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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • I have a 2000 Lexus RX 300 and already replaced the transmission once in 2004 and I just woke up to find out its out again. I've been extra careful since the first replacement in every way (such as making sure I come to a full stop after reversing from my parking spot before I put it into gear to go forward.) Im sure there are more than enough cases for a class action. Most of us either dont know how to go about that or wont initiate it even if we do because of how tedious it seems to be. I am just posting my double case for someone else to read in hopes that a class action gets started somehow... somewhere.
  • Please EVERYONE report your failures here:

    Just press "search selected type" button.

    the failure will be listed under "Powertrain: Automatic Transmission"

    It is the closest thing we can collectively do to get closer to a class action until someone picks up the ball.
  • More direct link :

    then press "continue with complaint"
  • The transmission in my 1999 Lexus RX 300 went out on 12/29/08 in rush hour traffic. I was in shock as I watched AAA load my so called dependable car on the back of the wrecker. I was later disturbed to learn that this is an existing issue and that the Toyota Motor Compay, USA (the parent company of Lexus) had not taken the ethical corporate responsibility and recalled the vehicle. The dealership offered to pay 15% of the $4600 and told me to contact the Lexus Customer Support for any further discounting. I contacted Lexus Customer Support and was told that they could "do another 10%" and that they were not obligated to pay for the repairs because the vehicle was not under warrantly. I am livid. I purchased a Lexus because of the reputation of dependability and am now in shock because it appears that the 1999 Lexus that I have is a lemon. I will never purchase another Lexus and will advise eveyone I come into contact with to never to as well. I used to have a freaking Geo Prism that I drove for over 12 years and had over 260K miles on it and NEVEr had a transmission problem. Are you telling me that a prism is more reliable than a Lexus. I plan to send an official complaint to Toyota and I am also going to complain with the NHTSA.
  • avery1avery1 Posts: 373
    Let us know if you can get more than 25% contributed.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    It appears to me that somewhere mid-stream of the 2000 MY a major transaxle changeover, revision, was made.

    The '99 and early '00 RX300 models appear to have a transaxle design flaw that results in premature transaxle failures in as little as 70-80,000 miles. Insofar as I have been able to learn Lexus has NEVER addressed the problem of the design flaw for these MY's. Only offering, sometimes, to partially compensate owners for repair costs.

    If the 2000 RX300 you have purchased has the towing package that will be something/somewhat of a good indication that it is one of the late 2000 model year RX300's.

    Once Lexus discovered, came to realize, the nature of the design flaw the corrective action/FIX appears to have been to change the transaxle's firmware so the line control hydraulic pressure is always kept up to a higher pressure level than the original design specifications called for. That resulted, of course, in more heating of the ATF than was expected with the original design pressure and so most, if not all, future vehicles were shipped with the optional (NOT..!!) tow package which included the auxiliary external ATF cooling.

    It appears that this technique, "patchwork" fix, continued up until DBW, E-throttle was adopted for the RX330 series. DBW could be, was used, to delay the onset of engine torque when a transaxle gear change was required and ATF line pressure was not sufficient. DBW was used to "enforce" a delay in the onset of raising engine torque long enough for the line pressure to be pumped up to an acceptable level for fully and firmly seating the clutches for the upcoming gear change.
  • mnfmnf Spokane WaPosts: 405
    Your correct no one car company is PERFECT including Toyota with Transmissions in Lexus and Engine sludge in early 2000 on many of Toyotas. Subarus had head gasket issues in the 1998-2001 and even Honda with major issues with Transmissions in the 1998-2002 Accords. Then America cars well not enough space to put all of them down

  • I have a 1999 RX 300 as well and found out this morning that the transmissionn is gone. My dealer has quoted me $5k-6k to fix it and I will see if I can convince them to give me any discounts. Just like all of you on this board, I am furious and very unhappy with the company that promises the "Pursuit of Excellence".

    In terms of the class action lawsuits, I will be very happy to participate/help with that, but I have the following questions:

    1) We would clearly want to work with a company with a stellar record on class action lawsuits. How do we know which is the right company?

    2) Can the people who initiate a lawsuit of this kind get into any kind of trouble for doing so?

    3) Are these suits filed directly with hundreds (or maybe thousands) of people to start, or do they have a handful of primary plaintiffs and then the rest just tag on to that?
  • What dealer did you go to - in what part of the country?

