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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    My '01 F/awd RX300 had the ATF drained and refilled twice at about 40,000 miles because the ATF was looking dirty and smelled burned. I am now at ~75,000 miles and am checking the ATF condition on a regular basis, each oil/filer change. I have mentally prepared myself for a DIY transaxle overhaul before it reaches 100K.

    If that happens then it will also get converted to R/awd at the same time. I may also design a circuit that will automatically hold the tranasaxle in the current gear, prevent an upshift, for 10 seconds or so even if/when the gas pedal is fully released. Obviously the new circuit would need to be disabled if the OAT declines to or close to freezing.

    The RX330 and later RX models use DBW to "protect the drive train" but that "fix" came with yet another set of short-comings, the inability to accelerate immediately after, 1-2 seconds, a brief period of coastdown.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Beginning with the RX330 Lexus used DBW to prevent the engine from rising in RPM until a previously engine/transaxle control ECU "commanded" transaxle downshift ran to completion.

    Since the earlier RX300 used a mechanical coupling between the gas pedal and throttle plate the same technique could not be used.

    On the other hand my '01's TC, Traction Control, dethrottles the engine via EFI fuel starvation control. Why couldn't Lexus use this same technique to "hold off" rising engine RPM/Torque for downshift delays...??

    The throttle plate would still open, just as it does/is with TC activation, but the only harm in that is the engine ROARING to life once the downshift is completed. On the other hand there are circumstances with my RX300 wherein VSC activates and I am forced to completely release and the re-apply pressure to the gas pedal before the engine will respond at all.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Did I just prevent Lexus from using an otherwise viable solution..??

    Recently you submitted a question to the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Department.

    Fw: Idea

    Discussion Thread
    Response (DCha) 07/15/2009 07:45 AM
    Dear Mr. West:

    Thank you for contacting the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Department advising us of your product idea. We appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to share your thoughts and comments with us. Lexus is a division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS). It is against the policy of TMS to accept unsolicited ideas from persons outside of the Toyota organization. The possibility of a conflict between developments from within the Toyota organizations and ideas submitted by interested persons, such as yourself, make this policy necessary. In accordance with this long-standing policy, we apologize that we are unable to accept your idea.May I take this opportunity to thank you once again for writing and best wishes to you.

    If you require further assistance, please respond to this e-mail, or contact Lexus Customer Satisfaction at 1-800-255-3987, Monday through Friday, 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Pacific Time.


    Danielle Curtis

    Lexus Customer Satisfaction
    Customer (willard west) 07/13/2009 10:43 AM
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Vera & Willard West
    Sent: Monday, July 13, 2009 10:24 AM
    Subject: Idea

    Beginning with the RX330 Lexus used DBW to prevent the engine from rising in RPM until a previously engine/transaxle control ECU "commanded" transaxle downshift ran to completion.

    Since the earlier RX300 used a mechanical coupling between the gas pedal and throttle plate the same technique could not be used.

    On the other hand my '01's TC, Traction Control, dethrottles the engine via EFI fuel starvation control. Why couldn't Lexus use this same technique to "hold off" rising engine RPM/Torque for downshift delays...??

    The throttle plate would still open, just as it does/is with TC activation, but the only harm in that is the engine ROARING to life once the downshift is completed. On the other hand there are circumstances with my RX300 wherein VSC activates and I am forced to completely release and the re-apply pressure to the gas pedal before the engine will respond at all.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    Usually when a company does that, they don't even look at the suggested idea so they can avoid any claims later if they come up with a similar idea in-house.

