Check Engine...Again - 1996 Lexus ES 300 Long-Term Road Test

1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Check Engine...Again

February 26, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

Just when you think you have an old car sorted out, it seems that something else always surfaces. The infamous "Check Engine" light is back on in our 1996 Lexus ES 300, just over a month after we cleared it for the oxygen sensor.

We have a ScanGauge code reader in the office, which we used to get more information about the light. The Lexus gave us a "P0441," code. This code has something to do with the evaporative emission control system having an incorrect purge flow. That's about all we know so far. The P0441 code could mean anything from a faulty gas cap (it seems to be fine as far as I can tell) to the need for a new charcoal canister.

The car drives normally, and if it didn't need to pass a smog inspection, I'd consider ignoring the light. But we're going to be selling the car soon and in California, it is the seller's responsibility to get it in smog-test-passing condition. Besides, taking care of this will better help us sell the car. Imagine going to inspect a car you want to buy and seeing a bright "Check Engine" light. It's a major red flag.

I'll be taking the car in to the mechanic next week and will report back with more details.

Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor @ 153,622 miles


  • ag10 ag10 Posts:

    Just came across your articles as I also have a 96 ES300 with the check engine light on and same code. I had to have the exhaust (including catalytic converter) replaced and chose to not use factory parts as the savings were significant and the car was already 15 years old. Since then, the check engine light has been on and gives a P0441 code. I've had to have the emissions tested twice, and I found that using premium gas seems to make the light go off in the next two or three days. I typically use mid-grade, and as soon as I return to mid-grade the light comes back on. According to my mechanic though, the emissions are fine with mid-grade, just the sensor malfunctions; I've passed both emissions tests on the first try. Anyway, for people seeking a quick fix for that error code, try using premium if you don't already.

  • mdj61254 mdj61254 Posts:

    I have virtually the exact same vehicle, for what it's worth I recently had the same code displayed and it turned out to be a leaking vacuum hose in the emission control system, $180 to diagnose and replace 50 cents worth of rubber hose...

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I thought the mechanic who did your dash lights for you found a vacuum hose disconnected and hooked it up again...what, only 73 miles ago - ? Are you sure the ECU didn't note the fault then and is only now setting the code and giving you the light? I don't know how long it takes for this car to run through its evaporative emission system checks, but that sounds likely to me - it may already be fixed.

  • jpnpower jpnpower Posts:

    Lesson, somewhat good car, or no car. Cheap car=nightmares

  • noburgers_ noburgers_ Posts:

    clear the code and see if it comes back in the next 2 weeks, while also following ag10's recommendation to try premium.

  • zhangrenhou zhangrenhou Posts:

    I hope it's just a simple fix!

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I was not aware that you are going to sell this car. I think you need to keep it for longer - most people in the financial situation you are trying to simulate will not get rid of a car that they have put money into and which is basically running well. I really don't understand IL's direction with this have taken it to mechanics even for things a normal person strapped for funds would have tried to fix himself, and now, after sinking all this money into the car, you are going to sell it. That's just not how it would be happening with an actual owner. The vision has been very muddled here.

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