    I have tried talking to the dealers in the bay area, CA and none of them want to take off a dollar of the price that they quote. They say we should talk to Lexus if we want any discounts..
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706

    3500-4000 dollars is more typical.
  • i cannot not believe all the money and whining people are putting out over this trans in the rx300 and not reporting it to nhtsa..everyone needs to take 5 min and report this .if they get enough reports they will make lexus fix it and even compensate past expences of owners that have been out all this money,come on folks wake up.
    link below. -
  • My 2000 rx 300 trans failed with 120000 miles,Took car to dealership $4300 dollors to replace.Luxus ofterd 25% off.Talked with other mechanancs, everyone knows about this problem.Ended up taking it to a trans shop $2500 later works great.My car will never see a luxus dealership again.I have lost all faith in luxus and will tell all rx 300 owners about this problem and tell them to call customer service at 800 255 3987.
  • To follow up on my problem I had reported earlier (1999 RX transmission dead at 101,000 miles), I talked to all the Lexus dealerships around my area, and the cheapest one I could find wanted $4500. I called Lexus and they (in my opinion) were very good about it - my cost $2500. I am happy to have had it fixed by the Lexus dealership as it should not be worse (if not better) than the job by other transmission shops and also fixing it from Lexus will carry some weight when I try and sell this vehicle a few years from now.
  • First time user at Great info sight.
    I am looking at buying a 2000 RX300 with 93k.
    I notice a lot of the trany comments are coming from the California area.
    I'm in the Northwest.
    Is the outdoor temperature the biggest factor in the trany failure rate?
    Can one install an after market tow package oil cooler to extend the life of the trany?
    Any info or help would be appreciated.
    Thank you
  • My honest advice - don't buy it! I doubt that the weather plays a big factor. You have a choice of buying whatever vehicle you want - so why buy something that may break down within a year and cost you $5000! IMHO..
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Warm weather idling is one of many factors that contributed to a weak original transmission design. The best situation: if you get one with an updated Lexus-replaced transmission, a good warrantee, or enough $ room if it needs one.

    Many of the original transmissions were not reliable after about 60-70,000 miles. The ones that were trouble-prone tended to have a few issues with them, and have been generally low-mileage (higher mileage crappy trannys tended to have been replaced during the long original warrantee). The bad ones usually show symptoms and/or burned fluid indicating internal wear and tear. Others go far longer, hundreds of thousands.

    If you're looking at one with burned fluid consider passing on it, or expect a bargain needing a replacement tranny. So if that's the reason you want to add a cooler, it's not likely to help a lot. However, YES you can add more cooling. I added an additional cooler after Lexus replaced my transmission under warrantee. The added cooler was cheap insurance, and easy to install. Most likely the model you're looking at has the factory external cooler in the RF fender, behind the windshield washer bottle which was included in the tow package nearly all came with. It's ducted but there's no fan, so that factory cooler is only effective when the car's moving at a good clip, another drawback affecting those that idle a lot. The tranny replacement I got was a brand new updated tranny from Lexus, all expenses paid. This was a very common occurance for higher-mileage, especially early 1999's. This new one (2004) shifts flawlessly, reliably, and it does not burn fluid the way the original did. Compared to the original transmission, I expect the replacement to last a long time.

    Also I recommend a "search" in RX300. There are lots of posts with common questions. One I found is link title. But there are lots of good posts. It's a great question.

    Honestly, RX300's weren't perfect, but what nine year old car with the utility and convenience this little car has, is? I think if you're looking at a good one and you're a careful shopper, it is possible you'll find the car comfortable, safe, full of everyday convenience in a smart size, as well as reliable.

    Post up questions that come up with some details. There are bound to be some. Good luck.
  • I have a 2000 RX300. I am at 80,000 miles. I started having problems when putting my vehicle in reverse. Dealership is telling me that it might be the transmission. What am i expected to pay if so? I dont want to be cheated out of my hard earned money. I take good care of my vehicle and dont see it being the trans. Is it really going to be above 5k?
  • Just paid 4K on a Lexus reman. tranny on a 125K 2001 RX (at a Lexus dealer). Seems there are a whole lot of RX tranny problems. Just read this site.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    RX series design change, resulting failures, and fixes (non-fixes actually).

    When the ATF accumulator was dropped from the Camry transaxle design to make room for building a more robust transaxle for the soon to be released to production RX300 they obviously didn't foresee the problem associated with a need for a downshift for re-acceleration immediately following an upshift resulting from a throttle lift.

    So the '99 and '01 RXes, at least the earlier '01's, had premature failures, most likely clutch failures, due to the lack of sufficient ATF pressure when the firmware commanded a downshift for re-acceleration.

    My guess is that by about mid-production of the '01 model the mistake/oversight was discovered and the only quick and easy "fix" was to modify the firmware so that the "real-time" "bottom level" control of ATF line pressure was substantially increased.

