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Lexus RX 330 Maintenance and Repair



  • jyjjyj Posts: 1
    Hi. am wanting input on buying a 2004 Lexus RX 330 for my wife. The car looks and drives good but am leary about the high miles. It has 110xxx mostly highway miles. If maintained properly what can I expect to get out of this car or should I pass on it.? Thanks JYJ
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    It's not likely you found a 1994 model. The first year for RX was 1999, starting in 1998. Those were RX300's. Redesigned for 2004 they were called RX330. The first year models (1999 or 2004) had a few quirks, but were generally good cars when well maintained with a few exceptions.

    The 1999-2001 models came with "under designed" transmissions (compared to the expectations of buying an expensive automobile with a rep for durability). Many but not all of those transmissions were replaced with more modern designed units, many times Lexus paid for it under warrantee. 1999-2000 also had some models show up with engine oil-gelling, although the problem did not seem to be prevelant in models that were well maintained, and perhaps city/low mileage/extended idling played a significant role. Those issues were not common in later models at all. 2004 had a completely modern drivetrain, but suffered from a few rattles and windshield issues during the first model run, from what I've understood on this forum.

    Usually RX's with high highway mileage make the best used car buys for a couple reasons. I'd steer clear of models with low mileage because they tend to have more problems and the higher perceived resale value means you aren't really getting a great "deal" by looking for a low-mileage model. For some, extended idling and/or short trips seemed to leave a pattern of poor durability.

    Make sure you have records of maintainence, there wasn't a lot of city "stop and go" (sounds like you already recognized that) and keep the engine oil and specifically transmission service more often than the manual recommends. And of course, bargain the price down because of the mileage. Eventually, you will need to repair something on a used car. Make sure you budget for it, then the likelihood of a satisfying experience will be on your side, and you have a good used car buy.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 373
    How does one tell the miles were mostly highway miles?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Google for:

    hesitation abolition delay

    ALL Toyota FWD and F/AWD vehicles with E-throttles, DBW (Drive By Wire), will oftentimes exhibit a downshift delay of 1-2 seconds, sometimes in quite DIRE situations.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    A few easy indicators that the vehicle was used for "highway" miles I've used are:

    Lack of wear on the edges of the seats (where you slide in and out), door panels, brake pedal, "door dings", etc. The type of brake wear may also help verify a sellers claim.

    These are just some indicators I know of... Does anyone have other ideas?
  • lon7lon7 Posts: 7
    This rattle was so annoying that I could no longer stand it so I really went all out to find it and low and behold I finally found what it was. It was not the spare tire holder but the holder was lose so I tightened it and the rattle continued. I finally found that it was a small piece of rubber guard in front of the right rear wheel well that is held in place by two screws. Some how it came lose and was rattling. I tightened the two screws and the rattling is gone. Surprising how such a small item can cause so much noise.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    We will be picking up a used one owner RX330 AWD with 35K miles from a private owner in a few days for my wife.

    Any pointers any one can give me about what to watch for, and what goes wrong with 2004 RX330 will be appreciated. My wife did have a 2001 RX300 that we sold for a 2008 Accord EX, now we are back to Lexus again.

    The RX300 oil filter was in a tough spot to get to, didn't Lexus/Toyota go to a vertical position for the oil filter with the 3.3L engine? Are there any issues with RX330 AWD system? Does it use 87 or 91 octane gas?

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Nothing specific to the RX330, but there's a laundry list of stuff to ponder in the Used Car Buying Checklist.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400

    I have looked at used cars for years. I have pretty good idea what to stay away from and what is a good buy. I can tell a clean car from a car that scrubbed for sale. So far so good

    My specific question was to RX330 owners, people that own these and know ins and outs. I was not looking for a check list.

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683

    fwiw, I haven't heard of any recurring issues with Toyota/Lexus since the gel days, and that didn't affect the V6 in the RX's. You may want to track down Kdhspyder too; he's at a dealership and keeps track of issues and talks straight. You can find him at the Toyota Prius discussions lately.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    While there are many very sound reasons for the RX330 series to have adopted DBW, E-throttle, the primary one seems to be that is was to "protect" the drive train.

    When the RX was in the design stages they had to find a way to "beef-up" the Camry transaxle so it could be used in a heavier vehicle AND have decent towing capacity. As you may have noted there is not a lot of spare space left over in the engine compartment for a sideways mounted engine and transaxle and now with the RX a center diff'l and PTO, Power Take Off.

    So something HAD to go/give.

    So the traditional ATF gear type pump with fixed spring pressure relief/regulator and pressure holding accumulator was abandoned in favor of real time pressure control used a PWM (Pulse Width Modulated) electric solenoid. Substantial space/weight saving plus significant improved FE.

    But there proved to be a "hitch" in the "get-a-long".

    If the engine happened to be at idle, no substantial ATF pump flow capacity, and the real time ATF pressure control suddenly called for high pressure it simply could NOT happen.

    A few of the conditions under which that would soon prove to happen are spelled out quite clearly in a TSB issued for the '92 Camry in the spring of '93.

    Toyota, CLEARLY, did not foresee those happenings.

