The Lexus RX 350 is a midsize luxury SUV that was first introduced in 2007.
It’s Lexus’ bestselling model and is known for its excellent reliability, comfortable ride and abundance of standard features.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive and uncover some of the RX 350’s most common problems.
1. Transmission Issues
Different generations of the Lexus RX 350 have been affected by various automatic transmission issues.
Some of the reported transmission problems have been present ever since the car was new, while others only appear after the car has reached 50,000 to 100,000 miles, which is still fairly early considering the RX 350’s reputation for reliability.
The RX 350 was originally equipped with a 5-speed automatic when it was introduced for the 2007 model year. This was replaced by a 6-speed gearbox in 2010, which was then followed by an 8-speed unit in 2013. Each of these gearboxes have had its share of problems over the years, and many of the reported issues date back to the first generation Lexus RX.
Common complaints RX 350 owners have had include:
- Jerkiness or shuddering
- Hard downshifts
- Gear hunting
- Stays in too high a gear
- Slow to downshift
Here is how a few RX 350 owners described their experience on ClubLexus.com:
“I have a 2020 RX 350 and around 10k miles it started every so often getting a bang (not a sound, but feel) when slowing down and down shifting. I also get it every so often when kicking in passing gear. I took it to the dealer and of course it wouldn’t do it on a test drive. They reset the transmission and it was okay for a while, but now it’s back.”
“I have a 17 RX 350 and the 6th to 5th downshift slams hard. Dealer says nothing wrong with the vehicle & unable to duplicate the issue.”
“My 2014 RX 350 F Sport turned 110,000 miles and the transmission is slipping. The dealer wants $7,300 to replace it.”
“I have a 2013 RX 350 F-Sport, AWD. The car has just turned 108K miles. About a month ago while I was driving it (this wife’s car) I noticed that during very slow acceleration, somewhere around the 2-3 or 3-4 shift I felt a slight shutter. Under normal to harder acceleration it is not noticeable.”
“My wife drives a 2007 RX 350 and over the past few months I’ve noticed a strange sensation when the vehicle shifts into overdrive. There is a pronounced shudder that seems to occur when the torque converter goes into lockup. This is more pronounced under loads / going uphill. It mainly occurs when I’m applying constant acceleration to the vehicle.”
Lexus released a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) for the 2016 to 2019 RX 350 to address the jerkiness or bucking that occurs after the transmission changes gears. The fix involves a simple software update that can be done by the dealership.
If you don’t like the gear hunting or the fact that the transmission stays in higher gears too much, you can always just shift gears manually.
You can ask your dealer to reset the transmission software so that it can relearn and readjust to your driving habits, but most modern transmissions with lots of gears will have this issue. You may see a slight improvement initially, but you’ll likely end up with the same issues in the end.
Other transmission problems in older RX 350s are often caused by worn out fluids. Although Lexus says that their gearbox uses lifetime fluids, it will run better and last longer if you do a drain and fill every 50,000 to 60,000 miles.
If your transmission already has over 100,000 miles on the original fluid, it’s a good idea to perform 3 to 5 drain and fills to ensure that there is no trace of the old fluid remaining. Many owners that have done this were able to fix their issues even if their dealers said that their only option was to completely replace the transmission.
2. Oil Line Leaks
Early model years of the Lexus RX 350 are prone to have oil line failures which causes lots of oil to leak out.
This problem affects the 2007 to 2011 model years of the Lexus RX 350.
There are two oil lines that can potentially break in the RX 350. The engine oil cooler and VVT (Variable Valve Timing) oil lines are both made out of rubber hoses that have a high failure rate and will eventually start seeping oil after a few years.
Here is how a few RX 350 owners described the issue:
“Last year my 2010 RX was shooting oil all over the engine frame when I was driving at low speed in town, a few miles from my local Lexus dealer. I got it towed to the dealer and they replaced it with the metal oil pipe and added a few quarts of oil, all at no charge.”
“I have a Lexus RX 350 2007 FWD and I never got the letter to fix the hose. At 43.5K Miles, the VTT-i oil hose broke and the car was smoking all the way around the vehicle. Oil was everywhere, even on the rear window. It was also on the lower right side doors, engine and undercarriage and leaking profusely.”
Lexus announced a recall for the VVT-i oil line failure in the 2007 to 2009 RX 350, but on many occasions, dealers only replaced the original rubber hose with a new rubber hose, which could still potentially break. During the latter part of the recall period, the rubber hoses were eventually replaced with metal lines which were more durable.
Lexus also offered an extended 10-year/150,000-mile warranty for the engine oil cooler hose, but dealers would only replace this if the original one started to leak.
If you want to avoid catastrophic engine failures due to severe oil leaks in these early RX 350s, you should replace the rubber oil hoses with metal lines as soon as you get the chance. The metal lines and gaskets typically cost around $100 and will take a few hours to install, so you’re looking at about a $500 repair if you include labor costs.
