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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    Thanks so much for the update. I hope other Lexus owners with the same upgrade will report as you have. Maybe the "poor mans Lexus" er, a , I mean, Toyota people, will provide us with an effective ECU reprogram in the near future.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I have posted my impressions of the ES 300 transmission many times on this website over the past 2 years of my experience driving this vehicle.
    I had the latest software "patch" completed about 3 weeks ago and have subsequently driven about 1300 miles. This was mostly highway driving at speeds of 60-80 mph, but at least 300 miles of city stop and go and speeds from 0 - 50.

    I will be as objective as I can, since I think this is extremely important given the significant (3+ years) history of documented problems with the 2002-2005 ES 300/330 transmission.

    First of all, the service writer at my Lexus dealership (whom I have the greatest respect for) told me that I should expect the car to drive "just like it did when it was new". I have read this comment in several posts above and believe that it comes from Lexus headquarters. He also described that the change is primarily in adding new "shift points" which have been set higher to allow higher rpm and vehicle speed prior to shifting. He also said that it will take several thousand miles for the car to re-learn my driving habits - as before and as is characteristic of the "drive by wire" throttle system on the ES, RX, etc.

    My experience is that the shift points are indeed higher. Shifting from 1st to 2nd is not noticeable, but shifting from 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to 4th occurs at rpm close to 4000. I believe the car use to shift at around 2300rpm. The result is that I have noticed that the engine tends to "race" a bit when accelerating quickly from stop to highway speed. Personally I don't mind this change.

    The other noticeable improvement is that when driving in stop and go traffic below 25 mph, the transmission doesn't "search" for the appropriate gear as much as before. It stays in 2nd longer and therefore the "abrupt" and "rough" shifting that was extremely annoying to me while in rush hour commuting (characteristic of the ES) is significantly improved.

    The most noticeable "rough" shifting has occurred while accelerating up hill at around 30-40 mph. This was very rough and "worse" than I had remembered experiencing before the "upgrade".

    I averaged about 28.5 mpg on a highway trip of 1000 miles, which I believe is similar to slightly better than what I had experienced prior to the upgrade. My usual daily commute average was closer to 22.5 mpg prior to upgrade, and I'm anxious to see how that compares - post upgrade.

    Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that I will see some improvement. To quote Ronald Reagan, "trust but verify".

    One other observation: while my '03 was in getting service, I was given a '05 model that demonstrated the same "hesitation, rough-shifting", and "gear-searching" that has been reported frequently in the posts above. I can't understand why some drivers of the ES don't notice these problems, which are clearly present in every ES that I have driven since 2002. I assumed that the loaner hadn't had the "upgrade" completed yet. It had about 8,000 miles on the odo, if I remember.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Thanks for the informative summary. I just had the upgrade installed on my 2002 ES300 yesterday. I have driven about 100 miles of pure highway (60-75 mph) driving since the upgrade.

    I feel as though the experience is rougher on the highway than it was before the upgrade, which is what has been advertised. There was a little bit of slipping/surging but it is not too bad, however.

    Perhaps my highway experience stems from the upgraded transmission not having learned my driving style but I doubt it. I have driven numerous ES300/ES330s and my experience is that the "learning" thing does not have a large impact. I do not experience my own vehicle (which supposedly knows my driving style) much differently than I do the loaners I have driven.

    When I have driven more in-city stop and go driving, I'll provide an update on that.

    By the way, toydriver, I am with you in that I do not understand how some owners do not experience the symptom.
  • gsb300gsb300 Posts: 2
    I had posted a few weeks back that I had the new upgrade put on my car. After looking at the work order closely it said it had been installed which I assume was the upgrade I had done about a year ago. I reported that the car was running great. Well it only lasted about 2 weeks. I guess when the firmware level was check it reset the computer.
  • bikegalbikegal Posts: 50
    Not every lexus owner reports the problem because not everyone has it. My 2005 has 7,000 miles and knock wood, not the problems you all have.

    I have driven some with the issue and some without.

    I do hope the latest fix is truly that because a lot of folks are unhappy.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I hope for your sake that your car remains problem free. Many ES owners began to experience the transmission issues after several thousand miles. On the other hand, maybe your car had the upgrade at the factory.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Well, you have to believe one of two things:

    1) This is a Toyota drive-train design issue

    2) It is not a design issue, but some individual vehicle issue.

    I believe it is a design issue, which means that all vehicles are impacted to one degree or another. I have driven 7 or 8 ES300/330s and have been able to repeat the problem in all of them. The problem does not feel identical in all vehicles, but it is close enough for me to conclude it is the same problem and it is in all vehicles. I am convinced that differences among drivers' experiences are more a result of varying driver perception than of actual design or manufacturing differences from one vehicle to the next. I might take it one step further and say that driver perception depends somewhat on the gap between drivers' expectations of what it should feel like versus what it really does feel like. I recall my sister saying she felt it but did not think it was a big deal.