    Now you can race them to the patent office. :D
  • bikingbiking Posts: 3
    I have a 2003 RX300 SUV 70,000 miles - transmission died, like most, I have had all services done as scheduled at the Lexus dealer. I have spent 1 1/2 weeks calling customer service trying to get help paying for the estimated $5300 "new" transmission. No one returns calls, I am so frustrated (and yet very happy to be driving the Chrysler PT cruiser convertible they loaned me). Has anyone had trouble with 2003 or this low mileage issue? Warranty was 6 years (which was up end of Dec) or 70,000 miles. This just disgusts me. I welcome all suggestions.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Suggestions? Be polite and positive with the CS folks, but keep pressuring them. It seems out-of-warrantee concessions are made based on loyalty both in the past as well as future. It's certainly no secret that the original transmission is not terribly stout (it seems especially so on low mileage service), and normal maintainence does not include proper transmission service. The service reps know about all the Technical Service Bulletins on this model. Other folks with out-of warrantee claims have earned big discounts toward the cost of a replacement, especially to loyal customers just barely out of warrantee. Keep on them politely.

    Read more about other experiences in this forum. Please report back.

    Good luck. It sounds like your car is worth a new transmission, if that's any consolation to you at all.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 373
    If polite pressure doesn't work call several other Lexus dealers for their price and then call Toyota dealers. Some Toyota dealers work on Lexi and some don't. The Lexus dealer where I bought my car in '99 (now with 157,000 miles) hadn't seen me since the warranty ran out so I wasn't about to get a good customer discount. They originally quoted me $5700 for the "remanufactured" transmission. Another dealer 15 miles away quoted $4300 and the Toyota dealer 2 miles away quoted $4000. I got them to do it for $4300. That seemed reasonable since I would have owed them the cost of diagnosis and would have had to transport the car to the Toyota dealer and I thought it best to have Lexus do the work and I got to drive a new 2010 RX for the duration. From what I've read you can get it done even cheaper if you really check around, even with independent shops.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Very good points. It pays to shop, especially if your preferred Lexus dealer matches another shops' price and still gives Lexus levels of service like a nice loaner.

    It also seems that if you catch the problem in time while it's still driveable and they know you can take it to another shop, they are more likely to better their price. There does seem to be some competition even between Lexus dealers, especially if it's not so far gone that you can't drive it out of their shop.

    But in your case, since you were just barely out of warrantee, I'd keep the pressure on for even more discount... but you have to be willing to be patient.

    Please let everyone know what happens.
  • bikingbiking Posts: 3
    Well, as it turns out, the transmission seems to be fine and the whole mess appears to stem from a bad celenoid. The service people apparently didn't pay attention when I explained the problem (which was that the car refused to move out of park into any other gear). However, until this new diagnosis, the Lexus company was offering to cover the cost of parts and my Lexus dealer was going to pay 20% of the labor cost. My portion was going to be about $1800 out of the original quote of $5300. All in all, I am pleased with how it turned out (as of right now). If anything new comes up I will post again.
  • Our 2000 RX300 lost reverse gear in April 2008. After considerable arm twisting and documented references to online citations of transaxle failures in this vehicle, we shared the repair cost with Lexus, our part being $1,400. The one year warranty on the rebuilt transaxle replacement would lapse end of April 2009, so we documented on a Lexus service order (timing belt change) that the transaxle never had shifted properly and was getting worse by the day.

    For the past 2 months, wife has been complaining about a high pitched whine coming from beneath the engine, nearby the transaxle. Sure enough, the hum got louder with time and yesterday the tach showed over-reving while at cruise, at a steady cruise of 40 mph, the engine would rev to 4,000 rpm, remain there while the vehicle under its own momentum, and then eventually pull back to 2,300 rpm or lower.

    Driving down the parkway here in Bend at 50 mph, the clutch seemed to disengage, over-rev to 4,000 rpm and then re-engage the drive train with a distinct clunk. Pulled up to Cooley Road on 97 and waited in the turn lane 2 minutes while the traffic signals changed. Hit the throttle and the RX would not move forward, only showing 4,000+ rpm. Shifted to L on the gear shifter and limped out into traffic...such a dangerous situation! Pulled to the roadside and shut down the engine for 2 minutes and was then able to limp over to Lowe's parking lot where Consolidated Towing eventually brought a flatbed for the journey to Eugene.

