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Looking For Advice On Buying A 1997 Es300


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Hi Everyone,

I was hoping I could ask for some advice on buying a used lexus es 300 1997.. I'm a newbie to lexus but I am seriously considering, as a first family car, buying a used 1997 lexus es 300. nothing else seems to top the drive in this in the price range i have... here are the specifics

1. 188,000 KM driven, 2nd owner who bought this car in 2005

2. timing belt/water pump changed at 120,000 KM

3. brake pads changed last year

4. new tires (michelins installed last year), new winters

5. rust proofed, regular oil changes done (has records)

the price is $3,800 CAD. i drove it on the highway, and I have to say , for a 14 year old car i was very impressed. no issues sounds/anything. drove like a dream. the owner is buying a lexus suv as a replacement.

any idea what i should look out for on a 1997 es300? any transmission issues, struts? I did read that leaky gaskets are a common problem.

I really want to buy the car but the age is daunting. I am OK with cars, I did my own basic maintenance on my previous 2002 civic, but hey this is a lexus...i dont want to touch this outside of a shop..do I?! :)

thank you very much for reading..would appreciate any advice..

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Welcome to the site!

They're pretty easy to work on, a lot of the mechanics of the car are shared with the Toyota Camry.

Biggest issue on these cars is the possibility of sludge in the motor if the previous owner wasn't meticulous about oil changes...short of removing the valve covers theres not a lot of ways to know if there is sludge, just be sure it has good records showing the oil has been changed every 5k miles...

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My wife's first Lexus was the 97 ES, and it was a beauty to drive, and as dependable as a Timex watch. It has no common problems to watch out for, other than the age of its components (hence the seals). That certainly is not too many miles on the one you've found, as we had 369 000 km on ours when we upgraded to the 04 ES, and it ran like a top when traded, and only ever required routine maintenance. Good Luck with your car search!

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It has no common problems to watch out for, other than the age of its components (hence the seals).

It is a great car, but I would consider significant enough engine oil sludging for Lexus to extend the warranty of affected engines a serious enough issue that I would think long and hard before I bought one used when I don't *know* what the service history was. So, be REALLY sure it has good service history...

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Hi again guys.

So i did some research and SWo3ES (Steve) is right, there is a documented, major issue with sludge buildup in the es300 97 - 02...

the owner did say that he did not use synthetic oil. but he did use some ATF and regular motor oil.

I intend to only use synthetic oil and have an oil change done as soon as i (IF I..) buy the car...

i wonder if there is some kind of scientific/semi scientific test one could do without opening everything up to see if there is sludge.

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hi, i think the lexus you are looking at would be an excellent aquisition.

i bought a 97 es300 12 months ago with a 160 klm,s on the clock, the car was from the original owner and i must say it is the quietest smoothest vehicle i have ever driven in. it seems to me as it is a low owner car that if a guy can afford to buy that car from new then i am sure he would be wise enough to keep the maintenance up to schedule.

i am sure you would be more than happy with it so dont worry about the sludge problem its not like it happens to every car,

infact when you consider all the lexus and camry v6 made there is not much of a recall or problem . it really is a bit over exagerated that problem which is not to say it wasnt happening to a few vehicles which werent serviced properly, look online and pick any car , google the faults and you will find every make of car has a horror story.

just go for it, you like the car and i am sure once you get it you will be wrapped in the excellent ride and comfort level, you will forget about the sludge hysteria.

fergi

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it seems to me as it is a low owner car that if a guy can afford to buy that car from new then i am sure he would be wise enough to keep the maintenance up to schedule.

You would be completely shocked. I know a lot of people that own cars far more expensive than the ES that absolutely trash on them, never change the oil, etc. In another life I owned a mobile detailing business and I saw first hand how a lot of people treat $60k...$70k...$80k cars...like disposable garbage.

just go for it, you like the car and i am sure once you get it you will be wrapped in the excellent ride and comfort level, you will forget about the sludge hysteria.

fergi

Yeah until the engine seizes and he's looking at a repair bill far more than he paid for the car. Won't be as fun then.