    I agree with many on this forum. It may not be a big deal on a less expensive car, but this is supposed to be a high class somewhat luxurious vehicle. The hesitating drive train should be somewhat of an embarrassment to a company who touts its "passionate pursuit of perfection". Well, they missed the mark on this one and it seems they should take responsibility for it. That they refuse to admit or accept that they missed the perfection mark on this vehicle is almost as irritating to me as is the problem itself and I suspect that a lot of owners share my sentiments.
  • shocasershocaser Posts: 36
    I agree that this is a design issue. What I find amazing is that many people on this forum write about how they hope that Lexus fixes this problem because they really want to get an ES-330. I think that any car company, especially a "premier" company such as Lexus, that treats owners the way that ES-330 owners have been treated, is not to be trusted.

    I view the ES-330 as an entry level vehicle for Lexus. If this is how Lexus is going to treat me with the ES, there is no way that I will move up the model chain. As the saying goes, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    I think Lexus is merely a division of Toyota isn't it?

    FWIW: there are owners in the Engine Hesitation - All Makes and Models forum reporting hesitation in Camry and Highlander vehicles as well for those interested in the topic.
  • shocasershocaser Posts: 36
    I agree. Lexus is a division of Toyota. However, Lexus is presented as the luxury division of Toyota, with a "Relentless Pursuit of Perfection". It is difficult to accept the poor treatment that Lexus (a division of Toyota) has given me when realizing that I paid a premium to purchase my Lexus (which I understand is built by a division of Toyota), expecting to receive premium customer service.
  • toyo_ztoyo_z Posts: 47
    Hi, looking for help/advice from anyone on the board

    I'd posted in February that my 2003 ES300 (with a little over 30k miles) suddenly died as I was driving it -- that is, the engine was still running & electrical system apparently working, but when i stepped on the gas it did nothing -- the engine didn't even rev, it was like the signal was not getting to the engine to give it gas. I could push the pedal to the floor, but it was useless. I coasted to a stop, had it towed to the dealer, where they replaced the -entire- ECM computer (under warranty, thank god.. this would be a multi-kilobuck repair otherwise.) They weren't particularly apologitic, but did say it was "very rare" for the computer to suffer this kind of failure.

    Fast-forward to this morning, only a few months later. I was driving on I-95 in South Florida (if you've ever driven it, you know its like the Indy 500 but with people who really shouldn't be driving). As I was getting onto the highway (the on-ramp), again the same thing happened -- the gas pedal stopped responding to inputs. Thankfully, i was able to coast over to the shoulder & I left the car there to be towed (no way was I going to sit on the shoulder there! talk about a sitting duck..)

    The car is being towed to the dealer now. I feel that this is a major safety issue, as I could easily have been killed. I no longer feel confident in the car -- even if they replace the computer again, how do I know this won't happen again? This car needs to go.

    Who can I report this to, either at Lexus or the NHTSA? I suspect that the dealer that its going to (the one that replaced the computer) won't really care too much about my plight; they are the highest-volume Lexus dealer i the world, and customer service isn't their big strength.

    I find all of this terribly disappointing; my 10 year old bucket-of-bolts Subaru is at this point a more reliable car than the Lexus, which was supposed to be a much more "Special" ride.

    Any help would be appreciated.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    This does not sound like the same issue as the hesitation that many have written about. I have not heard of any other poster who has had the problem you describe. This indicates a problem in your individual vehicle as opposed to a design problem. The upside of an individual vehicle problem is that if all else fails, a different vehicle will fix your problem. Some posters on this forum have recieved new cars in response to their complaints on the hesitation issue, but the new car did not help them, because the new car had the same problem.

    The frustrating issue you are going to have to deal with is that your problem is intermittant. Whenever you can't repeat a problem on demand, it is difficult for any service tech to diagnose and repair the problem. It is difficult to prove to anyone that there is a problem.

    Hopefully, Lexus will give you a new car, without requiring proof that you can repeat the symptom should you continue to have the problem and should Lexus be unable how to fix your car. Some posters on this forum have been given new cars, even though the new car did not alleviate their problems to the degree I'd expect a new car to alleviate yours.

    If I were you, I'd "squawk" the problem in as many forums (NTHSA, Lexus customer service, various dealers) as you know about. Unfortunately, I don't see much alternative other than to continue to complain to the Lexus dealers, beginning with the one you purchased your vehicle from. Hopefully, one of their service departments can fix your car under warranty.

