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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • Well I don't even know what VSC means. Camel is not the "official" color. But it's tan, beige, camel, light carmel.... hopefully you get the picture of what the interior color is. If not, then I really don't know what else to tell ya.
  • I have no idea how a class action law suit begins... but if you need people to back you I am there. Why in the world they would put such a piece of crap out there for people to spend a small fortune on then most of them have the same common problem with it is beyond me.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I currently have a 2001 AWD RX300 with the "ivory/beige/tan" interior so yes, I now know EXACTLY what you mean....

    I was simply confused by your use of "camel" to describe the interior.

    But what model year is your RX300..??
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Hey, this "problem" pertains to the ENTIRE Toyota and Lexus FWD and F/AWD "fleet". Started out with the '99 RX but has now propagated to all the others.

    But finding a lawyer, or legal office, wherein someone in that profession even begins to understand "this" issue is, has become, a REAL challenge. Absent understanding the issue quite comprehensively and completely no lawyer would approach this issue with a ten yard "stick".

    Like trying to find a patent attorney who can understand automotive electronics patent potential seems almost out of the question.

    Still looking though.....
  • its a 2000. and you can some what drive it but highly not recommended-it slips out of gear and then you can turn the car off for a while and then you could drive it for another block LOL! So it has been parked in our driveway. HA!
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Thank you for sharing. I am and I'm pretty sure we're all sorry you're having problems we've all heard about and experienced firsthand, just what this forum is for.

    Please tell us more... What color is the tranny fluid? How translucent is it? Does it smell burned? From what little you've described, I'm guessing your fluid is getting contaminated from the failing part(s), immediately causing big problems for the whole unit as the pressurized contaminated fluid tries to circulate through clogged tiny passages, and mechanics are guessing your inevitable need for it's replacement will demand premium price.

    It's great news your car's mobile right now (even though it may not be reliable), because you still have the opportunity to call around and shop around for the rebuilt transmission.

    Since your cost of the replacement seems to vary depending situation, my advice is to let them know you can still drive it wherever you want. Get it where they can assure you it was Lexus built to more modern standards than the original, perhaps a factory rebuild.

    But get it from an expert; Lexus made many changes to them, but the transmission's always been the weak spot for the type of use the whole RX package encourages, and not originally designed to standards buyers expect. You may want to research for Technical Service Bulletins (TSB's) for your VIN, and politely/kindly let them know you feel (like your fluid) burned and disappointed at the poor durability, but you are looking for a reason to remain loyal. If Lexus makes you an offer of "goodwill" because of your established patronage, maybe they will come down on the price to keep you a happy camper, enough to make things more economical..

    '99 (from early '98) 2WD I had a factory new (not rebuilt) unit replaced by Lexus under warrantee in 2004, and it's been flawless. My original was clearly flawed with shift/durability problems from the beginning, like many others. On the other hand, my good friend's '00 4WD has been fine from the beginning, and has OOODles of miles, and the fluid's great.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I may have said all this before, probably have, but.

    When the RX series was being designed initially the decision was made to use the Camry/ES300 engine and transaxle as the starting point. The engine..., no problem. But, the transaxle.....BIG problem.

    RX was to be a MUCH heavier vehicle and with "AWD" to boot.

    So the transaxle HAD to be upgraded, made more "robust".


    A sideways mounted engine and transaxle didn't leave much room for increased "robustness". So something had to give, GO...

    The ATF fluid pressure holding accumulator was chosen.. it was discarded from the design. Think of that accumulator as a windup rubber band in an old flying model you built many years ago. When the engine is running the ATF pump was "whirring", pumping ATF fluid to the tune of 3000 PSI. Now if the engine RPM were to drop to idle not much fluid would be pumped. But that was okay if you had an accumulator to "store", at 3000 PSI, some of the previously pumped fluid.

    Big deal, who cares, the clear majority of time ATF fluid pressure is needed is for upshifts and those occur as the engine RPM climbs, typically WELL above idle.
  • mule47mule47 Posts: 1
    I just had my RX300 tranny go out on my 2001 model. Just over 100,000 miles. I serviced the tranny at 50,000 also.

    The dealer says the rough cost is $5,500.00. A third party says around $4,500.00.

