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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    I posted this FYI with your comments about the issue in another forum. Hope you find it informative.

    Here's some really interesting info. Like it or not,it's worth reading.
    My Internet research reveals there are at least Four (count 'em---4!!)Aftermarket Suppliers of "Transmission Performance Programmers", also called "Power Control Modules", sometimes called "Automotive Performance Computers" which are able to modify shift performance, shift points, shift firmness, and a host of other parameters for 4,5,and 6 speed automatic transmissions on every make or model of vehicle on the planet.
    That tells me (1)There's no mystery or black magic to this issue, (2)The so called "unknown fix" isn't unknown--likely Toyota included, (3)A lucrative market exists for people to change the way their trannys work--not just Toyota/Lexus, (4)Cost is modest--prices range from $125 to $400 depending how sophistcated one wants to go.
    All the confusing technobabble aside, in layman's terms, I no longer believe it's the mysterious and elusive quest we've all been obsessing about.
    That said, here's what I think this issue boils down to.
    All manufacturer's DBW throttle/transmission systems have unusual or unfamiliar characteristics. I believe those Service Tech's comments about it being a "normal" characteristic are probably correct. I believe it's likely a consistent phenomenon across the board--typical to a greater or lesser degree to all manufacturers. Auto manufacturing consistency today is higher than it's ever been, so anomalies like some suggest this may be aren't too prevailent any more.
    So I believe that complaints we are seeing have more to do with a few owners having adverse sensitivity to the issue, and most owners not noticing it nor being bothered by it.
    More research results. A small sampling to be sure, but revealing nonetheless.
    Since coming into this issue last October, I've driven 12 Toyota/Lexus products with 5 speed BBW in addition to our own two cars. Lexus 330 and RX series, Highlander, Avalons, and Camry. None has exhibited any of the delay, lurching, seeking, or prolonged hesitation. All have been seamless, smooth and quiet. I have yet to experience any of this phenomenon, and I have yet to speak directly to anyone who has.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Of the 50 or so people I polled over the weekend here for the 24 vhours of Daytona the only ones with the type of hesitation complaints described in the TSB seemed to be exclusively FWD Toyota or Lexus owners. And just as we see here not all owners were experiencing the problem, some seem to not even grasp my question without an explanation.

    I had the opportunity to drive a number of rental cars back to the rental lot, almost all FWD, and not a one of them exhibited the symptom, including my own Chrysler sebring, insofar as I could tell.
  • billranbillran Posts: 113
    Wwest, would you say that the 50 owners represented a fair and equal crossection of manufacturers? Did you ask an equal number of Honda/Acura, and other owners before reaching your conclusion?

    A search of NHTSA records and interviews with Consumer Reports magazine also show owners of other car makes are suffering from the same hesitation problem, including BMW's 3 Series, Ford Explorers and Escapes, and Dodge Durango 4x4.

    David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in Connecticut, said the magazine's testers have encountered the same problems in the Audi A6 2.7T, the Audi Allroad, the Mazda6 equipped with the V-6 engine, and the Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706

    I doubt if I will ever come to a "conclusion" absent same from Toyota/Lexus. Just gathering information.
  • I appreciate that information and do find it informative. It also makes me wonder why Lexus continues to say nothing can be done. I also wonder why they haven't suggested such a product, since the local dealer and the Lexus representative both acknowledge and can repeat the symptoms in my car (unless there are warranty issues associated with such an aftermarket product...).

    But I must vehemently disagree that I am just experiencing an 'adverse sensitivity to the issue'. I do agree that most owners are not 'noticing it nor being bothered by it'. But it is definitely more than a perception or sensitivity issue.

    After reading some of the other observations and suggestions, I have been messing around with different driving 'styles', for lack of a better word. And the symptoms are definitely more pronounced under certain driving conditions and/or driving 'styles'. It is definitely some type of reaction by the software or hardware to the 'inputs' from the driver.

    Having said that, I have not been able to find a 'style' where the symptoms are completely gone - THAT may be a function of my 'sensitivity to the issue'. But as noted in a previous post, the car doesn't react the same to the same inputs - so modifying my driving 'style' permanently has not been effective. Not to mention, I do not see anywhere in the manual where the driving 'style' required for this car is discussed.

    I completely understand that you and others do not experience the symptoms that I experience, and I have event talked to others who do not experience this problem. But trust me, what I am experiencing is much more than just being 'sensitive to the issue' - and I am not the only once experiencing this, so it is definitely more than just sensitivity.
  • I am actually in the process of trying arbitration, under the Lemon Law in my state.

