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Another idiotic decision

10079 Views 149 Replies 48 Participants Last post by  danithomme
Hello fellow drivers,

My car is a 2004 Lexus LS 430 with approximately 150k+ miles. No major repairs throughout ownership. Excluding wear and tear such as brakes, tyres and suspension, minor ones are the door actuators, oil leak (engine gasket) and cruise control. Now, I am hit with a $6000 bill for the transmission. Anyone with the ability of making logical judgement would sell the car in the blink of an eye but my heart often overrides the brain.

A few months ago, the car was sluggish occasionally going in reverse but once it was given enough time to warm up, it reversed without any problems. Fast forward to last week, instead of difficulty in reverse, the car was sluggish to accelerate. Again, the car drove fine after a few minutes. Two days ago, the car did not move upon start up unless the engine hit 2000 rpm, which is ridiculous. My experience is that the car only hits 2000 rpm or above when travelling 60 mph+.

Although as ignorant as I am, I do not need a dealer to tell me the transmission is failing. What it is beyond comprehension is that at this astronomical repair cost, the dealer would only put a re-manufactured one to my car. If the donor car has more or less the same mileage as my car, if not more, it is just a matter of time for the donor transmission to fail. Perhaps I may be better off to roll the dice, buy a used transmission from eBay and pray a transmission shop will do the job right at a fraction of the cost. The pain of losing my love is still excruciating and certainly I do not want to experience anything similar again (over the years, I have developed bonding of some kind with this car). Selling it is the last thing I hope for.

Are Toyotas made to last? I will leave this to your judgment. My answer to that would be 'depends'. Honestly with the age of this car, it is understandable that something starts to fail. As with my other newer LS, a failing suspension at 26k miles is ridiculous. This is why my jaw drops each time reading stories of Prius / Camry / Corolla that never breaks at unbelievably high miles. Why is not the case for Lexus?

Thank you for taking the time to read.
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First of all, thank you for all the replies, whether related or irrelevant to the transmission. The sense of humour of some members has certainly given me some distractions. Confession here to my boss, although I am 100% certain she is not an audience of this forum, I have not made much progress this week (yes, but you see me online).

While I am still waiting for a detail breakdown for this astronomical task, can I ask if this is the moment to let go the car? Has it passed the point when things start to fail and break one after another? Personally, I do not mind to bite the bullet this time but what if the engine breaks in the coming months or years? Now, I would like to talk about the dealer. Perhaps they are trained to sweet talk their customers, but if they wanted my business so bad, they did not have to tell me a used transmission unit would be used (if I understand them correctly). They said it would come with one-year warranty for both parts and labour, but I would say the odd for this donor unit to fail after the 12-month mark is high. Then I will be drowned in a vicious cycle of replacing transmission?

If I choose to sell this car, if it can be sold at all, that will put me in a very difficult situation. I will need to fly back to Houston and drive the other car across multiple states to where I live... Don't forget the front strut broke in 2020 when the car was 5 years old with 26k miles.... It would be a miracle if I could still be in one piece after such a long distance drive. That thing is more like an art piece (love the front grill) than a car and here is the dilemma, if I sell that too, that will leave me on foot...

Try changing the transmission filter & fluid first ?

Run a diagnostics test via computer.

Check transmission solenoids.

Rule out minor things FIRST.

I am aware that Lexus is a fancy version of Toyota, this is why I am always puzzled by the fact that the reputation of reliability does not apply to Lexus. The dealer asked $200 for diagnosis, which I agreed.

You reminded me of the transmission fix that I almost forgot. At the120k mile service, I was skeptical for such job since a sealed transmission should translate to 'lifetime fluid' in theory. Although it is unclear what the dealer did to the transmission, nothing went wrong after the job. The term 'service transmission minor' is very ambiguous. The car care nut guy did make a point that you cannot refute, that is, 'Is Toyota going to fix your transmission when it breaks?'.

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Later, when my car was at the same shop for maintenance again, I was told there was a transmission fluid leak. The repair was a little pricey but I thought it could be a good investment to prevent disastrous transmission failure. Again, the car shifted perfectly until a few months ago. Here are the details.

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Thank you for recommending the Lexus forum. I have tried a brief search and it seems most members there are gearheads!

Holy failed troubleshooting you guys!

Jessica. Before you do anything check your fluid level. Keep the car running in park. Find the transmission dip stick. Pull it out. Wipe it off. Put it all the way in, then pull it out. What is the reading on the stick?

EDIT: If your car does not have a dip stick you should take it into a trusted mechanic and have the level checked. I would trust a well-rated oil change place before a transmission shop. Only because their business relies on finding problems.

You are experiencing that classic signs of getting low on fluid. The transmission may be fine. Just DON'T drive the car except to the mechanic or you could cause damage. You may well just have a leak, and if so shouldn't cost that much to fix.
This sounds like a procedure to check engine oil level, which I think I learnt that from you and another member a year ago. Briefly, this is what happened before posting on UP.net - Out of frustration, I stopped at a gas station, opened my trunk and checked the maintenance record, and bought the exact same oil. Then I poured all its content into the engine until the low engine oil warning came off.

