The 4 Worst Years For The Lexus LX470 You Should Avoid

The top luxury SUV made by Lexus has been the LX470 for years, but just how reliable is it? When considering a purchase, what years should buyers avoid?

Lexus LX470 years to avoid 1 The 4 Worst Years For The Lexus LX470 You Should Avoid

What are the worst years for the Lexus LX470?

Many of the models of the LX470 are wonderful full-sized family haulers, but Lexus’s long history hasn’t always been a smooth road. The worst years are the 1998, 2000, and 2003 – 04 model years. Primarily, consumers complained about problems in the engine, EVAP leaks, and suspension. 

Lexus has ridden the waves of innovation and luxury for several years. Their reputation for building quality and comfort into high-performance vehicles is second to none, as they are consistently at the top of reviewers’ and owners’ best-loved lists. They are known for reliability.

As a lover of premium luxury cars, I always found myself drawn to Lexus because I knew that I could trust it not to screw up a car. There is something about driving the best sedan on the planet that appeals to me, and I could make the same claim about their SUV line.

But before I give the Toyota Land Cruiser a free pass, I’d like to mention a few speed bumps they’ve encountered in the four generations of LX470 that have been produced since 1996.

What Years of the LX 470 Should be Avoided?

There is no question that there is a lot to like in the Lexus offerings. Any year model in the LX line would be a quality investment worth owning due to an incredible drive to high performance to creature comforts galore. However, there have been a few times that Lexus missed the mark. 

The 1998 Model Year Should be Avoided

As any car enthusiast will tell you, it is usually best to skip the first year of a rebuild of any vehicle, and that is the case with the Lexus LX470. 

Oxygen Sensor Failure

Consumers reported check engine lights popping up on dashboards, resulting from faulty O2 sensors. An oxygen sensor controls the amount of air brought into each cylinder to burn the right mix of air and fuel. 

A faulty unit can affect mileage, idling, performance, and more. Any check engine light that pops up is a cause for concern. 

The fix is relatively easy, but it just requires trips to the dealer or mechanic to fix. What created some consternation among Lexus LX470 owners is that the repair was not covered under their warranty and required them to pay out of pocket. Imagine the frustration with a car that keeps blowing O2 sensors without warning. 

EVAP Leaks

This model year and subsequent years seemed to have a problem with evap (evaporative emission control system) leaks. This system keeps gasoline fumes from the fuel tank escaping into the atmosphere. It is also designed to keep the gas smell from knocking out occupants while the car is in motion. 

Usually, a loose gas cap with a faulty seal is the culprit, and the fix is to reset the trouble code, slap a new gas cap on the car, and collect money from the customer. Every manufacturer has this system on their cars, and every car company uses it to sneak their fingers into their customers’ wallets. 

Lexus LX470 years to avoid 1 1 The 4 Worst Years For The Lexus LX470 You Should Avoid

Other Mechanical Issues Reported

  • Loud Vaccum Noises
  • VSC failure – lack of steering 

The 2000 Model Year Should Be Avoided

There were numerous issues with the 2000 LX470. Here is a brief review of some of the car’s significant issues. 

Vehicle Stability Control Gremlins

One of the issues involved the Lexus VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) engaging at inappropriate times, causing a loss of steering (generally when making a right-hand turn). The recurring problem drove owners crazy. 

Many consumers felt that the vehicle’s loss of steering could have caused an accident. To make matters worse, none of the dealerships knew how to fix the issue, which only succeeded in frustrating owners even more.

Loud Vaccum Cleaner Noises

Many owners reported a vacuum cleaner noise happening on a cold start. 

The issue ended up being a failure of a secondary air pump designed to inject hot air into the catalytic converter. This pump allowed the catalytic converter to scrub the exhaust more efficiently, rather than waiting for the unit to heat up from the car’s operation. The process was designed to keep emissions low even during warmup. 

