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Lexus ES Engine Questions

xcheck85xcheck85 Posts: 1
I am planning on buying a 2000 lexus ES300 from a family friend with 179,000 miles on it. It had the regular maintanence done on it serviced by the local Lexus dealership. I have been told that Lexus engines if properly maintained last well over 200,000 miles. Is this a good car to be getting myself into or is it a death trap? How long are these engines supposed to last?Thanks!



  • Josh, I have a 1999 ES 300 with 142K, mostly on the interstates. No problems at all. I've heard of another 300 with around the same milage that had had the transmission rebuilt or replaced. It's a bit of a crap shoot, and probably depends a lot on how the car was driven.
  • I have a 1998 ES 300 with 123K on it. I got it used in February '06, did all maintenance on it. About three weeks ago the engine light (MIL) began to stay on. I took it to my mechanic who hooked up a scanner and he said that there is a problem with the evap system purging. Also said that it is usually the charcoal canister or solenoid. He reset the engine light and said that if it came on again then we'll have to take care of it. A few days ago the light came on and has been on since. Anybody ever experience this problem? I priced canister and it is expensive (almost $300). Can I use reman parts or used parts? Would really appreciate some help.
  • My transmission just went out on my 1999 ES300. It had 110000 trouble-free miles on it. The Lexus dealer whent to Lexus US and got them to pony up a new transmission but I had to play 1200 labor. I traded the car in as-is.
  • ray_h1ray_h1 Posts: 1,134
    )) "I am planning on buying a 2000 lexus ES300 from a family friend with 179,000 miles on it. It had the regular maintanence done on it serviced by the local Lexus dealership." ((

    An oil forum, "BobIsTheOilGuy", has quite an extensive posting archive about past Toyota 3L V6 engine problems. Toyota had sludge troubles on that 3L V6 engine from ~1995-2002. The culprits were the recomended 7,500 mile oil change intervals Toyota advised at the time combined with questionably engineered small diameter oil return galleries from the heads (hot oil in the heads tended to remain there too long - a perfect breeding ground for varnish and sludge). At first Toyota denied culpability; but after being threatened with a class action suit by infuriated owners of affected cars whose motors had seized, Toyota extended the engine warranty to ten years, unlimited mileage, as long as an owner was able to show evidence of at least ONE oil change per year. If the car you're contemplating has up to date service records, you should be ok in case of problems - up to and including a replacement engine with all subsequent engineering improvements if necessary out to 2010. As a result, Toyota scaled back the recommended oil change interval to 5,000 miles, and Toyota enlarged the oil return galleries to promote quicker return of hot oil in the cylinder heads to the sump where it would be cooled by under-car airflow. Interestingly, the owners of affected cars who'd grown up changing or having their engine's oil changed at 3,000 mile intervals, and continued with their customary oil change interval in spite of the recommendations in the owner's manual, never developed sludging problems. The only Toyotas of the era that had a snowball's chance in the Sahara of not becoming sludgemonsters on Toyota's original 7,500 mile oil change intervals were those which routinely ran full synthetic motor oils or routinely ran easy highway miles. (Urban crawl is an oil killer - ask any fleet mechanic.) You might wish to inquire of your friend whether he/she opted for synthetic oil at the specified changes.

    (Oh, and by the way, with regular oil and filter maintenance, there isn't a motor made over the last ten years, regardless of automaker*, that couldn't make it out past 300,000 miles if driven reasonably. In general, engines and motor oils have now gotten that good.

    *with the possible exception of some Korean subcompacts masquerading under GM nameplates)
  • kumarkumar Posts: 22
    I own a Toyota SUV, V8 4.7L, and has mileage of 30K. I have routine oil change at 3,750 miles.

    The service center tells me that I should pay ~$310 :confuse: , just to flush the engine and fuel system. They will also charge me the other regular 30K services for about $410.

    Do I need to do this kind of service? any recommendation?

