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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Obviously, no one wants problems after they've bought a used car so here are some things to look out for when you are looking at purchasing a used IS300.

- The CD changer. A fairly common problem, especially on the earlier model year IS300s, is that the CD changer jams severely with some frequency. Its arguable that this may be avoided by not putting CDs in or taking them out while the car is bouncing around, it is best to do it at a stop.

- Manual transmission. The clutch on the IS has a fairly short lifespan, many have been worn out in as little as 40,000 miles. If you can, check the clutch engagement and see if there is any slippage.

- Manual transmission. Many manual transmission owners have posted that they have trouble getting the car into 1st and 2nd gears, especially when it is cold, some cars are worse than others, check out if the car you're looking at sticks. For that matter, check how well the car shifts into each gear, they should slip in pretty easy.

- Service records. If you can, get service records from the previous owner, or, you may be able to request them from the dealership via the VIN number if service was done there. This may show some oddities with the car and confirm that the oil was changed, normal maintenance performed, etc.

- Electrical. Check all of the lights, make sure the lights are the same brightness as their counterparts, make sure the sidemarker lights, daytime running lights (DRLs) turn signals, reverse lights and interior lights all light up properly. Inspect the gauge cluster and center instrument stack to check for dim spots that would indicate dead bulbs behind the dash (you'll need at least the darkness of a closed garage for this)

- Keys. The car came with two master keys (the black ones with the buttons), make sure you have them both. They are very expensive to replace ($300+), especially for the 2001 model year where you need to replace the car's ECU as well, this can cost well over $1000.

- Interior. Check for small tears, burn marks, and scratches in the interior materials such as the seats, roof liner, door panels and dash.

- Exterior. Get the car out in the direct sunlight for this. Walk around the car and get the sun at different angles to see if any panels don't match the panels around them. Check panel gaps to make sure they are all straight. Look for VIN stickers, if a panel has been replaced, it probably doesn't have one. Watch for odd imperfections in the glare of the sun on the car that indicate irregularities such as bumps or dings in the panels.

- Trunk. Make sure that the Lexus First Aid kit is in the trunk and that all of the tools (screwdriver, wrenches, jack and tire iron) and spare are all present. Also, if the car has wheel locks, check for the key as well.

- Undercarriage. Check to see if the bottom of the car is rusty. Obviously there is going to be some, especially in saltier areas around the oceans and in areas where they salt the road in the winter, but nothing should be rusted through, just minor surface rust.

- Driving. If you can, drive the car, make sure the steering wheel is centered, the car tracks straight and there are no vibrations both driving at speed and braking. The shaking may be present for only a small speed range, pay attention as you accelerate. This would indicate suspension problems, alignment problems, and/or warped rotors.

- Brakes. The IS is equipped with floating calipers, thus they move within their mounts. This movements generates a "thud" emanating from the brakes the first time you touch the brakes in a new direction. ie., pull out of a parking space, brake *thud/clunk*, move forward, first time you brake *thud/clunk* This is NORMAL, do not worry about it.

- Manual transmission. With the car running, leave it in neutral with the clutch all the way out, open the windows and listen for a chirping noise. If you hear it, push in the clutch a little bit, if the noise goes away, the throw-out bearing is worn-out, this is pretty expensive to fix.

- CARFAX. Carfaxing a car is a good practice, this will show you if the car has been in an accident, however, carfax is fairly innacurate and they themselves have admitted it, many things are not reported to them so take a clean carfax with a grain of salt, you should still make a point of checking the car for accident-related imperfections such as mismatched panels, large panel gaps, etc.

- 90,000 miles. 90,000 miles is a big regular maintenance interval. The 90k mile service includes replacing the water pump and timing belt, this service runs over $1000. If it is close or over 90k miles, make sure the service is done or that the price is low enough for you to cover this expensive service.

Good luck in your search for a used IS.

· Registered
2,478 Posts
1. Observe if all of the gears shift smoothly, with no grind. I test drove a manual IS300 in a dealer and found I cannot shift into fifth gear. If I forced it in, it grinded hard. The car had only 30k miles.

