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Lexus RX Transmission Problems

Does the '08 RX350 have the notorious transmission lag (i.e. hesitation)? I've had personal experience of it in the ES series and have read about the problem with the RX series and other Toyota products. I was just wondering if Toyota really managed to fix this problem with the '07 model year as my salesman claimed they did. The problem can be difficult to replicate in a test drive.


  • My 2000 RX 300 has 106K miles on it. The transmission went out and needs to be replaced. I've been quoted @ $4130.00 ( parts and labor). The repair shop also mentioned that I need to have the timing belt replaced as-well-as the rack and pinion assembly.

    My delima is as follows:

    1. Do I fix the car and keep it

    2. Fix just the transmission and trade it in.

    3. Have it towed to a dealership for trade-in value. Not sure what $ I would get for the trade. My Kelly Blue book and Manhiem resale appraisal are around $ 9500.00 ( Obviously in working order with miles, equipment and condition of vehicle)
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Your situation doesn't quite fit the category but you may get some more ideas in the Help! Repairs cost more than the car is worth!! discussion while waiting for comments in here.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    1. Do I fix the car and keep it

    That depends on your budget and threshold for aggravation. You won't find a comparable used vehicle for $4,300 so the question is how well can you tolerate the possibility of other things "going wrong" with your current vehicle?

    tidester, host
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The timing belt and rack and pinion bit sounds like you have been talking to Firestone, Goodyear, or a shyster service manager at a Lexus dealer.

    I would go to a third party, not one of the above, and get a tranny repair quote. There are many stories here and about regarding early, premature, transaxle failures in the RX300 series due to the adoption of ASL(***) techniques late in the last century. In many cases the Lexus dealer was able to get Lexus corporate to pick up a portion or all of the repair bill.

    And don't let ANYONE tell you that the failure is a result of your not doing the proper scheduled maintainance. Your owners manual is quite clear that no routine scheduled transaxle maintenance is required.

    ***ASL: Aggressive Shift Logic. The transaxle control firmware is designed to upshift the transaxle into the next higher gear anytime the, ANY, opportunity arises. That oftentimes results in the tranaxle starting an upshift as the result of a slight lift of the accelerator pedal just before accelerating. The transaxle begins the upshift just as you reapply pressure to the accelerator pedal and now the upshift must complete before the downshift most appropreate to the new pedal position can be commanded and begin.

    You RX300 has a direct connection from the gas pedal to the engine throttle so the engine RPM will begin to rise long before the transaxle has shifted into the lower gear needed to provide the proper level of torque to the drive wheels.

    Can you smell the slipping and burning of the transaxle clutches as you read this?

    In 2004 Lexus went to DBW, e-throttle, so as to delay engine torque until those clutches had time to fully and firmly seat.

    In the meantime....
  • pbbobpbbob Posts: 3
    Another RX300 that needs a new transmission! Mine is a '99, AWD with 101K miles. Dealer wanted $4,300. I found a trusted, local guy who will do it for $3,500. The whole thing needs to be replaced. The local guy says that the RX300 has been great for his business.

    Is this a manufacturers defect or just poor quality? Can anyone say "Class Action"?
  • I had to sign up for this discussion. I just bought an 01 RX300 this year and at 68k miles the transmission went, talk about furious. Luckily it was covered under warranty and Lexus replaced it w/a remanufactured one but I'm concerned when I hit 100k or more. It was definitely a defect.
  • mikey00mikey00 Posts: 462
    Do a google on "RX 300 Transmission failure" and you will see that a lot of these RX transmissions are failing. Be sure and report the problem at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: ype=1&year=1999&searchtype=DrillDown
  • >>Is this a manufacturers defect or just poor quality? Can anyone say
    >>"Class Action"?

    Its definitely a manufacturer's defect, the transmission in my car
    just got busted at only 76k miles.

