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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • You know, I am tired of being told that the hesitation problem with my ES 330 is my fault. Let me give an example to explain why some, even many, people do not see this problem. I drive alot in stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic. I also occasionally drive my car aggressively. The hesitation issue usually shows in my 2004 when going at slow speeds (5 - 15 mph) and doing sudden acceleration to change lanes or when driving at higher speeds (50 - 60) and doing sudden acceleration to change lanes. Many people can drive a car for 10 years and never once do this maneuver. Until an emergency. This does not mean that it is a driver problem. The problem is inherent in the design of the car.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    Well all I can say is that the NHTSA is the final arbitrator of what constitutes a safety hazard. They have already looked into it twice and concluded that the transmission (as much as you think it constitutes a safety problem) issue just doesn't rise to a safety concern. If you still think the car isn't operating as desired maybe you should think about trading it in for a BMW M5 or Porsche 911 Turbo ;)
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    User777, you stated about my post: "That would be an erronious conclusion"
    To explain, please understand I didn't mean to "conclude" anything in saying "good point" to someone else's comment about "perhaps it might be a driver problem." What was intended is "that point is something which cannot be ignored" in discussing this issue. It may or may not be a factor, and cannot be discounted as a possiblity out of hand. It isn't "erronious" to have it added to the list of possibilities.
    This is not saying everyone who says they've had hesitation is solely to blame for the experience either.
    Since my adventure into this issue two months ago, an impressive amount of rhetoric, theories, speculation, and and MANY emotional condemnations have been posted about it.
    I haven't yet seen any solutions which come close to what could be called progress--other than the human element seems to play a major part in posts condemning it. There always seem to be an abundence of anti Toyota rhetoric which leads me to believe there really are people out there who for whatever reason just want to make Toyota look bad.
    Until I see fewer posts like "this car sucks", or "they screwed up big time", or " I can get them all to do it", or "tired of hearing there's no problem",or "it's in all of them" etc. etc, my thoughts about what's going on here won't change much. To date there has been far too much irrationality associated with this issue to "conclude" anything, other than some people don't seem to like Toyota very much.
  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    nice post. you seem to be asserting that you've tried a number of times to create the problem and can't, and that you're smart enough and perceptive enough to know you've got hesitation if it existed. you've said you have none, and therefore, someone would normally conclude your vehicle differs in some manner from the vehicles driven by these other people. your style wouldn't be that different from other people anyway, but even if it were, you just can't seem to replicate the issue.

    personally, i don't believe the poster indicating they could make any vehicle do it. i don't believe this is an issue with the inherent design.
  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    imagine for a moment that the vehicle and the experiences related are yours (not someone elses)... imagine you are reading something from hylynerX and perhaps a few others whose belief requires some threshold of objective information be met, when you cannot possibly provide them with the information at the level they require to conceed the point.

    imagine you've reported the issue to your dealership on a number of service visits who have been told "they all do it" and "this is normal", and you've even gone so far as to pursue arbitration to get out of the vehicle because you know something is fundamentally wrong.

    i don't think ANYONE posting in the hesitation forum which was closed has or had motivation to make Toyota look bad. some of the posters love their toyota except for this, and further, have been long time toyota loyalists.

    this classification of posts (ala rhetoric, emotional condemnation, irrationality) is how we got in trouble before. i'm not playing that game twice.

    theories, speculation... sure, presented in a sincere, open and honest manner may be enough to move the conversation along and for someone to connect the dots and help everyone's understanding.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Well, I see your point and freely admit if I had been in those shoes I would probably not feel too good about it.
    My way of dealing with those kinds of problems would definitely take a different route than cartalk complaint forums though. I'm decidedly too pragmatic by nature, I guess. Never did like playing games!
    That said, the only posts I classified (as you said): "emotional, irrational, rhetoric, etc" are those which decidedly fit the description, and there have been plenty of them as even you must admit.
    There also has been (as you said) some sincere, open, and honest discussion about this issue. Perhaps I neglected to credit those accordingly, and I apologize for that omission. Generally though, there's been far to little to date, and often when it does happen, the inevitable "make Toyota look bad" posts have come along and derailled many a good discussion.
    All of the above aside, I sincerely hope you don't still feel I was "erroniously concluding" that all of this problem is driver related.
  • billranbillran Posts: 113
    user777, I agree with you regarding whether the hesitation issue affects all similar cars. Based on some of the descriptions provided of the hesitation, I would find it very hard to believe that it is in all similar drive trains. Mine certainly does not exhibit it and I have tried to drive it under the conditions described.

