Everything Wrong With My Piece Of Shit $600 Lexus

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You know, I could just take it to the junkyard any time. You hear that, Lexus? CAN YOU HEAR ME? ANYTIME I WANT.

The last you read of the $600 Lexus, it could not drive it thirty miles without steam billowing from under the hood. I have now come to realize that this was one of the Lexus' good drives.


I have since then taken the car on two short trips, one to the beach and one to the mechanic. I had never seen the temperature needle on a car go over the top of the red before.

I didn't want the mechanic to actually work on the car, just tell me what was causing the overheating. Every single sign pointed towards busted head gaskets, but I just wanted to be sure before I started busting my knuckles trying to figure out exactly what "Uniformly tighten the nuts in several passes" entails when getting the cylinder head covers back on.


The good guys at BKM Automotive in Astoria begrudgingly accepted the ES300 into the shop ("I really think you should just focus on the Baja Bug") to dirty things up next to their M5s (E28 and E34), 2002, and other assorted fine imported automobiles. Several days later I got a phone call explaining what was actually the matter and also begging me to come get this thing.

The head gaskets are still good! I can't believe it myself. No mixing of coolant and oil, compression is fine. This engine has a reputation for busting head gaskets, and that they survived is nothing short of miraculous. It is possible that I am falling ever so slightly in love with this car.


Sadly, while the headgaskets are still good, everything else is busted. Here's the list of what it needs:

  • Radiator
  • Timing belt
  • Water pump
  • Thermostat
  • Two accessory belts
  • Expansion tank

That last one is the interesting one. As you recall, the first thing I figured out about this charming Lexus was that the overflow bottle had a hole in it, like high pressure had burst straight through the aged plastic. Multiple times I was advised that this was not under pressure, and the real issues with the overheating were elsewhere.


This advice was all wrong. That little plastic carton is indeed part of the pressurized coolant system, and once everything got up to temperature and pressure, all the coolant would blow out. Hence the steam, hence the smell of coolant, hence the overheating.

As it turns out, the car has more problems than just overheating. It also needs:

  • Front brake pads
  • Front brake rotors
  • Right front brake caliper and hose
  • Rear brake pads
  • Rear brake rotors
  • Right front axle

Apparently the CV boots are rusted and dry and the whole thing might as well be replaced. This will, I assume, make sense to me when I get the part in the mail and go to install it.


I should say that I have no idea where exactly to get all the parts. Am I going to be on eBay for the next few days? Is there a site that stocks this shit? Can I take the train out to the Autozone in the South Bronx and get everything?

These are my thoughts this morning as I'm sitting in the Lexus. I was waiting out my neighborhood's street cleaning alternate-side parking, the merry-go-round ride in the amusement park that is living in Manhattan. I can't begin to say how wonderful it was, working on stolen WiFi, double parked on my shady side street. Hot summer air cooled by a breeze running through all the open windows and the moonroof.


The two-tone brown and tan leather back there is still in reasonably fine shape, all the panels fit snugly together, and the thick cloth around the bottom of the doors is still clean. It's not deep or plush like an S-Class or a Bentley, it does feel like a family car, but one that's solid and reassuring and well made and


why isn't the window going up

why, um. Why isn't the driver's side window going up?

Fuck this car.

Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove