5th at highway speeds (65mph) or it may choose to stick in 4th for a while. Sometimes it does not shift upwards through the gears on acceleration until well above the otherwise normal shift points. I too hear the same things from my service folks - a "known" problem with a fix maybe by the end of Q2-03. If it was a "known" problem, why aren't the sales people ethical enough to mention it to potential buyers - instead they drive home the message of high quality and reliability vs. Infiniti, Mercedes Benz and BMW. If I wanted a car like this, I would have bought a Ford.
  • gekko2gekko2 Posts: 87
    Did you test drive your ES before you bought it?

    Top vehicles by category

    Here are the top three vehicles, ranked by quality, in their individual market segments, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 initial quality study. The study is based on responses from more than 52,000 people who bought or leased new 2003 cars and trucks. The survey is done in the first 90 days of ownership.

    Entry luxury car: Lexus ES 300, Cadillac CTS, Acura TL. - tml
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    It's been a couple of months since I received my knew car and I wanted to post some things. To review, I bought an '02 ES 300. Everything about the car was great except the transmission (although the Toyo tires did get quite noisy after 10K miles). The transmission issue I considered to be flat dangerous after having several incidents of power failure with the transmission that put me in danger. Basically the problem was you'd hit the gas, the RPM's would fly up and the car wouldn't go anywhere. The transmission improved by disconnecting the battery which seemed to reset it, and then last October I received a software upgrade which improved things some more, but I was still disappointed because it would still fail at times. Lexus was quite arrogant to deal with right down to my Lemon Law hearing. They wouldn't consider settling and even ignored the states requests for information on the matter. The state rep said that was unusual because most manufacturers try to work with the state and the customer. The judge drove the car with me in the passenger seat and the Lexus Rep in the back seat. He was able to get the transmission to fail twice and then asked the Lexus Rep if he would like to settle or hear his decision. The Lexus Rep agreed to settle. I received a brand new '03 for $2100, a good deal considering this car drops in value about 20% the first year, if you include the sales tax in the original price tag. The Lexus Rep later acknowledged that 12% of purchasers are unhappy with the transmission and that makes me think it's probablly much higher since many people just shut up and accept the problem.

    The transmission in the new car is better in most cases, though still somewhat disappointing. The slip and surge in stop and go traffic seems to be worse, and it seems to bog down a bit going from first to second gear. I didn't notice that in the '02. The improvement is that I haven't experienced a complete power failure. I've got to tell you that's a very helpless feeling. At times, at higher speeds, I have noticed some slippage when needing to negotiate lane changes in heavy traffic. It's such a shame because I like everything else about the car.

    Since I paid top dollar for this luxury Camry, I still expect top quality and a second rate transmission, though improved, is not acceptable. I hadn't heard any complaints about the '03 and was hoping it would be fixed. Also, I'd driven a loaner car where I didn't notice the slippage at all. It does seem to vary a little between cars. Given Lexus arrogance about this issue, I was able to get a little vengence, recently a man came up to me at a filling station and asked me about the car. He was considering between it and a BMW for his wife, and I told him this was a new car because the last one was a lemon, Lexus lost a sale. My next step is to file with the National Transportation Safety Board. I looked into a class action suit, but since I allowed Lexus to settle instead of getting a decision made, I undercut my own case. Bottom line is we need raise as much noise about this as possible. Don't believe them when they say it's about to be fixed. A loss of sales or a big lawsuit will eventually get Lexus attention.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    The 5 speed transmission on my new '03 (900miles) seems a little strange. If I drive about 35mph and then slow down to about 5mph and than try to accelerate there is a hesitation. It's as if the transmission can not decide on what gear to go into. When it finally does there's a slight lurch forward. Can this be adjusted? I asked my dealer if the '03 model had this problem corrected and he said it was. I guess he was wrong!
  • akw3akw3 Posts: 14
    Hi rtorreca,
    Can you give more detail on the TSB fix. Does it has anything to do with the cabin filter?
  • rtorrecartorreca Posts: 74
    Sorry but don't have a lot of details. The service rep simply said there was a tsb and that they have applied the fix to my car. He mentioned adding a "styrofoam" being added where the water from the A/C pools. I've complained to them about this before but they were not able to recreate the problem at that time. When I turned in the car for service, it was a little damp out and that's usually when the sewer smell eminates from the A/C.
  • akw3akw3 Posts: 14
    Just spoke to my Dealer's service manager, apparently Lexus Canada knew nothing about the TSB but a tech rep is scheduled to see my car next Monday. Hopefully they can reproduce the smell on that day.
  • richm4richm4 Posts: 169
    No, and (unfortunately) welcome to the club. Check out the prior posts from the last 18 months, and you'll find you're in good company.
  • optimist2optimist2 Posts: 15
    Does anyone know if the new es 300 for '04 will have the transmission fixed?

    I love the es 300 but i don't want to buy a lemon. It seems taht both 02 and 03 have had trouble with the transmission, right?


