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lenny Halzel

Rear End Clunk When Downshifting

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My RX 330 with 3,000 miles and auto transmission AWD makes a clunking noise slowing down at about 20-30 MPH. It sounds like it is coming from the rear end. What is it? Also, I am not happy with the transmission smoothness at all.

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Many RX300 and RX330 owners across North America have reported problems with their transmission shifting roughly for quite some time. Lexus has a tendency to ignore this complaint, and you really have to put your foot down with the dealership to get anyone to attempt to help you. We own a 2000 RX300, and I had the transmission replaced less than two weeks ago at about 48,500 miles. The only reason our local dealership did this was because I documented our transmission shifting problems and insisted that I was not going away until they found it and fixed it under warranty. We hope that the new transmission will resolve our concerns, but I continue to believe that there are design flaws or component flaws in these Lexus transmissions. Some Lexus owners on this site will post here to say that it is just a fluke and that transmission complaints are very rare, but if you do the research you'll discover that nothing could be further from the truth.

Don't let your dealership convince you that rough transmission shifting is acceptable and normal in your vehicle. Document your problems, contact your service manager often to remind him that you are not satisfied, and you may get some results as we did. Keep in mind that from the time I first took the vehicle in with our complaints, about 35 days passed before Lexus realized I wasn't going to disappear and decided that it would be better in the long run to replace our transmission. I stayed in contact with our service manager either by phone or by e-mail at least once a week through that 35-day period.

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We have a RX 330 that also has a clunking noise in the rear and a popping noise in the front end. Our car has 4000 miles and we have had it in to the shop many times, but no one can here it but my wife and I. We had a RX 300 we traded in and had no problems with it.

The dealership says the poping noise in the front is a proplem with the A/C line that Lexus is aware of and are working on a cure. I don't think this is the problem. Has anyone had this problem cured

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:angry:

Regarding the shifting problems: four trips to the dealer, calls to Lexus customer service and all we get is - "the transmission is working within design standards". The dealership says that we're the only ones in Houston that seem to think its a problem. BS

Taking the advise previously stated in this topic: every time the vehicle goes in for service the transmission complaint is registered. If anything ever goes really wrong with the transmission, there will be hell brought if they think we're going to pay for repairs.

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My RX 330 has been in the dealership repair department for four days now. At least they gave us a loaner car. They do not know what is causing the rear end clunking noise but are trying to figure it out and admit that it is unacceptable.

They did a software upgrade for transmission shifting smoothness and tried to convince me that I need to drive it for a while so that is can learn my driving habits and then it will shift smoothly for my driving habits and style. I got a good laugh out of that one - what about multiple drivers in the same family - how will it know who is driving?

I am going to investigate the automobile lemon laws in RI. Rented a Chevrolet Malibu on a business trip yesterday and the trasmission shifting was smooth as glass.

Shame on Lexus, their high price, and inferior quality!

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About three weeks after our "new" transmission was installed, my wife's 2000 RX300 is back in the shop today. She's put about 1,800 miles on the vehicle since the transmission job, and the cabin noise during idle as well as during normal operating conditions is considerably louder now. The good news is that transmission performance has been fine since the transmission job, but she is accustomed to a quiet cabin and wants Lexus to ensure that they can make it happen again for her. I have my doubts.

I asked our service consultant if perhaps there is a break-in period for the new gears to settle in, and he said no. I asked if perhaps they left out some insulation or noise-baffling material when they put the new transmission in, and again he said no. At least they're trying to work with us. But if it's not one thing, it's another. I've regretted purchasing this Lexus all along, but my wife wanted one for a couple of years now so I finally agreed. Even she is now beginning to think that she should have stayed with our perfectly-maintained and much more powerful and roomy 1998 5.9 litre V-8 Durango.

Although I do appreciate the decision by Lexus to replace our transmission under warranty, I'm growing tired of the hassle of having to run this vehicle into the dealership every month or so. I don't believe we'll be purchasing any more Lexus SUVs. Our Grand Cherokee and Durango were both much more reliable and were far less costly to maintain.