    You can also take the "Lemon Law" route. Posters who have recieved new cars mostly did so in response to Lemon Law complaints.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Well, I had the transmission upgrade last week as part of my 30000 mile maintenance and my car is working much worse than before!! Since my results are so inconsistent with what others on this forum are saying, I wonder if Lexus service personnel did not do the upgrade correctly or if something else in the maintenance caused my symptoms.

    Prior to the TSB implementation, i could repeat the problem at 40 mph by pulling back from the gas and then reapplying the gas quickly, as which time there would be delay before gas would get to the engine. Also, I'd have the problem intermittantly at other speeds, but mainly when trying to accelerate.

    Now, I get intermittent shuddering at all speeds and the 40 mph problem is the same as before. The shuddering, although intermittent, is much more frequent than before I had the fix. And I don't have to be accelerating or decelerating to get the problem.

    I have shuddering consistently when I come to a stop, regardless of the speed I am going just before beginning to slow for the stop. Also, I have some shuddering at highway speeds even when I am not accelerating.

    I will post back if I find anything further. I am hoping that I will adapt my driving style to this "fixed" condition, like I did prior to having had the fix. If things get better, I'll let you all know, but as of right now, I'd advise against having the fix.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79
    Well, you're the first person that had this problem after this last upgrade. I would say there is something definitely wrong. Nobody that's reported back has complained about a shutter. Here's a link with about eight pages, starting sometime in the last few pages, and it'll give you some idea about what others are saying about this newest ECM flash.
    Click this
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Yes, I know I am the only person who has problems with the upgrade. Even my boyfriend and a friend of his are happy with it. My issues must be from something else they did during my maintenance.
  • ruff1ruff1 Posts: 1
    I had the latest transmission upgrade on 6/8/05. I have driven about 100 miles so far with it.
    There is an immediately noticeable difference from the old program. I like it. No hesitations or shifting lags. The shifting rpms appear to be a bit higher than before especially when accelerating rapidly. Also, when going up a long steep grade, it has a tendency to downshift more easily and frequently than before. I slid the shifter to the left in 4th and it seemed to eliminate the downshift. Mileage appears to be unchanged at 20 around town and +25 on highway. I may buy the car at lease end after all! :)
  • I am about to buy a new ES 330 this month (June 2005).

    Should I still be concerned that the transmission problem is unfixable?

    I have 2 relatives that have an ES...
    First relative has a 2003 ES - has transmission problems
    Second relative has a 2004 ES - NO transmission problems.

    Thanks for the help!
  • bkinblkbkinblk Posts: 198
    If you have to ask the question, you probably already know the answer.
  • toydrivertoydriver Posts: 227
    I own a '03 ES and had the upgrade done a few weeks ago and have subsequently driven about 1600 miles (both highway and city stop and go).
    My car shifts better than prior to the upgrade, but not "perfect". By perfect I use my old '95 Toyota Avalon 4sp auto as a comparison. The ES still seems hesitant during stop and go, but doesn't jerk like it did prior to the upgrade. The shift points are clearly higher, meaning that when rapidly accelerating from a stop the engine will reach as high as 4000 rpm prior to shifting into 3rd and 4th. It seems that the engine races during these accelerations, but I don't mind that as much as the pre-upgrade "jerkiness". I feel that the transmission is still "learning" my driving style as it seems to be a little better now than when I first drove it after the upgrade. (Reason for hope).

    On the other hand; while mine was being serviced, I drove a '05 ES 330 dealer loaner that had all the characteristic jerkiness, hesitation and "gear-seaking" behavior that mine did prior the the upgrade.

    Read into my comments as you will.
    Frankly, I really prefer driving my summer roadster ( Honda s2000 ). At least I understand this car when it "jerks" a little !!! :)
  • ruby1ruby1 Posts: 8
    This is in response to few emails. My dad purchased the ES 330 in January 2005 and I purchased mine in August of 2004. He has not experienced any problems with the transmission and I have had mine "serviced" (and I use that term lightly) 4 times already. They were supposed to install the "upgrade" the last time the car was in the shop. Let's put it this way, I was almost rear ended twice in the last week because this engine SUCKS! Thank goodness the people behind me were good drivers. My problems only occur between 10mph - 25mph. I'm looking into the IL Lemon Law to see if I can get my money back like a couple other people have already done, in their respective states. I've had numerous other problems with rattles etc. and would never buy nor recommend this car to anyone.
  • jragosta1jragosta1 Posts: 49
    I had the update installed a few weeks ago. For the first week, I was ready to push the car off a cliff. It was extremely clunky and shifted very, very hard. The hesitation was mostly gone, but the hard shifts made me ready to take it back in.

