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Transmission problems with Lexus ES?



  • It's worse than that. No matter HOW you drive the car during a test drive, you may not see the problem. My new ES330 didn't have any problem for the first thousand miles or so. It takes a while for the transmission to learn your driving patterns. Somehow, during that learning process, it learns all these bad habits. So, even if the car you buy has no problem, it very well might have a problem in a month or so.
  • kippcarkippcar Posts: 6
    To k1mri, Well, I have owned my '04 330 for a year. Every time I bring it in for service the service manager discounts the tranny issues, certainly as directed by Toyota Corp. And I bring it up every time, having it noted on the repair/service receipt. I have posted complaint with the NHTSA. I went in today fully expecting to trade up. My sales person admitted to the tranny jerking issue. Wanted to upgrade to a GS430 but was mega-lowballed on trade. When asked why, I was told they are not in demand, although I could not find one '04 for sale with EVERY option in the Mpls metro. For 37K, I expect the refinement Lexus so richly touts. It is a nightmare on freeway on-ramps!! No way am I going to drop 58K on the GS with this treatment. I'm a car junkie, purchasing new every two years. This is the first and last Lexus I purchase due this luxury brand having a proclivity to turn the other cheek when major problems arise. Headed to get an M45 tomorrow.
  • jeanijeani Posts: 7
    I'm not sure what might be the problem, but the car had stalled two different times when I changed gears from reverse to drive (once at 300 and the other at 1K miles). The dealership hasn't figured it out, but the car drives fine otherwise. Any thoughts? Also, my car has adjustable pedals, do you think that may have something to do with it?
  • es4jbes4jb Posts: 17
    Over the past few weeks I have learned how the vehicle shifts and I find it less of a problem in normal driving. However I did have a bad experience today. I was making a right turn into traffic and someone pulled out and around another was one of those moments when you have to punch it to speed up and get out of the way fast. I punched, and....for a loooonnnnnggggg few seconds nothing much happened. No accident but it rattled me. To me this is the real problem - the power of the V6 was not there when I really needed it. I never had a car act like this. I did write to Lexus to express my concerns. I am still not going to do the firmware reprogram at this point.
  • I wanted a Lexus ES 330 so bad my teeth hurt. Though the front end reminds me of a smiling bug, the interior is gorgeous. Lexus' poor engineering and stone-walling of owners with the hesitation problem stopped me. I gathered some more dollars and bought an Acura RL. So far I'm very happy with the Acura. This can't be helpful to Lexus’ image and sales.
  • nifty56nifty56 Posts: 279
    I don't own a Lexus but was considering it till I read about the tranny problems.
    I test drove a Camry and noticed the same hestiation so won't be going there. I think Acura is my next choice to check.
  • I wanted a very high quality car and excellent after-sales service. I reasoned if I gave the manufacturer and dealer the money to work with and a generous profit the quality would be there. The ES is essentially a Toyota Camry with a very deluxe interior. Lexus has to be making gobs of money on every one. The dealer I visited certainly had no concept of the term "best price". It's disheartening to see Lexus break faith with owners and treat them as poorly as a domestic automaker.

    I can't fathom Toyota/Lexus' motivation, but suspect its engineering its cars to suite the EPA and DOE test cycles. It can't change ECM programming to improve drivability without incurring the U.S. government's wrath. Owners are therefore bafflegabbed and stonewalled. Unchecked, it will diminish Lexus’ reputation for quality and integrity.

    I've had my Acura for almost a year. So far there have been no problems. The dealer has been very good, but all it has had to do is routine but expensive maintenance. There is no equivalent to the Lexus Owners' Club. Other than engineering and building a very good car, Acura makes no effort to have purchasers feel important or special. I think this is regrettable, but it's not my company.

    Lexus owners can make themselves feel much better by looking in on the Mercedes, BMW and Audi forums. Their owners are really having problems, and they paid as much or more for their car!
  • "The ES is essentially a Toyota Camry with a very deluxe interior."

    I really bugs me whenever I hear a comment like this. I've owned both, of the same generation, and they are not alike at all inside or out. The ES is much superior all over.
  • I didn't intend to upset anybody. I very much wanted to buy an ES. However, after researching the car and learning of the power train issues and Lexus' poor owner relations, I switched my attention to an Acura RL.

    Here's what Edmunds has to say about the relationship between the Lexus ES and the Toyota Camry.

    "The history of the ES can be traced to Lexus' first year, 1990, when the ES 250 debuted. It was marketed as an "Executive Sedan," though we're pretty sure that executives saw it for what it was: a thinly veiled Toyota Camry with a price premium. Admittedly, the ES 250 was a stopgap plan for Lexus, and an improved ES 300 arrived in 1992. Though again based on a Camry platform, this one had much more distinctive styling, and remained popular for many years. The ES was last redesigned in 2002. The latest version is again similar to the Camry (also redone in 2002), though its appointments reflect the high levels of comfort, convenience and refinement that have become trademarks of Lexus luxury."