    While this would result in more line pressure being available for that "unexpected" downshift it would also result in substantially more heating of the ATF then had been planned. As a result almost all, if not actually all, 01-03 RX300's were shipped with the towing package which just happened to include an external ATF cooler.

    But since the actual heating was restricted to a local area, the ATF pump and "real-time" pressure relief valve, the extra ATF cooling was not of great help. My '01 had ATF that was quite burned and odorous at only 40,000 miles.

    When the RX330 (Camry, HL, ES300, Sienna...) rolled off the production line with DBW the transaxle failure problem was finally SOLVED.

    Except the customers did not much care for sometimes having to wait 1-2 seconds after gas pedal depression for GO....

    The 2010 RX350 now has new firmware to help with the reluctance to GO...
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I have a hard time imagining that it's not the transmission if you're having problems with reverse. This same question has been coming up a lot lately, so check out the "search" function on this site for more details. There is lots of information. If your car is otherwise in good shape and worth fixing, you're at an advantage that you're getting some advance warning before something breaks internally or clogs and it fails on the spot.

    Since you didn't notice a problem with it until you're long passed the long mfr warrantee, likely you (the owner) are responsible for the cost. But Lexus has been providing other owners with partial loyalty (goodwill) discounts on out-of-warrantee transmission work done by them for established customers or to earn your business. I don't believe they are under any obligation if you had nine years/80,000 miles of use, but I could be wrong. But I also believe if you have an established relationship with the Lexus dealer and you ask, they will try to work with you on a Lexus transmission, especially if you show you asked them to perform preventive service on the transmission which likely was in addition to the manufacturers suggestion.

    You may want to share some of your experiences on this site. For instance, how the dealer tries to work with you, how brown/burned is your transmission fluid, how long ago it was last changed, etc. Good luck, and let us know the details.
  • bgr1bgr1 Posts: 2
    I have a 2000 RX300, i am the original owner and have always had it serviced as supposed to. It has 77k miles.

    As i was driving near my home my car just stopped and would not go into any gear. I just had it in a lexus dealership for a quote on the knock sensor two weeks prior.

    I have mentioned several times to this dealer and a dealer in another state that the transmission seemed to slip periodically (about 6 times) over the last 2 years while going into reverse. And now i see these posts and am furious. They all acted like they had no idea why it would be doing this and did not even recommend i have the transmission looked at.

    I see what seems like lots of folks getting help from Lexus and from the dealerships in offsetting the cost of the new transmission. Has anyone been refused assistance?

    Does anyone know of any OTHER shops in milwaukee area that will give me a more reasonable quote should i decide not to spend time fighting with Lexus?

  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    If it was me, I would stick with dealing with a Lexus dealer on this issue, even if you get better results by going to a different Lexus dealer. I would recommend remaining calm and polite, yet firm. I would show the Lexus rep that you've been requesting assistance with the transmission all along and that the response you recieved was to wait for it to suffer a common failure. Lexus had issued many TSB (technical service bulletins) on this issue.

    "Normal" service does not include the transmission until failure, as you've undoubtedly read or found out by now.

    I'm not the biggest advocate of any brand's dealer service. However, in your case I'd stick with Lexus on this issue because it's likely they will help you if they feel it's in the interest of continued customer loyalty. Also, the transmissions sourced from Lexus are more likely to have updated hardware (better than original) than one sourced from a third-party transmission shop that was rebuilt with aftermarket parts. I'm guessing you don't want to spend a few thousand dollars and risk having the same trouble again in a couple years. My new Lexus transmission is great, after having it replaced under warrantee. And the new one does not show wear in the fluid (burning color & smell) like the original did. I expect the replacement to be much more durable.

    Please report back and let others know how you were treated and how it worked out. Hopefully, Lexus will agree to pick up the tab for a good percentage, bringing your cost into reason. Good luck.
  • usdscubausdscuba Posts: 2
    Lexus RX300 4WD purchased new, dealer serviced. Right after being serviced at dealer for 80K service the transmission failed, totally. Our family has owned 100 assorted cars and trucks over the last 50 years, 5 Lexus, and never had to replace a transmission before. It is bad enough that Lexus dealer charges $400.00 for a replacement HID head light bulb, but $5,500.00 for a transmission seems crazy, and typical. My 100K Lexus extended warranty would not cover it. The Lexus RX transmission is a defective product! Study all the thousands of Toyota transmission failure reports out there, these should be replaced at no charge, or a class action lawsuit started. Another unhappy Lexus owner stuck with two 2001 RX300's doomed to sit on the side of the road and strand the owner.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...Lexus extended warranty would not cover...."


