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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • swatson19dswatson19d Posts: 20
    It looks like I joined the club.... My wife's 1999 RX300 just left her stranded, and my local mechanic says it had a "catastrophic failure". He quoted me $4700 for a rebuilt unit with a 3 yr/100k warranty. The car has 136k miles on it, so I guess I should be happy for going this far on the original trans!!!
    Does anyone know of a good Trans repair shop in the So Cal area? Not that I don't trust my local guy, but if there is a shop that specializes in RX300s, I'd give them a look.....
    One thing's a given - Once it's fixed, I'm selling it!!! So much for Lexus/Toyota reliability..... I filed a complaint as well at the NHTSA link in foxy2319's post above, but I doubt anything will come of it..... Thanks to all for the info.
  • hawk314ahawk314a Posts: 6
    Actually that warranty doesn't sound bad. I had mine done at 68k at the dealer because it was still under warranty, and they only guaranteed it for a year. Can you believe that?! I just reached 100k. Knock on wood. I'm thinking of getting rid of mine as well because the RX has so many sensors that just one alone cost you about $500. I hate a car note but the cost to maintain this car is almost not worth keeping it.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I too had my '99 RX's transmission replaced at 69k by the dealer under warrantee, back in 2003. They replaced it with a new modern unit from Lexus, after trying the two rebuilt units in stock and finding shift and quality issues. The brand new trans/updated software has been performing flawlessly, and has not been overheating or beating up the fluid the way the original transmission did, and shifts are right on "enthusiastic"; there is no delay at all. I also added increased cooling for the transmission as extra insurance, and increased the fluid change interval to every year or so.

    So I hope this one lasts a long time (it seems like it will), but I'm bored with the car's benign handling and the fuel economy, while good for a vehicle of it's type, is not what I need now. It comes down to this: The car is worth more to me than it is to sell, and other than the transmission (covered by Lexus) and a couple minor things has been very reliable and feature-rich.

    I hope SWatson you can call around and find a better price, perhaps at a Lexus or Toyota dealer if they know you're shopping. It seems the price varies depending on perceived value. They may tow it for you, too. A 3 year warrantee is longer, but it shouldn't make a difference if you can ensure the new one is better built than the original (a more modern design).
  • pepps1pepps1 Posts: 1
    Only 10 days after having the suggested manufacturer 85,000 mi routine service, my RX 300 Transmission sputtered to a stop on the side of a busy interstate.

    I have maintained this car according to the owner's manual and cannot believe this happened.
    I drove a Volkswagen and a BMW for 20 years and had 100,000 mi on each and never, never had to replace anything but the brakes.

    I have contacted Lexus only to have many empty promises that they would look into it.

    I have recently read some blogs of other unfortunate Lexus owners that have also suffered this very expensive repair with no hint as to why.

    Has anyone had any success in dealing with Lexus in having them step-up-to-the-plate and make things right?

    If there is a class action suit out there, please count me in!
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    It's worth a try on a class-action suit, but might be an uphill battle with 85,000 miles of use.

    Unfortunately, routine service does not mean any transmission service at all. How's that for "service"? Dealers may be quick to point you to their expensive service "packages" but I've never seen those include actually servicing the transmission and inspecting the pan (before or after the long Lexus warrantee expires).

    I've always thought low-mileage use is "severe" but for some reason (profit?) some dealers don't tell you that you should add frequent tranny service, and you find out when it's too late. Servicing the transmission often may or may not help, but you might find out before it's too late, and in most cases before the Lexus warrantee expires.

    I've learned it's a good idea to specify what you want serviced (see the owners manual and apply your good sense) rather than routine service packages, and this is a very common concern.