    Is there anything we can do about it? I have filed a complaint to
    LEXUS, local newspaper, TV station (email to
    [email protected]
    [email protected]

    PLEASE REFER THE URL's below to see how many people owning
    1999-2000 model of RX300 have transmission failures, have similar

    Lexus Owners forum: sion

    Is there any way we all can get in touch and do something about this?
  • We just reported the RX300 transmission problem to the NHTSA, spoke
    with somneone. They have about 8 such cases for transmission failure
    logged in their database. If more people file a complaint with them
    & if they see a recurring pattern regarding transmission failure, then the Nation Highway Transportation Safety Agency investigators
    will definitely investigate this.

    Anyone running into transmission failure problems with Lexus RX300,
    please file a complaint here or call the at 1-888-327-4236 - ype=1&year=1999&searchtype=DrillDown
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    When you buy a Lexus, shouldn’t you expect to be treated better than if you bought (I apologize for saying this, but I feel privileged from family experiences) a Windstar? What about Customer Satisfaction? Have folks been treated right by Lexus if they fail early? I think there are more who have (failed and been treated right) than you hear about. Why post a complaint if you have been treated fairly? However, those experiences don’t help those of you who haven’t found satisfaction, so I hope this information is helpful for those of you having transmission issues, and those hoping to avoid them.

    Defective transmission? There were a few issues. One that I know of was a defect Lexus noticed early on. This was my experience. The early 1999 models (mine is a ’99 model built in early ‘98) had a TSB for replacement of the transmission valve body to be done at Lexus' expense if there was a shift problem, which a very bad dealer did not do, but was supposed to (first they said it was nothing and I didn’t insist they document it, then they said they couldn't find a TSB after all, and on another occasion they said all was OK, which was not true). I requested the correction before any damage occurred, and kept the documented warrantee checks.

    Before the warrantee expired in 2004, but after I had the transmission fluid “flushed” once and serviced many miles later by my same ol’ neighborhood Toyota dealer I usually go to (so that’s twice, second time slight metal shavings found on the magnet filter) I had a different Lexus dealer check on the “hard cold 1-2 shift” again. I didn’t know about everyone else's issues, but didn’t want any trouble with it after it was out of warrantee. Just before 70,000 miles with hard cold 1-2 shift symptom, Lexus (different dealer) stood behind their product and replaced my entire transmission with a brand new unit from Kyushu, Japan after trying two factory rebuilt units that also had shift logic issues, all at no cost to me. I didn't have to ask; this was their solution which was great with me. They went out of their way to make sure problems from the other dealer were not repeated, and even showed me some things that they fixed I didn’t notice. So yes, there was a defect, and I was happy with how it was finally corrected. Nearly 6 years and 70,000 miles later, I had a brand new transmission built based on modern (not ’98) specs.

    Are they all “defective”? I don’t think so. I have a local friend with a 2000 4WD with many more miles than mine on the factory transmission without problems, his shifts with the same smoothness and precision mine does, and still has clean fluid. Also, he has his fluid changed at the same local Toyota dealer as I do as part of his preventive maintenance. That doesn't mean they don't have inherent weaknesses.

    Do they all have their flaws and weaknesses? Yes, I certainly think so. Most cars do, this one's not as perfect as I expected from a Lexus. One person in particular on this board (correct me if I'm wrong) will give you detail about software logic to up-shift for low emissions and fuel economy. This is not the only vehicle that employs this logic. My heavy-duty Ford motorhome has one of the toughest transmissions in the business, and it employs the same unfortunate logic, which is much more pronounced than the RX. I’m betting most non-sporting modern cars do as well. But, they usually have less-precise but sturdier bearings and clutches, a sacrifice in smoothness I’d gladly take. Also, the RX, like most FWD based cars, has the engine exhaust run right under the transmission. Normally, with the size of the engine/transmission cooling (as well as the extra transmission cooler included in the “Towing Package”) there isn’t a problem as long as the vehicle is moving along. RX’s main weakness is dissipating transmission heat in low-speed situations, like extended idling (especially parked with the air-conditioning on) or maneuvering a trailer in the summer on steep inclines and tight parking spaces because the exhaust heat and transmission cooler do not have the constant rush of air. The engine coolant “temp” gauge shows the engine is staying cool, but it causes the fluid to break down (as well as engine oil gelling). The factory did not feel it was necessary to install a fan on the transmission cooler. Lastly, transmission maintenance is not normally performed very often. The factory manual doesn’t call for it unless usage is “severe” and most folks don’t think of their usage as severe. For marketing purposes, Lexus, like many manufacturers, goes to the extreme to define long service intervals, but this light duty transmission needs to be serviced often. All too often they aren’t serviced until they go bad and it’s too late.

