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10.0

really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
5,527 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Lexus ES 300 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Lexus ES 300 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #21

Nov 012005

ES 300

  • 40,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

2003 ES 300 - transmission issues: I have been experiencing hesitation upon acceleration almost every time, along with hard shifting 50% of the time. The acceleration hesitation can be scary if I'm trying to enter the highway, or turning left. The hard shifting feels like I got hit from behind. Both problems have been going ongoing for years and Lexus dealer has never been any help. I read many of the online forums and found that both of these problems are very common as are their results for getting these issues fixed - not much luck from the dealer - "it works as it is designed". really? Lexus needs to stand behind their product. I can't believe how many complaints I have read (100S) and their hasn't been a recall. How does a consumer go about pushing for a recall, or class action or will the lemon law work?

- Savage, MN, USA

problem #20

Apr 092010

(reported on)

ES 300

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2003 Lexus ES300 with accelerator pedal, automatic transmission, and vehicle speed control issues. Consumer states that the when trying to accelerate from a low speed there is a delay before the engine responds. The consumer stated he experienced a significant abrupt downshift when slowing down from higher speeds and an abrupt upshift when accelerating from a slow speed. It felt as though the transmission could not decide what gear it should be in. The consumer was advised a computer patch was available for the problem, but it usually did not work and it could make the problem worse.

- Bristow, VA, USA

problem #19

Aug 012006

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1 miles
I own a Lexus 2003 ES. The transmission is performing unsafely! 1. at stop lights, while holding the car stopped with the brake, the trans wants to go and the car lunges forward. 2. at low speeds (20 -30 mph) the car doesn't know what gear to be in. The trans will jump down causing the rpms to suddenly increase then slam into the next gear lunging the car forward. 3. my biggest concern driving downhill at highway speeds, when the brake is applied, the trans jumps out of overdrive into 4th gear lunging the car forward! I am afraid of what may happen when the road is wet!

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #18

Sep 122006

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

I have a 2003 Lexus ES300 with 41000 miles. The transmission does not shift properly and actually hesitates then jerks. I am afraid this will lead to a break down at some point. The Lexus dealership claims there are no updates available at this time. I feel there should be a recall on this transmission.

- Mobile, AL, USA

problem #17

May 082006

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,390 miles
The Lexus ES300 has had a serious hesitation problem since delivery in March 2003. I have had it in for service several times before the accident complaining about this problem. On May 8th,2006, my wife was trying to make a left turn at an intersection and upon accelerating through the turn the car hesitated/lagged and was struck by an oncoming auto. After contacting Lexus direct, they came out to test drive the auto. I was contacted several days later and was told that my Lexus has no problem. Since this problem still exists, I took the car back in for service on May 26th, 2006 and again was told that my car had already received a transmission computer update and their final words were "vehicle is operating as designed at this time". this car still has the problem.

- Glendale, WI, USA

problem #16

Mar 232005

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While shifting the transmission had a ten minute delay before responding, and the transmission jerked uncontrollably. Driver was able to maintain control of the vehicle, and drove it to the dealer. Mechanic determined that the vehicle was operating as designed.

- San Marcos, CA, USA

problem #15

Jan 022003

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

From the day I got the car the automatic transmission has been in trouble. The problem is the shift from 1st to 2nd. Under light throttle there is free wheeling and engine run-up and it bumps into second. I know it will eventually fail. Lexus has played with the computer control but can't correct this. They tell me this normal, but I know it is not normal for any non- Lexus transmission.

- Novelty, OH, USA

problem #14

Jul 052003

ES 300

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5 miles
There is a delay after sitting at a stop light and then at take off. The dealer could duplicate the problem and the manufacturer and dealer states that it is the new design. The problem would also occur when making a left turn, merging into traffic, entrance ramps, intersections and parking spots.

- Endicott, NY, USA

problem #13

Oct 012004

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 21,698 miles
I have now sent my car in for service twice to Lexus of orlando about unexpected surging of the vehicle and vehicle hesitation when the accelerator is pressed. This is an intermittent and dangerous problem, as I do not know when it will occur. When it does occur the upshift is harsh, the downshift delayed as if the transmission is confused about the driver's intention, and there is pronounced hesitation when the accelerator is pressed. This lack of responsiveness leaves both the vehicle and passengers exposed to accident and injury. On my first visit, I was told the vehicle computer would be reset, as the vehicle learns your driving style in the first 30 or so miles, and I must have driven the vehicle harshly. This so called reset did nothing to fix the problem; less than a week later, I narrowly escaped a crash after my car hesitated while crossing an intersection. I promptly returned the vehicle to the dealer for service. Upon completion of the second service, which included a drive with the technician, Lexus service now says these problems are inherent to the model and they can't fix them. In addition, I am aware that numerous owners frequently complain of hesitation and surging in 2002, 2003, and 2004 models and many complaints (over 100) of the same nature have been filed with the NHTSA. This statement is to issue notice that I am not satisfied, and the problem has not been fixed.

- Lake Mary, FL, USA

problem #12

Aug 182004

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20,000 miles
On two separate occasions, I have taken my 2003 Lexus ES300 in for service to repair a defective transmission. I have 23,511 miles on my vehicle and the transmission is shifting erratically and hesitating. It is causing unsafe driving conditions. Lexus denies any responsibility to fix the problem.

- Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #11

Jul 252004

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 0 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Ongoing and worsening lack of accelleration predictability. Car will hesitate especially when power is required (such as merging traffic, left turns, etc.) automatic ransmission sounds like it delays engaging when necessary.