    Please keep us posted how things are going.
  • I was on Lexus after several people told me to contact them and complain-I sent them a certified letter AND my husband called them on a daily basis LOL! I'm sure they were sick of us. They paid for my towing charge to the Lexus dealership and then they only paid for half of the cost of the transmission and we had to pay full cost of labor. It still cost us $$$$, but I was better then a big fat goose egg.
  • toy188toy188 Posts: 2
    Hi gjl24,

    What was the reply from Lexus to your transmission problem? My RX300 2001 went out two days ago when it reached 77,450 miles. I wan to contact Lexus. What would you suggest in my complaint when I call Lexus?
  • gjl24gjl24 Posts: 5
    Hi Toy188,

    I called Lexus customer service to report the problem. They took down my information and said they would return my call. I kept calling them approximately every other day. They finally called back to say that they would not repair the problem and I asked them to send my case to review by a supervisor, which they did. Once the supervisor reviewed the case they agreed to pay for the transmission but not the labor. I tried to get them to pay for the labor or discount it which they did not, but I was satisfied that they at least paid for the cost of the part which was approximately $2800. When you call the customer service group be sure to let them know that you are aware that there is a major problem with the model year, mention that you have seen the information on blogs and that it is a very dangerous problem which could have resulted in serious bodily injury to your self and whomever else was in the car when the transmission failed. I was very nice when I kept calling but I was persistent. This took approximatly four weeks to get resolved, because if they agree to repair it, this will be considered a goodwill gesture. They will probably cover the entire cost of your repair since you car is low mileage. Since I purchased my car at a Lexus dealearship and had it exclusively serviced there those were two things I had on my side, and since my car was towed to Lexus after the problem it made them more agreeable to providing compensation in the form of a part for the repair. The trick with them is to be persistant and to not take no for an answer and to cite that this is a serious problem. Also, even though this took four weeks to resolve, if your car is at a Lexus dealership for service they will provide you with a loaner car while your case is in review and you are trying to decide how you want to proceed. I mention this because most people will end up giving up and paying for the repair instead of being without a car for a month. Please let me know if I can offer any more assistance and how things turn out for you.
  • wimedalowimedalo Posts: 3
    Thanks for your enlightening reply of 6/25 re: RX300 trans.

    I just bought a 99 this week, took it for a trip downstate (Mi), had some problems up shifting into OD after stopping @ rest area. Switching to POWER allowed me to rev it up high enough at a reasonable speed to allow it to shift, then I switched back to normal setting.

    I also thought it might be a problem involving the shift triggering impulse (you called it the ECU).

    If the burnt trans is a symptom of a bigger problem, I may change the trans oil to limp it along until I can ditch it.

    I was very impressed with your historical narrative of this issue. Are you aware of any progress in getting Toyota to "own up" to this problem? I would like to keep this (nice) car if I thought it would be dependable, but I'll probably get rid of it.

    I hate to just pass it off on an unsuspecting guy without trying to help the other poor souls who trusted (will trust) this mfgr and got (will get) burned.

    This kind of irresponsible dishonesty is extremely distasteful to me and I will file a complaint with the appropriate athorities, but believe the mfgr must be held to account for this obvious breech of integrity and disregard for the safety of those who trust their marketing rhetoric
  • wimedalowimedalo Posts: 3
    Who knows the best person to contact in the Lexus Customer service hierarchy to get an adjustment on a transmission that is starting to fail?

    Please advise.

  • gjl24gjl24 Posts: 5
    There is no one in particular that you can contact. You will be assigned to a customer service representative based on your location. They organize by region. Once you speak with a customer service associate if they deny your request for a goodwill gesture you will need to keep escalating the issue until you have exhausted all possible avenues. They will usually provide some form of compensation once you reach level three escalation. Please let me know if this information helps and how things turn out for you. Good luck.
  • wimedalowimedalo Posts: 3
    Hey- gil24,

    You said you spoke with a couple different people in Lexus corp, where do you suggest I start to seek an adjustment on a failing tranny in a 99 RX300 AWD? It hasn't actually failed just yet, it is not consistently going into overdrive.
    I don't remember reading about this specific type of problem, do you?

    I am very concerned about the car's reliability now and have major reservations about trusting my wife in this car in the harsh Northern Michigan winters. I want to get the car fixed before it totally fails if I can, got any ideas?