    I spoke to the national Lexus customer service and they are looking into it. The local dealers head of service says he doubts seriously they will do anything to help me out.

    This is a total outrage given the number of posts that I have read here and on other sites about problems with the 1999, 2000 and 2001 RX300 transmissions. I checked the nhtsa site and there are complaints for these years and I filed mine. Apparently there are just not enough for the nhtsa to force a recall.

    Any thoughts or ideas?

    Any suggestions how I can influence Toyota to give me some help with this problem?
  • What is nhtsa? Do I need to file a complaint there too?? Anything that will help out trying to get a recall started or a law suit.
  • fordfan_17fordfan_17 Posts: 175
    national highway and transportation safety administration
  • drjondcdrjondc Posts: 1
    I have a used RX 300 and my transmission died. I heard through a friend their priced at $2500 (used) and to rebuilt one I got a quote of $3500. After reading your blog. I'm freaking out with the prices I heard you guys talk about, $8000. :surprise: Wow! I'm a college student and the SUV was a gift from my uncle. That way out of my price range. My friend did tell me that he heard that the ES 300 transmission was interchangeable with the RX 300 transmission. How true is that? He says that the used ES 300 transmission is half the price of the RX 300 transmission. Can that ES 300 fit my RX 300. That would be great and man that would save me lots of money.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Sorry that you had trouble. The RX's are typically very reliable, except the light-duty transmissions they tried to use in them, especially the early 300's.

    First, I wouldn't waste my hard-earned college money on a used one to save $1000, because in this case, there is a high history of failures on the original transmission that came with this car, and I'd surmise a used one from a junked car would not be one of the transmissions that saw a lot of preventive care, even though they might guarantee it would work when they install it. You might pay less now, and be right back where you started a short time after the warrantee expires.

    My own opinion and advice is to go with a freshly rebuilt unit, because it's likely to have been rebuilt with more modern (updated) parts than the original design (there were a lot of updates/Technical Service Bulletins after a history of warrantee issues right from the beginning), and a modernly rebuilt unit is likely to last where the original was not very durable.