    We have yet to see if Lexus will honor the one-year warranty on the 2008 tranny job and IF they will also reimburse for the $130 of overmiles beyond my GE road club 100 mile limit. Obviously, we are distraught but have a loaner RX350 for free from the helpful, fantastically helpful, dealer in Eugene. Stay tuned for an update to this post and hope for the best outcome $$.

    I cannot stress enough how dangerous this transmission issue was yesterday, to be caught in traffic and unable to control the driving process. There is no cell phone coverage for roughly 65% of the 126 miles to the dealer/repair shop, hence the other reason for taking the road club option on the car transport.
  • joy23joy23 Posts: 1
    I purchased a used 2003 RX300 with 40,000 miles on it. The transmission started giving me problems a few months after I purchased it (I am sure that it why it was traded in). I took it to a local transmission shop and they assured me that the transmission was going out. I took it to Lexus and they said it was not. I called the corporate office of Lexus and filed a complaint. After the warranty ran out (around 71,000 miles), the transmission got worse. I had already filed several complaints during that time, so Lexus replaced the transmission as if it were still under warranty. Now, 50,000 miles later, I need a new transmission???????? Lexus has offered to pay half of the cost of the transmission, as it has been over a year since they put the transmission in, but it has only been 50,000 miles since they replaced the transmission. I have 120,000 miles on my RX and I am on transmission #3. The dealership says they have never seen anything like this (after finding this website I now know they are lying). I am again in contact with the corporate office. The dealership has offered to pay half of the cost, leaving me with $2000 as my part. After only 50,000 miles and 2 transmissions, I don't think that I should be responsible for any of it. Why hasn't there been a recall on this? Why wasn't the issue with my transmission fixed the first time they replaced it? I don't know anything about cars, but this seems ridiculous to me.
  • bikingbiking Posts: 3
    It seems to me that if the dealership is willing to pay 50%, that contacting customer service for some Lexus support would be the next step. I had good luck by staying calm but calling back on a regular basis to make sure that they were indeed dealing with the issue. If you can prove that the services have been done at a Lexus shop that also helps. It does seem that a 2003 should not have this much trouble, however, 120,000 miles is about the mileage where there have been issues (it seems like 90,000 is the critical point). Be polite and keep up the pressure is my advice.
    Good luck.
  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    I have been trying to get my arms around how real or how isolated these problems are. My mom and dad have a 99 RX300, which only has 45k on it and really have had no problems with it at all. In fact the only annoying part of this car is that the odometer freezes and won't allow you to access trip a and/or b, and visa versa, but that is being addressed with Lexus cust service and is for another post altogether.

    Granted, they haven't driven this car that much but it looks and runs like new. Now, I have taken all of the information on these boards with regard to engine sludge buildup and trans failures to my neighbor, who has been a lead mechanic for Toyota for 15 years...According to him, the overwhelming reason an engine would accumulate sludge is because the oil is not getting changed on a regular basis. Maybe there are some isolated cases...but it's extremely rare for a properly maintained engine to accumulate sludge.

    Now, the transmission problems...My parents car has the tow prep package and so I know this is indeed an aide in keeping things cool down there. After careful consideration on whether to do a flush or a drain and fill, I decided on the latter because flushes while good intended, can have negative results. The fluid was a little off color, but with the drain and fill, it brought back the cherry red look to the fluid (I know a drain and fill only replaces about 40% or so of the total fluid).

    Now, my understanding from my source is that the RX300's transmission is the identical (well maybe not IDENTICAL, but...) twin of the same unit that is in the Toyota Highlander, which, again, I am told by my source that his dealership RARELY see trans problems with the Highlander. Now, granted, some of you may say I am comparing apples and oranges, and who knows maybe to some degree I am. But it is conceivable that Toyota does cross use components in their automobiles and across divisions??

    I am not trying to discount anyone's negative experience with these cars, but I am just trying to get a real read on if this is widespread as it may seem. You know it goes...those that have problems sound off and those that don't, we don't hear from.