  • ray_h1ray_h1 Posts: 1,134
    )) "The service center tells me that I should pay ~$310, just to flush the engine and fuel system. ... Do I need to do this kind of service?" ((

    At just 30,000 miles? Not unless you're feeble-minded. ;) (The fact that you're skeptical about your dealership's sales pitch tells to me your wits are very much intact.) Your question would probably have been more appropriately directed to one of the Toyota SUV forums than this Lexus oriented discussion, but I'm going to answer it anyway since I suspect a good number of Lexus' upscale owners get this salespitch from their dealer's service departments, too, and given their affluence and willingness to spend what it takes to keep their cars healthy may acquiesce unquestioningly to service writers' well-honed scare tactics. With your conservative oil change intervals and todays high detergency motor oils, I'd be willing to bet that your engine's internals are already clean enough to eat off of. As for the fuel system flush, gasoline sold in North America is government mandated to carry a relatively high additive content to protect fuel system components from the effects of moisture and corrosion. Additionally, your fuel system has very efficient fuel filtration. The reason automakers go to this trouble is to prevent a partially clogged fuel injector from dribbling or spraying non-uniformly into the intake port area just ahead of the combustion chamber which, in turn, would contribute to excessive exhaust pollution. These augmented dealer-advocated "flushings" with overpriced chemicals of questionable effectiveness rarely come anywhere close to doing what they claim, but they're a very profitable sideline for service departments. (One of the dirty little secrets of dealership service departments is that service writers get monthly bonuses over their salary based on additional make-work service they can pad the service invoices with.) The car dealerships (not just Lexus, by the way) buy this stuff at steep discounts, but charge high prices for it since the exclusiveness of dealership-only availability gives car owners a false sense of assurance in the products. The reality is these products are no better than the buck-seventy-nine supplements sold at WalMart, and maybe not even as good. Then the dealer also adds its customary $80.00/hour flat rate labor charge as a further assault on common sense. If you're using a major brand of recommended API "SM" motor oil and good quality oil filters such as Toyota's own brand at your customary oil change intervals, and major brand gasoline, you're doing all that's necessary for the continued health of your car's mechanicals. If most of your driving through the week involves short trips and/or urban crawling, get the car out on the weekend for thirty minutes or more of driving at legal freeway speed to let the engine stretch its legs to blow out any accumulated moisture and fuel contamination in the oil. In a sense car engines are somewhat like people - getting routine, moderate exercise does more long-term good than throwing chemicals in the mix.
  • kumarkumar Posts: 22
    Ray, Thanks for providing this extremely information and explaination! I appreciate!
    I'm not going to spend the extra $310 bucks!

  • revsrevs Posts: 5
    I looked over the Owners Manual to do this myself. Does anyone have a "how to" guide to change bulbs on a 1999 Lexus ES300.

    Thank you.

  • How often should I change the oil and what oil is best for this car? 115K - Thanks
  • ray_h1ray_h1 Posts: 1,134
    I personally won't go over nine months or 5,000 miles between oil and filter changes. As to the best quality oil, the answer isn't as clear cut these days. When your car was new I would've unhesitatingly suggested a full synthetic oil to achive maximum engine service life in whatever viscosity range Toyota/Lexus advised at the time. But current conventional oils have improved so much over the past fifteen years (especially the past six) that they'll easily handle a 5,000 mile oil change interval. If winter temperatures where you live are particularly cold (-20 deg. F. or lower), that would still make the case for a full synthetic motor oil, however. Any recognized name brand in whatever recommended viscosity and in whichever refining method you prefer should suffice. My personal favorite full synthetic is Pennzoil Platinum (watch for sales/rebates). My personal favorite mineral oil, and what I use, is Phillips 66 TropArtic (itself, labled a "Synthetic Blend", by the way, yet priced lower than most other name brand conventional-only motor oils). There are three other identical oils blended and distributed by parent company ConocoPhillips: "Conoco Super All Season", "76 Super", and "Kendall GT-1 High Performance". Generally the particular brand you'll find will be based on regional considerations, though most WalMarts carry the TropArtic. ConocoPhillips also blends and bottles the Motorcraft line of motor oils for Ford for U.S. distribution. Guess what - it's the same goo, too. Only the labeling and in some cases, the color of the plastic bottles, differ.
  • Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question.
  • Almost two years ago I started the purchase of my 92 Lexus ES300 it had almost 190,000 miles (I still owe $600) The car engine light came on and then the car started to overheat- There is water coming from underneath the car and out the tail pipe- it runs but because of the loss of water becomes hot within 15 minutes- Took it to the Lexus dealer and they said it was the block being cracked-head blown- power steering pump out and would cost me $8,000.00- way more than what I paid for it- I love that car and the body/interior are in great shape- what should I do and are there any suggestions? Thanks :sick:
  • jaspalbjaspalb Posts: 84
    Obviously previous owner(s) allowed the engine to overheat (possibly due to less/no oil or coolant), which resulted in engine head cracking, and collant getting into the cylinder. $8000 doesn't seems to be a prudent choice, when you can get similar car at a lower price. You can try with private car garages and/or wrackers for replacing entire engine, and other broken parts. Best of luck. With normal maintenance 200,000M should not cause any major problem with these engines
  • First let me Thank You for your reply! You are right- when I took the car to the shop they said that the head gasket was a different color meaning it had been rebuilt before- I did not know this when I bought it- this has been a great car as I live in Missouri and it has taken me to California and back with 4 kids! I love this car!!! I have looked everywhere for a replacement engine and Im finding no luck:( If anyone has any good engine dealers that ship please let me know- I greatly appreciate any suggestions! Thanks
  • tammy10tammy10 Posts: 15
    I'm new here, I'd really appreciate some advice.