3. Timing Chain Cover Leak
The second, third and fourth generation Lexus RX 350s are prone to developing oil leaks near the timing chain cover which is fairly expensive to deal with.
It’s a fairly common problem in Lexus and Toyota vehicles equipped with the 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 engine. This engine was used in the RX 350 from 2007 to 2015. It can also occur in the updated 2GR-FKS engine found in the 2016 to 2022 fourth generation Lexus RX 350, albeit at a lower rate.
When the timing chain cover seal starts to wear out you’ll usually find oil in the following places:
- Timing chain cover
- Oil pan
- On the ground just below the timing chain
Here is how a few owners described their experience:
“I have a 13 RX 350 with 10,000 miles with a side engine oil leak. I looked underneath and I think it’s the timing chain cover seal. Took it to the dealer and they put dye in my oil to figure out where the leak is coming from. They suspect it to the timing chain cover as well.”
“I am a low mileage driver and just passed 5000 miles on 2015 RX 350. When checking oil, noticed it was down somewhat leading to finding oil leak on right side. Dealer advised it was leaking timing chain cover.”
“RX 350 2016 Timing Chain Cover Leak. Only 106k on car and it has been been leaking for a couple years. My mechanic said he has another customer with same issue and around 100k on car.”
Oil leaks coming from the timing chain cover aren’t particularly severe. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to check oil levels more frequently and top off the oil in between oil changes.
Most owners can keep on driving the car without issue for several years. The only downside is that might prevent you from noticing other oil leaks when the car gets a bit older.
Fixing the oil leak is a difficult and expensive process because the engine has to be dropped out of the car and the front part has to be completely torn apart to reseal the timing chain cover. This can cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 depending on who does the repair.
Related: 12 Best & Worst Lexus RX 350 Years (With Pictures)
4. Shock Absorber Leaks
The third generation Lexus RX 350’s rear shock absorbers have a tendency to leak quite often.
This issue affects the 2010 to 2015 model years of the RX 350 the most, but it can also occur in other model years.
Although shock absorbers are considered wear items, many owners have reported that they start to leak after only approximately 10,000 miles or 1 year of use.
In a lot of cases, the shocks only have minor leaks and don’t really affect the performance of the suspension. However, this might cause you to fail a vehicle inspection. The leaks will eventually worsen over time and you’ll start noticing hydraulic fluid all over the other suspension components.
Here is how a few owners described their experience on the ClubLexus.com forum:
“I have a 2011 very low mileage 12,000 and am told the right rear shock is leaking. The car has 19′ rims and I have notice on forums that the right shoHere is how a few owners described their issue:
ck starts leaking on a lot of RX around 10K miles.”
“I had the right rear shock replaced on my 2015 at about 11,000 miles. Was hearing a metallic sound every time I made a right turn up a driveway. The shock was leaking.”
Fortunately, replacing the shocks isn’t very expensive or difficult. The OEM part costs around $100 a piece and they can be easily installed by any mechanic. If you want to avoid frequently replacing the shocks every few years, you can replace them with higher quality units from brands like Bilstein.
5. Droning Noise
Many owners of the fourth generation Lexus RX 350 have complained about a noticeable droning when accelerating lightly.
The droning usually only appears after the car has warmed up and is driven for the first few miles. When the droning starts, there’s also a bit more vibration coming from the center console.
This issue affects the 2016 to 2022 model years, although the earlier cars tend to have it worse.
Here is how a few owners described their experience:
“My ‘17 350 AWD RX now has 4,500 miles. Have some drone noise at low rpm which goes away as I speed up.”
“My 2022 has droning anytime the rpm is around 1400 to 1700. The worst is when around 1500 to 1600 RPM Whether you’re on the gas or letting it coast.”
“The drone is more like a vibration. Right at 1500 rpm. A vibration sort of, but sounds more like a mild aftermarket exhaust note.”
Lexus eventually released a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) to address the fourth gen RX 350’s droning problem. Dealers will add a damper or counterweight near the catalytic converter to minimize the harmonic resonance that’s causing the droning and vibration. Some dealers have even gone as far as replacing the center section of the exhaust.
However, despite the fixes, many owners say that the drone hasn’t completely disappeared. It’s also been reported in newer vehicles which already have the damper installed from the factory.
6. Cracking Dashboard
On CarComplaints.com, the most reported problem for the RX 350 is the cracks forming on different parts of the dashboard.
This is a common issue on the second generation of the Lexus RX and affects the RX 350 model years from 2007 to 2009. It is also prevalent in other Lexus, Toyota, and Nissan vehicles from the mid-2000s.
The dashboard cracks due to extended exposure to heat and UV rays which dries out the dashboard upholstery and causes it to break apart on its own.
Cracked and melted dashboards are more common in places where the car is exposed to high temperatures and humidity all year round.
