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Jon in Raleigh, NC

Sluggish Transmission

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We've had a 2000 RX300 for about a month now. My wife has put approximately 2,000 miles on the vehicle, mostly in outside temperatures in the high 70s to low 90s. This morning, with the outside temperature at perhaps 60 for the first time this season, I noticed that the transmission was extremely sluggish in moving up through the range after initial start-up and leaving the driveway. I've read that these 1999 and 2000 transmissions can be rough shifters and somewhat problematic, but I'm wondering if others have experienced similar rough shifting when the weather begins to get cooler. The vehicle has just a little over 44,000 miles on it, and was very well cared for by the previous owner. That's primarily why we purchased it. I don't like the fact that this vehicle is woefully underpowered, however, and that may be adding to the transmission shifting problems.

What have those of you who've had your RX300 through multiple changes in the weather got to say about this subject? Any relevant experiences would be appreciated.

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http://us.lexusownersclub.com/forums/index...=ST&f=5&t=1291&

Jon, click on the link above. I have a '99 RX 300 that shifts hard on cool mornings also and I live in Miami. It's not an uncommon problem. When Consumer reports first tested the RX in late 1998, they experienced the same thing. I don't agree with you that it is underpowered and I tow a 2000 + boat with it sometimes. Maybe underpowered compared to your Dodge truck, but compared to my old Pathfinder w/ 184 HP, it tows with much more power. Everything is relative.

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Thanks for the reply, Castrol.

How long and for how many miles have you had your RX300?

Did the "cool morning shifting problem" begin immediately once the weather chilled or did the problem develop over time?

Once you start and drive the car in the morning for the first time, does the problem disappear for the rest of that day?

Has the problem stabilized or does it continue to gradually get worse?

And finally, have you changed your transmission fluid (using Toyota's T-IV, of course) and if so, did it help?

All pertinent information is welcome. I agree with several previous posters' points in the e-mail thread you provided that a $35,000+ vehicle should not come with an inherent transmission problem such as this one.

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Bought brand new - June, 1999. Responses are posted in the order asked. Current mileage, 28,000+/- .

1. Due to summer heat, didn't notice problem until later in '99. Yes, it does get cool in Miami.

2. Like you, I first noticed the problem when weather started to cool.

3. Once you drive a mile or so, problem disappears.

4. Problem no worse, no better now than when RX was brand new.

5. Dealer has serviced the transmission twice in 28,000 miles w/ fluid changes. One has to assume the dealer uses the Toyota fluid. I didn't expect the fluid changes to change the shifting pattern and it doesn't. Mostly had it done since I tow a boat with it on weekends.

My turn, did u ever try and change the spark plugs?

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Again Castrol, thanks for the information. I guess the good news I can derive from your history is that the problem doesn't appear to get worse once it occurs. Of course, as the mileage piles on, that may change. Also, you tow but we don't.

I called Lexus Customer Support today to discuss the problem and ask about technical service bulletins or recalls pertaining to it, but they claimed they don't have any records of this problem. I told them that based on what I've read on Lexus forums such as this one, I can't believe them. In the e-mail thread you provided, someone even mentioned TSBs had been published. I sincerely hope that forum participants aren't fibbing about such things and therefore misleading folks like us.

I'll certainly take the vehicle into our local Lexus dealership to have the problem checked out before the warranty runs its course. But I want to wait for consistently cooler autumn weather to arrive and stay here in North Carolina before I do that. We're back into the high 70s/low 80s now and the transmission problem hasn't occurred again since the cool morning this past Saturday.

I won't attempt changing the spark plugs until 60,000 miles, as per the owners manual. I've pulled one of the front plugs and it still looks very good. Right now we're sitting at a little over 44,000 miles. With my wife's driving habits, she should hit 60,000 miles before mid-2004. I have recently talked with a local Toyota dealer mechanic who is very familiar with that engine since it's also in the Camry. He admits that changing the three rear plugs is a monumental pain, but he says that with the right socket extensions and effort it can be done without removing the plenum and other odds and ends that appear to be in the way. So I've got some months ahead of me to figure it out. I've had some independent Toyota and Nissan service folks tell me that those NGK or Nippondenso iridium plugs will do 90,000 miles with no problem, but I like to put new plugs in at the recommended intervals. No routine maintenance enhances a vehicle's performance like a new set of spark plugs. Of course, most plugs cost about $2.00 apiece, not $9.00 apiece (which is the best price I've been able to find at my local NAPA store).

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Thanks for the spark plug source and TSB link, Castrol. I'll check them out.

Our RX300 has the NGK iridium plugs. I used NGK plugs in my 1974 Datsun 260Z (I wish I still had this little rice rocket to play with - it was my first new car and I kept it for 13 years and never even had to open up the engine) and 1989 Acura Legend (given to my daughter after I was done with it and finally donated to charity last October), and I've always preferred NGK plugs in Japanese vehicles. But Nippondenso plugs have their fans, too. If you use either NGK or Nippondenso plugs in your RX300, you'll do just fine. I wouldn't risk any other brand than those two.

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