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Theres no doubt that there is something wrong with many, and maybe most of the transmissions in 99-01 RX 300 's. It would also appear that there may be a similar problem with the transmissions in the 330's although I have no idea whether it is the same unit. That said , if it were tryuly a design flaw almost everyone with the same vehicles and same mileage would be having this problem. The common question I think everyone would like to know (as well as benefit from) is; what is the connection betwwen all of those having the transmission problem? Conversely what is keeping all the others from having the same problem?

I certainly know the frustration of having to drag a vehicle to the dealer constantly and I dont downplay that frustration, however in order to find a true cause and then effect a fix of the problem you've got to identfy it. Complaining that there's a design flaw doesnt do any good unless you can identify the flaw.

Its usually best to detach emotionality from problems like this and lookat it logically. On the surface this problem seems that it may be cold weather related, thats a fine place to start looking for an answer.

I do agree that anyone with a problem should press their dealer for answers and the more people who visit their dealer for a specific problem the more likely it is someone will find the problem

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This isn't about emotions, pal. It's about an apparently widespread transmission problem that Lexus chooses to ignore because 99% of their customer base allows Lexus to tell them "your transmission is operating within normal limits" and doesn't stand up and say "wait a minute - I know my vehicle better than you do and I'm not going to let you get away with this". The typical customer accepts the Lexus explanation, they keep driving their vehicle (getting more and more unhappy with it all the while), and the bottom line is that they've all paid far too much money for their RX300 or RX330 to a supposedly world-class manufacturer to be stuck in this situation with no awareness of how to effectively seek help.

Our household is following the necessary Lexus plan of action with our particular vehicle at our particular dealership. It's a hell of an inconvenience but I know that in order to have even a slight chance of finding the problem(s) and obtaining a true fix, we have to allow the Lexus techs to spend time with our vehicle. As I said before, I'm grateful for our "new" transmission, but I question whether our long-term problem is truly fixed at this point.

Some of you out there need to take off your Lexus-colored glasses and acknowledge that many of these RX300 and RX330 transmissions are flawed in some way. There is a statistically significant percentage of the RX300/330 population that is taking the time and trouble to complain about their experiences on sites like this one. I can't help but wonder about the number of folks who are experiencing similar problems and don't initiate the effort to contact forums like this one to seek out others who may have dealt with similar problems and are therefore in a position to provide advice or recommendations.

I've owned more than 20 vehicles over more than 30 years and I've driven nearly two million miles spread across those vehicles. I have the ability to recognize a significant automotive flaw when I encounter one (this Lexus transmission problem is not the first one I've had to deal with). And you cannot deny that the number of transmission complaints just on this forum alone indicates a flaw of some type. Take the time to investigate similar forums across North America and you will find the same overwhelming complaint - poor transmission performance in the RX series and unhappy owners looking for solutions from their local Lexus dealership (and rarely getting it).

With all the time and effort I've spent on this problem over the last three months, I wish I had the final answer for all of us who own RX300s or RX330s. But that final answer is going to have to come from the Lexus corporate level, and unfortunately for us they are doing their best to hide from this issue and keep their mouths closed.

Ultimately, I'll speak with my checkbook when it comes time to purchase our next SUV....

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You can speak with your checkbook all you want, more power to you, but I have to agree several members here (you in particular Jon) are getting far too emotional over the problem. When you get to that point, nobody is ever going to be able to help you and you're never going to be able to be satisfied.

I'm not saying that these transmissions don't have some ideosicracies. What I'm saying is that some of the inherrant "odd" behavior of the transmission simply is not something the dealership can control, it is simply the way the car is designed. If you find it obtrusive then of course I wouldn't reccomend you buy another one. However, Lexus sales go up every year, especially on the RX model so most owners must be content. You can't take the experiences of some enthusiasts on a board like this as a true cross section of the entire population. There are a lot of biases here that taint the data. You say a significant amount of members here have reported problems? I see maybe 15. There are dozens of reasons for that (high level of discussion of the transmission leading to internet search turning the site up for one). We only have 5,000 members here Jon. If all 5000 members were RX owners with a problem, it STILL wouldn't be significant. How many RX units are on the road? 850,000 or more? Thats only .006% of owners. The 15 members that continually complain about the problem make up .0000015%. How is that significant?!?