2. Observe all the panel alignment and gaps. Also check VIN sticker all over fenders and doors. If you don't see a sticker, there is a chance it has been in an accident. Locations: underhood-on the top of the fenders and inside the hood somewhere, doors- on the back edge somewhere, usually near the lower part so you might have to squat down, rear door sills-right in front of the rear wheel well, trunklid-somewhere on the inside of the trunk near the edge

3. Try all of the electrical devices and see if they all work. Also, check lights and see if they light up in equally brightness. You don't want to get a car that has electrical problems.

4. Carfax the history of the car and see if it was a flood car or salvage title. (salvage title car has lower Blue Book value).

5. You should able to obtain service records from Lexus dealer using the VIN numbers, if the previous owner had maintenance performed at the dealer.

6. Look at the seat surface and make sure there are no holes or rips. They are expensive to fix.

7. Check if the spare tire, jack, tools and first aid kit are the trunk.

8. I learned that it is normal for a manual transmission to produce a clump noise in the first couple of gears when you shift fast.

9. Make sure there are no outstanding penalty fees on the vehicle, I hear they may carry over to the new owner (someone verify it please).

10. If the deal sounds too good to be true (i.e $4000) and the car is not in your local area, I am pretty sure it is a scam.

11. If possible, drive the car cold. Some messed-up automatic trannies only shift well when the car is warmed up.

12. Pray hard and wish you are lucky

13. Check air filter.

14. Squirt the windshield washers. Make sure they aren't clogged and the wipers don't streak.

Look for chips in the windshield underneath the big sticker.
If there are locking lug nuts, make sure the key is there.

Check all lights

Roll down the window after start-up and listen for a chirping sound coming from the front-to-middle part of the car. If you hear this, it is most likely a throw out bearing and though not expensive to fix, but may have issues in the future.

Perform some WOT acceleration to make sure the clutch doesn’t slip.

Check the underside of the car! Rust is cancer and the salt thrown on the road in snow places, or the salt water air from living near the ocean can kill the car. Most people don't wash the underside of their cars, so that is something you should not miss. Don’t be afraid to ask to have it thrown on a lift and walk around under it.

* Trunk parts. Even pre-owned, my car did not come with all of the goods from the trunk (wrenches, screwdriver, etc.). I argued my way into getting them replaced at no charge.
Keys (2 keys w/fob, valet, and credit card thing…)

Load a CD to make sure the HU works. This is a common problem, especially before 2004.
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· Registered
290 Posts
I did notice that the little tool kit or whatever it is in the bag that is usually strapped to the inner fender in the trunk wasn't there when I bought mine last week. Is that something important I will likely need and is it expensive or difficult to replace?

· Registered
6 Posts

I'm newbie to this site and have been looking for 01-02 IS300 for awhile. I understand about the ECU reflashed thing & TRAC problem that most IS300 have. I'm about to test drive it tomorrow and wondering what is the best way to test it if the car has problem related to the ECU need to be reflashed. Do a complete stop and accelerate to see if there is lagging, how much lagging are we talking about it. Also, how to go about detecting the TRAC during test. Off course I would look into decals under the hood to see if those TSB has been done. Car is 01 with 118K miles private party wants it for $10500 which I think is pretty high considering that timing belt/water pump have not been replaced.

Thanks much

· Registered
67 Posts
These are awesome tips! The only think I will say differently is to check the exterior of the car in the shade. I am in the Paintless Dent repair industry and the direct sunlight hides a TON of imperfections. If you can get it in a garage or if you are outside at least look under some type of shading. I just paid off my 05 Chevy Silverado and wait to sell it, trade in, and get an is300. I've been a mkiv and is300 fan for years!

· Registered
790 Posts
Also on the WOT test for a slipping clutch test... if you cannot get to WOT (hesitation, bogging), then most likely the MAF sensor is bad or getting there and should be deducted from the price as they are expensive. Mine had this issue.
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