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Transmission Success Story


bluestu
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I have almost 120k miles on my 1999 and 2000 RX300s, and the transmissions are working great. I bought both cars with lower mileage and have flushed the transmissions every 15k miles. I had never gotten that much transmission mileage from any other car that I had previously owned. Of course, I never changed the fluid.

I did have a bad speed sensor replaced which caused the transmission to malfunction, but it runs fine now. Lexus of Knoxville, TN now flushes the AWD transmissions. The parts guy told me that they had replaced many transmissions in those type of vehicles due to improper fluid maintenance. He said that most people were unaware that the fluid ever needed to be changed, and that people had been mixing regular transmission fluid with synthetic. I have talked to many people with all different makes of vehicles whose transmissions failed well before 100k miles. If you don't completely change out the fluid, you might as well get used to having the transmission rebuilt if you keep the car long enough.

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Yes I agree with you about the 15k interval for changing the fluid, however the Lexus manual or dealerships years ago did not recommend this interval. They have changed their policy unofficially, due to the failure rate when changing the fluid by their old recommendation. I wish you only good luck with your cars, and I do love mine, except I am still upset with Lexus of America for never standing behind their product on the tranny failures. Sad, because otherwise the car is great. I changed my fluid every 30k and it still failed, now I change it every 15k or sooner....there is a design problem, and it is acellerated when the car is driven in heavy city commutes. Seems the highway miles are more gentle on the tranny as it is not constantly searching for overdrive. My friend has the same car, but she drives mostly freeway speeds and hers didnt fail until 180k miles....unfortunately my wifes is driven on city streets for her commute daily..Now I tell her to turn overdrive off, to stop the searching.....Good luck everyone...

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You are absolutely right about the maintenance schedule being flawed. Lexus should be held accountable, especially since they changed their recommendation after so many transmissions failed. Obviously, heat is the main attributor to the breakdown of the fluid which leads to most of the premature transmission failures. I wouldn't own an AWD if I didn't live in the mountains. To me, the RX gearing seems well suited for hills, and is awesome on the highway.

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You are absolutely right about the maintenance schedule being flawed. Lexus should be held accountable, especially since they changed their recommendation after so many transmissions failed. Obviously, heat is the main attributor to the breakdown of the fluid which leads to most of the premature transmission failures. I wouldn't own an AWD if I didn't live in the mountains. To me, the RX gearing seems well suited for hills, and is awesome on the highway.

"...right about the maintenance schedule being flawed..."

At the heart of this it isn't the maintenance schedule that is flawed, it is a design flaw within the transaxle itself.

Were it not for the flawed transaxle design it would be expected that the ATF would be good for the life of the vehicle.

Changing the ATF on a more regular basis will only delay the eventual failure, not FIX it.

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OK, it's flawed. At least the rest of the car is great except for the turning radius and those damn sensors. I've never talked to any mechanic that said the fluid is good for the life of the vehicle. All the advice that I've received is to change the transmission fluid and filter every 15-30k miles in all vehicles. The RX transaxle holds more fluid than a standard transmission and reaches higher temps.. It makes sense to flush the entire transaxle every 15k miles to prolong the enevitable. Anyone who owns a vehicle with an automatic transmission, and never changes the fluid and filter, will be very lucky to make it past 100k mi..

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Sorry bluestu, but most full-sized Chevy, Dodge, and Ford pick-up trucks go well beyond 100,000 miles without ever having (or needing) their transmission fluid to be changed. My 1999 Ram is nearing 49,000 miles and the original transmission fluid is still as clean and pristine as the day it rolled off the assembly line in February 1999. I may change it (that's a conventional fluid change, NOT a flush) at 60,000 miles just for *BLEEP*s and giggles, but I doubt very seriously if it will truly need to be changed at that time.

Transmissions in domestic pick-up trucks and SUVs are properly engineered and constructed and therefore cause their owners little-to-no trouble for the first 100,000 miles as long as the fluid is checked routinely and topped off when necessary with the proper fluid, not just some cheap generic that some clown at the local Jiffy Lube wants to sell you. That has not been the case for the 1999/2000 RX300 AWD and a number of owners have suffered the consequences. In November 2003 at around 48,000 miles, my wife was unfortunately one of the victims even though her 2000 RX300's Type T-IV fluid had been changed by the original selling Lexus dealership as part of the 30,000-mile service. As long-time members of this site will recall, I required Lexus to replace the transmission under the factory warranty. From that point on, I continued to change the Type T-IV fluid myself every 30,000 miles until I sold the vehicle this past January at about 130,000 miles. I disclosed the issue to the buyer and recommended that he keep up the 30,000-mile fluid change in order to maximize his chances of protecting the transmission. I believe he has taken my advice and continues this routine....