Lexus powertrains are somewhat "odd" in the way they operate. My father noticed this when he got his first LS400 back in 98, the slight hesitation when applying throttle that can sometimes be obtrusive. This is caused by the inherant design of the powertrain and there is NOTHING anyone can do about it. Its in my ES300 and his brand new 04 LS430. Both of us have learned to drive around the ideosycracies and they no longer bother us. Lexus 5 year dependability and customer satisfaction figures rise each year and are the best in the industry. Those that are unhappy are a minority. A vocal one here, but a minority nonetheless.

I'm not defending Lexus, but I am defending the dealerships that deal with irate customers such as yourself looking for a fix when there isn't any fix out there short of designing an entirely new transmission. The car IS IN FACT designed to operate this way. Sometimes when the dealership says there isn't anything they can do, there actually isn't anything they can do.

Sometimes the only thing you can do is move to another carmaker's product which is fine, the Lexus wasn't for you. I do however promise you that there is a way to drive around the ideosyncracies in the transmission. I do it every day. My car shifts smooth as glass because I've learned how to drive it properly. Its a question of whether you want to give this a try, or you want to stay angry and leave the truck in the shop. Lemon law isn't applicable because there is nothing wrong with the vehicle, like the dealership says, this is the way its supposed to be. If it were blowing spark plugs or throwing axles onto the pavement then thats one thing, but it "doesn't drive right" is not going to get you your money back. Its just not.

Now, if people stay calm, stop trying to lynch Lexus and their dealers and work with them to find a solution then you'll get somewhere. Its obvious Jon that you dislike Lexus, thats been aparent in every post you've made, you disliked the vehicle before you purchased it. Thats fine, but quite honestly its getting more than a little old having every discussion about the RX transmission turn into one of your "I HATE LEXUS!" fits. Its not helping anyone, Its not going to get you anywhere. As a united group looking for a fix for your vehicles you can get somewhere. But I feel that you (and a few others) have made this personal. You dislike the vehicle, thats fine. However it is not neccisary for you to continue to post that fact, over and over when other vehicle owners are simply looking for discussion, help, and guidance.

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Steve,

Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, and just as I have expressed mine, you've also expressed yours above. And I respect that. But I would like to remind you of a very important fact that I posted almost a month ago that you apparently missed while reading that post (assuming you did read it at that time).

We originally put our RX300 in the shop with our transmission complaint because my wife (remember - it's her car, not mine) experienced several instances where she pulled out into the left lane of the highway to pass another vehicle and her transmission "froze". In other words, she pressed the accelerator looking for more speed to get around the vehicle in front of her, but her transmission did not respond and she was left sitting in the passing lane at the same (or slightly slower) speed upon which she entered it. Steve, this is NOT an "idiosyncrasy" as you call it - this is downright dangerous and is likely to get her rear-ended by an oncoming vehicle in the left lane behind her (and let's hope it's not an 18-wheeler barrelling down the interstate behind her).

All vehicles regardless of brand have their little idiosyncrasies, and I've always learned to live with them over the years. But a problem such as my wife experienced in her RX300 can get her maimed or killed. You accuse me of blasting Lexus for an idiosyncrasy, but in fact it was my wife's decision without any input from me that she no longer felt safe in her vehicle that day and she drove it straight to the Lexus dealership that morning in October without my knowledge. I only found out afterwards that she had taken the car into the shop. And it's back in the shop right now based on her decision and feelings, not mine.