    I am the second owner of a 1998 ES 300 with approximately 86k miles. I purchased the car 12/01 when it was 4 years old and had 35k miles on it so I've had it a little over 5 years. So, the car is 9 years old as of last December.

    I have never taken the car to the dealer for service because it is quite far from my house.

    My "check engine" light has come on three separate times, starting in May of 2005. The first mechanic said it was the O2 sensor and he reset it.

    Later it came back on.

    The second mechanic replaced that sensor.

    The engine light came back on but the same mechanic said it was the "knock sensor" P-330 and he reset that because the "condition wasn't present at that time."

    Now the engine light is back on and I am aware that in addition my engine has a significant sludge problem. I've changed the oil every 3-5k miles.

    Unfortunately, neither of the mechanics mentioned the sludge problem to me.

    My question is this- is the oxygen and/or knock sensor possibly related to the sludge?

    I ask because I have a claim with Lexus/Toyota re: sludge only if I can show that the sludge problem existed within 8 years of purchase. If the engine light reoccurence will demonstrate that (it started within 6-7 years of purchase) it may help my case.

    Thanks so much!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    If I were you I'd petition Toyota for relief and just leave out the engine light issue altogether. I don't mean lie or anything. I mean that it's probably not related and driving around with the engine light on is not a great thing to reveal to Toyota. And your mechanic blew it, because an error code for an 02 sensor doesn't necessarily mean a bad 02 sensor at just tells us that the 02 sensor is unhappy for some reason.

    Are the engine light and sludge connected? That's impossible to say with any certainty at this point, but it doesn't help your case I don't think to mention it and I don't see any moral reason to reveal it. It's not like the oil pressure light went on , or the overheat light, which it seems to be would relate directly to a heavy sludge issue.

    Find someone who can fix the engine light issue and then petition Toyota. Maybe they'll help you out.

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  • tammy10tammy10 Posts: 15

    I didn't actually drive around for a long time with the engine light on, I did take it in when it went back on twice, albeit not to the dealer. It would be fine for a while, and then go back on. I only drive the car to work and back.

    The thing is without the engine light "evidence" (and I guess it's really not!) I have no potential proof the sludge problem existed before the extended) warranty regarding this problem expired.

    I just didn't know I should have been looking out for the problem because I didn't get the letter Toyota sent to the owners of these cars in 2002. If I did get a letter, I would have found a way to take it to the dealer to make sure my car didn't have the problem. I know sludge is a monster.

    Instead, I drove around for the last few years and I'm sure made the problem worse despite getting oil changes regularly!

    I was really hoping there was a potential link either to the O2 or knock sensor (the mechanic said the car did not knock so I guess something else made that one activate)

    Anyway, thanks for the advice : )
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    Well ask around but I don't think the 02 sensor is evidence of's just circumstantial. You need proof of services done. What if they say "Oh, your engine light was on...why didn't you bring it to a toyota dealership immediately?"

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  • shelloshello Posts: 8
    I purchased a '97 ES 300 in 2000 with 31,000 miles on it. Currently, the vehicle has 83K miles on it. During the past couple of years, I've used the car intermittantly, which I guess threw me off my regular maintenance schedule.

    I periodically checked the oil and other resevoirs and had no problems, other than air conditioning, with the vehicle.

    On a frigid January evening this year, I started the car at night after leaving class and I noticed what I thought was a plume of smoke in the rear view mirror. I convinced myself that it was just the exhaust tempered by the cold weather, and drove home with no incident. A few days later, I noticed the smoke, again and while driving home, the car started to stall and idle almost violently at a stop light. This would happen at every stop light. I made it home and checked what I thought was the oil dipstick, which was full. I noticed the car was very hot and unscrewed the top of the oil resevoir and steam and smoke poured out of it for minutes. It was late and dark in my garage and I decided to revisit the situation in the light of morning. I took the manual in the house and realized that I had been checking the dipstick right next to the oil resevoir, but that this was the power steering dipstick. The oil dipstick is located on the other side of the engine, towards the back. There was singed oil on the inside of the oil resevoir cap and the oil was nearly gone. I put 4 quarts in the engine and decided if the problem persisted, I'd take it into the dealership.

