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LEXUS ES300 Engine problem

My wife’s 2001 Lexus ES 300 with 113,000 miles started making a very loud engine noise on the highway. She drove it to a nearby gas station. We put oil in it, but that wasn’t the problem. We towed to our favorite trusted garage (not the lexus dealer) and they said that for 16 hours they can “open 'er up and look. They thought it could be a " broken wrist pin holding the cylinder” but wouldn’t know until they looked inside. In any case, they felt there was a possibility that we may need a new, re-built or re-manufactured engine which would mean throwing away $1000 just to find out we need another $2-$3000 for an engine replacement (don;t people fix these things anymore)? So the question is is it work the exploratory worth it. Another issue is it appears this is rare enough that there aren’t many Lexus engines out there… Any thoughts/ Advice /Comments?

“there aren’t many Lexus engines out there”

A Lexus ES300 is essentially the mechanical twin of the far cheaper Toyota Camry. Thus, a Camry 3 liter V-6 is the same engine as the one in your car, albeit with a different computer chip to yield perhaps 5 or 10 additional HP. If a mechanic tells you that you need “a Lexus engine”, I would be very suspicious of that person’s honesty and his competence.

All of this being said, there are some other issues that are unclear. You stated that you added oil, “but that wasn’t the problem”. Do you mean that the engine was not low on oil, but that you added oil anyway? That is not a good idea, and this can actually cause engine damage from overfilling the crankcase, even though that is probably not the source of your problem.

You have also not told us about the state of maintenance on this engine. Was it up to date with all of the mfr’s specified maintenance? If not, then nasty things can happen to engines, no matter what the make of car.

Anyway, I would suggest that you have the engine examined by a different mechanic. Yes, it will cost more to have it towed again, and will be embarassing to have the car towed from your “trusted garage”, but I would not trust a mechanic who does not know that this car has a garden-variety Toyota Camry engine, or who chooses to lie to you about the source of the engine.

With the complexity of modern engines it’s cheaper to put in a different one than to rebuild it. But this is an extremely common engine, same as the V6 in the Camry, so that’s not an issue. While you may trust your garage, is this type of repair something that do frequently? Many shops can do the light work, but engine replacement requires a different set of equipement and experience. You many want to use the Car Talk mechanic finder to locate a shop more suited to your car and get a second opinion. Also, either you misunderstood him, or he’s didn’t describe things right - a wrist pin connects the piston to the connecting rod, not to the cylinder. Can you tell us any more about exactly what happened?

Also, how long have you owned the car? With proper maintenance these engines should last a long time, but there was a period of sludge problems, including your year. I believe Toyota extended the engine warranty to 8 years, unlimited miles, so you might have a claim. Do you have a Lexus dealer nearby? Can you prove you changed the oil according to recommended interval?

The exploratory work is worth it if you plan on moving forward with a repair of the engine since half the work is already done in that process. The rest is parts which can be all over the place and reassembly. They definitlely can fix it, the question is how experienced is the shop in Toyota/Lexus engine rebuilds and that type of work in general.

There is an extended warranty 8yrs/150k with proper oil change recipients against sludging if that was the cause of this all. Tow it to a Lexus dealer.

Good luck Toyota/Lexus is not infalliable despite conventional wisdom.

The oil was added once the car was already on the side of the road thinking that it would help, it didn’t and didn;t appear to be low. It was regularly maintained since we bought it from the dealer (used) w/ regular oil changes. Thanks for the Camery info


Motor oil should only be added when the level on the dipstick indicates that the engine is low on oil. Otherwise, you risk damaging the engine’s bearings. If you want the technical explanation, let us know.

Even though you may have maintained the car properly, the previous owner may not have been careful about maintenance. Since this engine is somewhat notorious for sludge problems, there could be a sludge build-up as a result of earlier lax maintenance, and this sludge could have led to poor lubrication. Poor lubrication=engine damage. This is just a theory, however.

If you do need a new engine, your mechanic should be able obtain a Camry (Not “Camery”) engine without too much difficulty

Personally I think it’s ridiculous to charge someone 16 hours of labor for an “open 'er up and look” diagnosis; especially for an alleged broken wrist pin. The odds of a broken wrist pin are extremely close to zero and I have no idea why this possibility would even surface at this point.

Question. Before you had it towed did the engine still seem to run fine other than the noise or was the racket accompanied by a rough running engine also?

Have you ever seen a broken wrist pin? I haven’t.

Not in my lifetime. Just celebrated by 59th b-day and have been working on cars since I was a teenager.

I’ve never even heard of a broken wrist pin although I have heard of a few wrist pin seizures. In those cases, the engine quit running. Those few cases also involved freshly rebuilt engines in which the builder apparently set the wrist pins up too tight in the wrist pin bushings.

Ok, they were just guessing from the outside and really don’t know.

…which is another indication that this mechanic is not someone to whom you should trust this repair job.

Where is the “Cartalk Mechanic Finder” hidden?

Mechanics Files Link:

Ditto. With emphasis.

Maybe a incorrect transfer of information from mechanic to owner to Forum, no mechanic would say what was quoted,the “holding the cylinder part is my clue”

Wrist pins were one of my favorite “spacers” to leave by the press,they are tough.

Sad that a “favorite garage” would respond as related. They would not get this job from me.

I would have the engine opened up and the cause located,not for 16hrs.

Here it is:

What about the question I posed? Was the engine still running fine even though it was knocking, rattling, etc?

As an additional question; was this noise a steady one or erratic in nature?
(In other words, a rhythmnic steady knock, an irregular knock or clank, etc.)

It’s a continuous clattering sound that begs you not to drive it

In that case, the engine should not even be started until the source of the noise has been found and fixed. Just idling the engine in this condition is accelerating and exacerbating the damage to the engine.

From the high mileage of the engine, it could make sense to go for a re-manufactured engine. A re-manufactured engine ( a “long block”) has all the worn parts replaced.
Your engine is due water hoses replaced, timing belt and water pump replaced, other seals replaced, cylinder head valve job, etc…The costs of these things approach, or exceed, the cost of the long block re-manufactured engine.