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Lexus LS: Problems & Solutions



  • As a new member of Town Hall, I would like to thank everyone for their posts and professionalism (check out the discussions about Lexus vs. The World in Town Hall to see the kids at play!).

    Anyhow, I am looking to purchase my first Lexus (most likely a 90-94 LS or 93-96 GS). I would like to hear what the pros have to say by way of what to look for in a used Lexus. What systems or specific areas should I focus on? How many miles is too many? Any advice for my purchase would be helpful.

    I am a DIY car owner by nature, but wonder if the LS is going to be over my head.

    Thanks for your help in advance.
  • I purchased a used 95 LS400 last August and had previously owned a 93 ES300. I am sure that the issues I had, or lack of issues, would apply universally to all used Lexus models. The most obvious thing to look out for with Lexus vehicles is the dash. I am a nitpicky owner and do not like those small annoying things to go wrong. I noticed that on my 93 ES the needles were burning out (one needle would flicker at the tip). And of course the whole unit must be replaced. But again, the car was already 7 years old when in bought it in 2000. I put 35k on it in a single year. The only major maintenance it required was a cracked oil pan or something like that which cost $1000 to fix could have been fixed earlier had I wanted it to. The part was very cheap (like $50) but the labor to replace was enormous. It was an excellent car purchase.

    The LS I just purchased has also been remarkable. The only thing I am not too thrilled about is the suspension. This vehicle has the optional air suspension which can be extremely costly to replace and as I approach 85k, is showing its signs of wear including the sharp, hard impacts, front end wobble, and wandering on the highway. I'm hoping it will last another 10k or so (about 6 months) so that I can save for it. The cheapest quote I got was from irontoad for a little over $700 a piece. The remote gas door sometimes does not open but that is very unimportant. The interior is still immaculate and the paint is still shining. Even though it's black, a simple wash/wax makes it look like a new one.

    As for advice, make sure that any car you purchase has had the 60k service done at a dealer. It's just a safe way to know that at least it has been to an "expert" once. They can give you one of their famous printouts too if you give them the VIN #. The 60k service extends the life of the car by a lot. If the owner chose the 90k service interval, make sure it covered the 60k components (timing belt, water pump, etc). And if you do opt for the 90-94 LS, make sure that the power steering pump is looked at !!! lol. you've seen the horrors they have caused. I haven't had any experience with the GS someone else can pick up where i left off.. Happy shopping. There are very few Lexus lemons. They all give extremely nice rides with high reliability. Just like I tell all my friends, I am a "Lexus4Life" owner.
  • paul29paul29 Posts: 178
    Could you tell me what your 95 maintenance manual says about timing belt replacement, my 91 LS400 maintenance and also factory service manual says it only is required to be changed. when vehicle is used in very specific types of severe service. Normal and typical severe service changing is not reqd., only the types of severe sevice noted in the subnote. I doubt if anyone on this board uses their 91 LS in the noted types of service.
  • The manual probably is similar for all LS models with their service intervals. there are two schedules in the for heavy highway miles and another for the more "casual stop and go" driver. 90k is for highway mileage and 60k is for more everyday driving like city/taxi/etc. Be careful though that you are only considering the timing belt replacement during this interval.

    The timing belt is of course one of the major components to be replaced. But the 60k or 90k whichever you choose to use has a host of other procedures which are essential to the long life of your car. it (re)lubricates many of the parts on the underside of your car as well as inspects for damage the majority of major parts. When changing the timing belt, "all is revealed" and anything requiring the greater access allowed with the engine out can be fixed such as the water pump. The oil pan or whatever was fixed on my 93ES i mentioned could have been done when the timing belt was being performed but I said no. SO, it cost me an arm and a leg in labor to remove it again for a $50 part!

    THe reason I said get the 60k service done is only as a safeguard. UNless you get a printout from your dealer, you have no way of knowing whether or not the car has ever seen real maintenance. For both cars I purchased, I had the dealer run a safety check for about $100 that had them inspect the major components for issues. I saved a lot of money just by getting the 60k mile service done since it included replacement of most of the fluids which were left dirty by th eprevious pwner and since the engine was out, allowed them to replace another part which I can't recall at the moment.