    Unfortunately, my attorney and I are not very hopeful based on the comments posted on these forums - which seems to indicate that the big company (i.e. Lexus) seems to have more influence on the arbitrator's decision than little ole me.

    But, I'm still going to give it a go. I'm in the 'notice period' right now, so cannot file my claim until mid-February based on the way our state's lemon law works.
  • I don't understand the difference between this forum,and the Lexus/Toyota Transaxle Shift Delay forum (

    Can you please clarify? Because it seems like people (me included) are posting the same information in both places...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,564
    This forum is supposed to be JUST for the 300, the other for all Lexus/Toyota. If you don't own a 300 you should probably be over there.

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

  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    you might what to clarify that: ...if you wish to report a Lexus/Toyota shift delay in a vehicle other than the Lexus 300...
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Good luck with your Lemon Law process. You have formed your opinion of the issue and based your action plan on that opinion--your choice is made; now let the chips fall where they may.
    Nevertheless my perception on what this is all about have not changed, and likely won't, at least not in the near future. If it turns out my assessment is in some way incorrect, so be it. For now, I'm standing firm on what I feel is going on here. I'm quite happy with my vehicle status, and like I said earlier, I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't. I've met quite a few who agree with me. I don't expect that status to change much either.
    I posted info about "performance enhancers" as simply info, and wasn't implying that anyone should rush out and buy one.
    It simply proved there are commercially available devices out there, unrelated to Toyota/Lexus, which change transmission shift characteristics. Therefor the issue is fixable, changeable, modifiable, or whatever, and isn't the elusive and mysterious quest being bantied about by us.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    Shepali - Just wondering, has Toyota/Lexus performed the TSB on your car yet to try to cure the problem? Just wondering because based on other's experience with arbitration, the arbitrator would like to see that you have given Toyota/Lexus adequate opportunity to fix the problem. A certain number of attempts to repair is also typcially required to file for a lemon law buy back. Well, keep us posted.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    An improvement of 9.8% in fuel economy and the resulting reduction in overall emissions is not something to be taken lightly. If Sierra Research said it could be done back in 1999 then the EPA and CARB will not be long in making it the law of the land.

    Toyota and Lexus have long been ahead of the curve in implementing these new aspects before they become law and I suspect that this is just another case of their "leading the pack".

    The only answer I can see for the future is to only buy cars with the sequential shift feature and then always run it under at least that level of manual control.

    For those of you who might be interested it appears that ALL of these new 5-speed transaxles have the three electrical inputs required for sequential shift mode/operations but no connections to tyhe cockpit.

    Good luck.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    In light of questions put to me in other forums about my internet findings into solutions for the hesitation issue, I felt some clarification is needed--as follows:

    I am NOT suggesting anyone immediately run down to the neighborhood automotive store to buy a performance enhancer, and yes, I am aware the device would probably void one's warranty. That's decidedly a no brainer.
    My ONLY reason for raising the point was to show how solutions are already out there. This is, after all, a "problems and solutions" forum.
    And yes, different makes/models of cars require different performance enhancing devices. That's why, when one buys one of these devices, it is necessary to specify which make/model one owns, so the appropriate device is purchased. They are make/model specific--look it up on the net.
    They come in all styles and shapes, with a variety of operating characteristics and user features. The simplest ones are straight replacement CPU chips, non adjustable nor programmable. Some factory chips are non removeable, so in these cases the performance enhancing device installs in line with the transmission CPU harness. For some units, what's changed stays that way until the new chip is replaced or the unit running in parallel is removed. High end units are dashboard mount, infinitely programmable, and are capable of providing a variety of different performance characteristics, even while in motion.
    No matter how one slices and dices this issue, it's not the deep, dark, unsolvable mystery that it's thought to be.
    That's all I'm trying to say.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    My team, nor any reasonably competent software group, would EVER suggest simply reprogramming versus digging in and finding and correcting bugs in the current firmware.

    Were you to do so then your assumption would be that an aftermarket third party programming group is better than the factory and that's simply not going to happen.

    If you were doing it to improve torque/HP for track use then the new bugs you will surely encounter might be tolerable, otherwise.........
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Wwest, now do we have to respond to you twice?? (Just kidding!)
    Look my friend, all I was trying to do was illustrate there's more than one way to skin this "elusive" hesitation cat. It isn't that elusive, and I believe you, more than most,should know that.
    These performance enhancement devices I've researched aren't for "track use" or "dragster application" or any other "competition" purposes. They're just another way to change one's transmission characteristics for a more user compatible attributes--assuming that's what the user desires. And they're cheap, easy to obtain, and there's lots of them around so the proof of their effectiveness is beyond question. Besides, any developer worth his or her salt knows the algorithms we're talking about in CPU transmission controls are about as simple as it gets. CPUs in these applications aren't quite the same as Lunar Landing Module controllers. I'm sure you have great programmers in your company, but they aren't any better or worse than a great many others out there. The application here is a relatively simple one, so it shouldn't be made to look more complex or difficult than it really is.