    So the '99 and '00 RX300's had horribly premature transaxle, 70-80,000 miles, failures as a result.

    By the time the '01 RX300 rolled off the production line Toyota had recognized the problem and came up with a quick, and what proved to be a "dirty" fix. They reprogrammed the Real time pressure control solenoid to sustain the ATF pressure for longer durations. When I purchased my '01 AWD RX300 it came with the towing package which includes an external ATF oil cooler.

    But even that, apparently, was not enough to provide the extra cooling my ATF required due to the extra ATF pumping capacity required under the new pressure control design.

    At ~40,000 miles the ATF in my transaxle looked dirty and smelled burned so I did a drain and fill, twice.

    It turned out that while the owners manual had no requirement of ATF scheduled maintenance for the life of the vehicle, Lexus (actually LEXUS, not just the dealer) was now recommending ATF FLUSH and refill every 15,000 miles.

    So as of the RX330 DBW was used to allow the original ATF pressure control firmware to be used by still have a transaxle and ATF life within reason.

    As a result the driver of RX330 and RX350 might encounter a downshift delay of 1-2 seconds in the conditions, sometime DIRE circumstances, defined in the Camry TSB.

    And I would advise you to Google for..

    wwest "two-layer" defrost/defog/demist

    The entire Toyota/lexus product line is subject to instances of sudden windshield fogging, sometimes fogging so complete that all forward visibility is lost, as a result of thoughtless design on the part of NipponDenso, Denso US.

    Not to mention the problems of "dirty gym socks" odor emanating from the HVAC system.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "RX330 AWD.."

    A bit of a strange BEAST, that one.

    The RX3X0 series is, and will likely always be, primarily a FWD vehicle, best referred to as F/AWD. The earlier AWD RX300's has a VC, Viscous Clutch, mounted across the center differential that would provide some moderate level of "locking" of the center differential. By the time the '01 rolled off the produstion line Lexus had added VSC and TC, Traction Control.

    The adoption of TC made the VC virtually useless so as of the '01 the VC fluid was reformulated to remain flaccid except for extreme (read "NEVER" happens..!!) cases. Instead TC is used to brake, moderately, any wheel that develops wheelspin/slip due to engine torque and thereby sustain and redistribute, hopefully, torque to wheels remaining with traction. Due to other considerations, the possibility of brake components, rotor and pads, overheating, not to mention the potential for loss of control being EXTREME otherwise, the engine is also instant dethrottled. For the RX300 series fuel starvation using EFI was adopted.

    The RX330 series abandoned the use of the VC entirely.

    So many customers voiced dissatisfaction with this "braking" technique to implement the RXes F/AWD system that newer models have the ability to disable TC...and subsequently...VSC, in order to "escape" from the many common instances wherein the TC F/AWD braking technique has proved to be inadequate.

    There is word that the 2010 RX series will be getting an entirely new AWD design, hopefully we will be able to refer to the new one as R/AWD.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    Thank you for your comments. I had a 96 Camry XLE V-6 auto. I drained the transmission fluid every other year using the pan drain plug. I did the same with our 2001 RX300 FWD. Never had transmission issues. I never pull anything with these FWD transmissons anyway. For towing, I use my 2003 Explorer.

    I know the AWD in a FWD lay out design is kind of useless. I much rather get a FWD RX330, but this one appears to be an excellen used RX so I will take the AWD part.

    My biggest complaint with our RX300 was its lousy turning circle.

    Do you know if the oil filter mount is changed to vertical position or is still horizontal like it was in the 3.0L engine?


  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Personally, I love and treasure my wife too much to trust her to ANY FWD or most F/AWD (SH-AWD system being the sole exception) vehicles during the winter months. I consider the RX series to be the worse of the bunch.

    1. The transaxle downshift delay can occur, unpredictably occur, in the worse of circumstances, potentially putting everyone's life at risk.

    2. Same goes for the sudden windshield fogging.

    3. The TC braking method is not adequate, CLEARLY not adequate, to provide truly functional F/AWD capability in many common wintertime circumstances.

    4. Even the RX owners manual will advise you that a higher traction level at the front vs the rear can too quickly lead to an accident due to loss of directional control. Yet for the RX tire chains or cable chains are to be used ONLY at the front. Absent modification no traction devices can be used at the rear due to the low clearance between the rear tires and suspension components.

    My '01 AWD RX300 has 1.5" wheel spacers all around so I can use rear chains FIRST, and then add the front chains only if required.

    For my '01 there were two (maybe three for the newer RX330 series) c-best options that the dealer can set to help alleviate the problem of sudden windshield fogging.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    The 2004 RX we picked up has slight moisture in passenger side headlight. It appears that the moisture amount varies with outside temp. Anyway, it is not normal nor acceptable. The RX has 36K miles but it is four months over its 4 year warranty.

    When I took it to my local Lexus dealer, he said it costs $1488 to replace it. I never liked the HID just for their replacement bulb/headlight cost. I stayed away from these when I was looking for my 2001 E430. With RX330, there are a lot more out there with 18" wheels/HID headlight than with 17"/halogen headlights.

    Has anyone had similar problem with 2004 HID headlight moisture? This one was built 6/2004.

