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Car Won't Start - Shift To "p" When Starting

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I've been having some issues starting the car. When I start the car, it does not alway go into READY mode. I instead get a message "SHIFT TO P WHEN STARTING" as shown in the picture. However, the gear lever is in park. I would then try a few more times and sometimes on the next few tries the car would get into READY mode. Sometimes the retries don't work. I then would put the key into the ignition position and move the gear lever from P to D back to P. That sometimes works.

I've called the Lexus dealership, but because this is a intermittent issue (maybe 5% of the time this happens) they said it's hard to diagnose thus I have not brought it in yet. I'll bring it up again the next time i'm in for service.

Any ideas out there on what's going on and what I should do. I've never gotten stuck yet as eventually I'll get it going but this is not normal and it shouldn't happen.

post-106661-12838868365_thumb.jpg

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I've been having some issues starting the car. When I start the car, it does not alway go into READY mode. I instead get a message "SHIFT TO P WHEN STARTING" as shown in the picture. However, the gear lever is in park. I would then try a few more times and sometimes on the next few tries the car would get into READY mode. Sometimes the retries don't work. I then would put the key into the ignition position and move the gear lever from P to D back to P. That sometimes works.

I've called the Lexus dealership, but because this is a intermittent issue (maybe 5% of the time this happens) they said it's hard to diagnose thus I have not brought it in yet. I'll bring it up again the next time i'm in for service.

Any ideas out there on what's going on and what I should do. I've never gotten stuck yet as eventually I'll get it going but this is not normal and it shouldn't happen.

This has happened to me on a couple of occasions, and once it wouldn't go into Park so I could turn off the car. I used to keep an empty reusable shopping bag hanging off the gear shift so I'd remember to use it. I took it to the dealer the time I couldn't turn it off. First thing the guy did was take the shopping bag off the gear shift and tell me not to put anything on it. Sounds benign, I know, but those things are very sensitive and even if the handle didn't look like it was interfering with the movement of the shifter, it apparently was just enough to interrupt the electronics and cause the problem. Now I have to rely on my memory to bring shopping bags into the grocery store. ;-(

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Someone else just went through this on the other board (clublexus) and replacing the 12 volt battery solved the problem.

Update - I just went through this myself while fooling around with different NAV discs. After replacing the disc with a new or modified version, I disconnected the battery. When I reconnected it I got the Shift to P, Check Hybrid, Check AWD messages. I just disconnected the battery and waited about 15 mins and all was in order after I reconnected the battery.

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When the car is telling you to "shift into P to start" and you are already in Park, it means your 12v batter is failing. Time to replace it.

But check to make sure your grocery bag is not pulling the shifter toward the passenger side :)

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When the car is telling you to "shift into P to start" and you are already in Park, it means your 12v batter is failing. Time to replace it.

But check to make sure your grocery bag is not pulling the shifter toward the passenger side :)

Well, it happened again this morning, and I'm starting to believe this issue may be attributed to the 12v battery. Last night I started and drove the car a couple times on my drive way, so the battery never really charged. This morning I had the same shift to P message. I tried again and again about 10 times with no luck, this time by the 10th try, my dash lights and icons were really dim, so I suspect I drained the 12v even more trying to start the car. One question is where is the power going to since the car has no starter to turn? Anyways, my other car was at the end of the drive, so I decided to push the RX400h out of the garage and down the driveway. While the car was rolling down the driveway in Neutral, I noticed that the engine sounded like it wanted to start, but didn't fully fire. At that point I decided to try starting again and this time it started no problem. Could it be that rolling backwards somehow charged the battery enough to start the car?

Either way, I'm bringing the car in next week to get it checked. The end result probably will be a 12v battery replacement. Battery's usually last 3-5 yrs anyways, so i'm thinking it's probably still on it's first one.

UPDATE: So skyfish400h was right. After taking the car in for the second time, the dealer found an intermittent fault/short in the 12V battery. Last night I started and stopped the car a handful of times and the car started no problems this morning. I don't get why the battery is twice as much as a Costco one though.

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Well, guess what? yep, the same exact thing happened to me this morning...came out to my '06 400h...told me the same thing as you..."Need to be in "P" to start....it was already in "P"....then more of the same..then the little engine light...then nothing, then the steering wheel was going in and out...finally after a few long minutes, it finally went to "READY" and I was able to get to work. Thankfully because of this forum, I remembered this topic and I made an appointment for tomorrow morning and hopefully it is just the battery...I really don't want it to be anything more serious...I need to have this car be reliable as I am and not have this happen again. Thanks for this post! Rey

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Rey, how many miles are on your RX? I may be proactive and change our battery if it turns out yours is toast.

Thanks,

Dave

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Its an interesting quirk that serves as an early warning.

I like to think of it the same as when you go out to your regular car on a cold morning and the engine barely cranks over. That's the signal. If you ignore it too long, then you get the dreaded click-click-click when silinoid wont even stay closed because the battery is too weak. Then its JUMP time.

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Well, it turns out that my wife had been seeing this message but she never mentioned it to me. i guess it's time to pay a visit to Costco for a new battery.

