11 Most Common Lexus IS 250 Problems (Explained)

The Lexus IS 250 is a luxurious yet practical compact executive sedan that first debuted for the 2006 model year.

It offers good value for money, great reliability, attractive styling, and an upscale interior.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common issues and complaints IS 250 owners have had throughout the years.

1. Carbon Buildup

The IS 250’s 2.5-liter V6 engine, known as the 4GR-FSE, can have excessive carbon buildup issues which will eventually affect its smoothness and performance.

This is more common in the 2006 to 2010 model years of the Lexus IS 250. Later model years, including the third gen IS 250, can also have carbon buildup problems, but to a lesser degree.

Carbon buildup in the IS 250 is caused by fuel combustion byproducts accumulating on the back of the valves. Since the engine is direct injected and sprays fuel directly into the combustion chamber, fuel isn’t able to clean off the deposits from the valves. This occurs in lots of modern direct injected engines and was especially common when direct injection first gained wider adoption in the early to mid 2000s.

Some of the negative effects of excess carbon buildup in the IS 250 include:

  • Rough idle
  • Check engine and (VSC) Vehicle Stability Control light
  • Surging RPMS when stopped
  • Excessive vibration and shaking
  • Car feels like its about to stall
  • Cylinder misfire codes
  • Sluggish throttle response
  • Poor fuel economy

Here is how a few owners described their experience on the ClubLexus.com forum:

“Just purchased a new to me 2007 IS250. About once a day I experience fluctuating rpms at a stop then back to normal after I start driving. The idle is a bit high too, 1200rpm, even after warm up and up to operating temperature.” 

“I have a 2006 IS with 116k miles and did the carbon build up “fix” back in 2011. Took the car to the dealer last week because the problem starting creeping back again.”

“I have a 2010 IS250 RWD with 109K mile. Carbon started affecting me when I am idle position or coming to a stop at a light.”

Lexus eventually updated the 4GR-FSE’s piston rings in the later model years to reduce the blowby gasses getting into the crankcase and going back into the intake valves through the PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) system.

Lexus also offered an extended 9-year/unlimited-mile warranty for the 2006 to 2010 models of the IS 250 that suffered from check engine lights caused by excess carbon buildup.

Many IS 250 owners simply have a mechanic clean out the back of the valves through a process called walnut blasting once they start noticing the symptoms. 

Some of the things you can do to minimize the carbon buildup include:

  • More frequent oil changes
  • Don’t use low quality oil
  • Use premium gas
  • Avoid short trips 

2. Battery Drain Problems

Some third generation IS 250s can suffer from persistent battery drain problems which often require frequent jump starts or battery replacements.

This problem only affects the 2014 to 2015 model years equipped with the Blind Spot Monitoring and/or Clearance Warning Sonar option because they make the car’s network gateway ECU stay awake when the car is switched off, which eventually drains the battery.

Here’s how a few owners described their experience:

“My IS 250 2014 died again for the fourth time in three years. This time after less than 24 hrs in the garage. Had new battery put in after third time less than a year ago.”

“2014 IS 250 F. This drain occurred 6 times since I bought the car. A quick jump start brings enough amps to bring it back to life. Lexus replaced the battery after my second visit. A couple of weeks ago they kept the car overnight and they said they had to replace the computer because it did not fully shut off. Well today my wife calls to say that it would not start at all.”

Lexus released a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) and updated the network gateway ECU to fix the battery draining issue that was prevalent in the Lexus IS, GS and ES sedans.

To get this issue fixed out of warranty, you can purchase a new network gateway ECU for around $200. Installing it is quite easy since it’s located just behind the glove box and any mechanic should be able to do it in an hour.

Other causes of excessive battery drain include:

  • Faulty electronic component
  • Aftermarket accessories
  • Wiring problems
  • Defective alternator 

3. Amplifier Failure

Both the second and third generation Lexus IS 250 have had many reports of audio amplifier issues and failures over the years.

This problem can affect all model years of the IS 250 from 2006 to 2014.

When the amplifier starts having issues, the radio will still appear to work properly, but no sound will come out of the speakers. It can intermittently cut out for minutes at a time or just completely go silent all of a sudden. In many cases, the sound only goes out when it’s raining hard. 

Owners with amplifier issues have also reported hearing a popping noise whenever the car is started. 

Here’s how a few owners described their experience:

“I own a 2014 IS250 that has a nav pioneer audio system. The sound went about 2 years ago.” 

“i have a 2010 lexus IS250 awd issue is that no sound is coming, but the radio and everything else work on my system. It’s non ML (Mark Levinson) and i have the nav system.”

“I have a 2007 IS 250. When I turn the car on my radio turns on but there is no sound coming from it. When I turn the car on it also makes like a ‘thump thump’ sound.”

The most common cause of amplifier failures in the IS 250 is water leaking into the trunk (where the amp is located) which damages the amp’s circuit board. 

If the amp is making a popping noise, you might just have to dry it off using a hair dryer or check that the wiring and connectors are completely dry.

There are also air vents or ducts on either side of the trunk floor that will eventually deteriorate and allow excess moisture and humidity inside the trunk. These will have to be replaced every few years and only cost around $30 a piece if you want to avoid amplifier issues in the future.

If the amplifier is not powering on anymore, you can replace it with a used one for around $200 to $400. New amps from Lexus start at around $1,000 depending on the model. Before purchasing a new amp, check the exact part number of the old one to make sure it’s the right model for your car. 

4. Melting Dashboard and Door Panels

Early model years of the second generation Lexus IS 250 tend to have issues where the dashboard becomes sticky and the door panels become extremely worn out.

This is a common problem in the 2006 to 2008 model years of the IS 250.

In extreme cases, the dashboard and door panels will eventually start showing cracks after a few years.

It is also more likely to occur if the car has spent a significant amount of time parked outside in hot climates under direct sunlight.

Here is how a few owners on the ClubLexus.com forum described their experience:

“I have a 2006 IS250 that is long expired for the regular warranty and my dash and door panels are cracking and melting.”

“My wife has a 2008 IS250 and her panels have been perfect until the last few months where the dash is starting to get sticky by the windshield.” 

 “Just bought a used ’08 IS250 last week and the dashboard came sticky and the door panels had nudges or whatever you want to call them.”

Lexus announced a recall and extended the warranty for the dashboard and door panels of the 2006 to 2008 models up to 10 years. Owners who took advantage of the extended warranty were able to get their dash and door panels replaced with new ones that used more durable materials.

Replacing the dash and door panels out of warranty can easily cost a few thousand dollars at a Lexus dealership. It can also take several months for the new parts to get in.

Other options you may want to look into include:

  • Used parts 
  • Aftermarket dashboard cover
  • Reupholstering the old dash and door panels

If you want to protect your dash and door panels from future issues, using sunshade whenever you park the car outside and applying UV protectant every few months can help prolong their lifespan.  

5. Tire Wear Issues

The second and third generation Lexus IS 250 can go through tires relatively quickly.

In most cases, the inner section of the front tires become bald after just 10,000 to 20,000 miles. The rears also have inner tire wear problems, but to a lesser extent.

This is a common issue that has been observed since the first generation of the Lexus IS and continues to persist in the latest model years.

It’s caused a lot of frustration among Lexus IS owners since having to buy new tires every year or two gets expensive.

Here is how a few owners described their experience:

“2015 IS 250. Got about 20K from OEM, 25K from Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ tires (with steel wire showing) fronts only.”

“I had my 07 IS250 in for regular service this morning and come to find out I need new front tires. Seems the inner treads are worn nearly bald, yet the rest of the tire is fine and looks like it could easily get another 8-10k miles out of them.”