    I see that AP just put out a report that says that the Camry is the best selling car in America for the fourth year in a row, and has been for 8 of the last 9 years. I don't know what the sales ratio of 4 to 6 cylinders is, but either way there are a lot of the V6-5 speed drive trains out there. And, since the drive train we are discussing is on several of Toyota's top sellers (ES330, RX330, V6 Camry, Highlander and Sienna) I would hazard a guess that there may be more cars on the road with this specific drive train than any other single drive train made by any other manufacturer.

    It is hard for me to imagine that all of these hundreds of thousands of cars built over the last few years could have a serious design/safety flaw without an enormous uproar. In addition to my limited sample of three, I recall one poster saying that he had surveyed several owners he spotted at gas stations and other places and was not able to find a single person who said they had the problem.

    So I believe that indeed it is a real problem for real people, but a fairly small percentage and by no means the widespread safety issue that some would contend.

    Wwest, I believe your "top of the heap" comment is right on target.,0,2800194.- - story?coll=sns-ap-business-headlines
  • Trust me, I have seriously thought about getting rid of the car. I would love a 911 Turbo, but do not trust myself enough to drive one. I do have one question, though. If this problem does not exist (and Lexus/Toyota have repeatedly said it does not), why did Lexus/Toyota come out with a fix? When I had the Firmware upgrade done on the car, it corrected alot of the problem. But if there is no problem, why fix it?
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    If this problem does not exist (and Lexus/Toyota have repeatedly said it does not), why did Lexus/Toyota come out with a fix?

    Shocaser, please consider this answer to your question--it has been raised by others.
    First, Toyota/Lexus has acknowledged the issue, and publicly notified the World that a TSB is available. A press release was issued about it last year. Basically in layman's terms, what they said was that it is a normal characteristic of their DBW systems; it will feel "different" and may take getting used to for some; it is designed that way to protect the engine; and for those who want it done there's a TSB which can be applied to modify the characteristic.
    Second, you should recognize the difference between a TSB and a Recall. TSB's are simply a service bulletin to dealer service personnel to define a specific service procedure they should use if a customer reports a problem or wishes an adjustment to be made in some system or component. Examples of TSBs would be window adjustments, body part fit and finish corrections,etc. TSBs are usually created to provide service personnel an approved method to repair or adjust assembly line problems. Sometimes they are created as an approved way to replace defective components also. In the case of the hesitation TSB, there is no "defect" involved, it's an "adjustment" issue.
    If there was a defect in every vehicle produced, there would be a recall campaign. In this instance, only a very small number of complaints are involved, and many of those are apparently being corrected through the TSB you refer to.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Okay, over the next week or so as you drive along, pay attention to how many drivers rest their left foot on the brake pedal while cruising along. Now, for the following week pick any one of the more popular marques and do the same thing, how many of the drivers of that marque do you see resting their left foot on the brake pedal?

    Relatively small number overall, right?

    Now lets say that the manufacturer of the marque you picked realizes that this practice is rather foolish (fuelish??) and decides to disable the accelerator pedal any time the brakes are applied.

    Guess how many, and which, drivers would immediately notice...!!??

    And now...

    Where would the fault lie?

    The manufacturer modified the engine control firmware in a perfectly logical and reasonable way. Will the owners affected scream and shout or will they adapt their driving style?

    I'm not by any means trying to remove or allay responsibility for the engine hesitation symptom from Toyota or Lexus, I still quite firmly believe their engine/transaxle firmware design has an inherent flaw that will or can be hazardous under the right (WRONG) circumstances.

    Their 5-speed transaxles must work reliably for 100% of the owners, not 99.99%
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Love the comment that it must be a driver problem! :-)

    While I do not think "it" is any driver's fault, I think there are two issues that cause folks to have varying degrees of irritation:

    1) The degree to which the various drivers perceive the seriousness of the symptoms. For example, when I have repeated the symptom for others, many say, "I feel it but it is no big deal."


    2) Other aspects of the car that cause the symptoms to manifest themselves to different degrees. My car, for example, behaves much worse SINCE the TSB fix. Since virtually everyone says the TSB incorporation helps the car, I can't help but think that there is something else in the way they tuned up my car that is contributing to my perception that the TSB fix made my car worse.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    As I said in a previous post, although I believe all vehicles have the problem, not all vehicles exhibit the symptom in the same way.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    Sorry, there is no such thing as 100% perfection. Life isn't perfect; and any mechanical component certainly isn't. Having said that I think this general discussion about transmission problem doesn't belong in this board. Maybe there should be a new forum that exclusively deals with what a transmission is or isn't suppose to do.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Toyota and Lexus 5-speed transaxles should operate reliably and safely for 99.9999999999999999999999% of the public not just 99.99999999999999999999999%
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Usually Wwest's opinions are quite worthy of consideration if not technically astute, (perhaps 80 point reliability?) but I reckon this one might be a product of overindulgence during yesterday afternoon's Happy Hour.
    However, if Wwest could find documented evidence showing that ANY automaker meets an expectation THAT unreasonable,
    I would be inclined to support it.
    Otherwise we'll just have to regard it as an unintentional indiscretion. Wwest, it's just not you.
    All tongue in cheek aside, NOBODY builds 'em that good!!
  • lmacmillmacmil Posts: 1,758
    "This new transmission also uses a quick-response, low-friction clutch pack for enhanced fuel economy; an ultra-flat, low-inertia torque converter for high transmission efficiency; a set of high-response, low-slip clutch packs and new electronic and hydraulic control systems that incorporate an intelligent shift control that learns driver's driving style and selects gears based on that style.

