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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • Why would you assume that your car couldn't need an alignment? Some cars are not properly adjusted by the factory.

    My ES330 required alignment at the 1000 mile service point. I noticed a very slight drift immediately, but it wasn't bad enough to make a special trip. The dealer gladly fixed it.

    I'd suggest having the alignment checked.
  • I had a very similar problem on my 2001 Honda Odyssey - it turned out to be different tire pressure in the front wheels. Once I've corrected the pressure to the specs, the cars never drifts (own for 3 years, 33K miles).

    So, check the tires pressure!
  • hk2lahk2la Posts: 53
    I posted this on the other board, but thought I'd put it here too.

    Recently, I was crawling at 30mph on the freeway and felt a very very hard, jolting shift (the car was not otherwise shifting into another gear). It was such a hard jolt, it felt like someone hit my car. Has anyone had this experience? I am really starting to hate Lexus.
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    I mentioned on the other site that the software upgrade improved this problem for me, but I still have other problems. Kreativ thinks the bump is related to the AC, but I disagree. The AC wouldn't slow the car, it's part of the stupid tranny problem. I think it's related to some type of downshifting your car is doing. See if the RPM's move when it happens. Like I say it got better for me with the upgrade, but I'm looking for an attorney for the other tranny problems. This has been ridiculous.
  • texas83 just demonstrated exactly why the people bitching about the 'transmission problems' aren't getting any credibility.

    The guy feels a jolt. Without having any more facts than that, texas83 insists that it must be the transmission - no other explanation even needs to be considered. Then runs to a lawyer - even though he says that Lexus improved the shifting on his car.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    I have read numerous reviews on the 02 ES 300 and nowhere have I found that the ES 300 has a major transmission flaw. Some reviewers did mention that the ES 300 doesn't have that sports sedan type reflex when it comes to sudden downshifting when the pedal is pushed hard. In fact, the same thing was said about the LS 430. But that is the way these sedans are suppose to drive. You should have done your homework before buying this car. You are abusing the Lemon Law Policies. More than 90% of the people who bought these car are very happy with there purchase. Both the Consumer Report and JD Powers have called it the best entry level luxury car. Do you really think it would have gotten that title with such a major flaw. My 03 Camry LE V6 has the same exact engine and transmission and I found it to be a gem.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    You said "my 03 camry LE V6 has the same engine and transmission" as the 02-03 ES 300. I thought Toyota used a 4sp auto in the 03 camry and updated to the 5sp auto in the 04 model. Which transmission is in your car??
    I have found the 4sp auto in my '95 avalon (4sp) to shift a bit "smoother" than my '03 ES 300 (5sp)
    but the other characteristics of the ES (quieter, better seats, radio, wood, and general fit and finish) are clearly superior. Overall, I agree with the JD Power ratings of the ES, but the shifting can sometimes be annoyingly noticeable because the rest of the car is so "perfect".
    Which transmission is in your camry?
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    There are two years of complaints on this transmission set on the main chat line, a seperate chat line that someone set up because they are so fed up with it, I won a judgement in Lemon Law proceeding, and Lexus has admitted that 1 in 12 people are disatisfied with the trannny problem. Of course it's probably a much higher percentage dissatisfaction problem than that. Numerous statements were made about people being afraid for loved ones to drive the car. The tranny problem is better because of the software upgrade but obviously hasn't fixed the problem or people wouldn't still be complaining. READERS BEWARE the Lexus plants are doing what they can to discredit complaints.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    Actually the 03 Camry V6 has two transmission. One is the old 192 Hp teamed with the 4 speed automatic. In February 2003 Toyota added the 210hp vvti engine and a 5 speed automatic from the Lexus ES300. This was a midyear addition to keep the Camry more competitive with the Accord and Mazda6. Mine is the latter. If you check the Camry board you will see virtually no complaints about the new transmission.