    Does Lexus have any kind of good will gesture on these expensive headlights after their warranty runs out.

  • Yes, ours (2005) just started doing the same thing and it's funny (or not so funny :mad: ) you should comment how expensive it is to replace the lights -- that same thought went through my mind. Ours is just out of the 3 yr. warranty (it's 3, not 4, right?). I'll take to the dealer anyway and see if it's covered somehow.

    The only thing I think they may say is that it is caused by someone backing into us and causing gasket to fail -- allow moisture in.

    Best of luck with yours.

  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    NO. Lexus warranty is 4 years 50K miles. You should be good with your warranty.

    Take it to the dealer right way.........
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Since many owners upgrade to the HID headlamps after purchase there appears to be a "surplus" of the normal halogen headlight assemblies on Ebay...

    On the other hand if your vehicle sat outside on a lot unused for a period of time the accumulated moisture may go away with a few weeks of regular use of the headlamps. The resulting heating/cooling cycles will tend to "pump" the moisture out of the assembly.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    I need some links or website that can show me how to go to halogen headlight from HID. I don't know how that works since the connectors going to ballast is different and even if i am able to find the right connector for halogen low beam bulb, I am not sure what kind of current is coming to the connections.

    I have thought about taking the high beam and side marker and parking lights out and run a hairdryer through the high beam opening. For close to $1500, I will look at any option here.

  • jensadjensad Posts: 388
    Our 04 rx330 also had moisture inside the rt front headlight. Fortunately they replaced it on warranty. We had 32 k on the car.

    I got rid of my rx because I got tired of the warranty work due to various problems: rattle on dash under speaker, plastic around the outside window flying off while I was driving, mulitiple computer chip malfunction, headlight stuff, and I read here about the rx300 transmission guck that Lexus put out a bulletin about it. I guess owners were beginning to replace their trannys about 60-80k at what the people here wrote, $ 6000-8000.

    We have had five Toyota brand cars and about 4 hondas, and now 3 Acuras. Never until Lexus did we ever had a big repair, and indeed just tune ups and that was it.

    Finally, the future cost of maintenance at where we live, currently $ 200 an hour, was not worth to keep.

    Good luck to all and stay safe.


  • We have a 2005 RX330 - dealer said moisture inside headlight not covered by warranty - getting steadily worse.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    This is odd as the moisture inside the right headlight is constant water now and water droplets are not going away. The entire front bottom part of the headlight is yellowing.. The driver side is fine and does not show any sign of issues.

    I don't understand how the dealer can say warranty does not cover it. The problem WILL go away with a new headlight assembly. How can they claim that this is not covered under warranty. Go around the dealer and write to Lexus with photos of your problem. I can send you photos of my headlight to show them how bad it will get when your warranty runs out.

  • Please send photo - suspect I am getting the run around from dealer.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I can send you photos

    Please park your photos on your CarSpace page in the Photo Album there. Then they'll be available for anyone to see in the coming months and years. Thanks Joe!
  • jensadjensad Posts: 388
    I believe the dealer is lying to you. Lexus service reps always went out of their way to do the warranty work and never did I have a complaint. As long as your vehicle is still under warranty, i.e. 48 months and mileage, your next step may be to contact the area rep for Lexus.

    The only other time we had a problem with a dealer with warranty or the last time, not under warranty , was the overcharge of my wife when she took her Pilot in for service. I caught them inflating the bill and complaned. They sent us a check for the overbilling. We stopped servicing our Pilot there at the Honda dealer and found another less dishonest dealer.

    Also. The right headlight on our RX 330 was also our problem and they fixed it without any b.s.

    Good luck to all and stay safe.

  • It's my passenger side headlight too with moisture. Is this a common problem and coincidence that's it the passenger side headlight assembly?

    I'll call my dealer this week and let you know what they say.
  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    Does anyone know or has a link to a site that shows how to remove the headlight.

    I removed the wheel, removed the fender liner, removed the bolt that holds the side of the headlight, removed two obvious bolts that holds the top portion, and removed the bolt that supports the bottom. In total I remove four bolts.

    On the replacement headlight I see four mounting holes, The headlight is loose but I have heck of a time sliding it out, or pull up and slide, tilt to the side and out

    I have removed several headlights before. None has been as puzzling as this one.

  • Hi All,

    My 2006 RX330 battery with 35K miles on it is dead. Does anyone know if it's covered under the warranty? The electronics on the dash went crazy before it went dead, so I'm wondering if it's an electrical issue?

  • jodar96jodar96 Posts: 400
    Batteried sometimes die for no reason. Being a 2006 and 36K miles, go to your dealer and have them check the electrical system to make sure nothing is making the battery go dead and have them replace the battery.

    Batteries are always covered under warranty.
  • domer1domer1 Posts: 5
    Battery in our '04 RX went dead after 2 years. Probably from lack of use since vehicle only had 12,000 miles on it. Anyway, dealer sent a service vehicle, took the car, replaced the battery under warranty (to my surprise), returned the car all washed, too! Probably felt guilty after all the failed attempts to fix the noisy dashboard and window mouldings blowing off.
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