Any auto mechanics? Need advice.

Melt In The Sun

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Oct 29, 2009
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Tucson, AZ
Hi all,
The transmission on my 2002 Lexus ES300 is acting up. I know a bit about a lot of things, but cars aren't one of them (other than regular maintenance). I've been "taken" by auto shops in the past, and have yet to find one that I like or trust :evil: .

The transmission is finicky and jerky, so that the car is hard to drive smoothly. If I'm very careful and press or release the accelerator very smoothly and slowly, it shifts fine. Anything else and it sort of "clunks" and can't decide which gear to choose. Once it does decide, it's often the wrong gear.

I can provide more details if needed. I don't expect any miracles; just hoping to have an idea of what to expect when I bring it in. Thanks!
 

257WbyMag

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Feb 23, 2008
5,061
Denton, TX
UGH! I hate transmission problems.

I am one to try and fix most anything that I can on the car or truck, but when it comes to transmissions, that always goes to the shop.

Did the transmission get a full service at the recommended intervals? If so, was it done by a mechanic or was it done at a quicky lube place? This is one service that I think should always be done by the mechanic to make sure that it is done correctly. Some of the quicky places will only pull the fluid and replace it, never having dropped the pan and changed the transmission fluid filter. The filter should always be changed.

What does the fluid look like on the stick? Should be red. You should also not see any metal flakes.
 

duraleigh

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Apr 1, 2007
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Based on several transmission replacements in my lifetime, I would RUSH that car to the Lexus dealer to get an evaluation.

I am no fan of auto dealers but that's the kind of issue that a knowledgeable mechanic can make look easy and a shade tree mechanic (like me) screw up very badly.
 

Crzyfrlss1

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 6, 2008
161
Central, CT
If the "check engine" light is on it may have codes stored in the computers memory to help the tech. in the right direction to fix the problem.
My advice...get it to a mechanic you know and trust.
But check the fluid first, sounds like it may be a bit low which will cause the problems you describe.

Hopefully it doesn't need a rebuild, as a trans for that car is over 3k :shock:
 
G

Guest

How is the fluid level? Any leaks?

I use the dealer on many items on my vehicles, but I use an AAA rated mechanic for others. Check AAA (even if you are not a member) and see if they have a referral in your area, if you choose not to use the dealer.
 

Ohm_Boy

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May 1, 2007
1,344
Orlando, FL
I second taking it to the Lexus dealer.
It could be something as simple as needing a re-programming of the control module, or maybe an output or input speed sensor, or it could be having a catastrophic episode.

There might have been a service bulletin or two on the ES300 transmission. Ask your dealer.
 

sbluhm

LifeTime Supporter
May 7, 2008
84
Virginia Beach, VA
I know it's scary going to the dealer, but in this case that is what I would do. First, they will be able to look up any known TSB's (Tech. Service Bulletins) and they'll have access to lots of data and known issues from Lexus. If there is a TSB it may be fixed for free, although not always. It could also be something else that is causing this problem and the dealer would know pretty quickly I think.

Second, the dealer can check for any codes in the transmission computer that may help them pinpoint the problem.

Finally, I believe there is a 7 year warranty on that car, so it's expired for you, but if the dealer has bad news for you, you can try to complain about how it just expired, you bought a Lexus so you wouldn't have these problems, etc... they might be able to give you a break...?..?

A transmission has so many valves, gaskets, bands, bushings, etc... unfortunately if any of these is worn or having issues, even though that part may be cheap, the cost to take the transmission out and take it apart usually means you'll want to go ahead and put in a rebuild kit anyways.

I'll cross my fingers that this is a minor problem for you!

Steve
 

dmanb2b

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Apr 4, 2009
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NY
Just to add, that anytime I have had a tranny serviced at a quick lube place (twice), it has failed within 10-20k of the service. Today's quick lubes market 100% fluid replacement, but what they don;t tell you is that to acheive that, the subject the tranny to much more fluid pressure to push the old fluid out than your tranny experiences in normal driving conditions.

There is a reason Honda suggests 3 drain and fills to replace transmission fluid and not using a fluid exchange machine :goodjob:

Take it to the dealer
 

Ohm_Boy

TFP Expert
May 1, 2007
1,344
Orlando, FL
...to acheive that, the subject the tranny to much more fluid pressure to push the old fluid out than your tranny experiences in normal driving conditions...
To be fair, fluid replacement by splicing into the fluid cooler line and allowing the transmission to pump old fluid out while pulling new fluid in does not subject the unit to any unusual pressures.
 

dmanb2b

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Apr 4, 2009
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NY
agree, but my point is when lube shops use a machine to pump the fluid out...not the transmission itself.
 

Ohm_Boy

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May 1, 2007
1,344
Orlando, FL
Accepted, I do not like the machines. I also am not a fan of the solvents/cleaners that they shoot through the trannys, either.

And we all seem to agree to get the dealer's impression on this problem first and soon.
 

Richard320

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Jan 6, 2010
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San Dimas, CA (LA County)
Take it to the dealer. There may be a TSB on it, which saves you and the mechanic a lot of grief.

Odds are, they're going to sell you a new ECU. If it shifts okay, not slipping, when it's shifting right, that means clutches are okay. So it's a control issue. That means the valve body (full of solenoids) or the ECU. But the solenoids don't care how hard you press on the gas; the ECU does.

I had a RAV4 at work the other day behaving exactly as you describe. It had a couple codes stored in the computer, but no light on - yet. $1400 later, it shifts just fine.
 

wmshay6

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2008
149
Central MD
May sound like a dumb question, but nobody has asked so I will- Have you CHECKED the transmission fluid level? Herky Jerky is one of the signs of low fluid.

Check it hot while transmission is in park on a level surface. The dipstick us usually yellow or some other bright color and located at the back of the engine near the firewall. If the fluid is low, make sure to check you owners manual to add the right kind of fluid. Those imports are finicky about fluids. If the fluid is low and that seems to fix it, I would then have a drain and refill done with fresh fluid and to get an inspection to see if there are any leaks.

To those debating transmission flushes- nissan recommends (for my titan) NO fluid changes under normal driving. Ever. I know, weird. Nissan actually has a TSB out stating that fluid changes are OK but under no conditions should a solvent flush be performed. I'll change the fluid at 100 K, then again at 200K, and if I'm lucky 300K.
 

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