    To Texas83- It is sad you make statements without providing any evidence to back it up. And when you can't win the argument you resort to name calling. People who work for JD Powers or Consumer Digest are neither stupid nor stooges of any car company. I certainly trust their opinion more than yours. If you are really unhappy with your car, sell it and buy a Neon.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Thank you for correcting me on the new Camry transmission. I'm curious though, if you ever experience a similar situation to my ES 300. I didn't notice anything unusual for the first 2-3 months of driving my ES. However, I now have 6,000 mi on the '03 ES and notice that it's shifting is "inconsistent". I'll go for miles with very smooth shifting, then I'll have a hesitant downshift or a surge as it shifts from L to 2 or from 5 to 4. I don't drive aggressively, which is why I think I notice the variation in it's shifting patterns. I have owned three other Toyota and Lexus vehicles with the V6-4sp auto. The new 5sp really isn't as smooth as the older version 4sp Toyota/Lexus transmission, in my experience. Still, great cars but could be improved, imo. I'm planning to get the transmission upgrade that has been referred to in this post, but I'm a bit concerned that it could make things worse since the Lexus service rep says that once the upgrade is done, you can't revert to the original software. Any advice would be appreciated.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    ..enough to think rationally. I truly empathize with your position. I know you feel what you feel regarding the symptom, and I am convinced that you could repeat it on a test drive with any one of us. However, the majority of the owners don't think it is a big issue, and I think that is making you madder than Lexus's response. You really need to accept that it is not Lexus plants out there.

    Anyway, being mad won't help you. It may get you kicked off the board, and I for one would miss your rational complaints!1
  • texas83texas83 Posts: 107
    Please refer to the last two years of complaints and documentation that I and others clearly noted on this and other boards. You can refer specifically to my post of February 19th 2003 where I documented my results from the Lemon Law Hearing. I guess it really strikes me as odd that people would ignore two years of complaints, admissions by Lexus to want to fix the problem and have people step in and say there is no problem. Not only that... they say I have no right to complain about a car that they have never driven. It comes across very suspicious.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    On this board, I doubt I could find 15 owners with the degree of dissatisfaction that you have. And my feeling is that very many more on this board are satisfied. I empathize with you, because I wish every danged owner had the problem so they would complain and have Lexus fix it!!

    But they don't. I am not a Lexus plant and I am accepting that the majority of owners simply don't have the problem or if they feel it, they don't think it is a big deal!! It is hard for me to accept, I don't like it, but that is reality.

    It is not that folks don't think you have a right to complain. The issue is they think you may be beating a dead horse.

    Good luck, Texas. I truly hope you get resolution.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    Does anyone out there who has had the upgrade feel that the transmission shifts worse than before the upgrade??
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    My previous car was (still is) a 1992 4 cylinder Camry LE with a 4 speed automatic. This is the first time I bought a V6 Camry, so I can't compare this V6 with the previous V6. That engine produced ( I think) around 130 to 135 hp. Naturally there is a big difference in acceleration between that car and my current Camry. To answer your question, I have never been in a situation where I had to make the car downshift all of a sudden. As far as upshift is concerned, my 03 Camry definitely upshifts a lot smoother than my 92, although that transmission isn't rough by any means. Toydriver, you have to remember that these cars meet ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) certification. That means the transmission will try its best to stay in overdrive (5th gear) to give you the best mpg. The 5th gear also has a taller final drive ratio than the 4 speed automatic it replaced. That means when you are cruising at say 65 mph your rpm number will be lower than a 4 speed automatic. While a taller overdrive gear gives you a smoother,quieter ride, sometimes it is reluctant to downshift abruptly when you punch the pedal suddenly because of the wide gearing between 4th and 5th gear
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I'm sure that you are right about the priority for the transmission is to keep as low rpm as possible for ULEV issues. What I don't understand is the variability in the way the car shifts from one day to the next or even during the same commute. As I said, it will be smooth as silk for a few miles, then if I slow down in traffic or speed up to stay in the traffic flow, I will feel surges, or a hesitency when it shifts. This doesnt' seem to me to be a dangerous situation, as others have claimed; more of an annoyance when the rest of the driving experience is so good. I'm hoping the software upgrade will help.
  • Hi Toydriver;