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Rey, how many miles are on your RX? I may be proactive and change our battery if it turns out yours is toast.

Thanks,

Dave

53K Miles on it Dave...I am taking to Lexus this morning and seeing what they say. I hope they too agree that there's something wrong with the battery and that will be that. I bought it brand new in Jan 2006 and it has been an amazingly reliable car and need for it to continue to be so. If it's just a battery thing, no biggie.....every car will go through that...I just don't want it to be more serious...but I have been relieved reading these postings from all of you. Rey

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I started a new post on this to make sure everyone benefits...but in a nutshell, YES, it was indeed the 12V battery...NOT a shopping bag as one owner was told. I got mine replaced right then and there so I paid a lot...$170. +tax....but when you see the warning, "Shift to P to start" or whatever it says, go and get a new 12V. Rey

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Rey, how many miles are on your RX? I may be proactive and change our battery if it turns out yours is toast.

Thanks,

Dave

53K Miles on it Dave...I am taking to Lexus this morning and seeing what they say. I hope they too agree that there's something wrong with the battery and that will be that. I bought it brand new in Jan 2006 and it has been an amazingly reliable car and need for it to continue to be so. If it's just a battery thing, no biggie.....every car will go through that...I just don't want it to be more serious...but I have been relieved reading these postings from all of you. Rey

My dealer wouldn't change the battery the first time because his battery scan came up negative. I week later I brought it back and made sure I turned the car on/off a few times right before I pulled it into the Lexus garage. Not sure if that helped or not, but the tests came up positive this time for defective battery. I have a 2006 and it was the original battery, so that's about the right time when batteries usually fail.

With our hybrid engine, our car either starts or it doesn't. There's no middle ground like a regular car, thus it's hard to tell a head of time the car battery is starting to fail. I was told theres a minimum voltage required to boot the system, if it does not get it, you get the "please put lever in P" error message.

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I started a new post on this to make sure everyone benefits...but in a nutshell, YES, it was indeed the 12V battery...NOT a shopping bag as one owner was told. I got mine replaced right then and there so I paid a lot...$170. +tax....but when you see the warning, "Shift to P to start" or whatever it says, go and get a new 12V. Rey

Mine came out to about $180 CAD installed, $130 for the battery alone. I believe the Costco one and Canadian Tire brands were a lot cheaper, and had more capacity. Might be worth looking into.

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I had those issues with intermittent starting power available from the 12v battery at 40,000 miles. I have the dealer service everything however i think the japanese battery in this case as we all know is too small, and not a good quality. The costco battery that fits the 400h, is only $59 and has more cold cranking power, and will be replaced at any time, not prorated during its three year warranty. Its hard to beat that, and i believe it is a better battery than the oem. (what isnt). Also remember to have the ISC reset after battery disconnection as this will be needed, if not your mileage will suffer. thanks, dave

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53K Miles on it Dave...I am taking to Lexus this morning and seeing what they say. I hope they too agree that there's something wrong with the battery and that will be that. I bought it brand new in Jan 2006 and it has been an amazingly reliable car and need for it to continue to be so. If it's just a battery thing, no biggie.....every car will go through that...I just don't want it to be more serious...but I have been relieved reading these postings from all of you. Rey

Ah, it looks like you have just a few more thousand miles on your RX than we do on ours.

I just got back from Costco and installed a fresh Kirkland battery ($58.00). I fully expect to not have to do this again for another 5-6 years. (Our RX is now 5 and a half years old.)

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53K Miles on it Dave...I am taking to Lexus this morning and seeing what they say. I hope they too agree that there's something wrong with the battery and that will be that. I bought it brand new in Jan 2006 and it has been an amazingly reliable car and need for it to continue to be so. If it's just a battery thing, no biggie.....every car will go through that...I just don't want it to be more serious...but I have been relieved reading these postings from all of you. Rey

Ah, it looks like you have just a few more thousand miles on your RX than we do on ours.

I just got back from Costco and installed a fresh Kirkland battery ($58.00). I fully expect to not have to do this again for another 5-6 years. (Our RX is now 5 and a half years old.)

Good call! Rey

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53K Miles on it Dave...I am taking to Lexus this morning and seeing what they say. I hope they too agree that there's something wrong with the battery and that will be that. I bought it brand new in Jan 2006 and it has been an amazingly reliable car and need for it to continue to be so. If it's just a battery thing, no biggie.....every car will go through that...I just don't want it to be more serious...but I have been relieved reading these postings from all of you. Rey

Ah, it looks like you have just a few more thousand miles on your RX than we do on ours.

I just got back from Costco and installed a fresh Kirkland battery ($58.00). I fully expect to not have to do this again for another 5-6 years. (Our RX is now 5 and a half years old.)

RX400h: Do you know if Costco did that ISC reset thing everyones talking about? I thought I'd bring it into Lexus so that they can do the ISC reset, but they never ended up doing it anyways. They said it wasn't necessary. BTW, what was the final installed price at Costco? Is it running okay?