    Will changing the (lightly toasted) transmission oil improve its shifting reliability? Are there any (magic) additives I could put in with the oil to improve it's operation?

    Just wondering,


  • I have a 2000 RX300 with about 95000 miles. The transmission went out about 20 miles from the closest dealer Lexus of Riverside, CA. They informed me that the cost would be approximately $4000 (which I agreed to pay as it was out of warrenty) and they gave us a 2007 RX loaner. Two days later the service rep called and said Lexus had agreed to pay for the transmission but not the labor. The new total was about $1400. I never requested the dealer to ask Lexus to cover any of the cost of repair but they stepped up. About two weeks later, I noticed that the transmission was slipping and took the car to Falk Lexus Beverly Hills CA. A new transmission (rebuild??) was installed at no cost to me. All in all, I'm satisfied with my treatment.
  • sallyksallyk Posts: 9
    I was also fortunate enough to have a similar experience, a positive one. I'd written in this forum a few months back about how I purchased a "new to me" RX300 (2000) with 100K miles on it. The dealership had the vehicle warmed up for me when I test drove it but when I started it up at home and I accelerated out of my driveway to a 55 mph road, there was a distinct hesitation. They initially "serviced" it but since that didn't help, they replaced it with a rebuilt transmission at no cost to me. Lexus paid for half and the dealership paid for half. This was much appreciated especially since I purchased the vehicle "as is". I am very fortunate to have this Lexus dealership in my area. Thanks Lexus of Brookfield.
  • Both you and catalinajerry were very lucky. My 2001 RX300 transmission went at 68-70k(?) and luckily it was still covered under warranty. I think Lexus is getting the message especially if people don't stop complaining. I don't doubt that they have someone monitoring these message boards and fear a class action lawsuit.
  • I am very angry that my 2002 RX300's transmission just went yesterday it has 89,000 miles on it. It's at a transmission shop at the moment, just waiting to be fixed. I was quoted $3,000, after finding this website I'd decided to contact Lexus. I called corporate after being referred to them by the dealer, they gave me a case number and was told one of their representatives would be contacting me sometime next week. Meanwhile, the man from corporate told me that they could not give me any solid answers until I had it towed to one of their dealerships. They cannot even give me a guarantee until they look at it that I would get reimbursements for any costs associated with this. I will be going right to the dealer to see what they can do about this and if I would be getting a loaner. If I have to pay full price and it costs somewhat close to the $3,000 I was quoted I will allow them to do the work. Does anyone have any other suggestions. If I do not get a satisfactory result I will be filing a class action lawsuit and the more people we can get on this the better.
  • gjl24gjl24 Posts: 5
    You should probably go ahead and have the car towed to the Lexus dealership. You have low mileage and Lexus will probalby provide you with at the very least the transmisson part. They may end up making you cover some part of the cost for the labor. Contact the customer service center with Lexus and if you do not receive a suitable response escalate your case to a higher level. At level three escalation they will provie you with some form of compensation in the form of a transmission or a repair. They will provide you wil a loaner car during the time you are working through the process. It will probably take two-three weeks to get the issue resolved. Good luck to you and let us all know how this is resolved. There are so many of us owners who have had the same experience and any information that we can share with one another goes a long way.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 373
    I am getting nervous reading these posts. I have a '99 RX with 151,000 miles. No problems so far but I am thinking of ways to baby the transmission. While driving down hills I usually use the transmission for braking. I realize I will always need to do this on long declines so that I don't overheat the brakes but on short hills of a mile or less do you folks think it would save wear and tear on the transmission to just use the brakes? I realize I will need to replace the brakes more often but that sure beats $4000.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347

    I do the same thing. I find automatics that are underdesigned and don't allow for manual shifting very annoying. I'm used to manuals and motorcycles, and would rather have a little more control, myself.

    A transmission guy told me to be careful with the downshift into second gear (2) for cornering and braking. But I still shift into "2" when necessary or when it's already in second to hold the gear it's in before it has a chance to upshift into third.

    The uphill under-load manual downshift from OD (4) into third before it automatically occurs is apparently helpful to avoid transmission wear, to avoid the automatic shift when pump pressure is low.

    If you have your tranny serviced (pan dropped checking for debris, new filter, gasket, and type IV fluid) at least every two years (even though it's not a requirement in the manual), don't do a lot of extended idling and low-speed maneuvers and haven't had any problems, my guess is you're OK. Not all the original transmissions were bad. My friend has a couple hundred thousand miles on his 2000 4WD, and it does not beat the fluid the way my early '99 2WD did before the tranny was replaced.

    Let us know how it goes.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I live and drive ( a lot) here in the east Seattle area, with occassional trips to MT, etc, and I have NEVER had reason to use downshifting for slowing/retarding my speed on downhill drives. Back years ago with out '78 Ford wagon I did have brake overheating coming down off of a ski trip outside of Wenatchee, but took the time to stop for awhile to let the brakes cool down.

    Everyone should know that downshifting ANY FWD or F/AWD vehicle for braking purposes is potentially DANGEROUS. I suspect it is to that end that transaxles are intentially designed (programmed, really) to provide a lower level of engine compression braking than their RWD and R/AWD counterparts.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 373
    To be a little more specific my '99 is AWD and I'm thinking of one very steep hill that is 3/4 of a mile long. I go down it 3 times a week. I put it into Low and still have to use the brakes some as the revs get up to 3000 or more. I could just keep it in Drive and use the brakes if you all think that would make any difference.

    I will go ahead and have them drop the pan next service. I have been rather particular about only doing what is in the manual but this looks like an exception.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Since the '99 RX300 transaxles appear to be subject to premature failures I would not "push" the issue via engine braking.
  • I purchased a 1999 Lexus RX300 at a very resonable price. The price was to reflect the price of replacing the transmission. To make this a short story I will say that there is some bad information about the amount of fluid to put in the transmission after a filter change. It seems that the correct way to check the fluid level is to first warm the car up by running the engine until the coolant temperature has been up to normal for at least 5 minutes. Then, with the brakes applied, move the transmission into each selector location for about 3 seconds and then back to park. That is to put the selector into L, then 2, then D, then N, then R, for three seconds each. Now return the selector back to P and with the engine still running get out and check the fluid level. Look at the front and back of the transmission dip stick in order to get an accurate reading. I have read so many of these messages which seem to say that the trouble started shortly after the car was serviced. The book I used said to fill with 4 quarts and the same book said to check the fluid just like I have stated. When I checked the fluid this way the transmission needed about 6 quarts to bring the level to the full location on the dip stick. This method of checking can be done by most anyone. Maybe the fluid level should be checked at home to make sure that the garage is putting in the correct amount of fluid after service. If you decide to add more fluid, the book also calls for a type four fluid. This may only work on my vehicle but it doesn't take very much time and effort to check the fluid level for yourself. The transmission was slipping very badly when I got the car. I changed the fluid, filter, and added 1 can of Lucas transmission additive and have just returned from a 1150 mile trip across the mountains and the transmission worked flawlessly. Good Luck
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347

    You make valid points. My '99 2WD took more fluid than the owners manual shows. A lot more. I was trying to be careful not to overfill it (which would have been even worse), and was surprised how much more it took after my second trip to get more from the parts dept. Finally, I went over to the service dept. at the Toyota dealer to have them double-check that I didn't overfill it regardless of the dipstick, and they were sure it did take more, and topped it off for me free.

    Maybe some do hold more than others. Mine with an extra cooler was nearly 7 quarts without dropping the pan, and that's not 4WD.

    Also your point about the type of fluid is important. Many times Type IV fluid is not in stock at an independent shop. When (if) they order the quantity specified in the service manual and run short, they start adding Dextron III. I cringed when I saw this done to me. Make sure you have enough. It's a good idea to have a few spare quarts on hand, even if you have a qualified shop do the work. That way you can say "I have more if it takes more than you have on hand".