Here is how a few owners described their experience:
“Purchased fully loaded 2007 Lexus 350 RX and dash starting cracking in January 2018 and it spread across the entire dashboard.”
“I bought new from the dealer my 2007 RX 350. It recently started developing cracks in the dash and the problem, although not that bad yet, seems to be getting worse.”
Lexus extended the warranty to 10 years for vehicles affected by the cracked dashboard issue. However, since this warranty has already expired, it is still possible to purchase a new dash padding from Lexus for around $1,000.
Other options you may want to look into include:
- Used dashboard from a wrecked car
- Aftermarket dashboard cover
- Reupholstering the old dash
If your dashboard hasn’t cracked yet, or is just starting to show cracks, using a sunshade whenever you park the car and applying UV protectant can help keep the cracking to a minimum for a few more years.
7. A/C Compressor Flow Sensor Failure
The third generation Lexus RX 350’s air conditioning system has a tendency to intermittently or completely stop blowing cold air due to a faulty flow sensor.
This is a fairly common issue for the 2010 to 2015 model years of the RX 350. It’s also common in other Lexus and Toyota vehicles that use the same AC compressor.
Lexus released a TSB for this problem fairly early on, but the recommended fix is to replace the entire compressor which can cost around $2,000 for parts and labor.
One sign that your A/C compressor flow sensor is malfunctioning is if you get a B1479 DTC (Diagnostic Trouble Code) when you connect the car to Toyota’s Techstream software.
If you have the car connected to the Techstream software, check if you are getting at least 3.8 volts from the flow sensor when the A/C is turned off. If it’s below 3.8 volts, the car’s computer won’t turn on the A/C system.
To fix this issue, many Lexus and Toyota owners have found that simply placing a small magnet next to the flow sensor boosts the voltage enough so that the A/C compressor works properly.
The flow sensor is a piece of black plastic that sticks out of the middle of the compressor. In the Lexus RX 350, you’ll have to remove a few covers to get to it.
You can also replace the flow sensor itself, which can be found online if the magnet trick doesn’t work.
It’s important to note that not all A/C problems are caused by a faulty flow sensor. However, a car A/C repair shop should be able to help you identify and resolve the issue at a much lower cost compared to a Lexus dealership.
8. Braking Power Low Error
Many fourth generation RX 350 owners have reported encountering a ‘Braking Power Low’ error message showing up on the dash when trying to start up their car.
This error is more common in the 2016 to 2017 model years of the RX 350 and would often show up if the car hasn’t been used for a few days.
In a lot of cases, the car also won’t start once the error message appears because the car’s computer thinks there’s a safety issue if the brakes aren’t working properly.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience:
“My 2017 RX 350 won’t start. error message ‘Braking Power Low.’ Jump started the car did not help.”
“I picked up a used 2016 RX 350 in mint condition with 49,000 miles on it. A week or so ago I got the Brake Power Low but the car still started. After driving on Friday night I parked the car then went to drive it on Sunday but it wouldn’t start.”
In the early model years of the fourth gen RX 350, the problem was usually caused by a faulty brake booster which Lexus dealers would promptly replace.
Lexus also modified the car’s software to prevent the error message from showing up unnecessary.
Over time, it became more apparent that the error would often be caused by a weak or faulty battery. If you don’t drive the car too much, you can avoid this error from popping up, along with other strange electrical gremlins, by keeping the battery topped up using a trickle charger.
If the problem persists after jump starting the car, try replacing the battery. Some batteries can fail in less than a year which can cause lots of electrical problems in modern cars.
Other electrical issues like a blown fuse or a wiring problem can also cause this error message to pop up.
Lexus RX 350 Pros & Cons
- Excellent reliability
- Upscale interior
- Quiet and comfortable cabin
- Standard safety features
- Strong resale value
- Good build quality
- All-wheel drive
- Stiffer ride on F-Sport model
- Slower than rivals
- Unintuitive infotainment in older models
Related: How Long Do Lexus RX Last? (12 Important Facts)
What Do The Reviews Say?
“Our test vehicle was an F Sport Handling trim. While that doesn’t add any power, it does come with all-wheel drive, which enabled the RX to hit 60 mph in an uneventful 7.8 seconds.“
“The interior of the RX is a mix of Lexus’ superb attention to detail as well as some puzzling and sometimes frustrating design choices.”
“The driving position in the RX is easy to tailor to suit a wide variety of body types, and while the rear seating area lacks the generous legroom found in the Acura MDX, there’s enough space for most adults to be reasonably comfortable.”
Being a midsize SUV, the RX offers adequate cargo capacity. The liftover is a bit high but the cargo area is clear of weird shapes and awkward cubbies.
“With exemplary build quality and a host of standard features, the Lexus RX, even in our test model’s F Sport specification, represents appealing value in this competitive segment.”
What’s the Resale Value of a Lexus RX 350?
Here’s a quick look at used car pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing.