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Lexus RX 330 Maintenance and Repair



  • My wife's RX330 (built in Japan) has 4,000 miles and suffers from rough down shifting and loud engine noise at idle.
    The dealer in Toronto says Toyota is aware of both problems.
    They "updated" the ECU last week. The transmission shifts faster but it still clunks and searches for the right gear at 20 MPH.
    They also said the engine noise is related to the manifold design - and nothing can be done to reduce the noise.
    Our '03 MDX is a much smoother/quieter vehicle.
  • I have just purchased a Neptune Blue/Ivory AWD RX 330 and have experienced none of the noises and shifting problems mentioned here. My wife and I are very happy with it, comfort, utility, and performance wise. It shifts smoothly and the engine feels powerful, yet quiet compared to our V8 Explorer. This may seem like comparing apples and oranges but we also have an LS400, compared to which the RX seems slower and noisier. My point is, that it is all relative.
    However, for our purposes, the RX fits the bill perfectly. My questions are, "Should I expect my RX to start acting up around two or three thousand miles, or is this happenning to just some vehicles? Does my car also need the ECM update at the 1K service? What are ECM and ECU acronyms for? Thanks for your inputs.
  • kcr2kcr2 Posts: 10
    I had the same shifting problems. The ECM update was completed at 1000 mile service. It made a HUGE difference. Shifting is smooth from 1st to 2nd. The only thing now is a slight hesitation around 20 mph when I reaccelerate - but it's not as noticeable as it was before the update.
  • krc2, now that you mention it, I did have two instances of hesitation at around the 20 mph range when reaccelarating over a 500 mile period. I was puzzled because I pressed the accelarator without response. It happenned so quickly that I don't remember if I had to ease off the pedal and then step on it again, or if the power came on while I still had my foot on it. I hope the EMC update will take care of this.
  • kcr2kcr2 Posts: 10
    I've been told that the hesitation is due to the transmission searching for the correct gear. It's a shorter delay since I had the update completed. Plus I've learned over the last 3000 miles to reaccelerate a little easier after coasting at around 20 mph. When I accelerate too quickly, it hesitates and jerks into gear. It's only really noticeable in rush hour traffic or when I slow down to take a turn and reaccelerate. No problem otherwise.
  • Kcr2, thanks again for answering yet another of my questions. Far as I'm concerned these are my only two concerns, the HID's and the absent-minded transmission. Guess these are just the pitfalls of buying first year production cars. Anyways, love the rest of the car.
  • Those who are not experienced with the engine noise are either deaf, over 60, or don't care. I switch back and forth between my new RX330 and Solara quite often, and notice that my Solara's engine noise is way way way smoother. Changing gear is almost unnoticable and engine noise is very minimal. To compare apple to apple, I compare the engine at 2200 RPM. Exactly on the same road with a little slope and driving at 2200 RPM, I noticed that my RX330 is roaring like crazy. Here are the reason why the engine noise is so loud:

    Smart Toyota cut cost my using fiber/plastic intake manifold in 3.3L engine instead of using cast aluminum or so in 3.0L engine. In addition, Sound insulation is not sufficient enough to insulate the engine compartment from driver cabin. In my Solara, it covers from the windshield down to the bottom. This reduce the engine noise dramatically.

    Anyhow, I don't feel like I am driving a Lexus. I feel like I am driving a Scion :(

    Regarding rough shifting, it's another Toyota ingenious stoo-pidity. They use exactly the same transmission and engine design of a sub-3500lb car for this bulky 4000+lb SUV. Just like plug and play to rush for release schedule. This will cause rough shifting due to heavier load that torque converter needs to work harder to get to the right gear. Even if you used the shifter to shift manually from 2nd to 3rd, you'd still be able to experience the same jerkiness. Also, when you release gas pedal, you'll feel the car pull back a little bit.
    If the noise issue were solved, I'd love this car more and more. I am currently trying to fix this problem by myself by adding more insulation between the engine compartment and the cabin. Hopefully, I can do it during this holiday season. Toyota, stop doing those stupid things.
  • I did notice my 04 Lexus 330 having shifting issues after it reached 2000 miles; especially the clunking noise during down shift. Thanks to lovemylexus1, I mentioned the TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) number TC005-03 to Lexus and inquired about the ECM (Electronic Control Module) update. According to Lexus, ECM covers a lot of areas, not only the shifting. However, they did know about the TC005-03 and it is related to shifting issue.

    Well, I got my 330 back. I didn't feel much improvement on the up shifting and the clunking noise is still there during down shifting. Maybe the TC005-03 is only good for up shifting issue, not down shifting clunking noise.
  • Well, drove my RX330 around town all day long today and did not experience any hesitation, rough shifting, or undue engine noise today. On acceleration, the engine is a bit noisier than the V-8 on my LS400, but that's to be expected.
         Fought the post holiday traffic downtown today, and my RX 330 did plenty of shifts, all as smooth as butter. The cabin did a great job of shutting out the street noise and the beautiful leather and wood were visual and tactile delights. I knew I was in a Lexus and thanked my lucky stars that it was one of the good ones from Kyushu. Love my RX because my RX is quiet and poised. And, I am neither deaf, geriatric, or indifferent. Thank you very much!
  • I too am neither deaf, geriatric or indifferent. But there are those who can become obsessive/compulsive under certain conditions. I also have had a RX300 and GS300 in the past prior to buying my RX330. Other then a bit more road noise based on the 18" wheels and tires, (by the way look much better then the 16" on the RX300 so I'll live with the noise)I have no complaints. Relax and enjoy or sell it and move on to another car company.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    At highway cruise, say 70MPH, the RX330 engine turns a LOT slower than the RX300 does (~2200 vs ~3000{??}). New transmission, final drive ratio, etc. Could it be that at the lower RPM the engine is producing just enough HP to attain that speed?

    Thereby any need to accelerate requires a downshift?

    To attain best MPG all manufacturers get the transmissions into OD asap. Maybe the OD in the RX330 is just marginal enough that any additional load requirement, at any speed in OD, dictates a downshift, OR EVEN "TWO"!
  • cotmccotmc Posts: 1,081
    I thought the main intention of that TSB was to improve downshifting responsiveness at lower speeds? I haven't had the TSB performed yet, and I definitely notice some hesitation with the tranny shifting down one gear when giving it a little extra gas at lower speeds. Seems I need to keep pushing down harder on the gas pedal until the tranny finally decides to shift TWO gears down, causing a bit of a knee-jerk acceleration. Note this does not seem to be an issue when driving at cruising speeds (in 4th or 5th gear).
  • cotmccotmc Posts: 1,081
    I haven't researched this to an appropriate level, but I seem to recall that the our RX330 will provide some mild acceleration, or take a gradual incline, without downshifting to 4th (or below) when travelling at 70-75 mph.
  • cotmccotmc Posts: 1,081
    I, too, am not deaf, geriatric, or indifferent. Totally agree with indiana97. These 18" rims with lower profile tires will cause some additional road noise versus the RX300, but not enough to make a difference to us! These new rims/tires look so much better, and they provide better grip on the pavement. The engine may also be a bit louder at higher rpms, but not enough to even begin to sour our driving experience!
  • It's great to see that there are those out there who don't mind the noise. I actually enjoy the way the engine revs back to me when I step on the gas and the 7.8 seconds to 60mph is really cool. I remember that one of the few criticisms of the older RX was that it was too quiet, slow, and sedate. Well, here's the remedy. The new RX is one of the fastest SUV's out there now, so it has to SOUND the part. If Lexus figured out a way to make the engine sound racier, and save a little money by using different exhaust manifolds, without compromising reliability, kudos to them! And, I agree with indiana97 and cotmc, those 18 inchers look waaaay better!
  • My RX is not as quiet as my GS, but never expected it to be. It's a SUV and I kinda like the growl the 330 attained. Bottom line, bought mine in March, now have over 12K miles and my black-on-black has been solid as a rock. No issue with shifting either. And I agree, the 18 inchers with graphite wheels on my 330 makes a great profile.

    Just returned from the Wash DC auto show. There are some great SUV (luxury or otherwise) offerings out there and the end result is the consumer is the winner. But for my money give me Lexus style, ambiance, reliability, and service every time.
  • mtxmtx Posts: 2
    The transmission in my Japan-built 04 AWD is reluctant to down-shift when slowing and up-shift when accelerating between first and 3rd gears. When I lightly touch the gas paddle and let go for brakes, I can feel and hear the gears banging, not to mention the "normal" clunking noice from the rear axle. At my 1000-mile service on 12/18/03, the dealer acknowledged the Tech Service Bulletin for the ECM, but said the software wouldn't be available for two weeks. I do mostly city driving and this vehicle is quickly becoming the most annoying vehicle I've ever driven.

    I'm very busy and don't have the time to call Lexus directly. Does anyone have the official email address for either Lexus Zone Office (Washington D.C. area) or its Headquarters? Thanks.
  • Has any one tried to upgrade their sound system? I was told it wound make a big difference if I had a subwoofer installed.
  • I would call your dealer back and ask them again about the ECM TSB. It was issued months ago...and I had it performed on my RX in September. Sounds to me as if your dealer just didn't want to work in the week before X-mas.
  • What is the ESM TSB ?
  • TSB #TC00503 deals specifically with the power train and is the one often cited on this and other Edmunds Lexus RX330 boards.

    This is the one I had performed on my RX in September and my RX now shifts perfectly.

    For more info on this and all of the TSB's currently out for the 2004 RX330 (there are eight, I think)...go to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's Web site:
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    This is just my opinion.

    I noticed shortly after I purchase my 01 AWD RX300 that engine braking was oftentimes practically non-existent. It appears that if you get off the gas in order to coast down to a stop the transmission actually up-shifts. The feeling is as if it shifts into neutral.

    Some have complained of the "slingshot effect" or as if being bumped from behind just before coming to a full stop.

    My own suspicion is that this is the method Lexus has chosen to simulate the over-running clutch GM is now using in their upscale FWD cars to avoid loss of control due to engine braking on the front on a slippery surface.