    I just learned something today. The 03 Camry V6 already had the re programmed software when they released it this February. Maybe that's the reason I don't feel any hesitation and no complaints from Camry owners about their transmission. You probably should get the upgrade even if it is irreversible.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    My 02 has 22k miles and the "upgrade". Before the upgrade it had a shudder at about 40mph when accellerating. Annoying. After the upgrade the 1/2 and 2/3 shifts are very inconsistant. One time it shifts perfectly, the next time the 1/2 and 2/3 shifts take 2-3 seconds and sound and feel like a slipping clutch on a standard shift auotmobile. Also annoying and maybe dangerous. At highway speed there is a 3-4 second lack of response when asked to accelerate. I consider this definitly dangerous. It took over a year to get any satisfaction from Lexus. They at first admitted a problem and said a fix was due by July 03. In July they said there was no problem and no fix in development, the car was performing as designed. Shortly thereafter I became aware of the upgrade in this message board. My car was the first done by my dealership. They have since done all the 300's in their loaner fleet and their salesmens cars. So much for it being only a minority of customers affected. I have complained about the way it now shifts and the tech has driven it, noted the problems and told me that Lexus considers it fixed. There is nothing more that can be done. I called Lexus Customer Satisfaction and got the same propaganda. I have owned two LS400s. A 93 and now a 97. Both cars have in excess of 140k miles and shift perfectly all the time every time.I have also driven Yugos and Kias and they shift better than a ES300. Automatic transmissions have been around for over 50 years. There is no excuse for such bad performance. There is no excuse for the manufacurer of a luxury automobile stonewalling its customers like this. Our only hope for satisfaction is to get this problem into automotive publications and the newspapers. Hurt their sales until they cure the problem. By the way, I have driven several 03s and noticed a problem in EVERY one of them. I have also driven a brand new Acura TL and I prefer my ES300 to the Acura. If the shifting were fixed it would be a near perfect automobile. Almost as good as my 400.My apologies for ranting.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    I agree that it is very telling that the upgrade has been added to an entire dealership's fleet. If there is no problem, as they claim, there would be no reason to put the change in.

    I am frustrated that the testers of these cars, who publicize their findings don't unilaterally comment on the poor shifting. A true fix would probably cost Lexus the earth, however, which is why they don't do it. Eventually, someone will probably get into an accident and sue the company.

    I appreciate your ranting.
  • I have an 03 ES 300. I can honestly say I have experienced many of the problems that have been posted BEFORE I read this forum. I am not a lead-footed hot-rodder. This is a fabulous car that has even greater potential. However, when I depress the pedal to pass, I hold my breath while the transmission "decides" what it is going to do - characterized as a slipping, mushy, hesitating, feeling - not crisp and responsive. The same feeling occurs after having slowed down to make a turn. I want to get up to speed, but again, I must wait for the car to respond to my request to accelerate. I have also experienced a propensity of the car to drift, rather the remain straight, while driving on the highway, and, occasionally, a sudden "lurch" forward while waiting at a traffic light. These are genuine, valid safety issues, not dreamed up minor complaints. The car's performance reminds me of the adage - a dull knife is far more dangerous than a sharp one. I test drove the 330, and was told it would be a totally different driving experience. Not true at all, just like the 300, a wonderful automobile - but I don't feel confident in critical situations. Since reading this forum I have not complained to the dealer because I am afraid of jepordizing my relationship for future servicing and repairs, and it seems the "fix" is a 50/50 experience. For those of you who admonish - stop whining or get another make of vehicle, I say that's not fair, as this vehicle is superior in satisfaction and quality in so many other areas. However, as owners of a Lexus automobile, we have a right and we should expect, to be able to feel proud, confident and secure as a result of that ownership. That is the message, the mantra if you will, that Lexus uses in their advertising. They exude that feeling in their own words "the Lexus experience".
  • It seems to me that the Lexus 5 speed is a bogus idea. Certainly, acceleration and mileage were not that much improved over the 4 speed. The differences in the 4th & 5th gears in the 300/330 are not that substantial. I think Lexus just wanted to receive a higher EPA clean air certification and perhaps a tad better mileage. Most late model V6 Camry's are 4 speed automatics with the addition of a button that actually down shifts to a constant lower gear - I think it's called ECT or ETC. When engaged (generally for city driving), the tach jumps up about 300 to 400 revs - about the same difference as between 4th & 5th on the 300. When not engaged it is able to drive on the highway in an "overdrive" capacity. The point is - those transmissions were excellent and the mileage was OK. The 300 trans seems to be constantly hunting, pecking, and clunking during city driving while ignoring "more juice now" commands on the highway. The fuzzy logic programming suggests that the unit would "learn" the drivers habits. It would know that the driver is not a lead foot in the city, but when on the highway and the signal to "MOVE IT NOW! - WE NEED TO PASS OR MERGE" is given, it would respond instantly. I have decided to move the shift lever to 4 and leave it there while driving in the city. If the traffic is real heavy and slowly moving, I leave it in 3. That's the equivalent of eliminating the ability of the transmission to "think" for itself. It is not a quick thinking/reacting unit, as is required in most major urban cities.