Our experience with this vehicle is not based on some minor idiosyncrasy. It's based on what were obviously dangerous operating conditions of our transmission that Lexus initially ignored and attempted to explain as "normal operating conditions", then later decided to attempt to fix based, I'm sure, on their concern for liability. As I've stated several times, I appreciate our local dealership's 180 degree change of heart and they are now spending massive amounts of time and money on us in an attempt to make this vehicle safe. But it should never have come to the point where a customer feels their life is in danger every time they get in their car to drive somewhere before a manufacturer steps up to the plate and admits there's a real and tangible problem.

I'm sorry that this subject makes you uncomfortable, but I value my wife's opinions and feelings (and LIFE) far more than I value yours.

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It doesn't make me uncomfortable at all. I'm just telling you that it is possible that the freezing that your wife experienced is not something they can do anything about. If you hit the throttle wrong when trying to pass the transmission will do that, it will literally get confused over which gear it should be in and just sit there. It can be very disconcerting I know, but you can stop it from happening by being smoother on the throttle. It doesnt like abrubt throttle inputs.

My guess is your new transmission does the same thing she's just never hit the throttle the same exact way again. My ES (and every ES I've had as a loaner) my dad's old 98 LS, his new 04 LS, the RXs I've had as loaners (330s and 300s) all can be made to hesitate like you describe. What I'm saying is there really might not be anything they can do...

I also agree that it can be unsafe at times, unless you know how to massage the throttle just right. I also agree that in a quality luxury car costing what these cars cost, it should be a non-issue. However its inherant in this style of vehicle with electronic throttle and isn't just confined to Lexus.

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If what you said above is true, this is an inexcusable (and highly dangerous) condition for ANY automobile manufacturer to be allowed to get away with. The average driver should not have to learn to "feather" the throttle according to the particular driving conditions at each and every moment they are on the road.

Where are the details published on this particular condition for the RX300? I doubt very seriously if they can be found on a Lexus-owned or controlled site.

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It doesn't seem to me that the transmission problem is just a little idiosyncrasy; otherwise Lexus wouldn't have released a TSB for it. Unfortunately, the Lexus hasn't done a good job in fixing the problem outright. (Please note that I'm blaming Lexus but not the dealership). Just my 2 cents.

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Lexus releases all kinds of TSBs for things on their cars. Because something has a TSB released doesn't neccisaily mean its a huge deal. They release TSBs on how to properly align wheels, fix rattles etc.

Jon, Oh its not a good thing. The only possible reason I can see for it is the electronic throttle because Toyotas (which have traditional throttle cables) dont have that hesitation. All Lexuses have it, BMWs that I test drove (including the 7 series) all exhibit that lag, some folks that I've talked to attribute it to the electronic throttle. My only point was that there isn't anything that a dealership can do about this concern. Your dealership has been FAR more helpful than most. I dont see why Lexus has to have an electronic throttle. Thats why the Malibu that the fellow drove above was so smooth, its a standard throttle cable.

I agree you probably wont find any details on this published on the Internet anywhere, this is all speculation among owners and techs as to what exactly causes the lag.

If this is true, then theres not even anything Lexus can do about it short of retrofitting the cars with standard throttles, thats why all their fixes have been so useless. It very much depends on the driving style of the individual whether or not they're going to experience it. Some (Like me and most owners) never experience it, some (like your wife) have only experienced it at particular times, and some feel it all the time depending on their style of driving.

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This entire scenario unfortunately reminds me of the Ford Explorer/Firestone Tire fiasco a few years back.

I certainly hope that it doesn't come down to Lexus drivers and passengers losing their lives due to these transmission quirks before Lexus Corporate does the right thing and issues the appropriate warnings and recalls.

Steve, I appreciate your willingness to speak up and acknowledge that this transmission condition is prevalent across the entire Lexus model line-up. A flaw like this one is not worth risking in any planned future vehicle purchases for my wife and me. But in the meantime, we still have to deal with our current RX300.

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See thats the thing, its not really a flaw its a characteristic of the throttle linkage. There are several other companies that use electronic throttles and they exhibit the same behavior. Thats why I dont understand why an electronic throttle is better than a tethered one...

