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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • ahalksahalks Posts: 4
    I am looking to purchase a 2002 or 2003 RX 300. Have these model years encountered the same transmission issues/problems as the earlier years. If not, what changes were made? I did not read all the previous messages so I apologize if this was already discussed. Also, typically, what service work is needed at 120,000 miles.

  • Would not get one an RX if it were given to me. Plan on a $5000 transmission replacement if it has not already been done. Toyota/Lexus was no help in costs when mine had to be replaced. My sisters RX . . . same problem. Another one in the shop at the same time. . . same problem.
  • I heard that Lexus, because of the transmission problems, replaced the gear ratio from 4 gears to 3 but I'm not sure when that was done in production. They also changed the gear composition from aluminum to steel, again, because of the problems they had been having. I don't know if they were forced to make the change, nothing I found on technical bulletins or recalls. I've had my car for 10 years and this transmission thing is the only problem I've had with it. If you are dead set on getting the 2002 or 2003 you should check out what type of transmission it has in it (4 gears aluminum vs. 3 gears steel). Make sure it has had all of it's service work done and the owner has the records. Check on the Lexus site to find out what maintenance should have been done so far. I would also take it to a reputable transmission dealer (not Lexus) and have an inspection and full system flush with screen replacement done.
  • mrbostonmrboston Posts: 43
    I had a 2000 RX 300 and my wife had a 2001 RX 300, both AWD. One transmission went out at 85,000 the
    other at 101,000. These cars never towed anything, never had a teenage driver and were never driven off road.

    Shame, shame, shame on Lexus for such a piece of junk.
    These transmissions at $5,000 plus each are a rip off.
    I hope some lawyer does a class action lawsuit.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Were I in your shoes I would only consider a 2002 RX300 if it were ONLY FWD and already had the extra ATF cooling radiator. My 2001 F/awd has the extra cooling yet at only 40,000 miles the ATF smelled and looked quite burned. Did two sequential drain and refills and now at ~80,000 miles and watching/checking ATF condition often.

    Overstressing of the transaxle was resolved in the RX330 series by dropping the viscous clutch for F/awd models and adopting DBW to prevent the engine form producing torque before the gears were fully and firmly engaged.

    But that "fix" came with its own set of problems.
  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    I have read many times NOT to flush the transmission but to just do a drain and fill. Flushing seems to have caused more issues than they have helped.
  • ahalksahalks Posts: 4
    Thank you very much for all of the information posted to my question. At this point I'm not sure what to do but I appreciate everyone's postings.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 373
    I don't know if there was a connection or not but I had my transmission flushed for the first time a month or so before it went out. I have a '99 AWD
  • 2000 RX300 AWD, now on the third transmission. After the latest transmission was installed in August 2009, we took a sample of ATF via the dip stick tube, using a large syringe and 3 ft section of silicon tubing. Sent the sample to AOA in AZ for spectroscopic analysis. Now at 7 months, wife suspects the third tranny is eating itself alive, as in the first to occasions. Sent another ATF sample to AOA 3/20 and will report back to the forum. Lexus paid for all of the expenses on #2, since failure was reported and documented by dealer prior to the one year warranty expiring.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    You could probably extend the life of your next RX300 transaxle by providing a little DC, Direct Current, bias to the ATF line pressure control solenoid. That would raise the average pressure of the line pressure but you would need to be sure and add an external ATF cooling radiator and drain and refill the ATF on a regular basis, say every 30,000 miles.
  • mrbostonmrboston Posts: 43
    Lexus to save cost, made many of the transmission parts out of aluminum instead of steel. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it took Lexus three
    years of problems to change back to steel gears etc starting in 2003 model RX.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Save costs or weight to improve FE...??

    With FE improvement the EPA & CARB get involved in the switch back to steel.
  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    I'm not doubiting this may be true but how do you know this to be fact?
  • pooryotapooryota Posts: 2
    :sick: Ok so my 1999 RX300 last year had major work done around $2,300.. One week later the axle was slipping. That was around 87,000 miles, I was told my tranmisson was going. How shocked was !?! Here I thought I had longevity in my Lexus. So now at 92,000 I need a tow to the auto shop. I am not sure if it's worth the fix. I love my car but after reading all the posts and seeing some are on there 3rd transmission. Shame on Toyota!! Like most I had the car serviced at Lexus following the book. My dealership mechanic's didn't even pick up on any problems when the oil was leaking from the axle. I had so many oil changes at the dealership and nothing. I to tried to speak to the manger nothing came out it.
    So as I decide tonight to fix the car or donate it for parts. I know this is my last Toyota car. I do have a Camry that needed an alternator at 65,000 miles. I think I have my answer to move on to another car family. So no class action on the RX300 with all these transmission issue? :lemon:
  • :mad:
    Our 2001 Lexus Rx300 transmission experienced catastrophic failure at 97,000.
    No warranty, no “Lexus” dealership visits= no help from Lexus.