    As a result of this development, transmission kickdown response was cut to 0.5 seconds, more than twice as fast as the response of the transmission this new one replaces."

    One could interpret that as tacit acknowledgement of an issue. FWIW, my '05 Camry SE-V6 is much better than my wife's '04 HL V6 on the hesitation issue but neither is a safety hazard in my opinion.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Well, "perfect" may not exist but virtually perfect, or world class, does and quite frankly, if it were not for this annoying drive train issue, I'd consider the car virtually perfect, particularly for the price.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    if it were not for this annoying drive train issue, I'd consider the car virtually perfect
    One can only wish what you suggest were true. Can you point to any automaker in the world today (or in the past) who makes "virtually perfect" products? For that matter, can you point to ANY man made entity that qualifies as "virtually perfect?" What does "virtually perfect" mean anyway? Are you talking "almost perfect" or "approximately perfect", or something that's "close to perfect?"
    Frankly, I would guess there isn't such a thing as "virtually perfect" unless you're dealing in the "virtual world." The term "world class" means little, except in the world of marketing.
    Expectations of perfection raised to such a "virtually perfect" level is just a recipe for guaranteed disappointment. No wonder you are annoyed.
  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    Perfect in the sense of ideal/ not realistically achievable, or meets the customer's expectations.

    I don't think anyone expects perfection, just a very responsive, customer-centric support system to get issues resolved. This is one issue many cannot get resolved.

    I imagine if you've got a problem with your vehicle like this, and you're constantly being told "they all do it", "this is normal" and you know this isn't true - and the characteristic or behavior is anywhere from bothersome to what you consider impacting your safety, maybe the behavior is initially better after a re-flash and gets worse, or it doesn't change post-reflash, or it is worse right away post-flash - you're going to be mightily dissapointed in the manufacturer you believe is number one with the best products.

    I agree, in the context that you're using perfect, this isn't an appropriate expectation.

    However, it is completely appropriate to expect the support structure to fix the vehicle, or replace it.

    Apparently they can't do the former (issue a fix) for all owners (probably because there are different problems exhibiting similar symptoms, but the reflash only addresses a sub-set of them), and w.r.t. the latter, for one reason or another they have judged it doesn't make sense to replace the population of vehicles that the TSB doesn't solve.

    My expectation, if I were a Toyota loyalist and had complained a number of times about the ride and had the TSB work performed but it wasn't fixed, would expect the manufacturer or dealership network (via special incentives from manufacturer) to place my family in an updated model without the behavior... under the most favorable, customer-centric economic terms possible.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Much of what you speak of makes "perfect sense"---albeit "in a perfect world"--too bad we all don't live in one.
    That said, your expectations (re what should be done for you and your family in a similar situation) are not very likely to be met. Better be prepared for some serious annoyance in your life too.
  • Trust me, I know the difference between a TSB and a recall. I have 17,000 miles on my ES and have had 4 different TSB's applied to my car. The last time I have my car in for service they applied a TSB and told me that the problem that I had complained about had been fixed. The only problem is, I had NOT complained. I suspect a recall in disguise.
    I am very aware of the history of the transmission problems with my car. I have simply resigned myself to a sub-par design. The fact that Lexus/Toyota has to build a hesitation into the design of the transmission to protect the engine raises many questions in my mind. What is wrong with the engine/transmission combination to require this protection?
  • billranbillran Posts: 113
    Whatever hesitation is "built in" to protect the drivetrain is not an issue for me or the thousands of other very satisfied owners whose cars drive just fine. It is undetectable.

    The hesitation that is the source frustration for you and a small percentage of other owners is obviously something else.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Would that mean that previous transaxles took more than a second to downshift as needed? So inadvertently requiring an immediate second downshift would require more than 2 seconds?