    Rememner, that any Lex you purchase will only behave like the machine it is. Parts do on occasion fail and you want to minimize their cost. Parts for this car are extremely expensive so why spend extra $$$ for labor. I do not follow my schedule faithfully but I do take it in every 30k for a "checkup". I want this car to live up to its reputation of a longer than usual life, hopefully 200k if possible. Timing belts are very rare to fail in these cars so i'm told but any component will fail if neglected or not maintained properly. Hope this helps paul :)
  • paul29paul29 Posts: 178
    From what I understand the timing belt is a HSN type of belt,which in the LS is not reqd to be changed except in service which involves hours and hours of idling on a daily basis . The belt is subjected to the heaviest shock loads at idle as the cams are turning over slowly . The LS engine is a noninterference type unit ie: no internal engine damage if belt did say goodbye. Has anyone here had a timing belt on a LS 400 fail , if so what year of car and at what mileage ? I personally follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule on all my vehicles without exception , the dealers from time to time have a tendency to add unnecessary additional work at added expense. Although this won't hurt anything but your wallet or purse. Polywhirlguy, the engine is not taken out to change a timing belt on a LS. Changing the belt involves a lot of disassembly in the engine area, that is why I assume Lexus designed it that way and does not require it to changed except as noted.
  • husskhussk Posts: 3
    My 93 LS 400 with 102K miles has a dead battery. The battery was repaced July 1999 at 69K with a new Lexus battery. Does anyone know if the Lexus battery should have a three year warranty? What have people used for a good battery replacement? This car has so many power needs I'm not sure what other's battery changing schedules have been. Thanks for your responses.
  • Hi guys,
    I want to Thank Rodmodd and Q45 in advance for your helpfull hints. I am buying a used LS400, from a dealer in Toronto. I had the Lexus dealer do the inspection. Car has been serviced 32 times since new in 178,000kms. Good car everything looks good except the steering rack has some seepage, NO leaks , just seepage on the RHS boot(Passenger side). Mechanic said it could go next week or last 3-4 years. What to do?? P.S pump has been replaced in the work orders and rest of car very strong/// Is there aftermarket racks if it goes?? Are there seals that can be fixed in the rack.. Can it drive many years with seepage.??
    Mechanic told me a rack was $500 bucks rebuilt. Checked with the parts counter they quoted $3000 canadian for the whole rack?? Kinda scared... Would appreciate an immediate opinion as I need to make a decision in 24hrs...
    Thanks. Claude.
  • I stand corrected about the engine being out for the replacement!!! When I asked about what was done at the 60k service, there was a long list of lubes and adjustments that was told to me by the service manager. i will say that the car drove a lot better afterward. there was a little hesitation in the acceleration which was fixed afterward. i guess i'm one of the lucky ones with the power steering pump fiasco. mine has never been replaced and is not currently leaking (knock on wood). every time i go in for an oil change, i have it looked at. it'll probably just all gush out at once and caused some kind of fire. lol.

    i went for a ride with the technician to help solve a vibration in my car. i asked him about the HSN timing belts. he's been at this lexus dealership since it was incepted (one of the original dealerships). he said he has only seen one break. it was on a 91 LS with close to 240k miles on it. don't know if he was lying or not but he went on to say that it was an old lady driver who just topped off all fluids (never replaced any) except for the oil. i find that hard to believe but it was good for a laugh. when the woman was told that she needed a new belt for the engine, she just opted for a new LS. wish i had that kinda money. i should have asked what she did with the 91!

    Have you made any further decisions yet as to what model you want to purchase?
  • Thanks for the replies and suggestions.

    I've now purchased an electronics manual for the LS 400. In tracing the ground I believe that the IH1 ground, which is on terminal 14 of the white connector, is common to the things that are going out on me. (See page 15 of the manual diagrams)

    I cannot see an obvious break so I am thinking about splicing a wire into the backplane at some other point so the ground comes in from two directions. Anyone ever tried this?

    I also found a complaint filed with the NHTSA. For those that are interested here is the pointer:

    Drill down by looking at "consumer complaints" then "vehicles" then choose, in three steps, 1994 Lexus LS 400 and you will see case ODI ID 857012 filed about the instrument lights. Strange but there are no 90-93 LS 400 complaints. I have ordered the file, will investigate and update this forum.

    Based on what I have read on the Lexus forums we may be onto a large-scale 1994 LS 400 problem where many people have, and are paying $1100-$1500 to correct a factory defect!

  • After several phone calls and letters to Lexus without any resolution, I've talked to my attorney and we are currenly preparing to file a classic action law suit againist Lexus for its faulty temp and clock LCD dispaly on earlier LS400 model. If you would like to join the law suit, please post your car year, mileage (only LS400 model will be specified in the law suit)and contact info (e-mail preferred) and my attorney will contact you. If we can show the scope of such problem, Lexus may be willing to settle even before the trial strats.
  • If it were me I would BUY IT. But it would help to know the year and price. Rack seepage is no big deal,unless it is dripping.
  • You might want to give your e-mail or a phone number to call, as I don't think Edmunds wants that kind of thing on the site. There would be hundreds if not thousands of people that have or had this problem.
  • Bought the car. 92 LS , gold, with 178Kms on it and well serviced. Hope to get 532,000kms on it like my 92 camry has on it right now. (original LE with original motor and Trans, 5 speed , 4cyl, incredible car). If anyone needs an excellent mechanic for these cars in SW ontario get a hold of me at and I will point you to him. Not at a dealership but dealer trained and great guy.
  • Hey everyone , I have found this guy who can help with the Fried Cliamte Control Unit, take a look.
  • I have 98 LS 400 and the Cig. Lighter has no power to it. Won't fire the Radar Detector or the lighter. Fuse is OK. How do you remove the whole thing to check for electical problem, or bad lighter? Anyone?
  • As roddmod11 suggested, anyone would like to join the lawsuite, please e-mail ( me with the year and mileage of your LS400. Thanks.
  • Rod, q45, Lexuslovers,