    Lexus misrepresented the quality of this vehicle- selling its customers an inferior product wrapped in leather and the Lexus brand name.
    I am awaiting a call-back from an attorney with much experience in class action lawsuits and even one against Lexus.
  • mrbostonmrboston Posts: 43
    The RX 300 Transmission through mid 2002 was designed with aluminum gearing that could not handle the torque of AWD. We had two one a year 2000 and a 2002
    one failed at 103,000 and the other at 106,000. All were driven by carfeul mature drivers, never towed anything, or gone off road. This transmission is junk.

    Lexus motto, "Relentless Pursuit of Excellence" is a down right lie!
  • pooryotapooryota Posts: 2
    notlexusloyal....anyword about a class action?
  • mkapadiamkapadia Posts: 2
    Beware of RX350 - 2010 model !!
    Reporting a major repair on Lexus 2010 RX350 Transmission , it has only 700 miles, , bought BRAND NEW , they ended up replacing the whole Transmission.

    Kindly respond to this thread if you have heard or experienced similar issue.
  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    First I have heard of guess is that is is a fluke and a very isloated incident.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..a fluke..."

    Or maybe not....

    Ford's Escape and Mariner have been using this very same rear drive clutch coupling technique for quite some number of years and still has problems related to overstressing, overheating, the PTO. There is an indication that Ford has reduced the functionality of the rear drive in response, including removing the driver's manual engagement capability.

    On the other hand Mazda, using the very same system, stepped up to the plate and added cooling, engine coolant, to the PTO.

    The RX350 does not have PTO cooling provisions AND it has manual engagement capability whereas the Venza and Sienna do not. Next model year you should expect the loss of that manual capability unless Lexus adds PTO cooling.

    IMMHO having that manual engagement capability without some sort of strain guage override/failsafe system is simply inviting (inadvertent) abuse of the drive system.
  • naperleighnaperleigh Posts: 7
    I just got towed after being standed yesterday. The transmission started slipping and finally gave out. I got the call from the dealer 1 hour ago with the message the transmission failed and it would cost me $5600.00. I have 96000 miles on my 1999 and don't think this should happen. I own two Lexus and they will be my last. I am done :sick: with Toyota products!
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 373
    Be sure to negotiate with them. I got my price down from $5600 to $4700 by calling several Lexus dealers. Some folks go to generic shops and get it done for $2700 but I didn't feel comfortable doing that.
  • mrbostonmrboston Posts: 43
    First, go to AAMCO, (I have no vested interest in AAMCO). They put in a rebuilt one in my RX 300 for $2,800. My transmission went out at 103,000 miles and is now running perfect. The AWD models create to much torque on the aluminum transmission gears and they wear out. That is why most mechanics tell you to replace transmission fluid in these ever 30,000 miles becasue the alluminum particles simply clog the filter.

    Second, Lexus follows the Toyota policy of denial, the customer is wrong and besides that your warrnaty is over. These transmissions are junk and you should sue both the dealer and Lexus in smalls claims court. You will win, I did.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    " much torque on the aluminum..."

    No, the early RX300 transaxles had/have a factory design flaw that was finally overcome via the adoption of DBW throttles beginning with the RX330 models.

    Via the adoption of DBW the engine was prevented from rising above idle until the transaxle could finish, fully and completely, changing gears. Due to the design flaw there were instances in which a gear change would sometimes take 1-2 seconds to complete.

