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I am looking for advice on what I can do next with my beloved GS300 (2006). In September it had a major service (oil, all filters, all discs & pads etc) and then a few weeks later I joined a dual carriageway and put my foot down, accelerated quickly from about 20 - 60mph and the engine cut out.

At the side of the road, when I pushed the start button it would turn over, the engine would start for around 1 second before cutting out. Trying to rev the engine whilst starting made no difference at all.

I had the car recovered to my home, and then had a rather unfortunate series of personal events involving COVID and then my wife being admitted to hospital.

Long story short, I was using my wife’s car so it wasn’t until earlier this year that I was able to actually try and get the Lexus back on the road. It wouldn’t turn over at all so I figured the Battery was dead, and replaced it. The car still behaved exactly the same, it would start for around 1 second and then cut out.

-

I got it towed to a local independent garage that specialises in Japanese (specifically toyota/honda) expecting it would be a fairly easy fix. The garage called to say that they had done a compression test and one cylinder had very low compression and another cylinder had no compression whatsoever.

The suggested next steps, accompanied with sharp sucking in of air through teeth, was that engine would need to be stripped down to determine what the problem was. This could be partially stripped down (~1 day) to see if the timing change had stretched or jumped, and beyond that would need a full strip down to see what the problem was and even estimate the work required.

Having had a quick look at replacement options, I decided the second hand car market has gone berserk in the last year or so and that although it could be costly, I would be willing to take the risk of trying to get the car that I know well back on the road.

Fast forward 2 weeks and the garage called to say that they haven’t even had a change to look at it again. After some discussion it seems they have a lot of work on, and potentially don’t want to get into a pricey job with no guarantee of finding/fixing the problem. They had spoken to a few other local non-specialist garages and one had offered to take the job on in another few weeks from now, apparently they have taken one or two other engine rebuilds from this garage’s backlog recently.

There is a Lexus specialist about 30 mins away (Lex Tech Southampton), so I was thinking of giving them a call to get their take on it. I could get the car towed there if necessary but thought I’d see if I could source some Lexus owners opinions beforehand..

 

I guess my questions are:

  • Any obvious ideas on what the problem might be, or do you agree that it is a case of start stripping and see?
  • What would you do if it was you?
  • Thoughts on engine replacement - seems tricky to have any idea on the quality of engine you are sourcing and how well looked after it has been.
  • Have I lost my mind, should I cut my losses and sell for spares/repair and start again?

 

Other info:

  • Lexus GS 300 2006 - roughly 135-140k miles
  • Occasionally over the 3 years of owning the car, the engine management light has come on which always returns P0430 on my code reader, and was usually able to clear or resolved itself for months at a time.
  • Other than that I’ve never needed to do anything except oil/filter changes and tyres.
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Oh dear. Sounds serious. Whatever the problem is, and it sounds like valves/ valve gear - it is going to cost several thousand pounds. If it was just a head  gasket there would be some compression and it wouldn't have stopped suddenly. It wouldn't run at all with a broken timing chain and if it had jumped a tooth or several teeth it should run but poorly - maybe not though. Even fitting a replacement engine is going to be expensive. The car is probably worth about £1.5K max in p.ex. or £3K in a private sale (in excellent condition fully fixed) - but if it was fixed you probably wouldn't sell it. Sale for spares on eBay - anywhere from £200 to £600 or so.

A replacement similar car might cost up to £5k with lower mileage.

Dilemma!

Me - I'd be tempted to call it a day on this car. Shouldn't happen to a Lexus at this mileage.

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P0 430 is the bank 2 catalyst below threshold level. this has nothing to do with what has happened to the engine.

I think your car has a timing belt and not a timing chain. Nevertheless, the fact that the engine starts even for about a second before it cuts out, it means that it turns and no valves have ceased or jammed.

Some engines have their engine timing without valve interference in which case if the timing belt or chain should jump a tooth or snap, the pistons do not hit the valves during their operation.  An interference engine timing, in case the timing belt or chain snap or jump, would have at least a piston hit the valves of a cylinder with a catastrophic damage to the engine, belt valves, piston with a hole from hitting the valves, connecting rod bent etc.

If the engine has jumped a tooth or more and it is out of timing, you may be lucky by a long shot and you may only need to set the engine timing. The fact that the compression of some cylinders is low or gone altogether, it is engine timing related.

Check the engine timing using the marks on the crankshaft pulley and the camshafts. I would have expected the garage to mention if the engine timing belt or chain had jumped out of timing.

The other option is to get a replacement engine from a breaker. A few months ago I was quoted about 430 pounds for a Lexus LS 430 with a guarantee as well. 

Hope to have been of some help,

 

Chris.

 

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2 hours ago, johnatg said:

Oh dear. Sounds serious. Whatever the problem is, and it sounds like valves/ valve gear - it is going to cost several thousand pounds. If it was just a head  gasket there would be some compression and it wouldn't have stopped suddenly. It wouldn't run at all with a broken timing chain and if it had jumped a tooth or several teeth it should run but poorly - maybe not though. Even fitting a replacement engine is going to be expensive. The car is probably worth about £1.5K max in p.ex. or £3K in a private sale (in excellent condition fully fixed) - but if it was fixed you probably wouldn't sell it. Sale for spares on eBay - anywhere from £200 to £600 or so.