For me I never notice the hesitation unless I'm purposefully trying to make it hesitate, and I'm totally satisfied with my entire Lexus ownership experience so I'll keep buying. I've never heard of anyone being in an accident or dying because of the hesitation, its more an annoyance for few. Until that happens you're not going to see any action from Lexus. I dont blame you or anyone else who'se driving style is incompatible with the vehicle for buying something else. Do beware though that any vehicle with an electronic throttle could potentially exhibit the same behavior, not just Lexus. I've felt it on BMWs, Audis, Mercedes etc. If I were you I would just stay away from cars with electronic throttles completely, test drive a car well and for an extended period of time before you buy. Pretty soon electronic throttles will be the norm on everything (the BMW7 has electronic brakes and transmission also) hopefully the technology will be more seamless when that happens.

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You should be happy that you don't own a ford/chevy or other. If want to replace a new tranny, your problem is still there. I have to agree it's a flaw in the design. I drove a lot of rx330, so I know how the tranny behave. Let us know how the suit going. There is no TSB on the clunking noise, Lexus does know about this concern though.

JPI

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Agreed, I'm on my second Ford transmission, Acura transmissions have a 30% fail rate, worst tranny in the industry.

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You can call it an idiosyncracy or an annoyance, but the bottom line is that if it puts drivers and passengers at risk (which I believe any type of hesitation ALWAYS does), it's a flaw (and a dangerous one at that). Sooner or later someone will pull out into traffic and get creamed from behind when this transmission quirk unfortunately kicks in for them. And if it happens enough, we'll all start hearing about it in the news media.

Transmissions, brakes, and tires have to work as designed 100% of the time or people will eventually get injured or killed. That's just common sense, and the manufacturers must ensure that their designs and components in these three systems aren't subject to quirky behavior. Period.

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Thats your opinion. The majority of manufacturers and owners don't share it. Thats why this system continues to be installed on all sorts of manufacturer's vehicles and consumers continue to purchase cars with it.

My opinion is if you take the time to learn how to drive the car properly, its fine (as you have to with any vehicle, they're all different).

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The tick, the clunk and the rattle. You're not carzy if you hear all of the above. The dealer I deal with confirmed that these are common complaint and a Lexus engineerer will be coming to the dealer to look at the problem this week. I live in Ontario where the current RX330 is beiing produced and it's only less than an hour drive from the assembly line to the dealer. They did not say if the ticking and the clunk are problems or not and there is no fix at this juncture. Regarding the dash rattle, there is a TSB out and they have already done a dozen of them already. I am so busy at this moment I'll have to wait till after christmas before I can go in to have the dash rattle fix. The origin of the rattle is similar to the RAV4 rattle. It's actually coming from the intake cowl.

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I have the same problem with my RX330. I see that they are taking the old if you can't fix it, feature it approach. So, they call it a design feature. Ask them where this "design feature" is disclosed in the marketing literature or the technical documentation. The best thing you can do is send a registered letter to the dealership owner and document you complaint. Lemon laws allow the dealer three attempts to fix the problem. If they can't fix it, you can invoke a refund/replacement request under the lemon law. At least that's typical of most lemon laws. My experience is that Lexus will respond. However, you may have to give them an ultimatum in writing.

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I am experiencing the same pop/clunk sound in my RX330 in addition to the "lagging between gear shifts" (Lexus explanation of their transmission behavior). I have taken it in for service the 3 times necessary to invoke the lemon law in Florida even though I was told after the first trip at 1000 miles there was nothing they could do. The first two times I took it in the techs told me it was operating 'normally'. The last time their words changed to 'operating as designed'. Even the popping sound was labeled as 'operating as designed' on the work order. That's the very same response I got when I contacted Lexus. I told them it might be 'operating as designed' but that design certainly has a design defect. I am waiting on them to investigate my complaint. I have requested a full refund of my purchase price so that I may purchase another manufacturer's SUV.

As for the suggestion from SW03ES that we learn to 'drive the car properly': I was told by Lexus that the car 'learns how I drive'. So which is it? :wacko:

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