“I bought my (used) 2014 IS250 AWD because I loved the way it looks and I thought Lexus would be dependable and worry-free. I just took it in for 30K check-up and heard about the problem with the design that causes tires to wear out in 15K miles or so. One tire is nearly bald and the other one looks nearly new.“

Since the Lexus IS is considered a sport sedan, it’s usually fitted with stickier performance tires that wear out faster.

But the real cause of the excessive inner tire wear in the front are the OEM bushings in the lower control arms. These bushings can cause the tires to ‘toe-out’ during braking and cornering — leading to accelerated wear.

Many owners suggest replacing the stock bushings with harder ones from the Lexus ISF or RCF, which have been proven to minimize inner tire wear. Aftermarket polyurethane bushings are known to completely eliminate the problem, but you have to lubricate them every few years.

To fix the tire wear in the rear, you can get aftermarket adjustable toe arms and camber arms.

Here are some other tips that can help address your IS 250’s tire wear issues:

  • Get a proper alignment
  • Rotate your tires
  • Ensure correct tire pressures

6. Seized Rear Brake Caliper

The second generation Lexus IS 250’s rear brake caliper has a tendency to frequently seize up and get stuck if they’re not properly maintained.

This problem is caused by the corrosion of the brake caliper slide pin and is more common in areas that use road salt during the winter.

Symptoms of a seized caliper include:

  • Excessive brake pad wear
  • Brake rotors get hot
  • Smell of burnt rubber
  • Warped brake rotors
  • Noisy brakes
  • Pulsing brakes
  • Car pulls to one side during braking
  • Jerkiness or vibration
  • Dragging brakes

When the brakes seize up, replacing the brake pads also becomes more difficult because the caliper can only be removed using a combination of penetrating fluid, heat and force.

Here is how a few owners described their experience:

“I was attempting to do my rear brakes (2006 IS250) but ran into a snag. The bottom slide that is suppose to just slide off to remove the caliper is frozen. The nut that it attaches to is the only thing that is breaking free.”

“I had to replace both of my rear calipers on my 2IS. One was 100% seized and the other about 75%. Could only barely get the new pads on the 100% seized caliper installed; and once they were, they acted as if the brake pedal was being depressed 100% of the time. Needless to say, after a new brake pad break-in, my rear pads/caliper/rotor on that wheel were almost on fire! Could have been dangerous; smoked horribly and smelled awful.”

Lexus issued a recall for the 2006 to 2007 model years of the IS 250 to deal with the corrosion of the brake caliper. The recommended repair involves replacing the caliper and installing a new dust boot to keep corrosion at bay. However, this didn’t completely resolve the problem and it continues to affect all model years of the second generation Lexus IS.

To prevent the caliper slide pin from excessive corrosion, it’s important to ensure that it’s properly greased and that the rubber boot is intact every time you replace the brake pads.

Most owners also simply replace both the caliper and the carrier, which can be found at most auto parts stores, instead of trying to break the caliper free.

7. Cam Gear Rattle

Many second generation Lexus IS 250 owners have complained about hearing an intermittent rattling or grinding sound when starting the car.

The rattle is caused by a lack of lubrication on the cam gears upon startup. Despite being an ongoing issue for many people, it hasn’t caused any other reliability or drivability problems.

It’s not as bad as the startup noise in the second generation IS 350 which had to be fixed via a recall because it could potentially cause engine failures.

Here is how a few owners described their experience: 

“I have an IS250 and had the rattle sound and dealer replaced 2 VVTI cam gears.” 

“Mine is still making the noise. 2008 IS250 @ 145k miles. It’s been making it since 60k miles. I brought it up when the car was still under warranty but the dealer was unable to replicate it . It progressively became worse.”

“2008 is250 manual 160k miles starting to rattle pretty bad, i used to get only rattling when it would sit overnight, now almost every few hours when the car is parked after a few hours, noise.”