A replacement similar car might cost up to £5k with lower mileage.

Dilemma!

Me - I'd be tempted to call it a day on this car. Shouldn't happen to a Lexus at this mileage.

Thanks John - I should have added that I would prefer to be told what I want to hear which is that it's a no-brainer to get it repaired 😄

Dilemma indeed... I paid 3.3k almost 3 years ago for the car, with 95-100k on the clock and full Lexus service history. It seems that money today can't get me anything like that which left me a bit miffed and then got me thinking that even £2k to get it back on the road could be money well spent seeing as I would expect another number of years out of it.

 

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1 hour ago, OldTrout said:

Fuel pump and them compression problems because it has been standing?

John

 

I don't quite understand your comment - is the suggestion that it could just need fuel pump replacing and that the compression problems are a separate issue that has developed since it has been standing (sitting!) for a few months?   Thanks

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1 hour ago, Mihanicos said:

P0 430 is the bank 2 catalyst below threshold level. this has nothing to do with what has happened to the engine.

I think your car has a timing belt and not a timing chain. Nevertheless, the fact that the engine starts even for about a second before it cuts out, it means that it turns and no valves have ceased or jammed.

Some engines have their engine timing without valve interference in which case if the timing belt or chain should jump a tooth or snap, the pistons do not hit the valves during their operation.  An interference engine timing, in case the timing belt or chain snap or jump, would have at least a piston hit the valves of a cylinder with a catastrophic damage to the engine, belt valves, piston with a hole from hitting the valves, connecting rod bent etc.

If the engine has jumped a tooth or more and it is out of timing, you may be lucky by a long shot and you may only need to set the engine timing. The fact that the compression of some cylinders is low or gone altogether, it is engine timing related.

Check the engine timing using the marks on the crankshaft pulley and the camshafts. I would have expected the garage to mention if the engine timing belt or chain had jumped out of timing.

The other option is to get a replacement engine from a breaker. A few months ago I was quoted about 430 pounds for a Lexus LS 430 with a guarantee as well. 

Hope to have been of some help,

 

Chris.

 

Thanks, Chris. Regarding the P0430 code - I did think it was unrelated and had seen lots of others of similar vintage having this show up intermittently so I guessed it could even be a sensor.

I thought the engine was on a chain - it's a 55-plate GS300, so 3L V6 petrol (I believe the engine is 3GR-FSE)

I appreciate your opinion that it is definitely timing related, that helps to hone in conversation with any further garages.  I get the impression the current garage thought this was going to be a quick/easy job when they took the car in, and are now not bothered about it due to complexity and they've got plenty of other easier work on their books.

They said they would need to do some level of strip back to see if the chain had jumped/stretched... it sounds like you're saying this could be checked without doing so?

I'm thinking it is worth a conversation with the Lexus specialist in Southampton to see what they would suggest if I was to get it recovered there.  Although my impression so far is that this is seeming to be a fairly generic engine problem that could be dealt with by any garage

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Regarding a replacement engine - there seems to be a handful of places online selling either engine only, or offering supply & fit.

Although I have been known to like a flutter, I struggle with the idea that you have no record of the lifetime of the engine, or service record... and even a 3-month warranty seems pretty light when you might spend over a grand all in and it goes pop again in 4 months.

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If I knew the model code of your car I could tell you exactly the engine timing option. Timing chains are much more reliable and they can last until the engine's overhaul. It is very unlikely for them to jump teeth on the camshafts, unless a design fault of the tensioner or the vibration dampers of the chain exists. However this would have been recalled early and an upgrade kit would fix it.

The engine timing can be checked by aligning the TDC mark on the crankshaft and the timing marks on the camshafts. TDC mark is on the engine pulley, the camshaft marks are visible by removing the valve cover. If they do not align, all it is required is to release the chain/belt tensioner and reset the timing marks.

Any engine can be checked for its condition by a compression test ( petrol engines ) and a leakage test for diesel engines. Compression test is very easy and it is done by removing the spark plugs.  Any mechanic can do it before buying the engine.

Usually the breaker would tell you the condition of the engine and the mileage it has done. If the compression test readings are high and similar ( depends on the engine design compression ratio ) then the engine should be good to run for many miles. Choose a trustworthy and reputable mechanic. 

Chris.

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If you have  an engine timing belt, the timing marks of the camshafts should be visible when you remove the timing belt cover.

Chris

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4 hours ago, OldTrout said:

Fuel pump and them compression problems because it has been standing?

John

 

Sorry I should have been more specific. Is fuel getting through? If it suddenly stops, engine would die. Then if a little bit gets through it would run for a second. Does the engine start when you remove the filler cap?