    Can you guys explain how to get to the rear third brake light bulb, needs to be replaced, I'm baffled on how to get to it, have a 95 LS400.

    any suggestions guys?

  • vcso2279vcso2279 Posts: 5
    To Q45man,dealerflorida, or anyone out there,
    My 94 LS driver seat belt does not retract. Sometimes it retracts after I physically feed it. I heard that Lexus warrants its seat belts for life. Is that true ??? Please assist. Thank you all in advance. PS read every article and love this site.
  • khakis31khakis31 Posts: 2
    Noted archived messages #1 and 2. Vibration described is likely due to engine. It produces obvious vibration at approx. 1800 rpm and increases slightly as rpm increases. Local dealer measured and confirmed it and said that they duplicated it in another '98 on the lot. Regional tech. rep. says that this harmonic vibration is a "normal characteristic" of the engine and not a defect (if you can believe that). Would like to hear others' comments. If there are enough of us, we might form a class action.
  • I had an interesting experience this weekend with my '91 LS400 that I thought I would share. My lcd panel would go out when I applied my brakes. (It didn't happen if the headlights were turned on, though). Also, the "R" light came on in the drive indicator on the dash. Finally, the brakes responded poorly, gripping very hard after applying a little pressure to the pedal. I previously had an intermitent problem with the rear lights bulb indicator coming on when the trunk was opened and closed with the car running. After reviewing some past posts, I checked for a broken wire near the trunk hinge. Sure enough, there was a white wire with a brown line that was broken. Spliced it back together, and everything is working fine again. Sometimes the simple things work!
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Posts: 398
    lx400chw said:After several phone calls and letters to Lexus without any resolution, I've talked to my attorney and we are currenly preparing to file a classic action law suit againist Lexus for its faulty temp and clock LCD dispaly on earlier LS400 model.


    As roddmod11 suggested, anyone would like to join the lawsuite, please e-mail ( me with the year and mileage of your LS400. Thanks.

    lx400chw count me in! I too would like to join the classic action lawsuite ! :)
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    Lotsa luck as all made it through the warranty.
    I would be interested in your attorney's argument since many other vehicles [Q45,BMW]have similiar problems a function of the technology available at that time.
    PS: The government deems 7 years or 100k as the limit for even safety defects!
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    After around 70-100k the trnsmission mount should be replaced this along with front tension rods and a arm bushings corrects most non tire related vibrations [noise on braking turning etc.].
  • q45manq45man Posts: 416
    is still a $50k car [depreciation doesn't count] as far as cost to maintain is concerned.
    The Lexus is one of the BEST but things still wear out.
    The major problem is the fancy accessories wear out faster [sun roof, power windows, electronic devices].
    Except for EGR control system and egr dirt the engine is bullet proof. Same with tranny if you service it CORRECTLY every 30k.
    But it will still cost you 7 cents in mainteance and repairs per mile after the warranty expires!
  • atagatacatagatac Posts: 5
    I am looking for a good mechanic for my 92 LS400. I have 117k on it and still love it. I live in Chino Hills, CA area. What shop do you recommend that do a great job but won't take your arm and your leg. Dealerships are charging too much. Please help. I want to keep this car for a long time.
  • lexor2lexor2 Posts: 11
    Hey Cody, I too bought at an online auction and found out the day after I picked up the car that I had a blank instrument panel for the 1st half hour of driving. After eight months and no help from this board, I sprang for $1195.oo and had dlr replace circuit board. $900. part and 2 hours labor. I made them give me old board in the hope that someone on this board would pay me for the old part and to insure that dlr was not using a reman part. Thank God I got a swinging deal on this '94 as it is now a sweetie. Good luck with your repair! If it works give me a holler at I would be very interested. (Like $1195 interested.
  • djr7399djr7399 Posts: 24
    Anyone willing to help on ? #618?

    Suggestions, anybody.

  • wainwain Posts: 479
    on Camry the cover slides straight forward toward the front seat and then the bulb is easy to reach and replace.
  • lexie88lexie88 Posts: 6
    I think the owner's manuel tells you how to replace the rear brake light. My 91 LS400 owner's manuel has instruction to replace the rear brake light. Simple job! But I don't know whether it is the same as 95 LS. Good luck.
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