    As for the additive, please let us know how that works out. I like Lucas brand stuff, but hesitate to put anything in the tranny but type IV.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    On my '01 AWD RX300 when I did a simple drain I did not at first know that the diff'l must be drained along with the transaxle itself. The second time I drained the diff'l also and it took 5 quarts to refill.

    With a simple "gravity" drain, including the diff'l, I am of the belief that if you put in more than 5 quarts of ATF something is very seriously WRONG.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    For something to be seriously wrong, the extra fluid would have to be going somewhere where it's not supposed to or causing foaming or other overfilling problems.

    Lexus made many "updates" to the original design each year. They also replaced some under warrantee with newer designs. Apparently, some just have larger capacities than others (and the owners manual). Mine like many others does not have the original transmission, and even takes a different filter than the manual calls for (original used a filter screen). I don't know that is what accounts for the difference, since I'm not qualified to say. The extra added cooler and lines could only add a few extra ounces, less than a pint at the most; it's the thin stacked-plate design. And there has not been any foaming or other signs of overfilling.

    The point of the original post was that some may be underfilled (causing problems first mimicking, then leading to failure) when adding only what the manual calls for and not checking it again to make sure it's right, and that's definately been my experience, too. But sure, be careful not to overfill it. That can be pretty bad, too.

    I hope Bou got a great deal on the car, and it continues to perform well. I'll be curious to hear back about it.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347

    Firstly, you may not have the original transmission. I was led to believe the '99 models had a filter screen and not an actual filter, unless the tranny was replaced with what they called an "updated design". That may account for the extra fluid capacity. And that's how my car is now.

    Secondly and most important for this group, I'm curious what you found when you changed the filter. Was there much debris in the pan? Was the filter filled with worn material, or was it clean?

    Good luck with your "new" car! :D
  • I will answer a couple of the questions raised. The part that I used was titled "oil strainer assembly" Toyota pt.# 35330-06010. None of the local parts stores could match what I had and I must say that it seems like better quality. Next, I did find considerable (maybe one-half teaspoon) metal filings on the three magnets in the fluid pan and the fluid had a burned smell to it. The fluid was slightly dark and the old strainer was dark (unclean) but no debris in it. Again, as stated by one of the responders to my message, I was only trying to make people aware that there seems to be some erroneous information about how much fluid should be in the unit. I am going to change my fluid and strainer again at about 2500 miles and see what the inside looks then. As for the Lucas additive, I have had good luck with their fuel additive and this was recommended by two "professionals". Thanks
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    According to the owners manual my '01 AWD RX300 w/towing package does not require any ATF service for the life of the vehicle. Luckily I always check the ATF level and condition at each and every oil change and at only 40,000 miles my ATF smelled burned and was dark brown, murky, in color.

    The second time (42,000 miles, the first drain/refill did not clear things up) I drained the ATF I also dropped the pan. The "filter" screen was quite clean and the three magnets had some small amount of metal filings but not enough to worry me. The bottom of the pan was covered with about 1/8" of fine power which looked much like ground up pencil lead.

    Now above 70,000 miles and the ATF still looks and smells reasonably new.
  • jbetzjbetz Posts: 1
    I bought a 2001 RX 300 from Carmax 30 months ago. The car had about 110,000 miles on it. I have put another 19000 miles on the car. Two weeks ago the transmission went out and a Lexus car dealer wants $6000 to repair it. I have been in contact with Lexus Corp. about this and they have pretty much been non-responsive. Last week they said they would pay 25% of the repair bill. Ever since I owned the car I have had it serviced at a Lexus dealer. I don't feel the transmission should have gone out. I feel Lexus has a problem with the transmissions on these cars and should fix or recall the cars at no charge. All the maintenance had been done to my car as required by the manual. My question is this. Should I get the transmission repaired if I have to pay for it? The service manager at the Lexus dealer said my car was too old and had too many miles. Is this true? Are Lexus cars only good for 130000 miles?
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