    A used one, or one made for an ES (if it will work) or other model would likely not be very durable, not built to be stout enough for the RX, and likely not last very long at all. The rest of the car is likely to be very reliable if you take care of it, for the most part.
  • I feel your pain. I just went through this not to long ago. I contacted Lexus Corp direct and they helped with the cost of the part only, I still had to pay full cost of labor. All in all it didnt seemed to save me much considering it is more expensive to get things fixed at the dealership. My advise try to sell it on Craigslist or something like it. A mechanic can buy it, fix it and still turn a decent profit. But dont give it away. Price your P.O.S Lexus as if nothing where wrong then minus the cost of transmission and maybe a little bit more so it looks appealing so they can make a profit too then use the rest of the money to buy something affordable and not break the bank when something wrong happens to it. I'm trying to get rid of my RX now. I absolutely hate it now and don't even want it sitting in my drive way. We bought a new Ford F150 4 door and I am more happy with this truck then I ever was with the RX. Our new truck is lifted and I just want to run over my RX because it caused so many worries in my household.
  • Yesterday my RX 300 died on the freeway. It only had 84,000 miles and had been serviced regularly. After reading your posts,I can't believe how many people have gone through the same thing with the transmission. Didn't we buy a Lexus because we expected quality and dependability ? I am even further shocked that many of you had less than 84,000 miles when it blew.
    If you hear of a recall or class action suit please let me know. I'm outraged to pay $4,500 just to get this POS back on the road.
  • larryjoh2larryjoh2 Posts: 2
    My 2000 Lexus rx300 transmission failed yesterday at 73K miles. I have read this and the other forum and realize Toyota is not interested in assisting me, so I'm having the tranny rebuilt at an independent shop for $4000. I have filed a complaint with nhtsa and will continue to harass Lexus USA HQ in Torrance CA. Please let me know if there is a class action suit. We were going to purchase another Lexus in 2 years, but we feel now that Honda seems to have better customer relations and support.
  • You have to be a pest to Coporate for them to pay... I was having my husband call them once a day plus me calling them on a daily basis. I also wrote a letter to Corporate and cc the BBB and our local newspaper editor (we live in a small town and have 1 Lexus dealership and they depend on word of mouth). Within a week we had our Lexus towed in on their dime and they only paid for half the part. We still had to pay for all the labor. So basically it knocked off about $1000 from the total bill. Was it worth the effort? Yes... because now that POS is running so I can trade it in LOL! I look at Lexus and other high end cars as junk now. We will stick with our Fords. I have a '92 Mustang 5.0 and it still runs like a champ and it has over 200k miles on it. The most major thing I have ever replaced in that car is the clutch and that never cost me over $500 labor, part and all. :shades: So in this case with the Lexus RX models.... you don't get what you pay for. You get a high end SUV that is going to cost you $$$$ and you don't even get the customer service or the equipment that you deserve after shelling out all that money to buy the damn expensive thing to begin with. I'm sure all brands have their problems, but this is a MAJOR problem with an expensive automobile that they are not willing to own up to and recall because they would loose too much money.
  • gjl24gjl24 Posts: 5
    I own a 1999 Lexus RX300 it has approximately 167K miles on it and the transmission failed today, without any warning. I have serviced the vehicle according to schedule at the dealership ever since it was purchased. I had it towed to the dealership today and they want $4,250 to fix the problem. don't want to spend that since it appears from all the blogs that I have come accross that Lexus knows this is a major problem with the vehicle. I have called Lexus to enter a complaint and they plan to get back to me on next Tuesday to see what they can do. The dealership where my car is will not return me or my husbands phone calls. Can anyone offer any advice or suggestions on how I can get Lexus to cover this repair or a significant part of it? I am also open to any recommendations on how to get this resolved with them. I bought the Lexus because of the brand name and never expected to have this type of problem with a car that I have maintained according to the specifications. I am particularly disturbed that Lexus knows this is a fatal flaw and the design and will not address it for us consumers. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • gjl24gjl24 Posts: 5
    Did anything ever become of your call to action to the group? I have a similar problem my transmission just went out today and I am frustruated and furious because it appears that Lexus knows this is a problem and has not addressed to us consumers. Let me know how things turned out and if you got your problem resolve and any advice guide you can share with me to hold Lexus accountable for this. If they could just cover the cost of repair I would be satisfied then I could trade this vehicle in.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Not that I'm not sympathetic to your plight but with 167,000 miles accured I think you might be swimming a bit upstream for getting some level of compensation or consideration from Lexus corporate.

    Given the "background", no harm in trying, I would.
  • 0435004350 Posts: 26
    Better to pay $ 2,000 for an extended service plan if you can find one for
    any vehicle over 75K, with a legitimate company, then risk a transmission
    or engine failure, regardless of the manufacturer of your vehicle.

    I had a 2002 6cyl Explorer and the transmission went out at 39K (when Ford
    had a 3 years 36 K warranty). I paid $ 100 deductible for my re-built transmission
    because of my extended service plan instead of $ 3,300 at dealer, although
    admittedly the plan cost $ 1,200 when I originally purchased the vehicle.
  • foxy2319foxy2319 Posts: 1
    Have a 1999 Lexus Rx300 with 78K miles and transmission just blew. Aamco tells me that it's the main computer that has the problem. It's been erroneously telling the clutch to engage and it's blown the transmission prematurely. When Aamco called Toyota/Lexus to order a new computer they were told "yes, that is a common problem." What!?! If that's the case, we need a class action suit. This is ridiculous! Also, Toyota dealer wanted $6500 to replace just transmission and would only warranty for 1 year. Aamco doing job for under $4K, including installing an entirely new computer. And they'll warranty work for 3 years! Don't go to Toyota!!! And get on board for a class action suit! :mad:
  • larryjoh2larryjoh2 Posts: 2
    Be sure to complete an online complaint to the NHTSA. They need to know we are all having the same problem. We got our Lexus back yesterday, and it cost $4200, but it's guaranteed for 5 years. The owner of Valley Transmission in El Cajon, Ca, told me every one of these cars blows a tranny at about 75K. I don't have the link to National Highway Transportation and Safety Admin, but you can google it.
    Good luck to all of us. We need a lawyer!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "it's the main computer that has the problem.."

    "erroneously telling the clutch to engage.."

