Lexus RX300 Transmission Problems & Overview

The first generation Lexus RX 300 was immediately embraced by luxury car buyers. It was filled with high-end materials, the ride was butter-smooth, and the 1MZ-FE 3.0L V6 provided effortless power. The Toyota U140E 4-speed automatic handled shifting duties, and did a good job of putting power to the ground.

Something seems wrong with your RX 300? Let’s look at some of the most common Lexus RX 300 transmission problems, and see what you can do to get your SUV back on the road.

Recalls

No transmission-related recalls.

Lexus RX300 Technical Service Bulletins (TSB)

1999 RX 300 – TSB TC002-99

Problem:

Certain 1999 Lexus RX300 models may experience an intermediate shudder or shake during the 2-3 shift under light throttle, once the transmission has reached operating temperature.

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Solution:

This problem was caused by a design flaw in the valve body, which was corrected in later models. To correct the problem, a revised valve body will need to be installed.

1999-2003 RX 300 – TSB TC002-03

Problem:

On all 1999-2003 Lexus RX300 models, owners who have had their transmission repaired, overhauled, or replaced, may experience rough or erratic shifting, along with other drivability issues immediately following the repairs.

Solution:

These drivability issues occur because the engine computer (ECM) is still using the old “Learned Values” that were saved prior to the repairs. To clear the old parameters so the ECU can ‘learn’ new ones, a mechanic or Lexus tech will have to reset the ECU using a Lexus diagnostic tester and program card.

1999-2003 RX 300 – TSB L-SB-0082-14

Problem:

The purpose of this bulletin is to provide precautions to follow when installing an automatic transmission/transaxle assembly to avoid MIL (Malfunction/Check Engine Light) “ON”, shifting issues, and/or transmission damage.

Solution:

After installing a U140E transmission, the technician must confirm the following:

  • Both alignment pins are present on the engine block.
  • ATF lines and cooler have been flushed with the appropriate ATF type.
  • Correct torque converter bolts and washers are used.
  • All ground straps are in the correct locations and are connected properly.
  • Correct shift cable adjustment.
  • Correct park/neutral position switch adjustment.
  • Transmission fluid level has been set properly.
  • Transmission learned values have been reset and/or the compensation code has been input (if applicable) and proper initialization has been performed.

NOTE

Not all applications will use washers on the torque converter bolts.

Need Your Transmission Repaired? A good repair shop can be hard to find – especially on short notice. We’ll have the Cost Guide Certified shop in your area give you a call with a free estimate.

How to Diagnose & Fix

  1. Check the OBD Codes
  2. Check the fluid level
  3. Test transmission pressure
  4. Drop the transmission pan
  5. Repair, replace or rebuild

What to Read Next

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      5 thoughts on “Lexus RX300 Transmission Problems & Overview

      1. I have a 2003 Lexus RX300 and am having transmission/torque converter problems. I will briefly go over what I mentioned previously to you.
        My car has been missing for quite awhile. When it got up to higher speeds it would operate more normally. Before the breakdown, it was missing more. We towed the car home and had it towed to Lexus to run a report. Before it was towed I started it and if I put it in gear it died. Lexus is guessing it is the Transmission and will cost around 5,000.00 + . That is about all it is worth.
        A dilemma.
        Thanks, Peggy

      2. I have a 2003 Lexus RX300 that has 204,000 miles. Three days ago I discovered that it was sluggish going into reverse. I contacted my mechanic, who has done most major repairs & oil changes on my car for at least 5 years. He told me to bring it in but I ended up having to have it towed. Diagnosis: needs a new transmission.
        Question: should I have heard something before this happened. How could I have prevented this?

      3. We have a 2002 Lexus RX300 with only 205,000 kilometers. Same thing, transmission problems. This truck has been babied at a Lexus dealership, spending a small fortune on maintaining and flushing all the fluids when required by the owners manual. To think
        I had a Chrysler Intrepid for 10 years that lasted over 350,000 kilometers with no issues. Kind of embarrassing for a luxury brand like Lexus to be upstaged by Chrysler. I hope someone at Lexus read these posts and they do right by their customers and recognize that there was and still is an issue with the 1999 to 2003 RX vehicles. Do the right thing and recall the remaining vehicles to get the transmissions fixed. That is my thoughts.

      4. Rpm fluctuation when driving. Goes from 2,000 to 3 or 4,000 then back and forth and shifts at odd times depending on rpm.

      5. 2000 Lexus RX 300 Transmission is too small to handle the car’s weight – Manufacturer’s design error; Dealerships did not do proper major service though they were paid as though they did….
        Transmission was not serviced properly by the dealership at 90K miles. All they did was drain the old transmission fluid and replace it with new. No one EVER cracked open our transmission until two days ago at 117K miles. If they had, we could have had it rebuilt or re-manufactured without a catastrophic failure.
        Surprise… the planetary gear was cracked. The sheet metal hub was torn up and lots of metal pieces had been captured by the internal magnets. We were informed that our transmission case had never been opened.
        It is a “folded” transmission that is too small for the weight of the vehicle, hence well-known transmission problems have been reported.

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