- Buffalo Grove, IL, USA

problem #10

May 052004

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,000 miles
Lexus ES300 2003 - extremely dangerous situation when accelerating from 5-10 mph to full acceleration (passing/merging onto highway for example). Transmission hesitates a very long time (1-2 seconds) before kicking in. Dealer claims this is a known problem but nothing is being done about it. Researching Lexus forums indicates this is a wide spread problem for 2002, 2003 years at least. The hesitation is extremely unnerving in a high stress merging environment at least and potentially dangerous accident potential at worse.

- Bethesda, MD, USA

problem #9

Jun 082004

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 500 miles
Car will not accelerate from stop at times. Engines revs but transmission will not catch. Several near accidents at stop signs and traffic lights. Transmission shifts very rough and makes car steer erratically. Car will be parked until repaired. Lexus dealer states this is normal.

- Gardendale, AL, USA

problem #8

Feb 012003

ES 300 6-cyl

  • 5,000 miles
Ltr fm brett woody (tx) re dangerous defective transmission software problems in the 2002-2003 Lexus ES300, reply attn Jan crow/ houston ofc. Consumer would apply more and more pressure to the brake pedal but the vehicle wouldn't accelerate. The transmission failed twice. Lexus had given the consumer a new vehicle and it had similar problems. The consumer was almost involved in several accidents. On numerous occasions, after the brake pedal was tapped, the vehicle would accelerate but the RPM's would rise and the vehicle would barely move. In stop in go traffic the vehicle would surge forward. (it felt as if the transmission slipped then the surging occurred) there was an annoying rattle in the ceiling console. Updated 7/5/12

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #7

Mar 142004

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
There is a dangerous and unpredictable tendency for the vehicle engine/transmission combination to accelerate suddenly and unexpectedly. This is an intermittent problem which makes it especially unnerving. It is most noticeable at speeds below 40 mph, when first slowing, followed by acceleration. It appears to be exacerbate by uncertain transmission "hunting" for proper gear/engine speed combinations. The sudden acceleration causes a rapid and jerky throttle response to mild accelerator pedal input. I have taken the car to the dealer on at least two occasions for this issue. The first time, the dealer reprogrammed the transmission. The second time, the technician tested the vehicle and note "no problem found". at current mileage of 32,000, the problem seems to be worsening. This is a dangerous condition that, if left undressed, is likely to be the cause of an accident, serious injury or much worse.

- Whittier, CA, USA

problem #6

Jun 012004

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While driving and without warning, the transmission jerked, which caused the driver to pull off the highway. The driver had the vehicle towed to the dealer. The vehicle jerked at acceleration, especially when going at slower speeds. The problem occurred with no warning and was intermittent which also displayed a sluggish delay.

- Roselle, IL, USA

problem #5

Aug 152003

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,000 miles
Transmission is unpredictable. Sometimes it hesitates, sometimes it lurches. It shudders at times when shifting. I've had the car in to the dealer for 2 computer download fixes. The first lasted a day making the car seem like the demo I test drove. The car was returned and another fix by computer was done with no change to the querky, unsafe condition of this transmission. My wife was nearly broadsided in cross traffic pattern as the car hesitated as she attemped to turn onto a side street. I have had 4 similar situations. These problems are at speeds up to 40 mph. These problems do not seem to occur if you stomp on the accelerator from a stoped position. The genearal manager at the Agency has driven the car "around the block" and experianced none of these problems. Yet the servive dept. Admits its not the way this car should operate and no further manufacturer update/correction is available. They say they are working on it. The manager says per Toyota this is the normal way this car drives and they won't do anything to satisfy my complaint. These two statements are a contradiction. I've been advised by one of the technicians to use premium fuel because it would help the engine/transmission work better. I've done this since that conversation and the performance is still sub standard and in stop and go traffic still unpredictable and dangerous.

- Muskego, WI, USA

problem #4

May 282003

ES 300

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,449 miles
Hesitation upon acceleration. I notice the vehicle lacks the ability to pick up speed from a slow down or dead stop. I feel this in 1st-3rd gears when accelerating from a deceleration speed or stop. This is very serious and is cause for safety concerns. I just bought this vehicle and I have another problem with a clicking, whining noise when turning into a parking spot or making slow turns.

- Carson, CA, USA

problem #3

May 242003

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,000 miles
The transmission of the Lexus 2003 ES300 is subject to major hesitation, particularly in crowded intersections and with lack of acceleration. Very noticeable when traveling about 27 mph, and then needing to move, there is major delay in the signal telling the engine, and transmission to work together, and move the car. This vehicle is new with about 1000 miles. It cannot make up its mind to upshift or downshift and this delay will mean a major crash someday. Around 40 mph it wants to upshift to the 5th gear, and just below that hunts to go back to 4th. The mfg. Says, as he did for the 2002 models, that a software fix is being prepared. They stated the problem from the 2002 was fixed. Evidently that is not the case. They now tell me that a fix is coming year end. How many accidents will occur by then? dealer says that the car will learn from the driver, but that is not working, and hesitation from 0-5, from 27-45, etc. Is very pronounced. If you "floorboard" it from slow speeds, its hesitation is great, and car almost dies. Lexus says "don't do that", but from car creation to now, car movement meant add more gas, not the reverse. My safety depends on it.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #2

May 092003

ES 300 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20 miles
The new 5 speed transmission on my '03 Lexus seems a little strange. If I drive about 35 mph and then slow down to about 5 mph and than try to accelerate there is a hesitation. It's as if the transmission can not decide on what gear to go into. When it finally does there's a slight lurch forward. This situation is very dangerous when trying to pass another vehicle.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

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