    The other issue is "drive by wire". I am not at all impressed with this electronic method. Yes, jets use this technology, but they do not "shift" gears. They simply increase air and fuel intake. I am not an engineer, but it seems to me that the car is maxed out in terms of weight to horsepower/torque. The small increase in HP and torque for the 330 was not at all substantial. This car should definitely be in the 250 - 275 range. That would not make it a BMW, nor do I want a BMW. It would simply mean there is ample power on tap to respond to today's driving demands in a safe and efficient manner.
  • But you need to accept the fact that you are a small minority who have this problem. Most ES300/330 owners are very satisfied with their purchase as indicated by both JD Power and Consumer Reports.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    I don't know where you got the idea that only "a small minority" are complaining, but you are wrong. My dealer saw fit to "upgrade" ALL the cars in their loaner fleet and those being driven by their salesmen. The techs tell me that a large percentage of customers have expressed disatisfaction with the cars performance and they routinely do the upgrade. Lexus admits to customer complaints averaging 12% of sales of 300s. And that is just from people bright enough to recognize a problem. I have talked to techs at three other area Lexus dealers and they tell me that the "upgrade" is being requested by approximatly one half of all owners. SMALL MINORITY? BS At 61 years old I have driving legally for 45 years plus a few illegal years. I have owned dozens of automatic transmission cars, the oldest being a 1950 Oldsmobile. All of them shifted better and more dependably, even the ones on the way to a junkyard. That said, the 300 is second only to my 400 as a near perfect automobile. The transmission being a major drawback. I doubt that I would buy another. Lexus's refusal to deal with the problem also casts icewater on my plans to buy a new 430. What if the 430 has a problem?
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    WRD: While this is not the main thrust of conversation here, I too was sick of the ES transmission, and decided to move up to an LS430. It does NOT have any drivetrain issues. Good Luck with what you decide.
  • I get the idea from Consumer Report JD Powers and other websites and from my own experience. My father owns a 02 Lexus ES300 and I own a 03 Camry V6 which has the same engine and transmission. A handful of people ranting and raving on internet forums can greatly exaggerate the true number of people having problems.
  • when they have experienced problems. So it can 'sound' worse than it really is, overall. I've 'test-hard-pressed' my pedal under several merging or out of parking into mainroad scenes and never sensed any hesitation on my 03 ES. It shifted up smoothly and effortlessly. Maybe my standard is lower but I'd think it's something, if there, very easy to tell.

    Also what I don't get is that this'd be something easy to catch for those that do when test driving the car, b4 buying it. Why did they still buy it?
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    Having owned Lexus LS400s since 1997, I would never have believed that Lexus would market a defective automobile and not stand behind it. I did not notice the "shudder" during a test drive.When I purchased the ES300 it became noticable with daily driving.. It didn't always do it and when it did do it, it was not that bad at first. If I had noticed it before purchase I probably would not have bought it.After the "upgrade", a whole new problem appeared. The "shudder" is gone. Slow, inconsistant shifts have taken it's place. Also, at highway speed, when you try to accelerate even slightly, it always downshifts and this takes a timed 3-4 seconds before it gets moving. I hope I never have to get out of the way of something.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    Vcheng. I looked at a black ultralux today. As nice as it is, and with no chronic problems reported yet, I would be very nervous spending that much on a Lexus now. It would appear that Lexus' answer to a problem with a product line is to deny that the problem exists.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    But you have to do the right thing. Specifically, the problem does not appear when accelerating at a time that gas is flowing from the accelerator. The shudder happens when you pull back off the gas and then accelerate.

     To repeat the problem, get going to about 40 mph, then pull back on the gas so the gas flow drops off. Then reapply the gas. The reapplication of gas after dropping off is when the shuddering tends to occur on an unmodified transmission.

    The problem is not as evident during highway driving as it is in stop and go traffic.

    A person test driving the vehicle may not know what to do to repeat the problem and therefore might not feel it during a test drive.
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    I too will reconsider my options for my next car, with this experience with Lexus leaving an overall bad taste. In the meantime I will enjoy my black ultralux, and wish you good luck in your decisions.
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