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02-06 Transmission hesitation problems

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From what I understand there is a fix out there, or at least some people do have some information. Let me see if I can post the info.

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JoeG, the jerky ness at 40 mph is a simple solution. The tranny wants to go into overdrive, the speed tells it to go to 4th, it can't make up its minds.

Solution: move the shift lever to the left into "4" instead of D and cancel out the ability to go into 5th (overdrive). This is actually mentioned in the manual and is not specific to the Lexus ES tranny. When you go past 45 then move it back to D. If you are accelerating up through 40 mph, don't move the shift. You only have to do this when the jerking starts to happen....and that is only when you go steady 40 mph.

The hesitation in full throttle acceleration from slow speed (20mph to 60 mph) is a "customer disatisfaction issue". Report it to your dealership, and to 1-800-25-LEXUS. Ast for Customer Satisfaction and then ask to speak with Laura or Elton. Ask that you be faxed the letter that is going out to 2002/2003 ES owners and that you want it on record that you are not satisfied with the performance.

Temporary soluiton: don't stomp it to accelerate....play the pedal. Acceleration is actually better this way.

Lexus is working on a fix. I saw a post from Edmunds.com that states a Canadian owner around Toronto had the Engine chip replaced with a new one, new part number by the dealer. Key is it was in Canada. The exact chip is available in the states but the US people are still saying they don't know about it.

My service manager has been talking to the regional rep and as it stands now, I am still waiting further updates as to the progess. They are aware of the Edmunds post, too.

I don't usually refer people to another Lexus site, but this topic is also covered in CluLexus.com. I posted the exact letter form Lexus, just too tired to retype it here. The Edmonds post is quoted there too.

The only thing I can say is to go on record with Lexus Customer Service and your dealership as to the fact that you "are not satisfied". We need to make them move faster. They have stated that the "fix" will be offered to dissatisfied 02/03 owners at no cost.

All the fixes that they have tried, supposedly do not allow the vehicle to adhere to ULEV requirements, that is the hold up.

steviej

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UPDATE 7/8/2003

I recieved a call today from my service manager. He was informed that the part:

#89666-33442 "Engine Computer" is infact being offered to owners of the Canadian version 2002-2003 ES as a no cost item under customer satisfaction guidelines. Lexus still stands by the fact that the tranny problem is not a defect.

He also assured me that a fix or a similar ECU release in the US is very very close. The problem is in fact that the product mentioned above will not allow "at this time" the car to meet ULEV guidelines and emission requirements.

I must say, I am impressed by the effort Lexus puts into customer satisfaction.

Soooo, if you are not satisfied with your tranny's shift logic or hesitations, report it to your dealer and go on record as reporting it. Report it to Lexus.com and/or 1-800-25-LEXUS cutomer service.

steviej

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Called Lexus Customer Satisfaction Dept, per post#89 on Edmunds Es300 site. Lexus released a fix for the 40/45 mph lugging problem last monday, the 4th of august. Called my dealer, who denied any problem exists yesterday, they checked their database, and I now have a appointment to repair the problem next tuesday. I'll let you know how it turns out. The number to call is 1-800-255-3987. Supposedly a letter is being sent to all 02/03 ES300 owners. By the way, if I have to move the shift lever to avoid lugging on my 2002, computer controlled , $35000 automobile, I might as well be driving any of the bleepboxes from the 40's,50's or 60's. :chairshot:

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Here's the story of the upgrade(TSB-TC004-03) that was done on my '03ES.

1- The original ECM is re-programmed NOT changed.

2- The new software is downloaded from the Lexus Corporation to the dealers computer.

3- Dealer transfers this new software to a scan tool and than plugs it into the socket which than uploads to the existing ECM. This upload takes about 1 hour. The scan tool tells the mechanic whether the update was successful or not.

My first findings:

I was told that the fuzzy logic will adapt to my driving habits after using it for awhile. Right from the start I noticed that acceleration, downshifts and upshifts were crisper. It seemed to know what gear to go into without the hesitation. I tried this at slow speeds(0-40mph) as well as road speeds(40-80mph).

I never had the shudder that some owners complained of, so I can't tell whether that has been corrected, but from all indications it looks like it would be.

Shifts were as smooth as before this upgrade.

So far I'm very pleased with this transmission fix and I'll report back if I find anything to the contrary.

Good job Lexus. :D

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I spoke too soon!! After driving my car with the updated program and giving it enough time to learn my driving habits I find that this fix is totally unsatisfactory. The quote below was written by another dissatisfied Lexus owner that had his transmission updated with Lexus's newest software. It expresses my feelings exactly. This was posted on Edmunds website(post #115)

"TSB-TC004-03 is not a fix. Lexus has failed miserably to remedy the problem many of us have experienced with transmission for so long now.