Other symptoms of the issue included a failed emission test, erratic acceleration, and rough idle. If customers were lucky, a DTC (diagnostic trouble code or engine light) would appear. 

The replacement was expensive, requiring the removal of the intake manifold and replacing the air pump. Lexus was aware of the issue because it happened on 1998 – 2005 models. 

Excessive Daytime Running Light Brightness

In 2004, Lexus issued a recall for this model year concerning the excessive brightness that its daytime running lights had.

The problem violated the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 standards and could blind drivers of oncoming vehicles, thus possibly causing a crash. 

Consumers were encouraged to bring their cars in for the installation of a resistor, which decreased the illumination of the Daytime Running Lights. The repair was performed at no cost to the consumer, but before the recall, it cost consumers plenty of money. 

Other Mechanical Issues Reported

  • Sway Bar Breakage (rusting from AC drip located right above)
  • EVAP leaks forcing check engine light on
  • Failed Oxygen Sensors

The 2003 – 04 LX470 has Issues

A few years after the 2000 model year mess came news of even more serious safety issues involving the brakes.

Brake Actuator Failure

When the brake pedal is depressed, the force sends fluid from the master cylinder to a brake actuator, enabling the pads to apply pressure to the disc. The friction of the pads against the disc help stops the car (there’s more to it, but that’s it). The brake actuator is a crucial component of the entire braking system. 

Consumers were often aware of a problem from hearing a hissing or leaking sound every time their brakes were applied. Some consumers encountered brake failure or heard loud popping noises from the brakes.

Most consumers have ABS lights that flash on, warning them of the issue before serious problems occur. 

Steering Box Shaft Pitman Failure

To their credit, in 2010, Lexus issued a recall on the failure of the steering shaft that applied to the 2003 – 2007 model years of the LX470. Unfortunately, most consumers had already encountered problems before them. Many owners reported that their steering column seemed off-center, and the car gave a DTC on the steering angle to inform owners of the problem. 

The recall deemed that the snap ring on the steering shaft was faulty and could cause a severe issue with the front wheels if disengaged. 

The steering shaft could snap off if the steering column were repeatedly moved into the lock position. The remedy was for the dealership to replace the snap ring with another component to prevent it from failing. 

Tranmission Fluid Leak

Lexus has issued a technical service bulletin (TSB) for a leak in the automatic transmission for the LX470. Consumer complaints ranged from burning smells to shifting delays and clunking sounds. Some reported intense shaking coming from under the SUV. 

Once again, Lexus was slow to acknowledge and fix the issue, costing customers money. Finally, several years later, Lexus issued several TSBs for the fix, informing their technicians on how to repair the issue. 

Other Mechanical Issues 

  • Excessive rust issues underneath
  • Engine Noises – Rough Idling

What Are Some Tips for Buying a Used Lexus LX470?

Here is some advice for buyers looking to purchase a large SUV like a Lexus LX470. 

Be Willing to Shop Around 

With higher gasoline prices, many dealers find themselves overstocked with larger SUVs like the Lexus LX470. As Americans seek to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles and the demand for more carbon-neutral electric vehicles grows, the market will likely become even more saturated. 

The truth is that the dealer wants to get rid of a large SUV that might not sell quickly as much as a potential owner wants to buy it. This means there are real deals if a buyer has the patience to look around and wait for the right time

Often dealers will be more motivated at the end of the month or end of the year, as they work hard to make monthly quotas. 

With the advent of the Internet, it is easy to search local and even non-local inventories to see if there is a unit and a price that looks enticing. Most savvy car shoppers inform the salesperson from the beginning of the process that they are not afraid to travel across town or state to get the best bargain. 

(Note: Be careful about how your state handles trade allowances. Many states will not allow you to deduct the value of the trade from the purchase price (saving sales taxes) if the purchase is made out of state). 

Be Comfortable With Some Friendly Competition Between Dealers

The car business is currently very competitive and is becoming increasingly so every day. While dealers hate to know that they are competing against another dealer, many of them love it when they can “steal” business away from someone else. Plan on receiving multiple offers from various dealerships to find the best value (bang for your buck). 