    However, after I drove it a few hundred miles and it adapted to my driving style, it was much better. The hesitation is greatly improved (although not completely eliminated) and the hard shifting is almost gone.

    I STILL do not think that this is the shifting you'd expect on a $35 K luxury car, but it's far, far better than it was before the upgrade - and will probably continue to improve as I get a few hundred more miles.

    Definitely worth doing if you're unhappy with the shifting of your car.
  • shocasershocaser Posts: 36
    Picked up my car on Wednesday, June 15. Had the 10,000 mile service done and the transmission firmware upgrade. There is a clear improvement in the transmission with this upgrade. I agree with others that it is not a 100% fix, but the car handles and accelerates much better than before. I am still a little disappointed in the car (with the reputation that Lexus/Toyota has, I expected a much better car and much better service), but this upgrade has solved most of the problems. I will post again in a month or so to update.
  • ruby1ruby1 Posts: 8
    We have all seen the emails and most of have written responses to the hesitation problems in the ES 330 engine. I have gone round and round with my dealer and will finally get my day before the Lexus Regional Representative. Here is the scoop that I got last night in reference to them taking my lemon back. The LRR states that the lawyers for Lexus have stated that they will not replace anymore cars that have the "transmission chip" failure that causes the hesitation in the ES 300/330. They stopped "replacing" cars last year because it was becoming too costly to the company. However, they won't send out a recall because they are worried about how many complaints will come into the company and how it might affect sales. Those words came from my sales person at Lexus.
    The deal they offered me (over the phone) was $1000 off a new GS because I told them I didn't want another ES. I laughed at that offer and told them that I would fill out the paper work for the IL Lemon Law and we could handle it through the attorneys. ( I also stated that I want to proceed with a face to face meeting with the LRR. It amazes me that they aren't willing to stand up and face their problems. They pitch customer service and satisfaction but shrug problems off by saying we can't help you. This is a safety issue with me more than the frustration that it happens everyday that I drive. Has anyone else been successful in getting their money back or getting the car traded in for a new one, :mad: at the cost that the car, at the time of purchase? My car is 10 months old and has 6200 miles on it. HELP!!!
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    aren't you aware of the TSB that has been out since April ? Seems it does improve the hesitation. Haven't your dealer mentioned it to you ?
  • whit66whit66 Posts: 7
    I am about to purchase a 2005 ES 330, do you feel the transmission problem has been corrected on the newer models? If there a document I might get my hands on so when I go into the dealership I question this transmission?
  • whit66whit66 Posts: 7
    How can I get a copy of this TSB, since I am about to purchase a new ES 330
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    I believe any car produced after April 1, 2005 already has the TSB done. Here is the link to the TSB. You can take it with you to your Lexus dealer and ask them whether it has been performed on the cars sitting on their lots. Good Luck.
  • amf1932amf1932 Posts: 79

    This is the situation, and my feelings after driving my '03ES for about 2000 miles after the latest ECM flash. I'm really not as happy as I was when it was first done.
    It all comes down to a trade-off that the Lexus technician's did to try to improve the shifting quality.
    Today, I was driving on a parkway for hours in stop & go traffic, and instead of the hesitation and lurching happening at about 5mph, it now happens at about there is a slight clunking when decelerating(downshifting) that I never felt before this ECM flash. Also, I don't like the shift points when accelerating normally.....they're much too high, and I think the fuel economy has to suffer because of this higher engine RPM. I feel that the car will no longer achieve 'ULEV' status!
    I don't think that Lexus can undo this last flash, and I reached a point where I'm ready to get rid of this car, even though I'm happy about everything else. This is my 3rd. ES and I was 100% pleased with my '91 and '94 models. The BIG problem I'm having is to find another car that is as good as a Lexus.
    I know I have to calm down after this horrific traffic today, but the thought of having to live with this type of crappy performance in the future is driving me crazy!
    Any suggestions without anybody telling me it's because of the electronic throttle, I'll be all ears.
  • motownusamotownusa Posts: 836
    How about the upcoming IS350 ? or GS300/460 ? Although the GS might be a bit pricier than the ES I haven't heard of any transmission problem with the GS.
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    My car seems to behave in a way that is opposite to yours since I had the fix. My car used to jerk and hesitate at aboout 40 mph, and now it does so at both higher speeds and lower speeds and always at about 5 mph when coming to a stop.

    Since almost everyone I talk to is pleased with the fix, it makes me wonder if it is something else they did during my 30,000 mile maintenance that is causing the problem Could it be that they did not adjust the idle correctly or somethig, I wonder? I don't like to say this is part of the transmission issue because I don't know and it could be misleading.

    Oh, well I guess I will have to take it back to see if they can figure out what the issue is.
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