    The problem perisisted, I took it into the dealership explaining same and they called saying I needed new plugs and wires. They charged me $400 and sent me on my way. The car drove beautifully, though there were hints of minor exhaust smoke a few days later.

    After 2 months and 600 miles, the car started exhibiting the same exact symptoms as before. I took it back to Lexus and they then said I needed new rings on the engine pistons. They said the rings are failing and oil is mixing with the gas and the engine sensors are detecting it. He said the idling and near engine shutdown was caused by the wires falling out and the plugs being dirty with oil. When I questioned him as to what they did the first time to get it running back smoothly, he said they replaced the bad plugs, cleaned off the good ones and replaced the wires. He said the plugs were again oily and the wires were again fallng out. They told me they could get me a rebuilt engine for $7,800. Not an option.

    At no point during this debacle did the oil light ever illuminate, other than when the car was idling violently and threatening to shut down.

    Unfortunately, I don't have much confidence in the Lexus service repair department to tell me what is acutally going on, as I find it hard to believe that they didn't discern the problem was internal to the engine the first time I took it in, rather they felt it was unlikely I'd get the engine repaired there, so they sold me what they could to get what they could out of me. Call me paranoid (OK, along with stupid for checking the wrong dipstick all these months).

    Finally, here are my questions: Does this diagnosis sound legitimate? What should I look for in terms of credentials and experience in an auto mechanic when/if I take it in for a second opinion or repair? What is a 'reasonable' charge to replace the rings on the pistons?

    I'd really appreciate your help.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    What needs to happen is this: A Cylinder Leakdown Test.

    This gives a quantitative measurement of internal engine wear, and will tell you if its the rings, the valve guides, the valve stem seals, or just excessive crankcase pressure.

    Without this test, everyone's just guessing.

    If the test has been done, they should be able to show you actual results on a print-out.

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  • shelloshello Posts: 8
    Excellent! Thanks for your help. I can assume this test can be performed by Lexus. Can other mechanics specializing in foreign cars perform this test, too?

    Thanks, again!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    Yes any mechanic who found his or her way out of their house this morning should know exactly how to do this test. I'm sure a Lexus dealer has this tool in their required tool shed they buy from Lexus when they open a dealership. It might be dusty (sounds like it) but they have one.

    But any good import shop knows how to do this.

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  • shelloshello Posts: 8
    Thanks for your timely response.

    I called the dealership today and they have yet to return the call.

    Say that they did use this test and it does in fact reveal the rings need to be replaced. I know prices vary from shop to shop, but what is a reasonable price for this kind of repair? I need to decide whether to invest further in the vehicle or to trade it in.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    It will all depend on the condition of the pistons themselves and on the true-ness of the cylinder bores. Re-ringing an engine with 87K on it is tricky because you may want to do work on the cylinder heads as well, and the bearing clearances should be checked as well. It's one of those "while we're in there" kind of jobs where the costs are hard to control.

    But since they haven't really tested it they don't know yet, or they didn't tell you properly what they found. Perhaps you have worn valve guides or valve stem seals, which would give the exact same symptoms but only require removal of the cylinder heads---perhaps a $1,500 repair.

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  • shelloshello Posts: 8
    I'm learning so much from your responses.

    Do you think the rings or seals or guides could have been caused from not having enough oil? There was a lot of steam and heat built up in the engine when I took off the oil resevoir cap and noticed the singed oil on the underside of the cap.

    I'm assuming that the cost of replacing the rings and/or the other ancillary things you mentioned would cost more than the $1,500 for guides or stem seals? Much more?

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    I think engine wear from lack of oil is pretty rapid and catastrophic. I don't think being low on oil causes subtle wear issues like worn rings or loose valve guides...if an engine is starving for oil, it will destroy itself pretty fast, not keep running in a mildly degraded state like yours.

    The wear on valve guides could be construed as within "normal" wear at 87K....quite premature but not unheard of...maybe there should have been more frequent oil changes. I have no idea of the car's previous service records.

    I think if they bust open the entire engine, that is "go into the lower end" rather than just stay on the "upper end" (cylinder heads", then you will surely exceed $1,500 unless it's some kind of down and dirty patch job. Most of the cost is a) the labor to disassemble and assemble the engine and b) the machining costs. The actual parts are not very expensive---rings, gaskets, hoses, clamps, belts, etc.