(Note: Always insist on the dealer putting any “deal or offer” in writing. Ask for a buyer’s order or a proposal in black and white so that there is something concrete to show should the dealer backpedal off a previous commitment).

Have A Separate Mechanic You Trust Do An Inspection

 With used vehicles, it is easier to hide imperfections and bad car histories. A Car Fax can provide a lot of helpful information, but there is nothing like a trained pair of eyes to give your LX470 a good once over. 

Have the mechanic look over the car’s underside to spot leaks, excessive rust (remember that some LX470s are known for rust and corrosion caused by a leaking AC unit), or bent control arms. A mechanic should be able to determine if the vehicle has been taken care of or if the SUV was owned by someone who didn’t give a crap about the condition of their car.

Don’t Buy Without Driving

With huge SUVs, it is essential to drive the one being considered. Schedule a test drive at the local dealership, and if possible, see if they will let you test drive it overnight. This is important for a couple of reasons. 

First, large SUVs drive differently than most vehicles on the road. Many customers have been attracted to the larger size only to find that they were much more comfortable in a smaller SUV. A test drive will help any customer figure this out. 

The second reason is that an overnight drive will allow customers to get the SUV into their daily routine. Lots of fundamental questions can be answered like

  • Will the SUV fit in the garage? 
  • Will the kids be able to get in and out with ease? 
  • How is the ride or gas mileage on a trip? 
  • Does the wife enjoy driving it if the SUV is for her?

Questions like these need to be answered before the bottom line is signed, and sometimes the only way to do that is to drive the vehicle for longer than a ten-minute test drive.

Remember that Value is the Key Word

Car sales consultants quickly explain why their Lexus offers the most value. Value is an overused word in our society today. Companies shout at us from left to right, all claiming to have great value. But with the purchase of a large SUV, a value purchase is more 

important than ever, and by “value,” we mean getting the most SUV for the least amount one can spend. 

If you are purchasing a large SUV for moving the crew, think about how often that kind of scenario is likely to happen. A large SUV is the way to go if it is a regular occurrence and the additional cargo room is needed constantly. But if it is only a thing needed now and then, a buyer should question whether an LX470 is the right vehicle. (A smaller SUV with better fuel economy might be a better value).

Larger SUVs get worse gas mileage and cost more to operate, maintain and repair. Insurance premiums are higher. Oil changes are more expensive because larger SUVs require more oil. A trip to the dealer for a mechanical repair will cost you more, and some model years of the LX470 have made plenty of trips. 

Don’t Get Caught Up Buying More Luxury Than Budget Allows

There is just something to be said about owning a luxury vehicle. Whether it is the performance, the upgraded leather, or just the smell of money coming out of the vents, everyone wants to own something like a Lexus LX470. Unfortunately, not everyone should. 

While many LX470 owners have lots of disposable income to throw at a car payment, some struggle to stay afloat.

Ownership costs are higher for a luxury vehicle like Lexus, so any buyer needs to be prepared to pay for it. If there is any hesitation about whether a buyer has the resources to make a purchase, then the best thing to do is to keep shopping for a less expensive alternative. 

With interest rates rising and inflation eating more and more Americans’ spendable income, it is wise for some potential buyers to delay the purchase of more significant ticket items like cars and homes to concentrate on daily expenses like food, electricity, and fuel. 

No buyer wants to make a large purchase and struggle to pay off the financing. If you are already agonizing over bills and financial obligations, then perhaps a large SUV like the Lexus LX 470 is not the vehicle to be sitting in your drive. 

Key Takeaways

  • Avoid 1998, 2000, and 2003 – 04 Model years
  • Most repairs were expensive
  • Many repairs were not covered under the warranty
  • Be prepared to work with multiple dealers when buying to get the best deal
  • Luxury Ownership costs more

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