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Lexus RX330 shocking major repair list just from one visit

We absolutely love our Lexus 2005. It’s been reliable until now! We had (and we thought) a small problem with AC so we took it in for an oil change and AC check. We got a long list of major repair. I can’t even think where to start but can someone shed light on these problems and suggest what should I do?



  1. Is the Check Engine light on?

  2. Is it hard to steer the vehicle or fluid leaks on the ground?

  3. Is there any noise while turning?

  4. Is there any noise from the rear while going over bumps/turning?

  5. Has the AC stopped working?

If the answer is no to the above, get a second opinion.


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Thanks Tester!! Here are the answers.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. No
  4. No
  5. Stop one time with AC light blinking. Park the car overnight and AC started working again.

It’s possible this relay may be the problem, in regards to the air conditioning

Your car is a corporate cousin to the Toyota Highlander, and I believe they use the same air conditioning components, the major difference being the control head

Since your check engine light is on, and you were told you needed a cat, you have either P0420 and/or P0430, correct?

Not sure what is P0420 and/or P0430. Car is still running very well and AC is still giving cold air. Would it last me 6 months or so so I can start saving money for repairs?. If anything that I need to absolutely fix now. What would that be and should I go back to the dealer?

P0420 and P0430 are catalyst efficiency failures, if you have emission testing in your area you we need to correct this, if not enjoy the car for 5 more years then replace the vehicle.

Power steering leaks can be minor. The car has “under engine covers” that can prevent you from noticing the leaks but if you haven’t noticed a leak or the need to add fluid I would wait on this and perhaps replace just the hose if that is the greater leak.

Your CV boots can be replaced at the Toyota dealer for much less, many people on use Toyota dealers for specific maintenance and repairs. Some will recommend a cheap non factory replacement axle but I have had to replace them to satisfy vibration complaints and a factory axle assembly is $600-800.

Nearly all of these RX vehicle have torn rear strut boots, this is a common failure. Are your rear struts leaking? Replacing the rear strut mounts/boots will protect the struts from stone damage but is is impractical to spend this amount of money to protect 11 year old struts. Lexus strut mounts are approximately $250 each.Wait until there is a reason to replace the struts.

A blinking A/C light indicates there is an A/C compressor clutch problem. I recall a bulletin to replace the A/C amplifier on the RX but it may not apply to this model year. Ask them how they found the evaporator leak. It could be leaking but you did not mention any refrigerant loss, perhaps their shop records showed a history of refrigerant loss that lead to the inspection of the evaporator coil. If you shop around for a repair shop to replace the evaporator be sure they are qualified to remove the instrument panel, this is not for your typical repair shop.

Wow! Much appreciated Nevada! Are you a mechanic or own an auto repair shop? I wish I can take my car to you for your help!

We just replaced power steering belt and hose last year and haven’t noticed any leak nor heard from the dealer about the need to add fluid.

We’ll contact Toyota dealer for CV boots.

How do we know if struts are leaking?

Recently, we don’t use this car much at all, perhaps 1-2 times a week or even less. If we want to keep this car just a year what would you recommend for the repair? Or should we just plan to replace it within 6 months and don’t worry about all the repairs!

Again!!! thank you for all your suggestions.

If you’re keeping it a year, and there is no noise from the front axle, forget about replacing the CV boot. Only consider it if there is a clicking noise, typically while turning (that’s what happened to my ES300). Likewise, if the handling is fine to you, I’d forget about the leaking strut. They often weep a little, but if there’s no problem with the ride I wouldn’t worry about it. As for the blinking a/c light, did you drive through a deep puddle? Mine would blink then, but would be fine once turned the a/c off, then on. If the a/c is working now, I wouldn’t worry about it. If the power steering fluid isn’t leaking (check it once a week for a while) forget the hose.

This leaves the check engine light. Have the codes read at an auto parts store (they’ll do it for free) and let us know what they are. Do you have to get annual inspections?

Mechanics are like doctors. There are good doctors and bad doctors. If your doctor tells you you have cancer and they need to amputate your head, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion.

Same goes for giant mechanic bills. Be sure to go to a local, independent mechanic with good reviews. Don’t go to a chain shop, because most of those shops exist to make as much money as possible regardless of ethics.

Thank you texases. We’ll take the car to auto part store to check it our and let you know. Yes, we do need to get an annual inspections!

I wish we knew other non-dealer shops who we can reply on but we’ll check it out. Thanks for your comments.

why not try searching here for a mechanic in your area?

They are probably trying to present you a comprehensive list of items needing repair to bring the car up to the same reliability expected with a close to new car. Nothing wrong w/that, if new car reliability is what you need. If not, and emissions testing isn’t a priority at this date, suggest to first focus on the AC problem. AC problems can start off minor and balloon to be very expensive (considerably more than the $1600 quoted for the evap core) if not quickly addressed when the symptom emerges. In this situation I’d probably take my Lexus (if I had one) to a local AC specialist shop that was well recommended by people I know who’s opinion I trusted.

I don’t understand how the evaporator core would cause the s/c light to blink, then stop blinking and now the a/c works. Sounds like a bad diagnosis to me.