Look, telling someone to "just go for it, don't even think about the possible repercussions, once you get it you'll like it so don't worry about it" is *terrible* advice. I love these cars, this is my second new ES and my 4th Lexus overall, but I personally would not buy a 97-01 ES because of this issue, and I certainly would not buy one without complete oil change records and maybe an oil quality test beforehand. Its a nice car, but there are plenty of other nice cars out there too in that price bracket, in the very least the OP needs to do his due diligence to make sure this is a well cared for car that won't have this well documented issue before he plunks down his hard earned money.

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Mrshim78,

I stand by my first post! It looks like you found a very good candidate for purchase. Personally, from what you've already told us about the car, I wouldn't hesitate to buy the car. Pull the oil filler cap, look at its underside and in the valve cover opening for oil sludge/junk. If it looks clean for its age, you'll most likely never have an issue.

If you want a car to stay away from purchasing, try a Trabant, or Lada, or a Jeep.

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Just make sure it has good, real service records. The fact that there's no sludge under the oil cap doesn't mean there's no sludge in the motor.

As with any used car purchase have a mechanic you trust look it over first too.

Don't let your desire to own a "Lexus" cloud your judgement.

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thanks guys, esp SW0ES. makes sense, i will ask him to look under the oil cap.

now, if there is sludge, that brings us to a decision point:

1. if there is sludge, do i just walk away?

2. if there is sludge (but the car drives ok now) , and i from now on, ONLY put in synthetic oil every 5000KM, will the sludge build up/become an issue.. i dont know what the composition of this stuff is, does it harden over time,etc.

i have found a second es300 99 (205,000km) that i am also exploring, but this is my first choice pending a mechanical check... i do now have that 'desire' to own one since i drove it but i will try to keep it in check :)

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If there is sludge, absolutely just walk away. A lot of the people who had the issue had no drivability problems before catastophic engine failure, so the fact that it may not have drivability issues doesn't mean much. Same is true of looking under the oil cap, thats not going to tell you anything either unfortunately.

The big issue is regular service records showing oil changes every 5k miles (8k km). So if the car has 188,000km, he should be able to show you records from having 23 oil changes performed over the vehicle's life. If he can't do that, then I truly and honestly wouldn't buy the car. I've seen some people with sludge after only missing few oil changes, or doing them every 10k miles, etc. Take your time to find one that has these records (they are out there) before pulling the trigger.

If he does have the records, and the car looks clean, have a mechanic look it over. If the records are there...then its probably okay.

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thanks SW03ES... i will let you guys know how it goes, next week sometime i should be able to send it in for a mechanical check + check for the sludge issue. lets see, if the owner agrees i'll get its valve cover opened up to take a look too...

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thanks SW03ES... i will let you guys know how it goes, next week sometime i should be able to send it in for a mechanical check + check for the sludge issue. lets see, if the owner agrees i'll get its valve cover opened up to take a look too...

I know you've already gotten a lot of advice, and I don't mean to but in here at the last minute. But, I did want to emphasize a point that SW made above.

It's been my experience in buying used cars that the seller is usually fairly resistant to letting you take their car and take it apart to "check it out". It's risky for them and they have no clue that you know what the hell your doing and won't bring it back as a bunch of parts in a paper bag.

There are a LOT of good cars out there just waiting for a good home. One to many times I have fallen in love with a car on sight and bought it on the spot. Later on, that love wore mighty thin and I and my mechanic were ready for a divorce. Just don't get your hear set on one car so much that your good judgment gets lost.

(My 2 cents; I'm over charging you. LOL)

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Thanks Paul A. appreciate the advice. I will try my best to be objective when i see it again next week! will post back here once i know what the mechanical check says...though ofcourse i am hoping there is no sludge/other issue..

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  • 3 weeks later...

so as an update to everyone here, i bought the es300! while i did try to be as logical as a Vulcan, there is that emotional element that sets in the minute you sit in a lexus's drivers seat :) .

I got it professionally inspected and also got a second opinion from another mechanic, both said it looked ok.

so , i jumped in!

here is hoping it works out for me (and the car lol)

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