    Others have complained of a downshift "delay" when entering a turn during acceleration. Explainable yet again regarding FWD dynamics. It can often be bad news in a FWD vehicle to be asking the front tires to stand up to lots of lateral force and suddenly also have lots of engine torque applied.

    Or it could be that all of the above is really the result of a few thousand lines of "C" code in the VSC ecu.

    Vehicle STABILITY Control.

    Get it?
  • gardencargardencar Posts: 293
    Well, managed to put 1,086 miles on my RX in a little over two weeks and only had three instances of tranny hesitation. However, two of those times led to some hairy situations during lane changes. The cars behind me got a little too close for comfort when I mashed the accelarator and there was no response.

    I took the car in for its 1,000 mile service today and was surprised to get a disclaimer about the ECM update. The service advisor warned me cryptically that once the update was done, there was nothing they could do about it if I subsequently did not like the way the car drove. He continued by telling me that it might be thirty days before the car then relearned my driving style.

    He was so adamant in his warnings that I had to pause and think about it. I asked him if anyone who had had the update in either the RX or ES had ever complained about the change. He said that no one had. I also remembered the helpful post #37 by kcr2, and gave him the go ahead.

    Will report on any differences following the ECM update after I pick up the car tomorrow. Sure am looking forward to having those Lexus guys wash my car for me!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    know of a non-volatile memory design that can only be over-written once?? If there isn't one then this issue of only being able to update once is a red herring.
  • rx4merx4me Posts: 58
    Took my vehicle in for 1000 mile service this past weekend and mentioned the occasional transmission jerkiness I've had. The service advisor recommended that I not get it (TSB #TC00503) done. He said that currently, my shifts take longer, whereas once the TSB is applied, it'll make it shorter and even more jerky and the computer will have to relearn my driving pattern. He also went on to say that once the TSB is applied, it cannot be reversed. He even showed me some complaints from customers who had the TSB done and weren't happy with it. I decided not to get it done, since the current transmission jerkiness isn't really that much of a problem right now (though as gardencar mentioned, I too experienced an occasion when I mashed the accelerator with no response). He said if I decide to change my mind, I can get it done anytime during the warranty period.

    Btw, I've experienced intermittent problems with my power rear door not working with the remote (sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't). They took a look at that and reset the computer. So far so good with no probs.
  • clpurnellclpurnell Posts: 1,087
    It could be that Lexus/Toyota will not give them the old code to reprogram with. In many spaces in IT once a piece of software is desupported the vendor will not release the old copy of the code. So in essence if he does not have the old code in hand there is no going back. Like buying a pc with Win98 installing XP when you do not have the original disk. I doubt it has anything to do with the type of data storage as I am sure the can, will and have released multiple ECM updates for their vehicles.
  • starrinstarrin Posts: 10
    One thing I noticed that was happening to me with the power rear door intermitently working was that the entire car needs to be unlocked. In other words make sure you hit the unlock button twice -- essentially the rear hatch works in conjunction with the rear door locks. I was thinking that I would hit the button and the hatch would unlock itself -- this is not the case.
  • I have said it before and will say it again. If you are bothered by the shifting of your transmission, get the update.

    I wasn't happy with the sluggish feel of the transmission. I had the update done at 1000 miles and I am VERY happy I did. It took about a day for the RX to "relearn" my driving habits (basically, no longer than it took when I drove it off the lot the day of the sale).

    I find it hard to believe Lexus wouldn't do everything possible to keep customers happy. The RX330 is a new re-design and all of us are the "test" subjects for refinements that will take place in 2005 models and beyond. If Lexus isn't willing to go the extra mile then they won't get repeat customers (myself included). So far, Lexus service has been more than helpful (albeit a bit too slow).
  • gardencargardencar Posts: 293
    Well, surprise, surprise, surprise. The Lexus service advisor informed me today that the update had already been done to my RX, before I brought it in for the 1,000 mile service, and prior to my purchasing it! Has anyone heard of this before, or is this a case lazy Lexusitis?
        This could be why I only experienced the hesitation only three times in 1,000 miles. However, I had to ask him why it happened at all. He said that the technician had taken it on a test drive to reproduce the hesitation I had experienced when coasting at 20mph and accelerating again. Of course, since it was very intermittent, the car did not hesitate at all during the test drive, as I'm sure the tech had no time to do a hundred mile test drive. When I pressed for an explanation, the service advisor gave me a lame excuse that that is how Lexus cars shifted because of the cable! I'm sure he didn't want to admit that Lexus had messed up. Has anyone heard anything like that before? My LS400 never does this.
        Anyway,I'm willing to chalk all this up as a minor annoyance.
  • rx4merx4me Posts: 58
    I was also told the same thing by the service advisor that that's the way the Lexus shifts (specifically, the RX330). I too, only experienced the hesitation a few times, most notably up to about the 500 mile point. Although I didn't end up getting the ECM update done on my vehicle at the 1000 mile service, the rough shifting barely seemed noticeable at all after 500 miles on the odometer. Either I got used to it, or the computer learned my driving habit by then. For now, I'm okay with the shifting; if it ever becomes an annoyance like the first 500 miles I experienced, only then will I decide to get the ECM update done.
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