2004 Lexus RX330 advice

80t0ylc

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Looking for advice from experienced and knowledgeable owners. I own a 80 series Land Cruiser for overlanding and off road trips, so I'm not looking for how capable or incapable the RX330 (or Highlander which I've read is Toyota's version) is offroad. I've been cruising CL for a highway traveling rig that can handle inclimate weather conditions in the rural traveling I do through OR, WA, NV, UT, ID, MT, WY and even AZ, CO and possibly NM or CA. I want a comfortable ride with good fuel mileage (better than my 80 :doh:), economical maintenance, mechaniclly sound / reliable with lots of extras like nav, heated seats, etc . I found a candidate that I'll be looking at later this week in Central OR. Mileage is aprox 120K. I pulled a Carfax on it after calling and getting the VIN. It's kind of an estate sale - a son is selling it for his disceased mother and not up to researching - he's still trying to gather papers and records his parents had on the car. I took it upon myself since I've heard that timing belt maintenance is critical. Carfax shows at least 2 previous owners, maybe 3.

Highlights of Carfax:

* Last dealer maintenance was back in NY in 2011 with milage 73770 and all the comments said was: "Maintenance inspection completed" - whatever that means.
* "Vehicle serviced" at 75648 miles at a Valvoline Instant Oil Change shop in 2011
* "Passed emissions inspection" in 2011 in Vancouver, WA - no mileage reported
* Then several entries "passed emissions" and a "Registration issued or renewed" from 2012 - 2014
* At 109866 miles a "title issued or updated & new owner reported" at OR DMV in 2014.
* At 110945 miles a "vehicle serviced" in 2015 at a repair shop, but no notes or comments!
* Another "new owner reported" in 2016, but pretty sure it was in the family for last new owner entry.
* Just admin entries 2016 to present

I've researched Mud and most opinions consider the RX 330 to be a :princess: rig which, I could care less because of how it will be used by me. Also read not to get the OEM nav system because it sucks:rofl: but that's fine - this doesn't have the nav option. It's suggested to order an after market one, which I'll ask for suggestions. But, the lack of evidence or proof of timing belt replacement bothers me. Is this doable with out special tools and a cherry picker? Is there other critical maintenance that needs attention?

It's a light blue, which is a great color IMHO and has an auto trans. Leather interior, but I think that's standard for a Lexus. Just wanted to bounce it off the forum for advice and opinions to help maybe avoid making an uninformed decision I might regret.
 
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76FJ40

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There should be a sticker on the cover over the timing belt showing the date and mileage if/when it was changed. My wife has an'08 RX400h and loves it.
 

80t0ylc

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There should be a sticker on the cover over the timing belt showing the date and mileage if/when it was changed. My wife has an'08 RX400h and loves it.
Thank you! I found a Youtube video with, he sounded Russian, a mechanic instructing how to replace it. Doesn't look too bad, except for the limited clearance with the frame & firewall and removing the crank pulley. I'll look for the sticker tomorrow when checking the rig out.
 

76FJ40

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Another thought - There's a good chance the spark plugs have never been replaced, or at least the back 3. I don't know what the dealer charges for this but it's a real bitch of a job.
 

80t0ylc

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Another thought - There's a good chance the spark plugs have never been replaced, or at least the back 3. I don't know what the dealer charges for this but it's a real bitch of a job.
Thanks for the tip, but I won't be working on this Lexus. Showed up to look at rig this morning after a 3 hr drive. What a dissappointment!

Quick answer: I'm not buying this rig!