  • es300transes300trans Posts: 32
    I took my 2002 ES300 to the Lexus Dealer a couple of days ago. They told me that there is currently no fix available for the transmission problem which I have. I would be very careful about purchasing a 04 model. I would wait to see if there are any complaints before you proceed with the purchase.
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    I'm currently looking into Class Action proceedings. It will probably take a while and I may not get any takers. According to my attorney friend, we really have to have someone die or seriously injured. Unfortunately, that's how things work. Attorney's don't want to take a long drawn out difficult case. With Lexus staunchly defending this transmission and doing everything they can not to work with customers, I think we could expect a strong fight. Let's say they've sold 100,000 vehicles. If they had to do a transmission recall and it cost them $1,000 per car that's $100,000,000.... an amount for Lexus worth defending. I can assure you with those dollars customer satisfaction isn't important.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    I'm from Texas, too, but now live in PA. I work for a firm that handles nothing but automotive law.

    We have gillions of Lexus ESs and Camrys around and even in this very litigious area, I've yet to see a complaint about the Lexus transmissions. In fact, in checking my records, I've only worked on two Lexus cases - a GS400 with engine management problems (fuel injection-related) and an ES 300 with electrical problems (weird water leak caused all kinds of sunroof and power windows/locks problems).

    And, Lord knows, I would see them, in droves. We either have a very isolated number of these problematic vehicles, or it's a regional thing.

    The firm I work for would have already been on the Lexus bandwagon if there was anything significant (number of vehicles-wise). They started the Kia Sephia and Mitsubishi Galant class-action suits, so they know how this all works.

  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    Hopefully, I will be the first to get the ball rolling. Lexus acknowledged at my Lemon Law hearing that 1 in 12 people are dissatisfied with this transmission. The Lexus Rep wasn't very bright to admit that as that's probably all that have bothered to register complaints. When the judge drove my car and the transmission failed twice for him, Lexus was all to eager to give me a new car. Unfortunately, my new car is better but still unacceptable. It still fails at times, but I can't replicate the failure as easilly. Like I said, it's really necessary for someone to die or be seriously injured before easy action is taken. I'm just now looking. If you think I'm the only one complaining. Please refer to the last 18 months on this discussion board.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    "letter of the law" is that if 1 in 12 folks have a problem, then you don't have a lemon. A lemon, by the law, is made out to be 1 in 100,000.

    We have people who shoot themselves in the foot constantly by taking internet discussions into an arbitration, saying "I talked to 50 other people who have the same problem". Sunddenly, you're not special anymore, the spotlight gets pulled from you, and you get nothing.

    I'm glad they repurchased the first one for you, but I'm very surprised they did.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    Here is an official reply from the Lexus Corporation that was sent to one of the members of the Club Lexus Forum:

    "Thank you for contacting the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Department regarding your 2002 ES300, VIN ######. We appreciate the time you have taken to share your thoughts. As you requested, we are responding in writing.

    In a constant effort to listen to customers and improve our product, we have become aware that some 2002 and 2003 ES 300 customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the responsiveness and the shift feel of their vehicles. In the interest of satisfying customers, Lexus is working hard to address and resolve this situation and provide ES 300 customers with a satisfactory resolution. Lexus engineers are currently developing driving responce and shift feel improvements. These improvements must undergo extensive testing , to ensure they meet Lexus performance targets under a broad range of driving conditions and driving styles. As soon as the development work is complete, Lexus will make the update available through the Lexus dealerships. As there is much work that needs to be done to achieve this goal, the resolution may not become available until late 2003. When this update becomes available, customers with affected vehicles will be notified by mail, and Lexus will make the update available at no cost.

    Please contact your Lexus dealership, or the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Department at 1-800-255-3987, Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, if you require further information or assistance.


    Elston E. Gentle, Jr.
    Customer Satisfaction Representative"

    As you can see Lexus is working on this problem.
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    Thanks for the post. However, I was told this for June '02, August '02, September '02, October '02, December '02, June '03, July '03 and now it's just later in '03. I hope they come out with something, but now I really doubt they will.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    "dissatisfaction with the responsiveness and the shift feel of their vehicles"

    you aren't being taken seriously or aren't commincating correctly.
  • es300transes300trans Posts: 32
    I just brought my 2002 ES300 in for an oil change and also asked if there were any updates available for the numerous transmission issues (e.g., shuddering, stumbling, jerking, etc.) I was told "none available at this time." That's it. My whole experience with this issue and how Lexus has handled it has left me very disappointed. I would like to believe that Lexus is fixing/working on this issue. But I have yet to hear otherwise from Lexus.

    My dealer also claims that they test drove my vehicle and they cannot duplicate the problem. This is very frustrating since all that I have to do is quickly accelerate, and then stumble. The shuddering is less frequent so it is understandable that they wouldn't experience this one. You have to own the car to experience it.

    Lexus has already lost one sale that I know of due to this issue. I just bought my second car, a Honda.
  • I was told by Lexus of North America that a fix has been completed by engineering but they are waiting for government approval.

    What does that mean?
  • bartalk2bartalk2 Posts: 326
    That obviously means Bush has to approve the changes personally to assure there are no threats to homeland security. Can't be too careful these days.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Posts: 2,353
    emissions settings in any way, they have to be approved - can't allow anyone keying up their laptop, making their car scream, and hurtiung the ozone layer...
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