“I have a new IS250 for 2 months. It’s my first LEXUS. In winter time (temperature ~30 F), every morning when I start the car, the cold engine has a very loud noise. It usually lasts 5 seconds. The engine is very quiet after it’s warmed up.”

Lexus released a TSB for the 2006 to 2011 model years of the IS 250 which recommends replacing the cam gear to deal with the rattling noise. Getting this service out of warranty will cost you around $2,000 at a Lexus dealership because it requires disassembling the top of the engine.

Since the noise doesn’t have any adverse effects on the engine, getting it fixed isn’t worth the time and money for most people.

Many IS 250 owners have also reported that simply switching to a high quality synthetic oil can make the rattling go away.

8. Water Pump Failure

Water pumps are considered normal maintenance items and usually only start breaking once you reach 100,000 miles.

However, many second generation Lexus IS 250 owners have had to replace their water pump at around 50,000 to 70,000 miles.

Symptoms of a failing water pump include:

  • Rattling or whining noise
  • Coolant loss
  • Visible coolant leaks
  • High engine temps
  • Overheating
  • Heater issues

Here’s how a few owners described their experience:

“I had my 2006 IS250 water pump replaced twice throughout my five years of owning it. I had my water pump replaced @ 50k and 110k.” 

“Just had my wifes 250 in for a water pump out at 57k. The pump shaft bearings were making a lot of noise and some coolant was visible, but no overheating issues.”

“Got my water pump replaced today. My 08 IS250 has 54000 miles on it.”

If you suspect that your water pump is failing, it’s best to replace it as soon as possible to prevent the engine from overheating, which can lead to more severe engine damage.

A new IS 250 water pump only costs around $100, but getting it done at a Lexus dealership will cost around $800 due to the labor. If you want to save on repairs, a reputable mechanic can get it done at a much lower cost. 

You can also replace the thermostat and serpentine belt at the same time to save on labor costs since these parts will be removed anyway during the water pump replacement.

9. Radio Problems

Some model years of the Lexus IS 250 suffer from navigation unit issues and failures.

Early models of the IS 250 from 2006 to 2009 had issues where the navigation unit’s touchscreen would become completely unresponsive or just black out completely.

With the third generation IS 250, the navigation unit in the 2014 model year had lots of reports of constant reboots and would just sometimes totally fail. These issues can also occur in the 2015 models, but to a lesser extent.  

Here’s how a few owners described their experience:

“My touch screen is not working on my 06 IS 250. The screen comes on as usual but when I press I agree nothing happens. I can move from Climate to audio and so forth but nothing happens when I try and press the screen.”

“My wife’s 2008 IS 250’s touch screen finally went out. Surviving 125k miles of hard driving.”

“I have a 2014 Is250 non F sport, recently these past few months my radio/music has not been working & the screen is just black. And sometimes it would randomly turn on when I’m driving. Now these past two weeks it has not been turning on at all.” 

“I bought my 2014 IS250 back on April 1st, 2014. With my stroke of luck, my infotainment won’t turn on April 30th, 2018. I was told I was out of warranty. My system has rebooted here and there during the time I’ve owned the car. And prior to my infotainment not turning on, it kept going in a boot loop, which has never happened before.”

The touchscreen issue in the second generation IS 250 is quite common. Fortunately, there are lots of replacement digitizers that can be found online for around $20. You can install it yourself if you’re good at taking apart electronics or pay a mechanic to do it for you.

To fix the third gen IS 250 navigation unit issues, you’ll have to find a replacement navigation/radio unit. A new radio from the dealer can cost around $2,000, so most people look for a used one which typically costs around $500, but you have to make sure that the part numbers match. 

10. Door Lock Actuator Issues

Faulty door lock actuators are a very common problem with the Lexus IS 250.

It’s more common in the second generation models from 2006 to 2013. Door lock problems are also common in other Lexus and Toyota vehicles, so it’s not unique to the Lexus IS.