    Yes, in a strange way the main computer is the problem. The firmware within the engine/transaxle ECU (computer), in reality.

    In order to fit a necessarily more robust Camry transaxle into an RX300 some sacrifices had to be made. So the Camry transaxle's pressure holding/sustaining accumulator was dropped from the design to make room for the larger, more robust gears and clutches that were required to support, not only a much heavier vehicle, but an AWD vehicle as well.

    What resulted is the lack of the ability of the new transaxle to support two gear changes in quick succession, quick sequence, especially so if the engine happens to be idling, or nearly so.

    "But that never happens, or almost never happens", or so, seemingly, the Lexus design engineers so thought at the time.

    The core, base, problem is this:

    When you lift your foot from the gas pedal the engine RPM will fairly quickly drop to idle. With no accumulator the ATF line pressure in the transaxle will now start dropping due to the normal fluid leakage level throughout the transaxle and valve body.

    Now, think of yourself driving a stick shift wherein the clutch spring is not quite as strong as it should, might, be. As you coast down to a stop, clutch engaged, using a bit of engine compression braking, the clutch slips due to the weak spring instead of FORCING a higher engine RPM.

    Clutch doesn't last very long if you do that very often, right..??


    But that part, aspect, the engineers apparently foresaw.

    Have you noticed, as you coast down from 10-0 MPH to a stop, that feeling of being bumped slightly from behind..? Or how about during throttle closed coastdowns from say, 40 to 30 MPH. Feel that "slingshot effect", that "lurching, surge" forward feeling...??

    It once was the case that the transaxle (automatic transmissions in general) would go ahead and downshift into first gear at some point as you coast down below ~10 MPH. No more, "these" transaxles will only downshift into 1st gear after coming to a full and complete stop. Even worse yet these transaxles actually upshift as you coastdown below 10 MPH. That's because with the engine at idle there is not enough ATF pressure, sustained pressure, to hold the clutches engaged to sustain even a slight level of engine compression braking.

    Same thing during throttle closed coastdowns at 40-30 MPH. Engine at idle, no sustained ATF pressure, UPSHIFT to prevent clutch wear due to clutch slipping resulting from engine compression braking.

    So far, so good, right..??

    Even better.

    Should the roadbed be somewhat slippery inadvertent engine compression braking on a FWD or F/AWD vehicle can quickly lead to desaster.

    But regrettably that wasn't, isn't "END of STORY".

    The problem that quickly arose is explained most explicitly in the TSB issued in the summer of 1993 involving DBW in the 1993 Camry.

    In short, we don't always drive in the way the engineers expected us to, we would.

    Sometimes we quickly go from a period of "coastdown" sometimes even a very brief period of coastdown, to a wish/desire to accelerate.

    So, as we see above, these new '99+, engine/transaxle ECU's have firmware that will quickly upshift the transaxle in certain "coastdown" circumstances. But what if, by pure happenstance, just as the ECU issues the upshift command to the transaxle, the driver depresses the gas pedal in a desire (need, even DESPERATE NEED...??) to accelerate, QUICKLY accelerate..??

    Hey, the ECU will cause the transaxle to "follow" your "command". At least to the extent that it can do so with the limited supply of ATF line pressure, VERY limited supply of ATF line pressure in this instance with two shifts required in short sequence and all with the engine at idle.

    Oops, forgot to mention, with the '99 to '03 RX models the gas pedal is HARD WIRED to the throttle, so when you depress the gas pedal the engine doesn't wait to respond(***), the engine RPM begins to rise instantly, even though the transaxle upshift clutches haven't yet engaged, let alone the clutches for the now upcoming DOWNSHIFT.

    Premature clutch wear, transaxle failures, you betcha...!!

    It appears, seeming, that by mid-'00 model year the engineers has realized their mistake, over sight, and it appears that their quick fix was to enlarge the pumping capacity of the ATF gear type fluid pump. That result in more pumping capacity with the engine at idle and therefore quicker and firmer seating of the clutches, but also resulted in localized, gear type pump itself, heating of the ATF.

    Was anyone able to buy an '01 to '03 RX300 absent the extra ATF cooling provided by the supposedly OPTIONAL towing package...??