The problem, that still exists and appears will never be fixed, is an utter lack of power when the gas pedal is pressed firmly at around 40mph and dangerously the RPMs shoot up as high as 5,000 RPM almost to red line. The gear then sticks and only when you take the foot off the gas pedal do the RPMs come down and the gear then "pops" into place.

Scary stuff when you are trying to pass a big rig while merging onto the highway going 40-60mph. There's not much time to react going this fast and only time will tell when someone will get seriously hurt from this severe problem.

The "fix" with this TSB, if you will, fixes only the cosmetic and more noticeable poor driving characteristics of the transmission so many of us unfortunate 2002-2003 ES300 owners have experienced over the last year and half. The shift points have changed, allowing for the vehicle to more appropriately adjust to our driving styles. The hesitation, shuddering, and fumbling for gears is not as pronounced as before. However, as I have said above, this is no fix for the more serious problem with our transmissions. Which is the considerable loss of power in acceleration with the RPMs going to dangerous levels while driving above 40mph.

Signed-

Very Irritated and Disappointed Lexus Customer"

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WARNING

I called Lexus Customer Service and I found out that the latest transmission upgrade for the '02-'03 ES is not reversible!!

Try to drive another car that has the upgrade and see if you like it before you have it done. My dealer never told me this and I was supposed to sign a release to have it upgraded. Lexus doesn't consider the poor shifting characteristics a defect, even thought there have been numerous complaints on this subject.

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Alan, it may not be reversable in that they can't rewrite the old program over the latest version.

But, find out you options on total replacement of the ECU. They should be able to take an ECU from an ES that didn't have the upgrade and drop it in your ES. (kinda like replacing the processor in your computer).

If Lexus didn't make all caviats of the upgrade known to you, then they are neglegent and should offer you a replacement ECU.

I would talk to Lexus Customer Service again and push this point to them. You are not satisfied with the upgrade and they didn't tell you it was irreversable.

When in doubt, take them to small claims court.

steviej

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Steviej, I did ask Lexus Customer Service about replacing the the ECM and she said it couldn't be changed! At this point I realized that most people in the Customer Service Division are really not technically oriented. I will find out tomorrow from my dealers Service Manager whether this is possible. Actually I called Customer Service so they have this on record. I think it's almost impossible to get to a 2 level tech or Supervisor to discuss this upgrade and that *BLEEP*es me off no end.

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So Alan, would you say the upgrade makes the trans worse or just not quite as good as you'd hoped?

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Firstly, I spoke to the Service Manager and asked whether I could get a new ECU to bring it back to the original specs. He told me all the ECU's that would be shipped to him would have this updated software.

SW03ES, As far as I'm concerned, all this fix did was change the shift points so the car seems to shift gears at a lower speed when accelerating normally. The transmission still hesitates and hunts for the proper gear to go into. If you're going at approximately 40mph and than mash the accelerator to pass somebody the engine will rev to redline, and than after an inordinate amount of time it'll finally engage the gear it chooses. This can create a very dangerous situation. I have driven many other manufacturers cars and I NEVER had this problem. Plain and simple......you tromp down on the gas....the car downshifts and off you go. That's the way it should act.......but it doesn't!!!

Finally, My feelings are this latest transmission reincarnation is just a tradeoff that doesn't address the important problems.

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But at least it isn't worse? I still haven't had any problems using Steviej's technique of never using full throttle. Its become automatic now.

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No, It's not worse, but different.

Here's a couple of recent posts about Lexus's 5 speed transmissions that are used in different models. It seems that all models have this afflication:

"In one of this month's car mags (C&D or MT), the reviewer states that the RX330 transmission is very sluggish when hitting the gas hard. I guess it means that the trans problem will not get fixed for 04."

" Lexus may have a general problem with their 5-speed transmissions across the board. In an evaluation of the Lexus flagship LS430, Consumer Review praised the car (naturally), but said, "Alas, the transmission is sometimes slow to downshift for passing."

And of the $62,000 SC430, Road and Track said, "Automatic shifts are seamlessly smooth, but there's a bit more delay in the kickdown than we'd like."

Ironically, Toyota's 4-speed automatics have always been praised as among the best in the business (along with GM's).