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The blinking A/C light is unrelated to the evaporator leak but if this leak was identified during inspection the customer should be made aware of a developing problem before any other repairs begin.

When a vehicle comes in with a system that is low without any noticeable leaks I remove the blower motor and inspect the evaporator with a borescope. The borescope can save images for review by the customer.

There needs to be a discussion about the estimate, was a leak found or just the suspicion of a leak? The occasional blinking light is something I can live with, if the leak becomes a problem during the next 5 years perhaps it should be repaired.

I agree . . . the borescope has really changed how ac leaks are confirmed, in some cases

there are some cases where removing the blower and/or resistor is REALLY difficult

and there are other cases where removing the blower still doesn’t get you a good luck at the evaporator, even with the borescope

But I’ll at least TRY to take a peek with the borescope, before trusting the sniffer

@ann78259, as everyone you know for a mechanic recommendation. Eventually, one or two shops will be mentioned more than any other. Take you car to one of them for an evaluation.

wow!!! I love car talk! Thanks all for all your suggestion! I feel like I have caring brothers helping me here. I’ll call around and take the car for other mechanic to diagnose AC problem (thinking Toyota dealer or other local mechanic). Lexus charged me $120 for diagnose. If others do the same I probably will just pick just one other mechanic.

Here’s the deal with dealership mechanics. Sorry for the lack of brevity in this post. Some of them are really good. But oftentimes you’ll run into the mechanic who has only worked on modern cars which have computers that spit out diagnostic codes, and has therefore not learned to actually diagnose much of anything himself even if he had incentive to do so, which he doesn’t.

This kind of mechanic will plug a code reader into your car, and then look up the code that gets spit out, and then look up a chart for what that code can mean and assume it does mean that, then charge you to replace the part rather than actually looking further to see if the part is, in fact bad. And if whatever’s busted isn’t something the computer monitors, he’ll be absolutely lost.

I’ll tell you two stories. Many years ago in college I had an old Honda with a bad fuel injector that made it stall randomly when driving. I didn’t know that because it was before I learned anything about working on cars. Took it in for repair to a mechanic who’d opened his own shop after leaving a dealership job. It got diagnosed as a bad distributor, replaced for several hundred bucks. Car still kept stalling. OK, it’s a bad ignitor, another several hundred. Nope, still stalling. Let’s try the coil. Nope. New spark plugs and wires! No dice. Gee, dunno what’s wrong with it. Take it to the dealership and no I’m not giving you any money back.

I did. Dealership saw that no engine codes were being sent (back when this car was made, their computers didn’t monitor nearly as much as they do now), and charged me $100 to tell me “Sorry, we don’t know what the hell is wrong with it.” So there I was as a college student a couple grand into a repair that never fixed the thing because my mechanics didn’t know how to troubleshoot.

Second story, much more recently. I’d been fixing cars for a good while by now. Just-purchased 2007 Acura TL. It shook when I’d brake. Took it back, and they machined the rotors, which is the usual fix, but it didn’t fix it this time. Took it back. They machined the rotors again. Still no fix. Took it back. “We’re gonna machine the rotors again.” "Um, no, you’re not, because it hasn’t worked twice and I don’t want rotors that are so thin you can see through them, thanks. Check the hub for excess runout. “Our book doesn’t say anything about that, but we’ll put new rotors on.” I let them do that knowing it wouldn’t fix it, but at least I’d not have brand new rotors that had already been shaved twice. That didn’t fix it, so they wanted to machine the bloody rotors again.

I offered the service manager a case of his favorite beer if he had the hubs checked for runout and they were within spec. He took me up on it, and look! One of the hubs had excessive runout which makes things wobble and caused brake shaking. Replaced the defective hub and it’s been fine for over 100,000 miles. Fortunately all of this was warranty work or I would have been out a lot of money again fooling with their bad decisions.

Moral of both stories: It’s not a 100% rule, but dealership mechanics can be very, very bad at diagnosing things because many of them will rely too heavily on what a computer or a manual is telling them and not sit down and think about the problem for a few minutes. They aren’t paid to think, they’re paid to replace parts, and if they replace the wrong part, the customer rarely wins the “give me my money back because you screwed up” fight, so it ends up not being a loss for the dealership and therefore there’s no incentive to become better diagnosticians. They can get away with it because they’re the dealership and everyone thinks the dealership must have the most expert mechanics available for their car!

Small local shops, on the other hand, their lifeblood is repeat business, and you’re not going to keep coming back to them if they charge you a boatload of money and still don’t get your car fixed. Eventually word will get around that they, well, suck, and they’ll go out of business, just like the guy in my first story did.

This doesn’t mean you won’t find a good dealership mechanic. There’s at least one, I think, right here on this forum, and if I could guarantee that he was the guy working on my car, I’d have it at the dealership a lot more than I do now. But it’s good to be aware that there are good and bad mechanics, and bad ones will cost you a boatload of money without fixing the problem, and will sometimes find problems that aren’t there and then charge you to fix those too.

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Thanks @shadowfax for sharing your stories! By no means if anyone can recommend a good mechanic in New Braunfels - San Macos - San Antonio- Austin area please do so!