Longer answer: Don't ever rely on pictures for a 1st impression. Total vehicle was a product of neglect and I can't blame the owner, because she was elderly and in poor health for the last few years of her life, may she RIP. Although the car was in running condition, IMHO it wouldn't be for long. Was told on the phone by her son who was selling it, that she kept good maintenance records. Come to find out the son can't find them, nor can he find the owners manual that explains how to use all the features of this car. CarFax that I ran pretty much verified that ahead of my visit, so I was suspicious when I got there. Opened hood and confirmed my suspicions. The left side top cover over fan belt area was missing. Upper timing belt cover was so dirty I couldn't tell if there was a sticker and I didn't want to clean it off after seeing rest of engine compartment and car. Both sun visors were broken and mirror lights didn't work. Rear passenger light switch was in poor shape - could barely get light to work between positions. Both rear endcaps for roof rack were missing which made it look tacky. Tires were, maybe adequate for summer, but definitely inadequate for the winters we have around here. Both headlight clear covers were getting milky. His family (all the children of his Mom) & him settled on an asking price that was $2K over NADA clean vehicle listing. Carfax value was close to NADA - aprox $200 less. Offered him NADA price just out of curiosity, and he wasn't impressed. Said he'd discuss it with them and get back to me. I left and went looking at some other rigs, so the trip wasn't a total waste. I texted him later that I'd found another rig, so if he got another offer, he should take it. Haven't heard from him. Felt kind of sorry for him because I lost my Mom several years ago, and I know how it feels. I left him a copy of the car fax plus a NADA print out of the value of the car. I know that NADA is not always right, but usually it's close. And it's an unbiased evaluation of certain facts and IMHO, is at least a benchmark to start from.

Thanks again for your help and advice!
 
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KLF

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That's a bummer. These really are great vehicles, once you ignore the :princess: factor. Had an '04 Highlander, (now ex-) wife is still driving it, 220K miles, the thing has been amazingly reliable. She can't part with it.

Probably the only complaint I had about the car was with the driveshaft. Very dumb design. The U-joints are not greasable, and there are 6 of them (2 carrier bearings, a 3-section shaft). If one of the U-joints fails, the entire driveshaft has to be replaced. All 3 sections. The U-joints are not replaceable individually. Had it happen to us about about 150K, a new shaft was over $1500 from Toyota. I found an aftermarket reman'd shaft that was $800. Something to keep in mind, I don't think there is a reliable to check it.

I've done several timing belts on these engines (did 2 on this car), it's not too bad, but you have to be ready for it. I actually made special tools to hold the cam pulleys, the crank pulley, and seal insertion tools for the cam and crank seals. Lots of YouTubes now on how to do it.
 

80t0ylc

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That's a bummer. These really are great vehicles, once you ignore the :princess: factor. Had an '04 Highlander, (now ex-) wife is still driving it, 220K miles, the thing has been amazingly reliable. She can't part with it.

Probably the only complaint I had about the car was with the driveshaft. Very dumb design. The U-joints are not greasable, and there are 6 of them (2 carrier bearings, a 3-section shaft). If one of the U-joints fails, the entire driveshaft has to be replaced. All 3 sections. The U-joints are not replaceable individually. Had it happen to us about about 150K, a new shaft was over $1500 from Toyota. I found an aftermarket reman'd shaft that was $800. Something to keep in mind, I don't think there is a reliable to check it.

I've done several timing belts on these engines (did 2 on this car), it's not too bad, but you have to be ready for it. I actually made special tools to hold the cam pulleys, the crank pulley, and seal insertion tools for the cam and crank seals. Lots of YouTubes now on how to do it.
Thank you for your post! I was surprized to find out it was 4 wheel independant suspension. I didn't crawl under it far enough to see the driveshaft, but it amazes me that it has so many u-joints & sections. But it's unibody so they had to allow for some flex between front transaxle and rear diff, I guess.
 

KLF

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I actually wrote a flaming complaint letter to Toyota Cust Service when I found out that the entire driveshaft was not serviceable, and I had to buy the whole darned thing. Their reply was they had to do that to achieve the car-like ride that customers expected. I even called a local driveline shop, and they told me the same thing, they get several calls a month for them, and it's a no bueno thing.

But, I believe the aftermarket has stepped up now and you can buy the segments you need. Here's an example:


Makes sense that they are only selling the front third, that's the part that usually wears out, and where ours failed.
 
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