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2000 Lexus ES300 Rough Idle, Blinking Engine Light

Hi folks,

I’m looking for help diagnosing a problem in my 2000 Lexus ES300. The situation is that this car is likely to be “retired” in approximately 2 weeks regardless of what the nature of this issue is, so I really don’t want to put any significant money into it, but I do need it to last me those two weeks, including being loaded up with stuff and driven 2-3 hours for a move. After that, it’s pretty much fine if it bursts into flames.

Some relevant background info:

Recently the check engine and TRAC Off lights came on. I took it in for diagnosis and the computer codes were for two bad catalytic converters. I didn’t have anything done about it because it wasn’t worth putting the money in knowing that I was going to junk it soon.

Current symptoms:

It’s possible some of these issues were already starting before, but when I noticed a clear problem was today a little bit after filling it up with gas. It seems like it’s misfiring. It idles rough, particularly when it’s in drive. Smooths out quite a bit when in park, although not always 100%. It also smooths out when I’m actually driving it. Basically I get up to 10-15 mph and it starts to feel okay. But then, the engine check light starts blinking. Usually when I’m idling the light is solid, although that’s not a perfect 1-to-1 correlation; sometimes it continues blinking. I also think I’m noticing a sort of sulfur-like, rubbery smell. And when I took it on the highway, around 60-65mph, the tach was reading about 3500 and it didn’t seem to shift into its highest gear. Lastly, although I know effectively nothing that would help me diagnose the issue, I popped the hood to see if there was anything obviously wrong. I noticed that the outer plastic case of the engine had a crack in it (see picture). I have literally no idea if this is a problem or whether or not it is even a new development, but I figured I’d mention it in case it’s relevant.

Car Talk Community, you’ve helped me several times before. Anyone know what’s going on and whether I risk blowing myself up or anything by continuing to drive this dying machine?

A blinking Check Engine light indicates a major misfire is occurring.

This can damage the engine and/or the cats.

It’s hard to say if the engine will last a 2-3 hour road trip with a blinking Check Engine light.

Don’t worry about the crack.

That’s just the decorative plastic engine cover.


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I agree with this.

If it dies on the way, a tow, an emergency repair at an unknown garage, and maybe a hotel room will add up to a lot more than fixing it at home now, for what that’s worth.

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How about if you just give up on it now and rent a car for the drive?


Do the 2-3 hour drive. Have the Enterprise Rental and/or Uber app on your phone. If it quits, rent a car or summon Uber. Toss the keys and the signed title in the glovebox and call a junkyard when you get to your destination.

I also vote for scrap it now and rent a u-haul.

Any money you put into it now will just be flushed when you scrap it in 2 weeks.

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Hey folks,

Thanks for all your feedback and advice! I had it looked at because I was concerned about loading it up with stuff and trying to take it on the highway. The diagnosis was a faulty ignition coil. I went ahead and had it fixed because the cost wasn’t all that much more than figuring out some way to get by for the next two weeks and then renting a car or Uhaul for the journey, and was way more convenient. I suppose I could have rolled the dice, but once my early-20s became relegated to the rear view, I became a bit more risk averse.