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OK, it's flawed. At least the rest of the car is great except for the turning radius and those damn sensors. I've never talked to any mechanic that said the fluid is good for the life of the vehicle. All the advice that I've received is to change the transmission fluid and filter every 15-30k miles in all vehicles. The RX transaxle holds more fluid than a standard transmission and reaches higher temps.. It makes sense to flush the entire transaxle every 15k miles to prolong the enevitable. Anyone who owns a vehicle with an automatic transmission, and never changes the fluid and filter, will be very lucky to make it past 100k mi..

My best guess is that I have put close tyo 2 million miles on various vehicles with automatic transmissions, 275,000 miles on a 68 Ford alone. Other than time for overhaul, typically 125 to 150,000 miles, I had NEVER come upon an instance of needing to drain, flush and and refill an automatic transaxle until I encountered the burned and odorous ATF in my 2001 AWD RX300 at only ~40,000 miles.

It might help all of us if we keep in mind that in most FWD vehicles the engine and transaxle are mounted sideways and if the engine happens to be a larger dispalcement V6 that doesn't leave much room for ROBUST transaxle components. What might work in a small and lightweight Camry or ES300 could well be a problem in a larger and heavier vehicle such as the '99 RX300.

I suspect that Toyota/Lexus, and lots of early RX buyers, learned that one the hard way.

And here we are with '08 models in the marketplace and they still haven't figured out how to build ROBUST RX300 transaxles.

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We have a 2000 model. Are all RX300s AWD, or is it an option? We bought ours used. The previous owner appears to have taken good care of the car, but I do not know how often he changed the transmission fluid. We just did a 90K checkup, and I have no idea if the fluid was changed.

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Transmissions in domestic pick-up trucks and SUVs are properly engineered and constructed and therefore cause their owners little-to-no trouble for the first 100,000 miles as long as the fluid is checked routinely and topped off when necessary with the proper fluid

Thats not globally true. I had a 97 Explorer before the Lexus and the transmission failed promptly at 70k miles, as is extremely common for the Explorer. Now, thats a design flaw just like it is with the RX, but the fact still remains that it happens.

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Transmissions in domestic pick-up trucks and SUVs are properly engineered and constructed and therefore cause their owners little-to-no trouble for the first 100,000 miles as long as the fluid is checked routinely and topped off when necessary with the proper fluid

Thats not globally true. I had a 97 Explorer before the Lexus and the transmission failed promptly at 70k miles, as is extremely common for the Explorer. Now, thats a design flaw just like it is with the RX, but the fact still remains that it happens.

The explorer wasnt known for reliability however and probably cost a lot less. Lexus just plain and simple refuses to back up their trannys, and is still suffering in this design issue....

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Transmissions in domestic pick-up trucks and SUVs are properly engineered and constructed and therefore cause their owners little-to-no trouble for the first 100,000 miles as long as the fluid is checked routinely and topped off when necessary with the proper fluid

Thats not globally true. I had a 97 Explorer before the Lexus and the transmission failed promptly at 70k miles, as is extremely common for the Explorer. Now, thats a design flaw just like it is with the RX, but the fact still remains that it happens.

You Explorer's transmission failure may have been a totally RANDOM event, Murphy's law.

Absent numerous failure reports for the Explorer as in the RX series.

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Yes, transmissions can indeed fail in domestic trucks and SUVs prior to 100,000 miles, but it is extremely rare compared to the ratio of failures chalked up by the 1999/2000 RX300 AWD. Also, the Explorer is NOT a full-sized vehicle, and it is well-known that domestic full-sized trucks and SUVs are built with better-engineered and constructed parts than are their smaller-sized brethren like the Explorer...