    What excuse was given for THAT...??
  • I was a bit surprised too when I read that statement. I have '02 RX300 with around 85K miles on it and in the middle of 100K extended warranty.

    When I purchased the warranty, there were two kinds of warranty. One regular warranty and other full warranty, obviously expensive than the first one. I opted for the second (full). Hope the above statement refers to the regular warranty. If not, I will have to double-check with my dealer who said everything is covered (except battery, etc).

    Please check once again what kind of warranty you have!!
  • usdscubausdscuba Posts: 2
    I have owned 5 new Lexus vehicles including two 2001 RX300 models, and all were well maintained at the local Lexus dealership. However, the RX300 seems to be problem prone. This was purchased new with an extended 100,000 warranty and right after the 83,000 mile service at the Lexus dealer a serious transmission problem developed, making the vehicle unusable. While these type of problems might be expected with a KIA or Chevy, I would assume that a serious drive train problem would be extremely rare for a Toyota product that has always been professionally cared for with expensive dealer service. This is the 2nd time the transmission has been an issue. The first defect being caused by a defect in a critical motor / transmission gasket seal.
    I am extremely unhappy with the fact this was not discovered during the road test, and that Lexus will not warranty or support the defective transmission product. Chronic and expensive transmission problems represent the weak link with Lexus RX vehicles. I have lost faith and piece of mind in both the product and Lexus customer support structure which offers nothing to the owner. I am now ready to join the Lexus class action lawsuit.
  • To usdscuba

    You mentioned that your vehicle was under extended warranty. Did the warranty cover the transmission problem you are talking about?

  • accproaccpro Posts: 4
    I had a 2000 Lexus RX300 module, recently I just got rid of it, because this was the second time that the transmission failed on me. The first time when the transmission failed, I was driving the vehicle on the highway, and I felt some thing wrong with the car, so I exited the highway, suddenly the car stopped on me when I was exiting the ramp. This would have caused a big chain accident if I was continue driving the car on the highway at that moment.

    I suggest all the year 2000 Lexus RX300 owner, carefully check your transmissions with your mechanic. Do not drive on the higway unless you are sure there is no problem with your transmission.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    It appears to me that the '99 & '00 RX300s have the highest rate of premature transaxle failures. Also, and many posters seem to be of the opinion that the F/awd versions have an even higher failure rate.

    I just discovered that the F/awd VC, Viscous Clutch/coupling is different for the '99 & '00 RX300 vs the '01 and later RX300s. The '01 F/awd was the first year TC/VSC was adopted so it makes some sense engineering wise that the '01 and later VCs would/could be made less functional.

    That would mean the earlier versions would have had a more robust, quickly acting, VC, and that would of course put more stress on the drivetrain overall.

    While I still remain of the firm belief that the ATF pump motor revision was/is the primary causative factor in these premature transaxle failures it now seems clear to me that the F/awd with the more "solid" VC could be a contributing factor.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    I think I understand where you're going with this. It's something to consider. I don't have any accurate stats to prove the correlation between models with a viscous coupling (AWD) and transmission failures, or failure rates in general compared to other models.

    I think it's faulty logic to assume that failure rates attributed to or contributed by extra wear from AWD can be determined by frustrated owners who post public messages. For instance, I'm the original owner of an early '99 (may '98) 2WD model (no extra drag from a viscous coupling, etc.), and it had transmission troubles right out of the box. There were TSB's from the factory that prescribed replacement of faulty valve bodies on 2WD models right away, under warrantee, but the dealer postponed doing anything about the problem until the transmission needed replacement under warrantee. But my friend has a couple hundred thousand miles (LA commuter miles) on his 2000 AWD, without any problems. However, my example is not statistically valid. There may very well be more AWD failures than 2WD, but that's statistically to be expected because there were a lot more RX's sold with AWD. Also, owners with no experience of early failure, or satisfied with replacement under the original long warrantee understandably don't seem to post a lot of messages about their experience, which separates their data from the samples.

    Many (not all) of the messages I've seen posted (not including Mr. West's) take on an understandably angry complaining tone, but don't give details useful to others, except condone the ownership of any vehicle made by the same manufacturer. Not only are those messages not statistically valid at all, but they don't do the poster or readers any justice. The posts from owners who are coping with failures that provide useful details, such as when the TRANSMISSION was specifically serviced (not part of regular service), how transmission service was performed, the way the RX was used, the service department experience, etc. provide helpful information to share with other owners. I'm also curious to know failure rates compared with other competing models.

    I expect many of us bought an RX expecting above average reliability. However almost all models these days seem to have some achilles heel. It would be interesting, and useful, to compare failure stats to other models as well.

    I look forward to posts from owners who can provide information useful to others, including specifics.
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