    Now I will post twice, but the second time will be in that other forum you responded to me in--just in case you miss this one.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    hylyner, my response:
    1. There is not more than one way to skin this hesitation cat. There is not even one way, or Lexus would have done it!

    2. If this is a simple, inexpensive software problem, that is known to boot, Lexus would be providing a fix to be done under warranty.

    3. Proof of effectiveness may be well known, but if you are referring to the complaint on this board, I take issue with your statement. This is the most active of the Edmund's ES300 board and there are still complaints.

    I think your statements support and do not detract from the theory that if the transmission problem had a simple and known solution (software only) Lexus would simply ship an update to be implemented under warrantly. Problem solved; no more complaints.

    But Lexus/Toyota has done no such thing, indicating that the fix is more than a simple software firmware solution.

    In other words, I believe that your statements are true, which proves to me that the problem squawked on this board involves both hardware and software, which would be expensive to fix.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    atoews, good points.

    hylyner, I responded to your duplicate post in the Toyota-Lexus transaxle shift delay forum but all these duplicates in several different forums gets a little confusing, so I am not going to repeat it here. That forum may be the best venue for general discussion of the problem that is not specific to any one of the Toyota/Lexus models involved.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "....isn't that elusive...."

    Initial complaints started in 2002.

    No fix as of yet......

    But you miss the real point. The part that seems to be the most elusive is the fact that a very few are experiencing the hesitation delay symptom. I have little doubt at this point that Toyota has already implemented all of the gas saving features described in the Sierra Research article within the firmware of all of the new 5-speed transaxles. But why has that resulted in a very few instances wherein this implementation results in a very noticeable, maybe even unsafe or hazardous circumstance?

    Therein lies the elusive firmware "BUG".

    My suggestion at this point is that Toyota should provide a transmission mode inverse to the "snow" mode. Basically a mode switch (shades of Edson DeCastro/Tracy Kidder) wherein the owner tells the transaxle to be aggressive with the shifting logic, "expect that I will floor the accelerator pedal at any, the very next, moment" and be prepared for same.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Guess I was wrong in attempting to offer constructive and creative solution options. It's clear collective emphasis here is polarized more or less on blame, in spite of forum titles to the contrary. I now have the distinct feeling there really isn't much interest in solutions after all.
    That said, I choose not to defend what I felt were helpful "food for thought" posts, nor will I take part in shooting them down with criticism when ideas like them appear.
    I explained very clearly why I posted what I thought might be helpful, so perhaps it's best to just leave it at that.
    If I come across any more constructive solutions, rest assured I'll do the same again.
  • Hylyner, I appreciate your input even if I agree with wwest's points. This board is helpful because some people considering the car will be more cautious on their test drive. In fact, I would be cautious with ANY automatic transmission car from any manufacturer. I just saw a an article in a leading Conumer information magazine where they complained of hesitation in a VW Passat with a 6 speed automatic transmission. I also see some glowing reviews and some very upset owners with the Mercedes Benz 7 speed transmission.

    My solution has been to drive the car (a 2003 Lexus ES 300) more like a manual transmission car. In any situation where I feel I possibly may need instant power, I manually shift the car into 3rd gear. I think the shifting around of the gear lever also affects the shifting algorithm in general (at least for a while).

    In bumper to bumper traffic, I use 2nd gear much of the time and enjoy the engine braking affect.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    Thanks. Your objective tone is encouraging. I too, have no problems with Wwest's ideas. He offers "food for thought" too.
    Just as my input was not "the" solution, Wwest's are "other" solutions, and--what you propose is yet "another" solution. This is good stuff!
    My feeling re what these forums have morphed into isn't what they were intended for. As I said above, there seems to be much more emphasis on "blame" than anything else. The process should be "define the problem" (that hasn't been done here)--then look for solutions, but it's gone the other way 'round IMO.
    It seems to me the "solution" has already been agreed upon, regardless, and the problem is continually being adapted to the solution.
    Wrong way to go about it, IMO.
  • Yep, this forum isn't serving any useful purpose at all. It has degenerated into the "Dog chasing its own tail". I do find some of the half baked theories about the cause of hesitation somewhat interesting though.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    No, constructive and creative ideas are really what this forum is all about, especially until a solution is found. Just remember that when any of us come up with an idea we must be willing to accept the critiques.