I never know there is a dipstick for transmission fluid. If you read my reply to another member, I believe the dealer has refilled the fluid after sealing the transmission pan. It goes without saying that this is under the assumption that they have done the job right.

You forgot to SCREAM that the transmission fluid on a 2004 Lexus LS430 needs to be at a hot operating temperature before checking the fluid level. The transmission oil is only able to fully expands after it becomes completely heated. A cool temperature reading would give a false low fluid indication on the dipstick, and accidentally overfilling the transmission on an LS430 would prove catastrophic.
This is what the dealer said too at the time of fixing the transmission leak. The way they boasted the expertise and skills required to fill with the correct amount of fluid at the correct temperature, and emphasized overfilling can equally be catastrophic has certainly provided the highest level of assurance as possible. May be I was too naive?
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As always, I appreciate all the inputs. Yesterday, my service advisor delivered a bad news. The parts department is still struggling with finding a remanufactured transmission unit. He said that if nothing could found be by Tuesday, I would need to drive my car as it is.

It is irresponsible and ridiculous of Lexus of not making the parts after a model is discontinued. Do they really expect their cars can run in perpetuity? Perhaps, this is a strategy like a member said, to sell me a newer model? No, thanks. I have a successor model (2015 LS 460L) whose front air suspension strut broke when it only had 26k miles. Had it been not under warranty at the time, that $1000k repair would have been from my pocket. There should never be a shortage of LS 500 buyers, whether new or used, but certainly that would not be me. Lexus has already ruined the reputation in my mind.

Some have asked whether the transmission fluid has ever been changed before. I believe it was first changed during the 120k mile service. The sluggish reverse or acceleration did not develop until a few months ago. The transmission leak was also fixed promptly. This is the car I thought I would drive to the grave. In conjunction with the bonding that is developed over the years, I am committed to restoring the car to its former glory. Since my love passed away, I have been living like a walking dead. I cannot afford to experience the pain again from also losing this car.

Back to the repair, the service advisor has recommended a transmission shop. However, this is not going to address the root of the problem. How much life do you expect from a used transmission unit whose source is most likely from a junk yard or stolen / flooded car, you name it?
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To the OP: Take the car from the dealer and to a transmission shop or any reputable repair shop. By the way you spelled tire (tyre) I'm going to assume you are in Europe. I believe the rule still applies there, dealers are notorious for overcharging. Perhaps you do not need a new transmission and these other fixes suggested will take care of the problem? The dealer probably won't tell you that.

Next understand a rebuilt transmission is not the same as a junk yard transmission. As the name indicates this is an old transmission that has been rebuilt with new parts, nearly the same as a new transmission only much cheaper where a used junk yard ** will fail sooner.

Given the cost of a replacement car I'd go ahead and drop the thousands it would require to get this fixed. That is not a lot of miles for a Toyota product.
Hi, I am actually in the US. When I learnt English in school, I was taught the British way. As funny as it sounds, I am still having a hard time distinguishing between the sounds of c and z in American English.

In fact, the service advisor did take some time to explain to me about the re-manufactured unit. Basically they are all new parts. However, re-building a transmission, in my understanding is to rebuild a particular solenoid to factory standard. When one solenoid fails, it is just a matter of time for others to follow. Now, the dealer is still having a difficulty in finding the parts, because Lexus has discontinued making the parts. This is what I worry about getting a used transmission. It is not different from a ticking bomb, particularly you do not know the source of the transmission. It could be from a flooded car...

Any transmission repair/replacement chain like aamco would replace it at a fraction of the cost.

Lexus is Toyota, its just their luxury line under another name, especially in 2004 they were built on the same assembly lines.

Did you ever change the trans fluid? If not i wouldn't change it now, most shops will tell you if you have high miles and never changed the fluid then it could actually cause problems to change it now.

I will make 1 recommendation that might keep you running a few more years without repair....

LUCAS makes a trans fluid additive designed for slipping and failing transmissions, you can buy it in any auto parts store and when i used to work in mechanic shops every mechanic would swear by it. It's not a fix but more of a bandaid, i've heard people get 50k more miles out of trans or engine by using their additives.
I believe it was the transmission first received attention in the 120k mile service. Later, the leak was also fixed. Both were done at the dealer.

Very likely I will need to approach an independent shop, since the dealer is still scavenging for a re-manufactured unit.

Maybe I’m confused but what platform can you drive on Uber with any 2004? Isn’t there a cutoff year for delivery or Uber Eats? If there is, I would be hesitant to invest in a car that won’t qualify in a short amount of time. I doubt you’d get $6000 selling a great running Lexus unless it was a 7 seater or a lux model . But $6000 is a great down payment on a newer Toyota Corolla or the like. If I am missing something, please let me know.
I have quit doing rideshare for quite a while. Deliveries only. I have a newer LS but not worth the effort with the current pay rate. Over the years, I have developed some bonding with the car. LS is the flagship of Lexus, but like any other car, it depreciates too. This car has always been maintained according to the schedule since the first owner. Selling it would be the last thing I want to do. Besides, who would want an almost 2-decade old car?
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