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Lexus RX Transmission Problems



  • e8lge8lg Posts: 1
    This is what I have found on the Lexus RX so far. You probably shouldn't buy the 1999-2002 lexus rx.

    The following article comes from today's Wall Street Journal:

    Toyota Agrees to Sludge Pact Accord Will Settle Claims on Damage
    From Oil Build-Up
    Wall Street Journal January 30, 2007; Page B14

    In an important legal precedent for car owners, Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. sales unit agreed to settle with thousands of consumers who say oil-sludge build-up ruined their car engines even though they followed maintenance guidelines.

    Under the pending agreement between Toyota Motor Sales and motorists who are part of a class-action lawsuit, the Japanese car maker will compensate owners of sludge-damaged cars for engine-repair costs and related expenses from towing and storage charges to rental cars, attorney fees and "inconvenience, annoyance, anxiety and aggravation," according to the settlement agreement filed this month in Louisiana state court in Jefferson Parish. A judge is expected to approve the agreement in a Feb. 7 hearing.

    The outcome sets a pattern under which similar cases against car companies could be pursued. Though Toyota's sludge problems have received a lot of attention, car makers including DaimlerChrysler AG, Volkswagen AG and General Motors Corp.'s Saab also have received a large number of complaints from customers about sludge-related damage.

    While car makers' standard defense has long been that sludge is the result of neglect by the owner, the Toyota case seems to make clear that many owners had sludge problems despite changing their oil at proper intervals and otherwise maintaining their cars according to car-company recommendations.

    Engine sludge or oil gelling can occur as metal particles and other sediment collect in engine oil and cause it to thicken. Eventually it no longer can flow properly through an engine's network of tiny oil passages and parts of the engine fail after being starved for lubrication. In some cases an engine may seem to be operating properly before a sudden failure. Other times drivers will notice the car emitting bluish smoke from the tailpipe as the first symptom of a sludge problem.

    Some of Toyota's critics, including a number of mechanics, have said certain oil passages were too small in the Toyota and Lexus engines that became known for sludge problems. One theory is that openings inside the engines that let oil to pass from the upper part of the engine to the lower parts -- often called the bottom end -- were easily clogged by even tiny amounts of sediment. As a result major components such as piston rings, crankshafts and connecting rods tend to fail, causing enough damage to require engine replacement. Such repairs can cost as much as $10,000, which can be close to a cars total value depending on age and model. Toyota still says the sludge didn't result from any engine-design problem.

    A Toyota spokesman says the new agreement, under which the company will repair sludge-related damage for as much as eight years after the purchase of certain vehicles, is essentially the same as a customer-support program the company started in 2002. Toyota agrees to treat the repairs as if they are under warranty even if customers haven't strictly followed the company's oil-change guidelines, according to the spokesman.

    The preliminary agreement focuses on two engines; a four-cylinder model called the 5S-FE and a six-cylinder known as 1MZ-FE. The engines were used in Toyota Camry models from 1997 to 2002, Solara models from 1999 to 2002, Sienna minivans from 1998 to 2002, Avalon sedans from 1997 to 2002, Celica coupes from 1997 to 1999, Highlander sport-utility vehicles from 2001 and 2002, Lexus ES 300 sedans from 1997 to 2002 and RX 300 SUVs from 1999 to 2002.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they have sent about 7.5 million notices of the class action to owners and former owners of vehicles included in the lawsuit. Vehicles covered by the settlement could total as many as 3.5 million. Gary Gambel, a partner in the New Orleans firm of Murphy, Rogers, Sloss & Gambel, says he won't know the size of the plaintiff class for awhile but says disgruntled Toyota and Lexus owners "have been coming out of the woodwork" as an agreement has drawn near.

    The case began with Jeff Meckstroth, a New Orleans stockbroker, who purchased a Lexus RX 300 sport-utility vehicle in late 1998. After about two years and 42,468 miles, the Lexus's engine failed. He wound up winning an arbitration case under which Lexus replaced the engine in his vehicle. dge-lawsuit-es300-and-rx300.html
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    This article, while citing an actual court case, is not current. It does not describe what Toyota settled to do or what has happened since. Toyota settled, saying oil gelling or sludge did not affect all of the vehicles within the class but did affect some that may or may not have been "maintained by the book".
    Apparently for marketing reasons (like other makes), the RX's "normal" oil change interval was listed as 10,000 miles. But the manual also called for maintenance for "severe duty" including stop and go traffic, light mileage usage, etc. at significantly more frequent intervals which were often overlooked... get the picture?
    There are lots of these vehicles that never experience gel/sludge in hundreds of thousands of miles, nonetheless complaints and legal challenges surely caused changes including help for owners who had expensive repair bills.
    The article e8 listed does not include what Toyota offered to owners of the cars listed in the class. They offered to extend warrantees to fix the cars IF their cars WERE affected by gel/sludge. It was a tiny percentage of the actual number of vehicles made. I'm guessing that's come and gone by now.
    Any 1999+ RX that still continues to be affected by sludge or oil gelling will not be a mystery... I'm guessing there will be significant signs of smoke, especially at start-up, and upon removing the oil filler at idle. In general, it won't be a well-maintained car with an engine that seems in great shape any longer. Look for a car that has a documented history of oil changes at less than 5-6,000 miles is a pretty good guess, too.
  • albert72albert72 Posts: 161
    edited January 2013
    I am considering an RX 350. At the dealer, sales person claims that the trans fluid and differential fluid never has to be changed.

    My question is - is this true for the 2010 and 2013 model years? I am trying to decide between buying a used one or leasing a new one but with an all wheel drive vehicle, transmission and differential fluid maintenance is critical. If I get used, I would get a certified one but that only covers 3 years or 100k and I would keep the car well beyond that and if the transmission or differential failed out of warranty, it would be, in hindsight, easier to just have leased a new vehicle.