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I believe Costco doesn't do battery installs; I brought the new battery home and installed it in about 15 minutes, even after vacuuming and cleaning out the battery tray, abrading the terminals and cable ring connectors, and wiping down the battery cover and surrounding plastic covers. There is a $9.00 battery return fee that is given when the old battery is submitted. Since I didn't have the old battery with me, I will return it and the new battery's receipt the next time I go to Costco.

So the total cost without returning the old battery was $71.76, which includes CA tax of $5.77. I did not reset the ISC and will monitor fuel mileage to see if it changes. I also did not reset the windows but will check them, this weekend. My wife drove the RX to work and so far - no complaints!

Dave

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I thank this thread and Lexus Owner's Club for saving my bacon last night. 

I purchased a bluetooth OBDII plug to monitor engine fuel trim due to previous intake hose leak.  Being lazy, I didn't take off the plug after turning engine off.  Baking under the sun and the slow drain on the battery lower the voltage enough that the error message "Shift Into Park to start" and red Brake and VSC light come on.  The first time it happens, I was able to start the car after a few tries, so I chalk it up to random computer glitch or a touchy shift position sensor.  Two nights later, same error.  This time I can't start the car no matter how often I tried.  Thank to this thread, I know to call my cousin to give me a jump instead of calling the tow truck.  This is not where the story ends.

After the jump from my cousin, I was able to turn the car into Ready mode, and the engine is running.  I thought that's it, so I thanked my cousin and drove away.  After 1/2 mile, warning lights go off, CEL, Hybrid system error.  I looked at the nav screen and noted that engine is not charging the hybrid battery, and I am running on electric only.  I pulled over onto the side of the highway just as the hybrid battery drain to the last bar.  While my wife is panicking and begging for me to buy a new Highlander right next day, I called my cousin back to give me another jump.  This time, we let the jump cable stay connected for a good 5 minutes before disconnect.  I clear the CEL  with that darn Bluetooth OBDII plug, and drove away without further problems.  There hasn't been any problems since.

My battery is a new Interstate battery installed just 4 months ago, so I know the battery is good.  My old Costco brand battery showed corrosion around the positive terminal after 4 years of use.  I think the RX400h computer is sensitive to the battery voltage drop. The first jump didn't hold up because it didn't charge the battery to sufficient voltage, so the computer decided not to fire up the ICE to drive or even to replenish the hybrid battery.  The engine noise I heard during the first jump may just be engine tried to turn over + Air conditioner compressor running.

I may just buy a compact lithium battery jump starter to keep in my car from now on.  I didn't keep my old jump cable in the trunk before.

Again, my thanks go out to all the people who shared on the internet so others can gain from their knowledge and experiences.

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Thanks for letting us know about what happened. It makes sense that the battery would need more than just a brief charge to allow the hybrid system to operate properly. Just about 3 months ago, I replaced our RX400h's battery, not because of any symptoms, but because it's been about 5 years since I replaced the OEM battery - no sense in getting stranded. In the event that a vehicle battery is inadvertently discharged, I have a Sears Craftsman auto-charger that can be set to slow or quick charge. Some batteries, like AGM types should not be trickle-charged at 2 or 3 amps, but most lead-acid types can be charged at 10 amps in less than a few hours.

I have a Scangauge 2 in each of my MX5 and Mazda3 vehicles. Its gauge cable is always plugged into the OBD II connector. Its display normally is powered off when the ignition is turned off (as the default setting) but hybrids and Skyactive (as in my Mazda3) powertrains require the display-off setting to be tied to voltage, so that when voltage reaches 12.5, the display shuts down.

I monitor voltage, intake air temperature, air/fuel ratio, and ignition timing (MX5) and the first three + coolant temperature (Mazda3). If I drove the RX400h as a daily ride, I'd have a scangauge in it, as well.

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My Scangauge 2 always turns its display off after a few minutes pluged into the RX400h.  So it's possible for me to change the display-off setting in Scangauge to correct this?  I will try this out.

My previously mentioned Interstate battery actually had a bad cell.  My Interstate dealer checked it and replaced it under its 2 year warranty.

I did bought a compact Lithium battery jumper starter, but the model turns out not suitable for me.  It's a Gooloo brand. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BXM2PTC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This model is too smart for its own good.  When it detected that car battery is too low or damaged, there is a "boost" button to push so it will supply the power for 30 seconds to jump start the engine.  In my case, the boost button did NOTHING!  No lights light up, no beeps.  Nothing happened.  I had to call my boss to give me a jump so that I can drive to the Interstate battery dealer.  The Gooloo was used two times previously to start my RX400h, when the car battery is not completely dead.

Now that I had a new car battery, I am returning this Gooloo junk to Amazon.  I will buy another model that is not so smart.  I had seen demonstrations of other models that can start an engine with car battery cables detached from battery.

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Yes, Scan Gauge 2 owners with hybrids, any vehicles with engines that auto-shutoff, and Mazda's with Skyactive engines need to change the Scan Gauge's default shutoff setting. The manufacturer of Scan Gauge can walk you through the steps required to do this.

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