    Offhand, I'd say your car is an excellent candidate for a used engine, should the cylinder leakdown test show excessive ring wear. Remember, you cannot successfully install a new, perfectly round ring on a worn piston running in an oblong cylinder bore. It won't last but a few thousand miles before burning oil again. Everything must be "trued up" and made factory tight again.

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  • shelloshello Posts: 8
    I just LOVE what I'm learning about this whole procedure. Of course I'm less excited about how costly this is turning out to be :-(

    I finally heard back from the Lexus Service Manager.

    He stated that they didn't arrive at the ring failure determination from performing a cylinder leakdown test. Instead, they determined that it had to be the failure of the rings because oil was 'fouling out' the spark plugs, even the newly installed ones, and the only way that oil could get to the spark plugs was if the rings had failed.
    He said the rings were failing on multiple cylinders.

    Like you, he also told me that is was highly unlikely on a "Lexus engine" that the trouble was being caused by a valve problem.

    He went on to articulate what is involved in rebuilding the engine and said that with the labor involved (40-50 hours), it would exceed the cost of even a factory new engine from Lexus ($7,000).

    So, now I guess my only option if I'm going to keep the vehicle is getting a used engine.

    My only experience with such an endeavor is when I had a new transmission put into a Hyundai Excel. I shopped around at auto salvage yards and found a mechanic to install it. I then promptly drove it from his shop to an auto dealer and traded it in.

    Should I just start calling auto salvage shops and shop around for engines? Are there internet sites where I can shop for the engines?

    I know the price will vary depending on the mileage, but can you give me a ballpark figure of what is a good price given a certain mileage range? Also, what should be a reasonable labor charge for removing the old and installing the new engine?

    I remember when I had the transmission done, the warranty for the transmission was only 90 days and the mechanics work was only guaranteed for 30. Would the warranty be much the same on engines?

    I know I'm probably asking a lot of you, but any help you can provide will help me make a decision.

    Thanks for all of your help and patience.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    "Instead, they determined that it had to be the failure of the rings because oil was 'fouling out' the spark plugs, even the newly installed ones, and the only way that oil could get to the spark plugs was if the rings had failed."

    I'm sorry, but they are wrong about that.

    Bad valve guides or valve stem seals could certainly foul spark plugs, and in fact could do so more easily than bad rings. Why? Because with bad valve stem seals or guides, the oil can drop into the combustion chamber with the engine shut off, putting a lot more oil onto the cold plugs than bad rings can do on warm plugs.

    I'd still say that without a cylinder leakdown test, Lexus is just walking around with a blindfold throwing darts at your checkbook.

    One step at a time. First, "nail" the problem. Automobiles are science, they are not sessions with a psychic.

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  • shelloshello Posts: 8
    I'm so glad I asked you. As stated before, I didn't have much confidence in the service manager at this point. I can easily see him saying something HAD to be the problem and it not necessarily being the case.

    In the meantime, I talked to a company that specializes in engine auto parts. Their rep told me that the engine on the Camry and Avalon is the exact same engine as the Lexus ES 300 and can be used interchangably. Is that correct?

    He told me he could get me a Certified Used Camry engine for $1,650 (no tax)delivered to a commercial address. He said that engine has 41K miles on it.

    He had a certified Rebuilt Lexus engine he could get me for $3,500.

    He also had a certified Lexus engine remanufactured by Jasper, for $2,800.

    According to them, each engine is thoroughly inspected, leak-down and run-tested. Their warranty covers the ‘long block’(cylinder block, cylinder heads, valves, crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, bearings, rocker arms, camshafts and all of the internal moving parts).

    Can the Lexus, Camry and Avalon engines be used interchangably? Since I have a baseline for the engine prices, what is a ballpark figure for labor for installing the engine?

    I will call the Lexus dealer back and see if I can't get a leakdown test, free of charge, since they misdiagnosed the problem the first time (charging me $400 for new wires) and just guessed the second time I brought it in.

    I think I'm getting close to being able to navigate these waters.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,461
    I would want to speculate on engine swapping from different models. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it because you will invariably find differences in how things hook up in the different cars. So you'll need a shop that can improvise that kind of thing....wire too short, bracket in wrong place, hose too long, red wire meeting black wire instead of two red wires, coupler A not mating to coupler B, that sort of thing. So it might add 10 hours to the job. I really don't know.

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