    Anyway. The recommended preventative maintainance period for ATF flush/drain/refill was revised from NEVER to every 15,000 miles as a result of the overheating of the ATF in '01-'03 model year RX300s.

    ***With the introduction of the RX330 DBW, E-throttle, was adopted primarily to prevent the engine RPM from rising in direct response to the gas pedal in the above circumstances. Only after the transaxle clutches are fully and firmly seated (1-2 seconds, or even more..??) will the engine be allowed to respond to the gas pedal.

    Let's all hope an RX330 or RX350 owner never has a need to quickly accelerate out of one of these situations.
  • wwest all I can say is-WHAT? I think you love to have the appeal of you knowing it all LOL! I'm sure half of the people that get on here to read this blog don't understand half of the things you just said. :P
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Hey, all I can do is try...

    It helps, encourages me, that I own an '01 AWD RX300.
  • LOL!! west. That really made me smile. :) The amoung of time you took to explain/confuse us really shows how much you are in love with/hate this vehicle. I have a RX '02 model. Going to be one year since I bought it. Hope I dont face the above mentioned problem. Ofcourse I also bought the extended service plan when I purchased the vehicle. Cheers
  • nhattonnhatton Posts: 1
    Want to hear my tale of woe with my 2000 Lexus RX300? It was a Friday night of a long weekend in Southern California. I was heading downhill on the 241 toll road on my way to the 91 freeway in wall to wall traffic. My transmission went, with 96,000 miles on the odometer. I used gravity to coast my way through several lanes of traffic to the shoulder.

    I called AAA for a tow, only to be told that there were 26 people ahead of me (long weekend) and that I'd have to wait until the tow truck could get to me. I waited 4 hours on the side of the busy freeway until finally the tow truck showed up. He towed me straight to a Toyota dealership. The next day they called to inform me that I'd need a replacement transmission, and that it would be about $5,200 out the door with tax and everything.

    I paid the charge, and have put 17K miles on the new transmission in 18 months. So far so good, but I will probably sell this Lexus in another 6 months or so. Other than the transmission failing (!) it's been a good car. At close to 9 years old, it still rides very smooth and quiet on 3+ year-old Michelin tires. My wife nagged me to get a Lexus due to the reliability, so I was disappointed that my transmission blew at less than 100K. Now I feel maybe the Japanese cars aren't so much better than the US-made cars.

    We also bought a Toyota mini-van and it has had a lot of problems. It goes through front brakes every 12K, the rubber seal around the front windshield came loose and had to be replaced, the sunglasses compartment broke, etc, etc. Lots of small stuff, but still kind of annoying. Not even 50K on it yet. It's a 2005 Toyota Sienna XLE Limited.

    And I remember hearing about quality problems a year or two ago with the Toyota Tundras. So when you add all this up, I don't know that the Japanese cars are all that much better on the quality side, and the Lexus vehicles are particularly expensive to begin with.
  • hawk314ahawk314a Posts: 6
    I think this is my first time writing but had to because you won't believe this. The transmission in my 2001 RX300 went at 68k miles, luckily it was covered undered an extended warranty. Now I think the refurbished one is about to GO at 100k!! It feels like it's starting to slip and my mechanic said it sounds like the transmission. :( I am so ready to cry and go postal on Lexus because I know they are going to give me a hard time because it's not covered under the 1 year warranty. If they don't agree to fix it for free for putting in a bad transmission in the 1st place, then I too will not only file a complaint with the NHTSA but also the Better Business Bureau. I am definitely up for class action or at least start a petition to the Lexus headquarters.
  • hawk314ahawk314a Posts: 6
    Excellent strategy on your part. I think I will be doing the same because the rebuilt transmission I already had installed on my 01 RX300 at 68k is already acting up and I've only had it for less than 2 years. I know Lexus is going to give me a hard time because it's out of warranty but I will definitely get on the war path and do like you: cc'g BBB and my local news station and paper. Hopefully I'll get the same results as you did, at least they met you half way. Thanks.
  • rdomenicrdomenic Posts: 1
    I am just beginning to have these problems on my 1999 Lexus RX300. Here is the link to file a complaint with the NHTSA Have you taken any steps for a class action suit? I am a teacher and have off for the summer, so if you need any help let me know. I am definitely on board!!!
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