    Thus you now often, post ~2003, see complaints of engine non-response to gas pedal position lasting 1-2 seconds for/regarding Toyota/Lexus/Scion vehicles.
  • I contacted Lexus and a law firm that has handled similar cases (one with Lexus) just to gather information. I quickly realized this was not going to be an easy process. I did want resolution, so I contacted both again. Much to my surprise, Lexus agreed to pay for 1/3 of our repair. We decided that was much better than months of legal proceedings so we took the offer. With this payment, I believe it is clear that Lexus does know that there is a major issue with these transmissions and owners might have cause for legal action. Maybe this is why they decided to offer us a little money to make us happy? For us, we had to choose what was best for our situation. Good Luck on further actions!
  • naperleighnaperleigh Posts: 7
    to notlexusloyal: Could you please post contact information for Lexus that you used? My 1999 RX trans just died with 96,000 milles on it and the dealer would not reduce the $5600 cost of repair. Thanks
  • jbl85jbl85 Posts: 49
    edited May 2010
    So I am looking into all of these postings with trans problems question is this:

    I have a 99 with 48k miles on it and absolutely no sign of trans problems at this time. I drained and filled it twice to get the majority of the fluid swapped out. Now the fluid is cherry red the way it should be. I can drop the pan and look, but better to ask first: If the fluid stays cherry red for several thousand miles, would that indicate that the screen is free and clear of aluminum? And if the fluid changes color rather quickly, I would assume that this would indicate a clogged screen?

    Also, the replacement transmissions, if indeed it is the aluminum gears that are failing, are they being replaced with better built units? I can't believe people are having 2, 3 transmissions replaced on these cars.

    Replies appreciated.

  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    edited May 2010
    The transmissions that repeatedly fail seem to be third-party rebuilt units, even when done at the dealer.

    Not all of them are bad. My early '99 2WD original trans had a shifting problems when cold, I had serviced the transmission at the dealer (NOT FLUSH) twice during the warrantee period. When I mentioned it just before the warrantee expired, Lexus replaced it. They tried 2 third-party rebuilt units that also had problems, and finally got approval for a brand-new transmission directly from Lexus/Kyushu Japan. This was in 2004, just before 70,000 miles. My original had not failed yet, however they replaced it with an updated transmission which does not burn fluid, shifts "enthusiastically" and also does not have a screen. This "updated' transmission has a filter element with fine media which I have had transmission shops service three times since then, and each time was completely clean. Lexus said "what?... we've never seen a '99 with a filter instead of screen". So I took it to the trusted tranny mechanic I have my other vehicles serviced at who serviced it, showed me the pan and filter (clean!) and used TYPE 4 FLUID! Many third-party shops use the typical Dextron/Mercron and a can of additive to simulate Toyota fluid, which also leads to problems!

    As far as Lexus goes, I was very happy with the warrantee service when I finally found a dealer to help. I'm even more happy with the "updated" transmission. But on any car, especially fwd platform, I wouldn't recommend to go more than two years without servicing the trans (NOT FLUSHING). Many other makes and models have this same issue, not just Lexus and Toyota.

    I think a big part of the problem is "serviced by Lexus" from their menu-based services does not include servicing the transmission. If promted, they usually recommend a "flush" which seems to be profitable for them, but fatal for any automatic transmission that already has some issues/weaknesses, regardless of make.

    If your fluid stays pink, chances are pretty good that you've got one of the good ones. But I still recommend having it serviced including cleaning the pan and filter (or screen on the earlier models) every other year. Some of these good transmissions go for hundreds of thousands of miles but require proper maintainence to do so, but Lexus is not going to suggest it.

    If you are handy, you can also add extra cooling. I added an additional thermostatic cooler behind the factory cooler in the passenger side wheel well. I also added a small computer fan and an automatic thermostatic switch (Hayden from Pep Boys) which I set to come on about 160 degrees, and I opened up the vent holes in the plastic fender with an exacto knife. Cheap insurance, I thought, since others have had so many problems and they are usually related, or indicated by poor fluid quality. I'm pleased with the result.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    edited May 2010
    That's not a bad settlement if you are free to use a third party repair shop. If you have to use a Lexus shop, well......YOU'RE SCREWED, STILL...!!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I would suspect that you got an '01 or later transaxle model as a replacement. The dealer was also likely to have been instructed to included an auxillary ATF cooler even thought yours is FWD only.

    For the '01 and later model RX300's I suspect the engine idling ATF line pressure specification was raised so the re-acceleration downshift can be quicker and firmer. That, of course, still results in a higher than planned for, initially planned for, ATF temperature rise so the auxillary cooler becomes a real requirement.

    Regretably the ATF heating, OVER-heating is localized to the ATF pump and pressure by-pass mechanicals so over time the ATF will still become "dirty", brown looking, and burned smelling.

    My first need for ATF change, '01 F/awd RX300, was at only ~40,000 miles and am now approaching 80,000 and watching ATF condition VERY closely.
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