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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?

tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
There has been some discussion regarding transmission problems (hesitation) with the 2002 ES 300. Does this problem also exist in the 2003 ES 300? What is Lexus doing about it?


  • richm4richm4 Posts: 169
    I haven't heard of anyone saying the trans problem has ever been fixed. For one last time, I'm going to try test driving an ES300 this weekend to see if the trans problem still exists. If I don't notice a problem I may finally relent and buy the ES300. If the problem is still there, I'll probably give up and go buy the Accord instead.
  • tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
    Let me know your impressions after you drive the ES300.
  • tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
    Hard to beleive that a company like Lexus would
    not take positive action on the trans...
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    My 02 has what has been described as a "lean mixture stumble". Most noticable around 40mph, less noticable but still noticable at most other speeds. Lexus Customer Hotline says it is a lean mixture, originally to improve emissions, and a fix is due around July. My 3rd Lexus(and probably last) and I am upset that they would release a model and take so long to fix it. The stumble is very annoying.
  • tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
    I do not blame you for being annoyed. I am surprised they have not responded more quickly to resolve the problem. I called the service department of several different Lexus dealers to ask about the problem and they told me there is no problem in most cars. I was told that it's just a few cars and they are putting in chips to fix the problem.

    Does the 03 model have the same trans problem?

    How do you access the Lexus Customer Hotline?
  • I own a 2002 ES300. I have brought the car back three times regarding the shuddering, surging and jerking transmission problems. They finally admitted that there was a problem the third time (one year after i owned the car). But, they have not promised to fix it or do anything about it. I will never buy a Lexus again.
  • tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
    I've been looking at an ES 300 and i can tell you that Lexus continues to deny that there are concerns with any of their transmissions.

    Thanks for relating your bad experieice.

    I will profit from it....
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    The problem as I understand:
        Several ES300 owners have complained about the problem that when trying to accelerate... (highway merging or passing)... at about 50 mph...
    the transmission “confuses” on whether to stay at or go up gear (to save gas) OR down gear (for quick acceleration)

        You want to accelerate so you keep pumping on gas... but it doesn’t know what to do so no respond...(in a noticeable period) And then suddenly the car speed off…

    Question for who are having problem:
        How does your transmission problem happen ?...
        Does it happen all the time or just occasionally ?
        It's stall for how long ?... few seconds ?

        If you take it little bit easier on gas… when passing or merging
        Or if you step on gas and no respond… can you just take it easy on gas pedal… then try again... Does it still happen?

         I think the reason it suddenly speed of.... b/c it changes to low gear and your rpm is high

    My test drive:
        I planning to buy an ES 300 and did a test drive last weekend...
        While cruising at about 40-50 mph... I tried (suddenly) pump on gas... the transmission responded little slow (not as fast as my 2 doors Daytona or the Acura TL)... but I think it is OK for a 4 doors sedan...

       The car I drove is 2003 with Premium package, VSC + brake assist + traction control, HID, wood trim
  • The problem that you have described is not the worst of it. Picture this, you are coasting along at 45 mph (e.g., no acceleration at all) and the car suddenly shudders. It does not happen all the time. You will only realize it after you own it. By then its too late. Do a search in google on ES300 transmissions problems and you will see that there are quite a few of us out there. Also, read Edmunds own "full road test" review of the ES300:

    "Owners of the redesigned ES 300 have complained long and loud about the transmission. During our testing, we found when driving normally the five-speed automatic shifted imperceptibly. But when exercising the car or driving aggressively, the slushbox responded with harsh upshifts and soggy, delayed downshifts, behaving as though it were utterly confused about what the driver wanted it to do."

    This problem bothers me as well, but I could live with this one. Its the shuddering while coasting problem that I can't deal with. And again, it does not occur frequently enough during a test drive. I only noticed it after the first week after I had purchased it. What makes me really angry is that they denied the problem for so long. And after they admit there is an issue, they won't fix it. Utterly frustrating.

  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46

    Did you try to contact with high level of Lexus ?

    If they know problem and don't fix.. I think you can take some legal action with them.... (for violation of warranty agreement)

    I searched the web... some people also have the transmission problem of 2002 model... they file a complain at => category Automotive.

    I went there and want to read more information... but somehow the complain link is no longer available... (I don't know the case was dropped b/c their cars was fixed or there is some solution, settlement...etc... you may want to contact them)
  • tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
    To: es300trans

    Do you have a 2002 or 2003?

    Lexus claims the problem is fixed on the 2003.

  • 2002
  • If you know of anyone else with a similar complaint, please encourage them to register it at I did.
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    es300trans: you just file the complain ???
    or long time ago... any respond ?