    If the ES and Camry were less similar, if they didn't share power trains for example, the ES would be much more costly. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

    My point is that for a premium price one should reasonably expect to receive a superior product and be afforded first class after sales service. This is not happening according to numerous correspondents here.
  • Even I knew the ES was "paired" with the Camry when I got it, and though the Camry was a very good ride, the ES was just so much more in every way. The smoothness, quietness, quality of leather, finish (inside and out), ... Every time I walked away from the Camry, I thought "gee, what I nice car," but with the ES, it's been "gee, what a really nice car." Perhaps it takes living with them to appreciate the difference, but if they weren't made by the same company, you wouldn't think that one was just an upgrade of the other.

    As far as Lexus' response to complaints of its transmission, yes, I too am stunned by it. I can't believe that they'd make it perform that way and strenuously hesitate to offer a "fix". I suspect that they simply meant the docile ES to have a transmission that expects a docile driver, but then why don't they admit that instead of blaming the driver? (As I see it, if you want performance, you're supposed to get an IS or GS.)

    I have the previous generation ES, and the only problem is a delay most of the time when I press on the gas after lifting off -- it feels like waiting for a manual clutch to engage. Other than that, I have no problems and therefore cannot justify replacing this beast, and that really bugs me.
  • tcoetcoe Posts: 1
    I have read here that it is a transmission issue?!!! We were told by the dealer that it was an accelerator issue and 20% of Lexus have it. Thank goodness we are only leasing the car!!! How does Lexus get the good ratings by everybody???
    Counting down the days until our lease is over.
  • It's been a few months since I've posted, but my silence is not an indication of satisfaction. I now have 8,500 miles on my '05 ES330. I had the "fix" done on the transmission several thousand miles ago, and it remains almost as bad as before the "fix". The transmission jerks and pauses and surges and hesitates and races and gasps. It is predictably unpredictable, and, frankly, I do not feel safe in the car in stop-and-go traffic because I cannot control it with the basic assumptions of driving: putting one's foot down on the accelerator to go forward, and releasing it to slow down. This Lexus simply doesn't respond in a predictable manner to those basic inputs.

    I have filed another complaint with Lexus's customer "service" department, and continue to get their standard stonewalling: assurances that they aim to satisfy, promises to look into the problem, promises that they will call me back, etc. And of course the phone never rings. What a joke.

    I share the comments of others that it is disappointing that the major car reviewers -- even Consumer Reports! -- do not mention this transmission problem. It may not affect every ES330, but it clearly affects a lot of them, and even if it is 10% of all ES330s sold (or whatever percentage), it is clear from all of the posts on this site and many other Internet sites that it is prevalent and serious enough to warrant at least a passing mention. Even Edmunds can't be trusted to provide the unvarnished truth.

    The ES330 is, of course, wonderful in many ways. The ride is comfortable, the gas mileage decent, the interior beautiful and functional. But that's not enough. Having a serious transmission problem and then stonewalling customers who bring it to their attention and demand a solution definitely isn't worthy of a car company with the tag line of "the passionate pursuit of perfection."

    We may be a statistical blip and may be, to Toyota, an acceptable margin of error that doesn't make much impact on their fat profit margins, but I and many, many others will not go away.

    Lexus/Toyota managers: if you are reading this, I can tell you that I am doing everything in my power to negatively affect your reputation. I tell anyone and everyone I know -- friends, family, business associates, neighbors -- about my experiences with this lousy car and my experiences with YOU. At least two people have chosen NOT to buy one of your cars based on my bad experiences with you. It is my hope and expectation that, at some point soon, you will wake up and take care of the multitude of problems you have created with this transmission.
  • scoti1scoti1 Posts: 676
    Someone over at the Edmunds Engine Hesitation forum recently reported he went through arbitration after the ECM reprogramming did not cure the hesitation. He is awaiting the final results, but the Toyota representative at the arbitration hearing said that all Toyota's (and presumably Lexus') with this drivetrain all have a 1 sec. hesitation, it is built into the vehicles intentionally to "protect the drivetrain" and it was not the intent of the reprogramming TSB to fix it. I hope the arbitrator is astute enough to read the TSB which clearly states that it is for hesitation problem. It is very frustrating how Toyota/Lexus is handling this issue.
  • This is unbelieveable. I thought it was just my 96 ES300 having transmission problems. The dealer wants to charge me $4k to fix it. I have high mileage 180k but I was thinking I should get at least 50-100k before the car dies.

    I've called Lexus customer service to complain also. I just called on 9/6/05 and I'm still waiting for a call back. Looks like I will be waiting for a while.

    What can we do? Is it possible to prepare a list of owners (VIN #) experiencing the same thing? Do you think Lexus cares? It wouldn't hurt to try something.

    I was thinking of purchasing another Lexus..I'm I crazy!!!
  • atoewsatoews Posts: 637
    Your vehicle is not having the same problem as most others' on this board. The problem we discuss is a design problem in post-2002 vehicles.