    Will Lexus fix your faulty transmission under warrantee? I’ll bet they will be really cooperative if your car is within the 6 years/70,000 miles powertrain warrantee Lexus provided (longer than most) without a hassle. However if not, you may have a problem unless you have some really good prior documentation, or I'm guessing a dealer relationship would help. I also got the impression it probably helps if you can show the car has been serviced by Lexus (or a Toyota dealer) because they like to be confident the correct Type IV (Toyota) fluid was used rather than Dextron/Mercron with an additive they use at the corner quick lube. If the car is out of warrantee, I don't think they feel a legal obligation, but they might be trying to retain a repeat customer, and offer assistance to make you happy.

    Is your transmission OK now, but you want to prevent problems? Have it serviced. Often, that's your best bet. Once a year or two at the most, unless the fluid is still bright red. Additionally, if you are handy, you can also add a small computer fan in front of the auxilery transmission cooler, if your model has one. Or you can add an additional cooler or have a transmission shop do it. I did. Cheap insurance. You can find info on my CarSpace page in my photo albums, if you are interested.

    You can use the "search" tool on the other RX300 forums for older messages created before this forum; I think there's more there. Good luck, my friends...
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The FULL lift-throttle coastdown upshifting technique seemingly adopted late in the last century may very well help to extend FE and lower emissions overall. But then the technique flies in the face, is adverse too, the use of regenerative braking to "simulate" engine compression braking on ALL of Toyota's hybrid synergy vehicles.

    Why artificially "SLOW" the hybrid synergy vehicles if the FE and emissions "gain" is significant enough to go to the extreme, and thereby incur the horribly adverse publicity, and upshift standard vehicles in order to extend coasting distance?

    No, the new shift technique was adopted primarily to improve the safety factor of FWD and front torque biased AWD vehicles when the roadbed traction is marginal.

    Back in the mid to late ninties someone, or some group, with enough power, issued an edict that the adverse safety factor of FWD and front torque biased AWD vehicles arising from engine compression braking had to be corrected, NOW, INSTANTLY!

    My vote goes to the automotive insurance industry.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Sounds like a good theory, however that's when I might be inclined to take active control and downshift myself so I have the FWD traction when I need it.

    That's how I learned FWD, and always helped me out to retain steering (and traction) before it's broken loose. Perhaps less active drivers needed the "fix" forced on the rest of us. The up-shift is not something desirable, but I couldn't argue that it was "defective".

    I tend to drive the (RWD) motorhome on steep mountain roads in blowing wind on ice in the winter, too. Although the traction is good overall, I have to say the shift logic is more annoying in the Ford motorhome, and the shifter much more difficult to use, but I get by. I don't let either car shift automatically under any severe conditions, though.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    But I'm quite sure you wouldn't downshift a FWD for slowing/coastdown if the roadbed were known to be slippery or even if you were suspicious of same. With RWD automatic transmission vehicles, back in my days in MT, during the winter I would often use the e-brake "lightly" to help maintain directional control while slowing the car in those conditions, especially downhill.