    I mean to say that if they made 2 million of these cars, are we hearing from the 1000 or so that have had a bad experience? (Don't quote me on the numbers I am just trying to make a point).

    I would love to hear from some of the folks on this board that have 300's to sound off if they HAVE NOT had any engine or trans problems.

    Let's hear from you all, too!

  • gbryantgbryant Posts: 9
    ">jbl85. There are close to 300 testimonies to the failure history of the '99-'00 RX300 "all wheel drive" (AWD) transaxle’s on this thread. And I think you will find that the majority of the horror stories are about transaxle’s that failed in the 75K-100K range (my transaxle failed at 92K). Based on your '99 accumulating miles at the average rate of 4.5K miles per year and the worst case failure rate of 75K miles, that says if you continue to drive 4.5K miles per year you will be able to drive the '99 until mid 2015 before you need to worry about it. By then you it will be a prime candidate for Clunker II. If that isn't enough data to help you make a decision I don't know what would be.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    GBryant, I think your data is in error. There are nowhere near "300 testimonies of the failure history of the '99-00 AWD" on this thread. How could there be? There are fewer than 300 total messages posted, and nowhere near each message an individual isolated failure.

    Out of how many hundreds of thousands of vehicles, that is a pretty small percentage of complaints. Most people don't bother searching the internet to post messages to report "no problem" compared to those with complaints, but nowhere near the statistically low number you mentioned. And of those who complain, usually their report says they had their car "serviced" but they leave out specifics. The fluid condition is a dead giveaway. Transmission service is usually left up to the owner, and rarely does Lexus dealer suggest it.

    In fact, there are reports from owners who were disappointed with transmission problems, but were taken care of by Lexus without problem, why would they bother looking for somewhere to post a complaint? And Lexus stood by them during their standard long powertrain warrantee. They they have even made exceptions for some that are out of warrantee. Not many manufacturers do that. Try to find one! Some folks got poorly rebuilt transmissions and they have a legitimate gripe, even if the third-party rebuild was sourced by Lexus, but not rebuilt by them.

    The trans in these models clearly are more vulnerable than many of us expected when we bought them new. However, failure rates compared to many vehicles, especially SUV's don't seem statistically massive, so I don't know where you want to go with that.

    I think a big part of the problem is there are a lot of early RX's that were leased. Why would you do anything extra on a leased car? The mfr didn't say to service the transmission often, why bother when it will be someone else's problem later down the road? Here we see the results of that kind of attitude, combined with the type of use many of these cars are subject to (shuttling, idling just to run a/c, city driving, low miles, etc.) and a weak original design combine.

    My $.02
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...HL..." "..identical.."

    What was the first prouction year for teh HL vs RX..??

    The first "fix" was applied to the RX in (mid..??) 2000.
  • mbcaycembcayce Posts: 1
    I have a 1999 RX300 with 104,000 miles on it. It just recently quit shifting into Overdrive. It shifts fine in the first 3 gears but want go into OD. Initially this was intermittently, but now seems to happen more frequently, especially when the car warms up. Anyone familiar with this problem?
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Q: When was the last time your transmission fluid and filter were changed?

    My guess is the fluid is already contaminated and has been for a long time. It's probably no longer translucent pink. That's your first check. If so, you might want to shop around for the best deal on a transmission rebuild or replacement right away. If you are still able to drive the car you are at a bargaining advantage. I wouldn't push your luck too far.

    It's very easy to check. In case you haven't checked it before or don't have an owner's manual: with engine running in Park with the brake on tight, open the hood, look on the right half (transmission/transaxle) there is a yellow dipstick labeled "transmission" with a paper towel, pull the dipstick out. Wipe the fluid at the end of the dipstick and inspect for color and/or burned smell.

    If the transmission has been serviced regularly and the fluid remains pink, there is a slight possibility the problem is not internal. But I'd get it fixed right away.