    Sounds like you need a new transmission or an individual vehicle repair.
  • tmarttmart Spring, TXPosts: 1,229
    What's unbelievable to me is that you're complaining about a problem with a 9 year old car with 180k miles that's way, way out of warrenty! :surprise:
  • I have a 2005 ES330 and it has the same hesitation problems everyone has experienced. Just wanted to let other owners know that I found by switching to regular 87 octane gas the hesitation decreased dramatically and the car does not jerk/lurch forward....although there is a slight decrease in performance. I'm thinking the problem lies in the transmission not being able to handle the power output of the engine. If anyone wants to try this post your results on here...I saw a huge improvement by the second tankful of regular
  • maxhonda99maxhonda99 Posts: 1,289
    You are complaining to Lexus about a tranny issue in a 180K mile car?? come on, get real!! I'm guessing you bought this 96 ES used? And what i'll guess is that you didn't do the proper inspection on the car and the previous owner was not maintaining it as well as he could have.
  • So you feel that using regular gas has shown improvement of the hesitation? I will see what happens
  • Yes I really do see an improvement....I was shocked. Not sure how long I'm keeping this car since it was rearended at 900 miles and 3 weeks old....waiting for a payoff from the ins company. Only complaints so far have been paint that chips far too easily on a car this price, the hesitation and the master cylinder failed at 1000 miles and the brakes failed completely. I expected more.
  • This past weekend was the first time since I got the firmware upgrade (2,500 miles ago) that I pushed the car at higher speeds (50 - 80 mph) in heavy traffic. I did not realize that the hesitation problem was as pronounced at the higher speeds as it is at the lower speeds. Punching the gas to change lanes, the car still has the 1 - 2 second delay. This car sucks!
  • A relative of mine bought a 2005 Highlander. The transmission has a terrible delay. I can push the gas pedal to the floor and release it without a single response from the engine. It's absurd. I can slap the gas pedal to the floor and let it up a dozen times or more and there's not a blip of rpm increase. The delay seems very dangerous. I know this engine and transmission are similar to the Lexus -- does anyone else notice this problem? I've advised my relative to take it back to the Toyota dealership and have it looked at, but he's reluctant.

    Thanks for your help
  • que2que2 Posts: 9
    I have seen a huge improvement with regular gas too. Started using regular about a month ago and the car feels like 1/2 ton of dead weight is out of the trunk. The hesitation is not entirely gone but much, much better. Haven't done the TBS flash.
  • Hello, can you please update if you followed through on the lemon law and how it turned out. Many thanks, think of same approach, I'm an attorney in KY. Jerry
  • tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
    I was thinking of trading in my problematic Acura TL on a Lexus 330. However, it seems that Lexus is also having long-term tranny issues.

    I believe that the Lexus tranny issue has been going on for three or four years...what is happening here?
  • tedescm1tedescm1 Posts: 309
    Does the transmission problem also exsist in the new 2005 camry?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Both Toyota and Lexus seem to be suggesting that the use of Premium fuels will help to alleviate the transaxle downshift throttle delay sequence. Some posters have indicated that it does seem to help.

    With that thought in mind has any one tried one of the various HP "boost" systems(***) that modify the IAT (Intake Air temperature) signal? These systems seem to falsify the IAT signal in a way that results in running a richer mixture than the optimum insofar as lower emissions levels are concerned.

    Seemingly the same effect as using a higher octane in that the engine would be less likely to knock or ping.



    Or search on Ebay or google for:

    "progressive tuner"
  • I have the previous ES, and so, the current one is the natural upgrade path, but these transmission stories are a worry. If I bought a used, current ES and drove it for an hour or so, would I notice the delays and hesitation you're all experiencing? Are there specific, repeatable tests I can try?

    Some months ago, I had a 2005 ES loaner for a day, and I made a point of looking for "transmission issues". I drove ~140 km and thought I noticed the transmission having trouble at times figuring out what gear to be in when I pushed. (Was that it?)But a month later, I had another 2005 ES loaner for a couple of hours, and the "transmission issues" were not on my mind, and after 20 km, I realised that I hadn't noticed any problems at all. The car was just so wonderfully smooth and quiet. Is this just an issue with some of them or do you need to push to notice?
  • Its quite easy to are two ways for you to test:
    1) slow down to about 10-15 mph then will probably notice about a 2 second delay after you accelerate and then the car with lurch forward and accelerate. This is very noticable in heavy stop and go traffic especially when the freeway backs up.
    2)Get the car up to about 60 on the freeway the press the accelerator all the way to the floor as if you needed to pass something or get out of the way'll notice a good 2-3 second delay before the car accelerates at all.

    The dealers are aware of this problem but lexus still considers it "Normal" so there is not much that can be done....I've been told to use premium gas but that seems to make things worse...I've had less hesitation with tanks of 87 octane.

    Want my advice....get a new XLE V6 Camry....will still cost less than a used lexus, you get a full 3 yr warranty and the drivetrain works better
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    there are three circumstances in which the hesitation is detectable. All three are very well defined in great detail in a Toyota TSB first issued in April of 2003.

    At this time I am quite sure that not every DBW V6/5-speed transaxle equipped Toyota/Lexus vehicle is prone to exhibiting the problem, maybe as few as 10%. But the problem is, seems to be, that even that 10% will not always replicate the problem reliably.
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