    Remember my idea of modifying the IAT? Or the one about it being the inappropriate use of a solenoid as a linear servomotor? Those went absolutely no where, and for good cause I now firmly believe.

    Start to think of it as a back and forth discussion, a fully open discussion.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    Well, you really can't expect everyone to agree with your opinions regarding this problem, just like you don't agree with opinions expressed by others. That is a reality that has to be dealt with in discussion forums. Really what you presented about the aftermarket options is nothing to agree or disagree with. Interesting information. What I disagree with is your implication that since these options are out there, we should not be worried about this anymore because the solution is simple. I challenge that if the solution is so simple, why hasn't Toyota solved it yet. My opinion is that these aftermarket options either are not "the" solution or they may solve the problem while at the same time compromising some other characteristic of the vehicle(fuel economy?).

    The fact that many companies are offering products/services to correct the problem does not mean that they work either. As an analogy, there are hundreds if not thousands of hair restoration remedies on the market but that doesn't mean that they all work. It just means that the problem is big enough that companies think they can capitalize on it.
  • hylynerhylyner Posts: 216
    You asked a question in another post: "If Toyota isn't to blame here, then who is?" (No inference there--it's clearly indicative of where you are on this issue, right?)

    Well, you could start by learning more about why it affects only a few vehicles and not most others. Is that a design anomaly, a driving style problem, a sensitivity thing, something unique to that particular vehicle, and so on. If it was part of a design thing, then ALL of them should have problems--but that's not happening at all.
    No,don't bother to look elsewhere-- it's a big bad Toyota thing, blame it on a design flaw.
    Then there's a big mystery about the TSB. Why does it apparently work for some and not others?
    Could it be dealers aren't doing it right---or not doing it at all--or some aren't even having it done--or what?
    But no, it's a big bad Toyota thing, blame it on the design flaw.
    I could continue, but why bore you with a search for facts. I'm sure you're not interested, much less want to learn all there is to know about this issue. It's much easier to blame, blame, blame--that's become the predetermined name of this game IMO.
  • Yes, I have had the TSB. And they have erased the ECU memory several times. I have reported the problem, and they have attempted to fix the problem under warranty, four times now (which is the required number in my state). And, separately, I also met with the area Lexus manufacturer's Representative, who drove with me in my car, and drove my car with me in it, and was able to experience and replicate the problem.

    As for the TSB - my car is actually WORSE since the TSB. I know there are several people here in this forum for whom the TSB remedied the problem - so I would still suggest it to anyone who hasn't had it. It just didn't work for me....
  • I don't understand your paragraph #3 and #4. Can you explain further? What is 'sequential shift feature'? Is that like the Porche 'tiptronic' feature?
  • wwest - I agree with the thought of a button that is the inverse to the 'snow' mode. My SAAB had a button like that - I think it was called 'sport' mode. I used it on days when I wanted it to react more quickly. I do really wish my Lexus ES had a button like that.
  • I am not an engineer by any means, and I can tell that some of you are.....but as a person who IS experiencing this phenomenon, here's what I think makes the most sense from everything I've heard from you all and the dealer.

    This phenomenon is a combination of the following:

    1. The fuel economy focus, whereby the transmission is told to shift into a higher gear as soon as possible, or into neutral, based on certain circumstances.

    2. The concept someone touched on about protecting the clutch. When the car is in the higher gear, or neutral, and its now time to switch into a lower gear (or into gear) - some type of protection mechanism that is causing a delay.

    3. The Drive By Wire (DBW) technology, which maybe does not react as quickly as a hard-wired cable (I've seen this in waterski boats - Mastercraft had a huge problem with this a couple of years ago - but they ultimately found a fix....- don't know the specifics though)

    Those things make sense to me - based on what I experience in my car. The problem is that I haven't been able to pinpoint those exact circumstances where this delay occurs, such that I could stop doing whatever that is.

    I have concluded this is in fact a design issue. I've come to that conclusion not only based on what I've experienced, and what I've read here - but the dealer and the Mfr Rep both said 'its doing what it was designed to do'.

    As far as why only some cars do it, I've concluded that it is definitely driving style and circumstances based. I've come to that conclusion because I experience the same exact symptoms in EVERY Lexus ES I have driven (i.e. loaner cars at the dealer). And further, the dealer and the Mfr Rep both told me that this is something that only a percentage of the population experience, and they told me that I would experience it in all ES models.

    So, given all of this, I don't understand why either the dealer, or the manufacturer, won't help me get out of this car at a price where neither of us will loose (or make) money.
  • I came across another 'solution' today (although it may cause an uproar with some of you)....

    There is another ES here in town that has written 'I hate my Lexus' on the windows.

    I may actually try that myself....
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