    Even with RWD downshifting an automatic transmission doesn't leave one with an easy way to "moderate" the engine braking effects and therefore can be hazardous on a slippery roadbed.

    And it isn't the upshift itself that makes these vehicles unsafe. When it upshifts upon a full lift-throttle event the engine RPM quickly drops to idle or at least nearby. Now with the ATF oil pump hardly moving any oil at all there is not enough reserve ATF pressure/flow to quickly accomplish a quick sequential downshift should the driver happen to re-apply pressure to the gas pedal immediately upon the transaxle beginning the just previously commanded upshift.

    The early, '99 (and '00??), RX300 transaxle failures are the direct result of adopting the new upshifting technique without seriously thinking over the consequences. Without enough ATF pressure/flow the "quick" sequential downshift following a lift-throttle upshift can not be completed before the engine torque begins to rise resulting in an inordinate level of clutch slippage and wear.

    By '01 they had adopted a higher volume/displacement ATF oil pump to overcome this problem but that led to overheating of the ATF due to the otherwise un-necessary higher pump volume. It appears that ALL '01 RX300s had the tow package with the extra cooling ATF heat exchanger to help alleviate the effects of overheating the ATF.

    In '04 they apparently went back to the lower volume ATF oil pump and adopted DBW, e-throttle, so the rise of engine torque could be delayed the 1-2 seconds it takes to re-pressurize the ATF with the engine at idle for that quick sequential downshift.

    I too have a Ford based MH, E350 V10, but I haven't noticed any weird shifting charactoristics. But mine is a 99, perhaps before Ford's adoption of these new lift-throttle upshift techniques. But in any case I don't think I would notice a lack of responsiveness in my MH if the engine torque were delayed 1-2 seconds for downshifting completion.

    Also I have read somewhere that with the new FWD Ford Edge a variable volume/displacement ATF oil pump has been adopted to increase the overall efficiency. But maybe also to overcome Ford's own "throttle lag" problems.
  • Please tell me what to make of this 2000 RX300 transmission issue:

    At approximately 40,000 a leak developed in one of the transmission seals. In the process of re lacing the seal, something was installed incorrectly causing the fluid to leak out and damage the transmission. The Lexus dealer accepted responsibility and installed a rebuilt transmission. There are now 56,000 miles on the car (16,000 on the rebuilt transmission). Recently, the car began to slip backward in gear, would surge ahead or at times, would not move forward when in gear. Upon examination, the dealer said the transmission was four (!) quarts low of transmission fluid. Four quarts of fluid were added and the car appears to be working fine. The dealer said there was no external evidence of fluid leakage.

    Have any of you heard of a similar experience? What might cause this? Should I be concerned? The car is now out of warranty and I sure don't want to replace the transmission again.

    Thank you.
  • Hello -- My name is Torrey and my transmission failed on my 2000 Lexus RX300 (100K Miles) 2 weeks ago. I purchased my used vehicle in 2004. I contacted Lexus and they offered to assist me with reducing my bill from $5200 to $4300 which is not feasible. I was told that I should have had a $1500 transmission service at 90K miles. Had I been told that if I did not have the service the transmission would fail -- I would have. It was to me considered a (soft) recommendation. For the most part, Lexus does not honor their Lexus Covenant which states "We vow to value the customer as an important individual; to do things right the first time; and to always exceed expectations". Well, they have not come close to my expectations..... I live in Northern California so if anyone can help please contact me at [email protected]

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Unfortunately you aren't the original owner and the factory drivetrain warranty for that year was 6 years/70,000 miles - I'm a bit surprised that Lexus offered any assistance. Did the dealer offer any money off too?

    The Edmunds Maintenance Guide says the transmission fluid needs to be checked at 60,000 and 120,000 miles. Nothing about replacement.

    Did you simply have the fluid changed at 90k or did they do a power flush?

    It sounds like you had the work done at the Lexus dealer - did you buy the used Lexus at the same dealer? If so, I'd ask for another $1500 off for the "unneeded" tranny service at 90,000 miles, or more if it was a power flush.