    Please report back and let us know what you find out. Best luck to you.
  • la4mead is spot-on target with his suggestion. There are also fluid test strips that shops now use to gauge the fluid condition. At 68,000 miles, in 2008, our 2000 RX300 started having reverse gear lockup. We drove the 126 miles to Eugene for a new transmission, of course we were out of warranty. We paid the labor and Lexus paid the rebuild hardware. April 2008 - April 2009, we documented every sliver of strange behavior this newly installed transmission exhibited, mainly related to a late engagement of upshift.

    With the one-year warranty expiring, we went to the Lexus dealer in April 2009 and had them take our service complaint. July 2009 the transmission began to make a high pitch whine that got worse in August. Finally, the new transmission would no longer engage forward gears and the rig was transported via flatbed for service by the dealer (only 6,000 miles on this rebuild).

    Because of the extensive documentation we had maintained from the first month of service with this #2 transmission, Lexus paid for everything (parts/labor) on transmission #3. Shifting is very smooth with this new unit, so we have our fingers crossed and intend to document every heartbeat of this rebuild. We are extremely pleased with the service offered by the dealer in Eugene. Hope your O/D issue is just dirty fluid, but the RX300 transmission has plenty of online forum comments to be considered. The RX330 uses a different transmission, as I understand it, as do the newer models.
  • kwhkwh Posts: 68
    My 2000 RX now has 134,000 and has not had any major problems. I just had my mechanic change the transmission fluid because of all of these reports and he said the fluid was very clean and everything looked ok to him (I have a lot of confidence in him).

    Question - Are the transmission problems mostley in the AWD RX's or is it in all the tranmissions including the FWD?
  • I bought an RX300 in 2006 at 49K miles. The transmission just went out at 89K. The car's stuck, doesn't move no matter what gear you shift to, and made horrible noise under the hood. I was lucky to have bought the ESP (extended service warrantee) from Ford (YES, Ford ESP can be purchased for pre-owned cars, no matter what make..does not have to be Ford cars). FORD ESP paid for towing to the nearest Lexus Dealer (in Chantilly, VA). They asked for $4700 to replace the transmission. I was very grateful that FORD ESP agreed to pay the cost in full (minus the standard $100 deductible) without any questions. Here are my takes on this:

    1) Lexus Dealer's Service (maybe for just this particular VA location?) is very disappointing. You need to call them every step along the way to get answers about the status of your car. They also want to charge me $195 for the alignment that they said is needed besides the transmission work. And after bilking $4700 from Ford ESP warrantee, you would think they would give me an alignment courtersy discount for their overcharged service, but the rep said NO discount, not even a penny! I just said fine, I could have the alignment done at some other good repairs shop for about 1/2 that price so NO to your arrogrant, disgusting attitude. See if they would have me back as customers (or Lexus customers for that matter, after I trade in this car) ever again.

    2) My hat off to FORD ESP pre-owned warrantee plan. They honor their plan to the T (paid for the tow, even asked what make of the car, and tow it to the nearest dealer w/out customer's request...I would have agreed if they suggest other just-as-good repairs shop, other than the cut-throat Lexus dealer!. Also offered to pay for rental cars (took 3 days to fix), but I declined the offer to save them some expense. (paid $1600 for the 4-year ESP plan, so they're already $3000 in the hole after this claim!).

    3) Does anyone know if there's already a complaint petition about this Lexus RX300's particular transmission problems that I can sign on? What's the most effective way to let Lexus know about this problem? What would be the good address to write to?

    4) Once again, my thanks to FORD ESP service, and would not hestitate to recommend them to anyone. If you need to buy pre-owned car, especiall this disappointing Lexus RX300, then trust me, by any means ask for the FORD ESP
    plan...They are the best out there IMO.

    Thanks for any help on what I can do to let Lexus know about their disappointing service, and their non-response to customers who have so many problems with the RX300's transmission!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Ditto, REVERSE...

    A few years ago I purchased a used Mercury Sable and promply went over to Toyota and purchased an extended warranty for the Sable. Never had very much done under the warranty but Toyota ALWAYS stepped up.