John

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It's a 3 litre V6 3GR-FSE, yes? If so it has chains - three of them. I guess it is just possible that one chain has broken or jumped, in which case a repair might be feasible, but more work than just that would almost certainly be required. Would you get away with removing just one head? - who knows? Only way to find out how much this would cost is to do some stripping down - itself not an inexpensive process.

I don't think John's suggestion of fuel pump stands up if it was running perfectly and stopped suddenly. The total lack of compression in one cylinder is very worrying - means serious piston damage or a valve not closing. Latter unlikely when running at speed unless serious valve/camshaft/timing chain damage.

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Remove the valve cover of each cylinder head and turn the engine by hand from the crankshaft pulley. Look at the camshafts as they turn and observe the valve operation and look for any damage. Check and verify the engine timing. Reset it if it is out and then do a compression test on all cylinders to evaluate the condition of the engine.

Chris.

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Was any error code showing up after the engine died and you tried to restart it? Do you know which cylinders have the poor compression? The fact that it runs for 1 second suggest the ECU is shutting it down and would produce a code.

 

Personally I'd be reluctant to spend too much money getting it working considering this vehicle cannot use E10 fuel so you will have the added expense of running on super unleaded soon.

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Not a mechanic but based on the sheer physics of it I'd still expect SOME compression even if the valve
was completely shot and jammed open, just cos of the volume of air it is trying to jam through the valve.

Does sound like a rather serious issue.

I remember my Dad had a Renault 25 that had no compression and it turned out the top of the cylinders basically
had come away and basically needed a engine rebuild. It got sold to the mechanic for very little as he
basically fixed it as a pet project as the labour cost wasn't worth it otherwise.

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22 hours ago, ColinBarber said:

Was any error code showing up after the engine died and you tried to restart it? Do you know which cylinders have the poor compression? The fact that it runs for 1 second suggest the ECU is shutting it down and would produce a code.

 

Personally I'd be reluctant to spend too much money getting it working considering this vehicle cannot use E10 fuel so you will have the added expense of running on super unleaded soon.

What's that about E10 fuel? I have a 57 plate GS300, is that affected?

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Hi, had similar issue with my 55 gs300. What is your fuel level? Try to add about 5 litres of petrol irrespective of the level indication.

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4 hours ago, JeffL said:

What's that about E10 fuel? I have a 57 plate GS300, is that affected?

I'm guessing that will apply to you I'm afraid.

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12 hours ago, JeffL said:

What's that about E10 fuel? I have a 57 plate GS300, is that affected?

 

DA1951CE-F797-4C0D-B58B-874FF72CB83D.jpeg

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Your car definitely has a timing chain and not a timing belt. 

But to me it sounds like a fuel issue, fuel pump maybe. 

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Just a thought and it may not have any relevance but could the throttle butterfly valve have become detached/broken or jammed.  If you have witnessed the low compression factor in person then it will not be worth considering,  but Garages do like to maximise the oooh arrr thats going to be expensive shrug. 

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On 4/2/2021 at 12:51 PM, runsgrateasanut said:

Just a thought and it may not have any relevance but could the throttle butterfly valve have become detached/broken or jammed.  If you have witnessed the low compression factor in person then it will not be worth considering,  but Garages do like to maximise the oooh arrr thats going to be expensive shrug. 

Also check the Throttle Cabling. How much did first Garage charge you to check the compression which I imagine, not knowing the V6 layout, would take some time to do?

Sorry if I'm barking up the wrong tree! 

Hope you find the answer.  You must feel lucky if you didn't manage to join the Motorway. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I thought I would return with an update/closure. Thanks all for your input, loads of helpful points that might also help others in the future. 

After some more deliberation I spoke with Stuart @ Lex Tech Southampton who was a massive help. Bearing in mind he suggested within the first minute that there was no point taking it to them as they wouldn't be able to take the job on for a number of weeks... he then spent 20mins answering my questions, explaining how the various potential impacted parts of the engine work and went through a number of questions about their diagnostic results that should be clarified with the first garage before deciding best course of action. Really helpful bloke.

Long story short, I stuck it on gumtree, phone blew up and it was collected within 48 hours and I now have just over 400 quid towards a new motor. Not clear if the old girl is going to be broken or repaired but I'll be interested to see if it's back on the road later this year.

Having decided that the lack of rear folding seats was enough of a deal-breaker to look at other marques, spending every evening for 2 weeks reading up about every auto-estate-barge made in the 2000s... a few half decent looking GS 300s have recently come up for sale and I'm planning to view one on Friday 😆

Pointers that may be helpful to others: 

  • Check there were definitely no fault codes on ECU? (If so, very rarely/if ever seen a timing issue with zero codes)
  • Were all 6 cylinders tested? and were the cylinders low on the same bank? Or on both banks? (Both banks would be very unusual)
  • The fact it cut out instantly points to likely fairly catastrophic. Could something have fallen in during service/plug change.
  • Could try and get access to a bore camera to see if anything can be seen inside
  • Or.. Worth pulling out the cam sensors to see if they’re damaged - if something had got in then likely the cam sensor would be damaged - could be a good indication.  Equally the engine may start properly without cam sensor but then run rough on 2 or 3 cylinders.
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