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I don't know how many of yall subscribe to Motor Trend, but in this month's issue they did a test with the MB ML350 vs. Lex RX330 vs. Infiniti FX35(unfortunately the FX35 won). One of their complaints is that the RX330 has a "transmission filled with mayonaise." :lol::lol: ...well I'm sure it's not funny to you guys with 02-03 ES's(and other 5speed auto Lex vehicles) :angry: .

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I never noticed this on my dad's 98 LS, with a 5 speed auto. I can make it happen to the ES though...

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My dealers Service Manager claims that the new electronic throttle control is the crux of all these problems with the transmission. I don't whether he's right, but it gives me something to think about. :rolleyes:

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with all the bad publicity on newer Lexus transmissions, I am sure improvement has become first priority for 05 models and greater.

This will hurt their market share and standing in customer satisfaction ratings.

*******

Alan, there is a guy on CL, that had the fix and his service manager is replacing his ECU cause they fricked up the ECU while installing the fix.

Here is an idea. Suggest to your Lexus dealer that they pull an ECU from an 03 in the lot that has not had the fix. Put that in your ES. Then they order a replacement (probably will be "fixed") and have them put that one in the ES that donated the unfixed ECU. Like I said before, threaten with small claims court and you will see some action. Lexus doesn't like bad publicity.

steviej

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I'm not going to bother doing that since the original ECU was lousy also. Since I read that this hesitation happens across the board with ALL current Lexus models, from the SC430 to the LS430, why bother? I'll just keep test driving other manufacturers models, and when I see one that gives me what I'm looking for I'll sell the ES and move on to better pastures.

I really love this car, if only this quirk could be fixed I'd be 100% happy.

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Ok todays update,

I spoke with the Service manager at my Lexus dealer. I asked him if he felt that the upgrade had helped those who had it done. He said yes. He said 5 have been done and they have not heard anything negative or had returns from customers. I then asked him what their actual problem was. He said, "The software update will help those who have harsh shifting problems"

I then asked him about the problem that I am experiencing(slow down to 5-10 mph and the reapply accelerator and hesitation and then jerkiness felt). His response was that the upgrade would probably not cure this problem. This was probably do to the Electronic throttle control and that it is present on all ES300's and even on the LS400. He said I should not be experiencing a jerking into gear but that the slight hesitation under those conditions was quite common.

I must say it sounds ABSOLUTELY CORRECT! Other service managers have said this, right SteveJ? Actually this makes perfect sense. There is no cable connection to the throttle plates, its 100% electric...drive by wire if you will. According to the service manger the computers say," oh you want to stop. Ok everything is ready to stop" Then we hit the gas and it thinks, "Oh no!, now you want to go" and it does not compensate smoothly.

Lexus needs to make this transission smoother. I have heard of BMW's electronic throttle control also doing similar things.

That's my .02 and what I believe is really causing our headaches. I don't feel there is an actual problem with the transmission.

John

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Yes actually, when my father got his LS, he found this and took it back to the dealer, the service guy asked him if it was his first Lexus, because of the electronic throttle control causing that hesitation. Mine does that, just like his LS does. This goes away as you adapt to how to drive around it.

The primary problem is that lag at 40-60mph when you floor it to pass. I've gotten around that like Stevie says, to just use 3/4 throttle instead of full.

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John, I think you hit it right on the head, especially with the "drive by wire" system that we have. I also think you have found an honest service manager.

Steve (SW03ES) is absolutely right.

Personally I think the tranny is actually very smooth if you let it shift the way it was designed. I think the mass of complaints are also arising from people that want the aggresive accelration of the conventional throttle system and the smoothness of the current tranny. Look at the number of sales of this sedan compared to the number or owners that have complained. There must be a massive number of owners who don't know there is an issue. However, Lexus has tried to do something about one aspect of the concerns registered. I commend them for that. I think also like concord stated the problem is actually not in the tranny or the ECU, but inherent in the throttle system since it is computer controlled and electronic too.

Every system has a work-around. Whether it be the computer system at work or driving my Lex, there is always something I have to learn to make it work best for me.

I wish you all good luck and smooth driving. Peace.

steviej

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I can make mine hesitate like everyone says they do, but with my normal driving it seems fine to me, always has.

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I had TSB TC004-03 done to my 02. Shudder seems gone. New problems are lack of poiwer and MAJOR hesitation A midrange accelleration( as in from a onramp onto a highway). Anyone have any info about ECU pt# 89666-33442?

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that ECU is $1700 in the US if you buy it yourself. According to a post on Edmunds.com it is the fix for the canadian version ES. I do not think they are releasing this as the fix in the states cause it does not make the car ULEV compliant and is too expensive. Hence the software upgrade for the present ECU in the car.

my guess from what I have read.

steviej

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