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Questions about engine maintenance for a 1995 Lexus ES300?


I have a 1995 Lexus ES300. My grandparents gave me this car about 5 years ago, and I know they did all the scheduled maintenance and took very good care of it. The car is in pretty good shape right now, but to be honest, I have not spent much money on maintenance the past 5 years. I took it in for an oil change/check-up and the mechanic recommended I get a new alternator belt and p/s belt because they are both severely cracked, transmission flush, power steering flush, coolant flush.

I am willing to spend money, but I just want to make sure these things are necessary. Is there any site/manual that will tell me what type of maintenance I should be doing at specific mile intervals. I currently have 160,000 miles on my car and I want to keep it for as long as possible! With that being said, I am a student, so I don’t have much money, but I have a few hundred right now to spend on maintenance.

Thanks for the help!!! Much appreciated…

You don’t need a website.
Simply open the glove compartment, take out the Owner’s Manual (or possibly a separate maintenance booklet), and read the maintenance schedule provided by Toyota/Lexus. It is probably reasonable to assume that your grandparents did not dispose of the manual and other documentation that came with the car, so these things should be in the glove box.

The maintenance schedule that comes with most cars only goes as far as 120k miles. After 120k, you are supposed to return to the 30k maintenance schedule when you reach 150k miles, use the the 60k maintenance schedule at 180k miles, etc.

Since you have apparently not done much other than oil changes for at least 5 years, it is likely that MUCH vital maintenance has been skipped. Case in point would be the timing belt. If this has never been changed, it is overdue by many years and many thousands of miles. Failure to change it will result in engine damage that could well exceed the book value of the car.

All I can suggest is that you refer to the maintenance lists for the 30k, 60k, 90k, and 120k maintenance intervals, and have everything listed done at this point. Or, you could just drive the car until it expires–which could be the next time that you turn the ignition key to start the engine.

The choice is yours, but you should bear in mind that maintenance is invariably cheaper than the repairs that result from lack of maintenance.

I can only add one thing to VDC’s comments. I would recommend doing a transmission fluid change along with dropping the pan and cleaning the filter, more often than recommended. Like twice as often.

Ok I will definitely replace the alternator belt, but concerning the flushes, they are charging $400 for all 3 flushes, are these all necessary? The mechanic told me the transmission fluid is black, not sure if it supposed to be black though?? I just want to make sure I am getting good advice from the mechanic and not getting ripped off. Should I take it to another mechanic and see what he recommends/how much these will cost?


Use the manual that came with the car. If you don’t have it for some reason, buy a new one.

Transmission fluid is supposed to be a pinkish-red in color.

If the transmission fluid is black (and has probably been like that for…God only knows how long), it is very possible that nothing is going to save the transmission. Unfortunately, transmissions do not thrive on abuse and the lack of maintenance over the years did abuse the trans.

You might want to try the Hail Mary Pass of changing the trans fluid at this point, since that will likely cost you about $100-120 and the cost of a rebuilt transmission will probably be about $3k. This might buy you some time, but ultimately the transmission will fail as a result of having driven it with burned fluid. More than likely, the friction surfaces in the transmission are now badly worn and you will probably begin to experience slippage in the near future.

I am glad that you are going to replace the alternator belt, but I hope that you are not confusing this with the timing belt. When the alternator belt snaps, you will be stranded. When the timing belt snaps, you will also be stranded, but in addition, your engine will have sustained about $2k worth of internal damage.

You have not told us about the age of the timing belt, but if it is well beyond its correct replacement interval, the resulting engine damage, coupled with the probable need for a rebuilt transmission in the near future, means that this car has little serviceable life left in it–and that is a shame. With proper maintenance, it would probably have given you many more years of reliable service.

Ok, first thank you for all the responses! Very helpful.

How can i check the color of the transmission fluid? They recommended Trans. flush, power steering flush, and coolant flush, I can’t remember which one, but they said one of them was black. I think I know how to check the power steering.

So do you recommend not doing a power steering flush? From what I have read online, it seems like it isn’t a good idea, and the manufacturer does not recommend it… Should I just do a transmission fluid exchange (how much should that cost?)

My timing belt is ok, but the alternator belt needs to be replaced. If my alternator belt snaps though, why would this leave me stranded? I’m no expert, but doesn’t an alternator charge the battery while you are driving?

“doesn’t an alternator charge the battery while you are driving?”

Yup. And when the belt snaps, the battery lasts anywhere from 5 minutes to…maybe 20 minutes…depending on the condition of the battery. Once the battery gives out, you will be stranded, as the engine cannot ignite the charge in its cylinders without electrical energy, and the fuel pump cannot supply fuel without electricity.

You really need to determine if the trans fluid is black, or even dark brown. This means trouble.

You say the timing belt is ok. How do you know this? I think this car has an interference engine so if the belt breaks the engine will be damaged.
If the timing belt has never been changed and likewise for the transmission fluid then the car has not been taken care of very well.

Expensive problems could be looming, all depending.