    I went to and search for the complain: tml

    => "This case is no longer accepting plaintiffs"
  • daytona01:
    I just submitted my complaint based on your post #12, thanks. I was not aware of that site. The fact that there was a prior case that is no longer there at least assures me that the problem may be bigger than we all know. You found a very interesting piece of information.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    FYI. I brought my 2002 ES300 in to the dealer to fix a few rattles. They gave me a 2003 as a loaner. It also has a "lean engine stumble". Brand new car(4000 miles).I don't know if this is the trans problem you have all been discussing.The trans seems to shift fine. The car just seems to occassionally "shudder" around 40mph. Also at other speeds, but most noticable around 40.
  • Yes, this appears to be the same problem that my 2002 Lexus is having. So the shuddering is not the transmission? The lexus dealer made it sound like it was. Does your 2002 ES300 have the "lean engine stumble"? What is the "lean engine stumble"? Have you discused whether or not the "lean engine stumble" can be fixed with the dealer? Thanks wrd for your info.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    It seems that others may have a trans problem. I assume that their cars are being diagnosed correctly. I originally thought my car had a trans problem, but the tech at the dealership went for a ride with me and diagnosed it as a stumble. A problem they are aware of and can do nothing about at this time. The computer controls the mixture. I called the 800 number in the back of the owners manual to verify. The person there was aware of the problem and said they were working on a fix and it should be available by July.
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    I couldn't open the first link, but,the second seemed to deal with cold start-up/run. My 300 has the stumble even after being driven for several hours. It is especially noticable at approx. 40mph,but is noticable at higher speeds more as a vibration. It feels almost like wheel balance at 70/80 mph, but the wheel balance has been checked and rechecked.It is annoying enough that I would not be able to drive this car daily.(wifes car). I drive a LS400(my second one) and if Lexus cannot or will not fix the 300 I would be hesitant to buy another Lexus. Again, the 2003 loaner did the same thing.
  • wrd: I agree. I told the Lexus dealer that if they didn't fix the problem, this will be the first and last Lexus I will ever buy. How can I trust them?

    With regard to the shuddering/lean engine stumble, when I am coasting at about 40-45 mph. the car will shudder without any acceleration. Is this the same for you (your wifes' car)?
  • wrdwrd Posts: 40
    I have not noticed the shudder when off the gas. It seems to be during normal acceleration through the 40/45 mph range that it is the most noticable. Again, while I do drive the car on occasion, I drive it as seldom as possible. Perhaps if I drove it every day, I would notice more. I am waiting for some carpet clips now. When it goes in for that, I intend to pressure them for more explanation.
  • pkorman1pkorman1 Posts: 1
    The transmission bucks between 1800 and 2000 rpm's. It is terrible at shifting in traffic. Example, slowing down for a red light, the light turns green and you hit the gas and it bucks. It does not shift smoothly. Lexus promised a fix with the 2003 model. It does the same thing. They keep clearing the computer. It is good for maybe a day or so. SEE THE LEMON LAW!
  • wrd: sounds like two problems. i notice that when i accelerate at times, the car will stumble a bit. this must be the lean engine stumble issue. the car also shudders around 40-45 mph when not acclerating; this must be the transmission issue that i was talking to the dealer about. now i understand.
    pkorman1: i notice the bucking as well. very annoying. but, one of many annoying issues with the ES300.
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    Lexus has a slow sale for last 2 months...
    for ES: 8548 vs 10,368 .... about 20% decline compare to last year

    This month, Lexus has some kind of dealer rebate (info from to kick up sale and help clean up their over stock... and that's why we have seen a lot of ES commercial recently...

    I waited for the end of month (another tip from several people at Emunds board)... This Thursday.. I brought home an ES... for just 32K... with premium pkg ( leather & 6 CDs ) + heated seat + HID + wood trim + VSC.... (sticker 36522)...

    I'm very aware of the tranmission problem ... but so far all I have counted is about 50 owners (surely there are more) have that problem... and most are 2002 model....
    so compare that number to more than 50,000 ES sold last year.... that is about 0.1%

    I cross my finger and enjoy my beautiful Alabaster Metallic with black leather.

    I hope Lexus will soon solve the problem of their program with the tranmission...
    that will be a happy day for everybody...

    Without that problem... ES is a beatifull car, isn't it ???

    I wish you all the best

    Drive safe..
  • joker2108joker2108 Posts: 30

    is the Es330 coming out this year? If so I might wait for it.