    Any info is greatly appreciated.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Ha ha ha... Obviously, the sales people reiterate what marketing people tell them to spew so they can sell as many UNITS as they can. Many manufacturers claim "lifetime" and obviously that means until failure. Buying a used vehicle that someone returned from a lease means someone never took "ownership" by expecting the transmission to last them for an extended period... why would they change the fluids?
  • albert72albert72 Posts: 161
    Thank you for your insight.
  • I was looking to buy 2001 RX or Acura MDX. After research I found that MDX have problems with transmission, but no complains about RX. But only after sometime spent I found this forum and see that RX has same issues as MDX.
    The bad thing that this problem not show up in Edmunds reliability report (
    nor on (
    Help others to avoid problems, reports will force companies to fix there mistakes.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Could be maybe because that reliability report is sourced from information supplied mostly by owners who purchased new (just speculating)?
    Or maybe there was a high percentage of Lexus owners who were satisfied with warrantee repairs - (also Lexus made many "loyalty" extensions)...
    Or from owners who did not find it unusual for transmission repairs after many years of stop 'n go use?
    Or they leased the car and turned it in before it was an issue?
    The problem with assuming that any "problem" is widespread based on forum complaints is that most posts represent complaints, and statistically are not a significant quantity compared to the number of actual units.
    Forums are a good way to find out information to help fix issues but some owners simply use them as a way to vent.
    Not that the original RX tranny wasn't a weak design which opened the door to lead to many failures, but Lexus made good by treating many customers well when these cars were newer. Now they are over a decade old... so it's not uncommon for any car/crossover/suv to need transmission work, especially if they followed the originally advice from Lexus marketing that the fluid doesn't need to be changed (until failure).
    Used car buyers of any car should simply look for a car in good working order, or already have had the tranny rebuilt with the modernized parts.
    I just picked up a car of another make also famous for needing the tranny rebuilt. It was recently redone. This is not something unique to RX300's and doesn't affect all of them. RX's with original tranny problems usually beat the fluid long before trouble, so that's a good indicator to look for.
  • I hav a RX300 yr2000AWD win the truck is cold it,s OK but after a few blocks it wont go into 3or4 gear.The fluid level is OK.Win im goin about 40mph the RPM needle goes to 3000, the faster i go the higher the RPM needle goes.I brought the truck in 3/14/13 i notice the problem about 7/12/13 what can it be.Anyone with knowledge of this problem i would appreciate any help Thank you in advance.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    Faith, Sorry to hear you are having trouble. First, is your "Check Engine" light on; if so you need to find out what codes are being stored, and include your findings on this post regarding advice. It is possible diagnostic trouble codes stored in the onboard engine management system may show a problem unrelated to the transmission, however many people mistakenly are sold rebuilt transmissions when the fix is unrelated.
    Next, what is the history of transmission (not other) service? When was the last time the transmission pan was dropped, the fluid changed, condition of fluid, sediments in the filter and pan inspected? What is the condition of the fluid?
    These will be the indicators of how you should proceed.
    What is the condition of the vehicle in general?
    Let's hear back from you soon.
  • Same thing happened to my RX300 at 100,000 miles. Total transmission failure.
    The dealer estimates $8000 to fix it. I am seeing that this is a common problem. based on your research, what can be negotiated or is a common recourse from Lexus? The car has been serviced for its lifetime at the dealership. What might Lexus offer be willing to contribute toward repair of the transmission? What have other owners found to be customary offers that you reported as "generous trade-in settlements?" Have liked the car but private resale value is estimated at $8-10k when working and I'm worried other issues will begin to crop up if I put full value into the replacement of a transmission. Please anyone with info reply as I need to make a decision what to do with the car as soon as possible as it sits at the dealership awaiting either repair, a trade-in, or a tow to an independent mechanic
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    This article may help, especially since you've been a "loyal" customer although it sounds like the dealer may be more interested in selling you a new Lexus:

    The Secret Warranty

    You don't mention the year, but you are pretty far along in miles. But it doesn't hurt to ask Lexus if they'll assist with the replacement.
  • la4meadla4mead Posts: 347
    edited November 2013
    That dealer has not been doing you any favors, but they are glad to take as much of your money as they can drain from you. $8000 to repair the transmission is a complete joke... I doubt you are laughing the same as they are. Whoever told you that deserves a reprimand. First, dealers don't usually include transmission service as part of their dealer service until failure, the owner must specifically ask for it. Check your records.
    Being a firm believer in preventive transmission maintenance because I keep my cars "like new" a long time, I've had more than one dealer refuse to do any more than "power flush" the transmission fluid mechanically, a high-profit but questionable maintenance practice. I've had to go elsewhere for transmission service. By "the book" is none until failure, then after failure, they are quoting you a figure that is irrationally high to encourage you to trade-in. The game they are playing is totally bogus.
    The next step is for the dealer to bargain down the cost of a quality rebuilt transmission *which must include all updates* to more normal amount in the range of about $3500 (perhaps less) based on what others have been paying. You can check on Club Lexus or Lexus Owners Club forums to see the costs and how other owners found quality rebuilt transmission repairs. Lastly, regardless of dealer's recommendations, have the transmission serviced annually.
    Take a look at this forum thread (use the "search" function) to find how other owners successfully negotiated with Lexus for help on the cost. Keep in mind these thread postings are generally complaints, which represent a tiny percentage of all RX300 ownership experience.
    I wish you good luck, and I hope you will share what happens when you speak with the dealer, Lexus, and what happens thereafter.
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