    Otherwise try for a quote from an independent transmission shop or maybe a Toyota dealer if one in your area works on Lexus.

    California seems to have strong consumer protection laws so you may want to run your story by the consumer protection agency there (AG's office?). It doesn't look promising though.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..I'm a bit surprised that Lexus offered any assistance..."

    Lexus has been offering assistance to owners of '99 & '00 RX300s since they contain a transaxle design flaw that results in early or premature failures.

    According to my '01 owners manual no transaxle service is required for the life of the vehicle. That has since been revised to 15,000 miles because of a subsequent fix for the earlier models having gone awry.

    I suspect that 90,000 mile transaxle maintainance issue is a bit of SMOKE on Lexus part. There is an engine timing belt change out schedule at 90,000 miles but I don't know of any transaxle schedule. Of course Lexus may have issued one after the fact but they can't legally hold the owner to anything beyond what's printed in the original manual.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Glad to see someone is keeping up with this stuff. ;)

    Is there an official TSB that Tphillsrx300 can look up or something else in writing somewhere that can be used to pressure for a replacement? Or is this one of those "secret" after warranty adjustment things?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706

    Insofar as I know, understand.

    Those that stand in the middle of the dealer showroom on a busy day and loudly discuss the problem get the most concessions.

    Go find the service manager tell him/her you wish to show them something, walk them over to a brand new RX and begin the discussion with the RX as an instructional aid.
  • i have a 2002 rx300 awd with 83000 miles on it. it was essentially like new with 9000 miles on it when i bought it.since buying it i have religiously had it serviced at places like jiffy lube every 3000 miles,replaced the tires and brakes at50000, and other than that have not had a single problem with it.I recently considered trading up to a new model,but decided to keep this car for another 1-2 years. My wife drives it and all of our driving is highway or interstate driving. I accidentally came across this site and noticed all of the dialogue about transmission problems.Mine is smooth in operation and i have never had the transmission fluid changed.
    Because i want to keep this car for as long as perhaps another 2 years, i want to make sure to have it properly serviced in terms of major maintenance. I have had other Lexus autos and have paid for th 60000 mile service the dealer always recommended...usually about $700.00.Because my wife drives this car and we live in rural SouthCarolina i want to make sure the car is well maintained. Nevertheless, i know how Lexus dealers always recommend the most...why not?...and that the 90,000 service will cost between $1100-1500 as per my nearest Lexus dealer so advising me last week.
    I dont know what all the 90000 mile service includes,but I do know it includes replacement of the timing belt.
    At this point Im thinking i should replace the transmission fluid and flush the radiator, as well as consider the 90000 mile service at Lexus. I figure at about 100.000 miles i will need to replace the tires and brakes again, and probably install a new battery.

    I would appreciate any recommendations anyone with experience on this subject can provide. I am retired and dont have 1500.00 to spend if i dont need to.We have some capable local auto repair shops where i live and the closest lexus dealer is 85 miles away.
    Thanks so much for any help you can provide.
  • mnfmnf Spokane WaPosts: 405
    A Toyota dealer can do all the same service but cheaper as the RX300 AND lexus is built by Toyota and is the same as a Highlander. Maybe there is a Toyota dealer a little bit closer... good luck

  • stephie1stephie1 Posts: 15
    After reading this discussion thread I am getting very nervous about my 1999 has been rattling, making a strange electrical smell at times and the check engine recently came on. Got the oil checked, transmission fluid checked, blah blah...just basic diagnostic yet. But it only has 56,000 miles and it is acting like my Ford Winstar did when it hit 130,000 miles. I bought a Lexus thinking that since it is in the Toyota family it would give me a long, quality life for the investment. But now I am worried that I might have a transmission issue or something equally horrible. :lemon:

    I was going to just trade it in for a new 2006 or 2007 RX350, but now I am wondering if I should go for something else like an Acura MDX?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    My advice would be to take a really serious look at the Acura RDX.
  • singarajahsingarajah Posts: 1
    Just to add to the data, I had the same problem, sudden failure, a $5K estimate for repair, the car has been fully serviced etc. The website also has several reports of similar failures. I am waiting to see what Lexus will do if anything.
  • 1carioca1carioca Posts: 1
    My 99 RX 300 had a transmission failure this week on the highway with 127,000 miles. I did the 90K service and spent $2,800 in maintenance at the Lexus dealership for that service. Now Lexus wants $5K to replace the transmission. I called a transmission shop and they said they can do it for $3K. I had to spend $650 to have my car towed. I don't think I am buying Lexus again. Any advice would be appreciated.
  • pv001pv001 Posts: 3
    I bought a used 2000 Lexus RX300 from a private party about two months ago. It has 82,500 miles. About 15 days ago the check engine light came on and I took it to the local Toyota Dealer. They said O2 sensor was bad and replaced it and the spark plugs. Cost $677.00. Last night check engine light came on again and it appeared that transmission was not shifting properly. The engine was revving up without much movement of the car itself. Got it towed to the same dealer. Now they say transmission has gone bad. Cost $4,600 to new one. I am shocked! I had a perfectly good Camry which we bought new and sold it after 120,000 miles in excellent condition when I bought the Lexus. Now I am wondering what to do. I have asked Aamco to take a look at the transmission and let me know if it could be salvaged. What an idiot I am to sell a perfectly good Camry to go for a lemon lexus!
  • We have had the exact same issue with a 1999 RX300 that we bought used. To save yourself a whole lot of anguish, before you have ANY repairs done, have the check engine light coded to see if your knock sensors are bad. Our Lexus would not shift into overdrive, the engine light would stay on, and would take off sluggishly, had poor gas mileage, etc. The Lexus dealer diagnosed the code was a bad knock sensor, one of the service advisors said this would cause the transmission problems,another service advisor (same dealer) said it would not, so we took it to Aamco. The price for aa new trans was considerably less at Aamco, $3000. vs.$6000 @ Lexus. Aamco put in new trans and the next day the light came back on. The transmission would still not go into overdrive. It was exactly the same as before we replaced the trans!!!! We replaced the knock sensors and it did fix the shifting problem, bad news is, a few weeks later, light is on again, and codes bad knock sensor, bank 2. We did research online and found out there was a redesign on the wiring harness for the knock sensor and we had to tear the intake off AGAIN!! Do not buy a trans,before checking this out. I wish we had known all of this before. Knock sensors are $500/parts,$400 labor. Good Luck!
  • beacatjerbeacatjer Posts: 3
    I originally posted this thread and now that i have seen the feedback from others, i think i will be buying a new non lexus suv instead of holding onto the one i have. It now has 88k miles on it, still running like a top,but the repairs described by others are shocking my system. I have had 4 other Lexus autos in the past and they all ran like new right up until I sold them,but I'm not taking a chance with this one, especially with my wife driving it on local 2 lane rural roads in the middle of nowhere, AAA notwithstanding.
  • gitmogitmo Posts: 23
    I'm curious as to what model RX you have. Is it 2 whl drive, or 4 whl? I have a 2000 as well.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Were I you I would buy my wife a good cell phone, presuming it to be viable on those rural roads, and keep the RX300 until it breaks, if it ever actually does.

    ~$4,000 for a rebuilt transaxle is lot cheaper than a new Acura RDX or BMW X3.

    I fully intent to keep my 2001 AWD RX300, now at 65,000 miles, until it breaks, even until 200,000 miles. At that point it will get a DIY rebuild and a PTO modification to covert it to "solid" RWD and with (only) VC coupling to the front.

    Not altogether sure I'll wait much longer before doing the PTO modification, maybe before the next snow flies.
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