    Anyone know what features it will have?
  • canuck13canuck13 Posts: 73
    I understand that the 04 Sienna uses the same transmission. Here is what I just posted on the Sienna site. Does this sound the same as the ES300 problems:

    I wish I had checked this site before buying my 04 Sienna. I only have about 100 miles on mine and I absolutely hate the transmission. I have it into Toyota to look at today but after reading these posts, I'm sure they are going to say it is working as designed. I've noticed 3 separate problems. First, when you go around a corner at low speed it seems like you are in neutral when you try to accerate. Second, when you are coming to a stop, occasionally, you feel like someone has bumped you from behind. Third, (like some of the posts here) when you hit the gas hard (like when trying to pass) the engine revs up to the red line but there is no power. I think this is a transmission problem, not an engine problem.
  • canuck13: Sorry to hear about your problems so early on. Seems very similar (the clunkiness and jerking). It would seem that they would fix these problems with the transmission on their new cars. I am glad I heard this from you. My wife and I were thinking about buying a AWD Sienna but two cars with the same problem is just too much for me.
  • ramza39ramza39 Posts: 23
    I have read through almost all the postings and it seems the ES300 really has transmission problem. I am going to test drive this car soon and can someone please tell me what should I do in order to "get" this problem during the test drive. Also, should I consider this car? Have they fixed the problem in 2003 cars?
  • daytona01daytona01 Posts: 46
    1. The transmission problem:
    A lot people (my count about 50) have complained:
     - Transmission responds slow (noticeable) when trying to pass (at speed 40-50 mph)
     - some people (2) also complained when cruising at 40-50 mph the car suddenly shudders...

    Current logic for the transmission probably is: try to shifting to high gear.. to save gas, and gain quiet... The car will try to study your driving pattern... and making decision
    But sometimes... the transmission confuse whether to shift to low gear for quick accelerate or high gear....

    2. My research: I’ve research for 6 months almost daily.... (I’m a computer software engineer… known a little bit about basic mechanic... I work with the internet and I read Edmunds everyday)….
     I’ve counted there are about 50 people complained about the transmission...
    - Most of them are 2002 model….
    - Few people said 2003 model have it too... but no one clearly said they owned 03 and have problem…
    - And some people said Lexus claimed their 2003 model is fixed.

    3. The risk:
        So, compare that number 50 ( there're probably more.. because people may didn't known or didn't complained on internet) to more than 50 thousands ES sold last year .... it is about 0.1%
       Thus, yes, there is clearly a chance of having transmission problem with 2002 model.
       For 2003 model… it is un-confirmed… if have, the chance I believe will be small.

       If you are afraid of the problem... you can wait until Sept for the new ES330.... with the bigger engine... and probably a new program for transmission (the price for the new ES330 will be at sticker though)

    4. Our drive test:
       The car I drove test is 2003 model and doesn't have problem... (I tried a lot of suddent acceleration... and cruising for 10 minutes at 40-50mph)

    5. We bought:
        Last week, my brother-in-law and I... we bought 2 cars for the little less than 32K each... (list price 36552)... more than 4.5K discount...

    6. Why we bought ES:
    We've started to look for new cars since August last year... Our list are: Altima, Mazda 6, Accord, Acura TL, and Lexus ES300
       - Altima: nice body but interior is so cheap
       - TL: last year model.. Once the new Accord came out... we remove TL out of our list
       - 6: just has zoom-zoom noise...
       - Accord EX-V6: our top choice... 240Horse good value.. lot of feature for the price...
       - ES: not sporty as Accord or TL, rich interior, pricey options..

    Accord was top of our list.. But, Honda dealer didn't give us good deal (add $$ for silver color, window etch, 1K for extended warrant, hefty dealer fee)… total at 25K...
    But, on March... (I've monitored the price almost everyday) and suddenly see ES300 has rebate.. (Still more expensive than Accord of course).. but in our reachable range... So, we went to Lexus dealer... to take a drive test to see how different Accord vs ES...

    Our truly intention... is to give ES a shot... if not remove ES out of out list... and nail down our deal with Accord

    We have a good deal for ES... not only just the car and the price... but also... with Lexus dealer... totally different with Honda, Acura dealers.. that we have visited...

    The price, good service and pleasant treatment outweighs the unknown small risk of transmission problem…

    So, we decided go for it... (And cross finger.. wish that 2003 model is fixed)

    7. Worst case scenario:
    If 2003 hasn’t fixed… the chance of having problem is small… I think the problem is just the decision logic in the algorithm of shifting gears program for the transmission...
    Those talent, well-paid engineers at Lexus probably will be able to find out solution for it.... if they can't... they can hire me... :-)

    If not... since I bought it with a big discount... it probably will be less hurt to trade in to get a different car...

    8. My ES:
       Brought it home last Thursday… I've put 170 miles on it.... I had a 140 miles up-state round trip in the weekend with a lot of cruising (of course), hill mountain climbing and passing…
    So far, the car is wonderful... the transmission responds fine....The leather seat (probably b/c new) is a little bit hard though... I'm very happy with the car…

    I'm following the instruction from the manual ... use premium gas, no hard braking, no hard accelerating and no racing for the first 1000 miles…

    Hope it may help... and good luck with your research
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