    And with 4 downshift speeds to select three inadvertent downshifts wouldn't be out of the question......
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    What is wrong with the engine/transmission combination to require this protection?
    The assumption that "something is wrong" makes very little sense. Does "something have to be wrong" when protection is present in any scenario? We put oil in an engine to protect it. We drive carefully (one hopes!) to protect ourselves and others. We use sunscreen to protect against getting skin cancer.
    "Sub par design?" I don't believe that's a supportable conclusion, unless one can show how!!
    "Hesitation built into the design?" Evidently there are lots of drivers who don't see this as a bad thing, so it may not be correct to dismiss it as a universal curse.
    Is it possible that perhaps expectations might be just a little bit unreasonable, and that's got a lot to do with annoyances we're seeing expressed in these forums?
  • As I have said before, I am tired of being told that I am the problem. All cars have oil. Do all cars have a built in hesitation to "protect" the engine? I understand that you may not notice the problem, or may view the hesitation as not BEING a problem. However, I view it as a problem.
    If expecting my 2004 Lexus ES 330 to drive and perform at least as well as my 1994 Ford Taurus did, than I guess my expectations are too high.
  • bruneau1bruneau1 Posts: 468
    One of my friends has this vehicle and finds its transmission performance substandard and very annoying. Some GM transmissions are more responsive.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    First, please read post #923.

    Second, this "protect the drivetrain" statement is likely VERY real.

    When driving a stick shift how often do you think you could rev the engine up before releasing the clutch pedal and not have a "premature" clutch failure?

    What Toyota and Lexus have done with the DBW system is nothing more or less than what stick shift drivers have done for ages to preserve clutch life.

    I think what we need to be focussing on here is the high priority the engine/transaxle ECU firmware gives to upshifting into a gear ratio wherein converter lockup is/can be used to extend fuel economy to the nth degree.

    If the transaxle could somehow be prevented from upshifting so quickly then the subsequent downshifts would no longer be an issue.

    And my apologies in advance to those of you experiencing this hesitation symptom but I have now come to believe it does have something to do with the uniqueness of your personal driving style or habits.

    I'm not by any means trying to let Toyota nor Lexus off the hook, they should be working to find out just what flaw, "trapdoor" exists in their firmware that allows these instances to occur.

    But be that as it may here is my thought.

    The DBW accelerator pedal has two positional sensors for redundancy. The two sensor outputs are always at a different voltage by at least 0.4 volts for the same pedal position to protect/detect shorts between the two.

    Since the sensor output for a given pedal position is unique to each set of sensors shipped and also unique between the two sensors themselves the engine/transaxle ECU must "LEARN", after the vehicle is shipped, over time and distance, exactly what the differential voltage between the two actually turns out to be. It then uses that voltage diff'l to continuously check the validity of the primary gas pedal position sensor output.

    The above paragraph is founded on the statements taken directly from the 2004 RX330 Lexus shop manual.


    If the ECU must learn what the diff'l voltage between the two gas pedal position sensor actually turns out to be then that implies, heavily, that it must "learn" the sensors' voltage output for a "neutral" and "WOT".

    But, just how does it go about learning these parameters "on-the-fly...??

    My guess would be that it starts out by assuming that if the transaxle shift lever is in park or neutral or the brake pedal is applied then the gas pedal is at the neutral position....

    How else?

    What would happen if the ECU "settled" on a gas pedal "neutral" position using the shifter position initially, or even the brake pedal, and then a left foot braking driver stepped into the vehicle for a Sunday afternoon drive?

    Would it eventually recalibrate the gas pedal neutral position to agree with the "constant" slight foot pressure of the left foot braker?

    Just how confused would the ECU now get if the driver then inadvertently FULLY released the gas pedal?

    If that were to happen, and I for one am now certain that it might, for the next few miles the ECU wouldn't have a good idea just where the gas pedal neutral position was/is!

    Do I remember correctly that some posters who are experiencing the symptom had it go away for a few days after disconnecting the battery to reset the system parameters?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    It has too often happened to me that the floor mat creeps up/forward to the point that the front of the mat is actually laying on, and slightly depressing, the gas pedal.

    I've even had a couple of unintended acceleration instances that were caused by this, floor mat laying over the gas pedal but behind the brake pedal, wherein heavy brake application inadvertently applied a significant level of pressure to the gas pedal.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    I guess my expectations are too high
    I believe you. All I'm saying is perhaps that's the reason you view it as a problem.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Second, this "protect the drivetrain" statement is likely VERY real.
    Wwest, I agree with you that it may very well be REAL.
    That said, is this an indication there's something wrong with the engine or transmission? (as shocaser has implied) Personally I think not.
    Please shocaser, this isn't saying hesitation is your fault either, so you needn't be "Tired of hearing that it is." I don't think anyone has ever implied that.
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