As a number of us have pointed out before (and wwest refers to in one of his posts above), it appears that adapting a Camry transmission to an AWD SUV configuration, even a relatively small one, puts too much weight and strain on the Camry components and causes a much higher incidence of failure than Toyota engineers expected. Has this been rectified in the later versions of the RX? It may be too early to tell, but my wife's 2004 RX330 AWD appears to be holding up as it approaches 60,000 miles. But 60,000 miles is nothing to the transmission in a Chevy, Ford, or Dodge full-size pick-up so the jury is still out as far as I'm concerned. If her current RX330 can go 120,000 miles or more with no transmission problems, I'll consider the flaw finally taken care of. And yes, I continue to change the Type T-IV fluid in her RX330 every 30,000 miles just to give myself the benefit of the doubt. It's easy to do and still relatively inexpensive if you do it yourself, and everyone who owns an RX on this forum could learn to do it themselves as long as they have a 10 millimeter hex wrench, a catch bucket for the old fluid, and a small plastic funnel to add the fresh fluid....

Like wwest, I've put somewhere between one million and one-and-a-half million miles on our prior and current vehicles with automatic transmissions and until my wife's 2000 RX300 AWD, we never had a transmission failure....

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The explorer wasnt known for reliability however and probably cost a lot less. Lexus just plain and simple refuses to back up their trannys, and is still suffering in this design issue....

My Explorer cost $42,000.

As far as reliability, no you're right but my only point was that other carmakers do have issues.

Yes, transmissions can indeed fail in domestic trucks and SUVs prior to 100,000 miles, but it is extremely rare compared to the ratio of failures chalked up by the 1999/2000 RX300 AWD. Also, the Explorer is NOT a full-sized vehicle, and it is well-known that domestic full-sized trucks and SUVs are built with better-engineered and constructed parts than are their smaller-sized brethren like the Explorer...

Transmission failures on Explorers are not rare, the percentage is much higher than with the RX. True its not a full sized vehicle, but niether is the RX.

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OK then , what qualifies as "success"/ I' ve got 106k mi. on an 2000 RX AWD and I've only changed the fluid 3 times, once being a flush (90k) at a reputable shop. This to me, from my experience seems lke a normal interval for changing/maintaning an AT. Currently I don't notice any trans problems (maybe tomorrow I will :-) so why do some fail and others dont?? I live in a moderate climate with little to no sub-freezing time and do about 50/50 hwy/city driving, very average, what is the common denominator for failures?

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That's a good question. I guess I'm basing my success on other people's reported failures. I'm expecting to get many more miles from these transmissions by keeping the fluid clean. Aside from the "Design Flaw Theory", most of the info. that I have gathered indicates failures are occuring due to hot temps and mixing different types of fluid. The RX transmission seems to run a little hotter than normal as idicated by owner's reports of dark, burnt smelling fluid. Hot climate might also be a factor. I live in the mountains and I'm constantly going up and down steep hills. The RX seems well-suited for these conditions, although pulling hills everyday is pretty hard on a transmission in an underpowered vehicle. I know quite a few people with 4WDs, myself included that have had transmission failures before 100k. Trucks seem to hold up much better, of course they ride like a truck.

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That's a good question. I guess I'm basing my success on other people's reported failures. I'm expecting to get many more miles from these transmissions by keeping the fluid clean. Aside from the "Design Flaw Theory", most of the info. that I have gathered indicates failures are occuring due to hot temps and mixing different types of fluid. The RX transmission seems to run a little hotter than normal as idicated by owner's reports of dark, burnt smelling fluid. Hot climate might also be a factor. I live in the mountains and I'm constantly going up and down steep hills. The RX seems well-suited for these conditions, although pulling hills everyday is pretty hard on a transmission in an underpowered vehicle. I know quite a few people with 4WDs, myself included that have had transmission failures before 100k. Trucks seem to hold up much better, of course they ride like a truck.

Think about just what generates HEAT within a transmission..

Pumping the ATF, as in the torque converter or the gear type ATF pump. Or the clutches slipping.

If the ATF gear pump doesn't have enough pumping capacity, say at idle, the clutches will slip and HEAT.

If the gear type ATF pump has enough capacity, esepecially at idle, the ATF might overheat as the result of being OVER-PUMPED, needlessly, at higher cruising speeds with the engine RPM well above idle.

I'm guessing that as a HEAT and FE matter the '99 & '00 had the ATF pump capacity reduced to minimum and that resulted in the clutches slipping and failing prematurely. Mid-to-late '00 production run the ATF pump capacity was increased and that resulted in over heating the ATF due to OVERPUMPING for the '01-'03 RX series and a REQUIREMENT for all those to be factory equipped with the TOWING package.

With the introduction of the RX330 DBW, e-throttle, was adopted to protect the drive train. DBW allowed the use of the original lower capacity ATF pump since DBW could be used to prevent the IDLING engine from developing rising torque until the downshifting clutches could be fully and firmly seated.

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