    Nothing good to say about the way Toyota and Lexus are treating THEIR OWN customers regarding the FLAWED transaxle design introduced with the RX300 in '98 and soon migrated to most other Toyota and Lexus FWD and F/awd vehicles.

    More than time for a trip to the woodshed.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    "Nothing good to say about the way Toyota and Lexus are treating THEIR OWN customers..." Again, many more owners did have positive experiences even when they found their Lexus had issues than those reported on this forum! It's reasonable to say members of this forum generally post complaints rather than positive experiences!

    They did alright by me for sure, and many others too. I had much better experience with Lexus flaws. But they are not flawless, just like other brands. The difference was they stepped up with a positive attitude and fixed it. I can't help but be sorry for others who had repeated trouble with their Lexus service. We have to look at what went wrong.
  • April 08, RX300 2000 transmission reverse gear went out, past warranty period. After negotiating with Lexus customer service in So. Calif. the deal was they would pay for the hardware and we the labor. Re-manufactured transmission never did seem to shift properly so we began a paper trail and had the documentation updated by a service visit to the Lexus shop. Four months after the warranty expired, transmission failed and we transported on flatbed 126 miles to Eugene.

    Service Manager and his staff are top-notch and customer-centric. Loaned us an RX3350 for the 10 days of waiting/installation. Lexus honored the warranty, insofar as we had plenty of documentation of issues with the transmission prior to the warranty expiration. Had we lacked the documentation, we likely would have been eating a huge portion of the service bill. Will let you know if we see a check for the over mileage, but one was promissed by Lexus and that is good enough for me. My next purchase will be an RX 400h or 350 IF there are no reported service issues like we see on the RX300 transmission.

  • You can call the nice people at NTSB and file a safety complaint, as should everyone experiencing transmission issues with the RX300. 1-888-327-4236

    The process over the phone takes about 15 minutes and you will receive a copy of the complaint for verification purposes in about 2-3 weeks. Everyone with these troubles should be documenting the issues with a NTSB complaint. You will feel better after making the complaint and receiving a case #
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    Consider writing up a review in Dealer Ratings and Reviews.

    tidester, host
    SUVs and Smart Shopper
  • Some RX300 sail smoothly through 150,000 miles without trany troubles, while others choke at 60,000 or so. Probably would be very smart to invest in a couple of AOA oil analysis kits and every year, get a few drops of the transmission oil analyzed spectroscopically. Once the baseline metal content is established on the first sample, a later elevated level will begin to show a possible trend, and provide you with some data to show the Lexus customer care folks.

    Check this link:
  • I purchased this 2001 rx300 2 years ago and it came with all the service papers and complete documentation for what had been done and all the transmission service. It now has 141,000 miles and the Trans locked up today. Wouldn't go into Reverse then drive then it would if you hit the gas after shifting into that gear. I am going to have it rebuilt for $3K. It seems this is not a rare problem, nice to know and I may look at going back to Honda.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Very likely the 01 RX transmission has more expectation of durability and complaints of trouble, and sorry to hear it happened to you. But consider even a Honda might need transmission rebuild after 141,000, and should have transmission service within 2 years (couldn't tell from your note when the last was) too. Certain Hondas have been known to fail earlier, also. I know that's no comfort, and I wish I could say something that helps.

    I wouldn't go by mfr rec's that are any longer than two years either, but most owners don't ask for service that costs extra like changing trans fluid and filter. Or brake or power steering fluid (I bet the color is dark on yours, but easy to purge with new). It's hard to say burned fluid is the cause of trouble rather than a symptom, but it's still a good idea.

    I hope you like your car enough that after the rebuild you still have a nice car. It's still a nice package, as long as yours is in good condition. I hope you're happy with the result.
  • I see a lot of posts about RX300's and transmissions. I have a 2000 RX 300 that is paid off with 137,000 miles. The transmission just went this weekend and now I am debating if I should spend the 4200.00 to fix it or get a new car. I would like to hear what people think but most importantly if I fix it will it happen again as many people say it is a problem with the car? Thanks
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