Common Issues: The Lexus ES you’re considering is loaded with complicated, sophisticated and expensive-to-repair features and systems. Start your test drive with a full check of these premium features, ensuring the automatic climate control system, memory seats, navigation and stereo function properly. With regards to the stereo, be sure to listen for any crackling or static that could indicate a blown speaker. Ensure the CD changer, if equipped, will accept and eject CDs as expected, rather than holding your Kenny Loggins disc hostage.
Have the tires checked, noting that some owners have reported problems with premature wear of factory rubber. Note that uneven wear across the tire treads could be a sign of an alignment issue. Have the ES you’re considering checked for proper alignment if you note this issue. Note that tire wear and alignment issues are somewhat a function of locale and driving habits, though a check is still advised.
Shoppers are also advised to confirm operation of the headlights, specifically on models with the xenon units. Xenon lights can be expensive to replace when they burn out, so be sure that’s not the case on the vehicle you’re considering.
Feel for any unwelcomed vibrations or ‘shuddering’ while driving your used ES candidate at a variety of speeds, which could be the result of a damaged or unbalanced tire or wheel. If you notice any of these sensations, be sure to have a mechanic confirm that it’s the wheel or tire, not something more serious.
More information here: http://us.lexusownersclub.com/forums/topic/68558-lexus-es-350-vibration/
Pay extra attention to transmission shift quality, ensuring the unit executes quick, clean, solid gear shifts that are free of slipping or surging. A loud ‘bang’ into gear, or hard shifts are other signs of trouble that may be caused by a bad transmission control computer. Typically, reprogramming of this computer solves any drivability gripes, but be sure that’s the case in the unit you’re considering if you note any issues. A Google search for “Lexus ES350 Transmission Problems” will provide more information.
Lexus ES, 2007–2012. Click image to enlarge
The V6 engine standard in this generation of ES (and available on the Camry) suffered from a well-documented problem with oil lines that could leak or rupture. The oil lines in question provide oil pressure to the camshaft actuators that engage the variable valve timing (VVT) system within the engine. Your local dealership will be familiar with this problem, and should check out the ES you’re considering ahead of purchase. If an oil line leaks or fails, it could, in extreme cases, destroy the engine and cause a fire. Ask the vehicle’s seller if they’ve ever had the common oil-line issue and associated replacement.
A check for acceptable level and condition of all fluids is also advised. Pay special attention to the oil level, too. Ultimately, if you’re not familiar with the service history of the ES in question, budgeting for a full tune-up, mechanical inspection and fluid change is advisable.
Closely inspect the paint and finish of your used ES candidate, as many owners have reported less-than-expected durability that could result in easy scratching or chipping. An inspection of the leather seating surfaces, particularly on the driver’s seat, can also indicate how well the car was taken care of. If the seats look worn, discoloured or show signs of rips or tears, be sure to call it into pricing negotiations.
Finally, inspect the front footwells and spare-tire well in the trunk for signs of moisture, which could be caused by a plugged or kinked sunroof drain plug. Wherever moisture finds its way into the cabin, it can cause rust and mold, as well as threatening the proper operation of electronic components.
The Verdict: The most common issues with the last-generation ES are fairly easy to identify, diagnose and fix. If the model you’re considering checks out, you’ll likely enjoy a comfortable, reliable luxury motoring experience for years to come. Opt for a model familiar to a selling Lexus dealer to maximize confidence.