Here’s how a few owners described their experience:

“I have a 2008 IS250. Long story short I have already had to replace the driver side door lock a few months ago. Now my rear passenger side went.” 

“I have a 2008 IS250 and about 8 months ago the rear left door lock stopped working. The keypad and the unlock/lock switch inside the car stopped working. I’ve been having to do it manually.” 

“With my IS 250 2010. Only driver’s door works normally. There is a sequence where I can get all four doors to lock at once, but won’t reopen together–only driver’s.”

Replacing a faulty door lock actuator is fairly easy, but the original part from Lexus can cost around $250 which is still fairly expensive — especially if you have to replace more than one actuator. You can get cheaper replacements from brands like Dorman or Aisin for around $100 to $150. 

Some owners also choose to simply open up the actuator and replace just the small electric motor which only costs a few dollars.

However, it’s important to note that not all door lock issues are caused by faulty actuators. 

Other possible culprits include:

  • Wiring issues
  • Blown fuse
  • Faulty BCM (Body Control Module)
  • Faulty Junction Box Module
  • Door switch issues

An experienced mechanic should be able to quickly figure out what exactly is wrong with your locks if new actuators don’t fix your issues.

11. Lackluster Power

If rapid acceleration is something you value highly, then the IS 250 may not be the best pick for you, instead the IS 350 is a better option.

Auto journalists have criticized this model for its relatively soft and inefficient 2.5-liter V6 (204 horsepower) engine.

According to Edmunds, who carried out testing, a rear-wheel-drive IS 250 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, which is sub-par for the segment.

Related: 8 Best & Worst Lexus IS 250 Years (With Pictures)

Lexus IS 250 Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Excellent reliability
  • Upscale interior
  • Good value for money
  • Lots of standard tech and features
  • Good handling
  • Attractive and youthful looks
  • Available in rear or all-wheel drive

Cons

  • Carbon buildup in older models
  • Lexus dealerships charge a premium
  • Fuel economy isn’t that great

What Do The Reviews Say?

“The 2015 Lexus IS 250 is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 that produces 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission, and buyers can choose between rear- and all-wheel-drive variants. In Edmunds testing, a rear-wheel-drive IS 250 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, a tepid time for this segment.”

“This is an extremely competitive segment, however, so the IS 250’s aging 2.5-liter V6 sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Despite putting out around 100 fewer horses than the IS 350’s more modern 3.5-liter V6, the little 2.5 is barely better on gas.”

“The 2015 Lexus IS 250 leaves little to be desired in terms of ride comfort unless you’re talking about the F Sport. With that package’s sport-tuned suspension, the IS rides harshly on rough pavement, and the rear end has a tendency to bounce around. Otherwise, the IS 250 is an eminently pleasant daily driver.”

“On curvy roads, the IS 250’s steering is unexpectedly communicative and precise. In contrast to previous years, the IS feels more alive through its steering wheel than a BMW 3 Series. Great handling is about more than just steering, however, and the IS 250 ultimately lacks the grip and playfulness to compete at this segment’s highest levels.” 

“The 2015 Lexus IS 250 has as nice an interior as you’ll find in this segment, and it’s identical to that of the IS 350, so you’re not penalized for choosing the entry-level model. Supple leather and handsome wood and metallic accents are used liberally, and the quality of the plastics is hard to fault. As expected in a Lexus, everything seems to be screwed together exceptionally well, too.”

2015 Lexus IS 250 | Edmunds

What’s the Resale Value of a Lexus IS 250?

Here’s a quick look at used car pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing.

YearMileagePrice
201547,174$21,999
201463,006$19,888
201374.000$17,888
201283,376$16,995
201191,262$15,991
2010108,026$14,895
2009119,050$12,494
2008131,862$11,491
2007144,000$8,990
2006155,655$7,799

Related: How Long Do Lexus IS Last? (Solved & Explained)

Author:

  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

    View all posts