Incredible. We did send. He did fix it.
Our particular 1994 ES 300 has had some after-accident rebuilding done (well done, but you can tell when you know what to look for - tail light assembly still has the yellow numbers in crayon on it, freshly dough-boyed seams on the trunk pan, etc.) but has only 80k
miles on it and I am frankly looking forward to another decade of service from it... If I can get this problem fixed.
The timing belt job on this was... ahem... epic? Who designed it that way?
Small price to pay for an expertly (in all other ways) engineered vehicle. That job (and yes, did the water pump at the same time) is complete.
Here's what happened that created the current problem.
The factory battery negative let go during operation. I installed a new cable and terminal end, and the car drove fine for a few days... but then began to 'not lock up' on the transmission. It would move forward at about half the speed the engine was running. Did some research, learned about the transmission relays, and that they might be causing this problem.
I checked the two shift relays in the transmission and they operate when supplied current. I was told by some of the genius Lexus/Toyota mechanics out here that 'they sometimes work intermittently' and there that there is truly no definitive test for them. I don't know Lexus that well, but I know relays, and that made little sense to me.
I presumed that the lost ground during operation might have spiked the ECM.
I cycled the battery twice, and the problems in shifting would cease temporarily (for a day or two) which also lead me to question the efficacy of the ECM. NO ONE IN WISCONSIN can check an ECM from 1994 anymore to see if it 'throws codes'. (I do all of this work with a continuity tester, a floor jack, and a standard wrench set in my garage).
So I removed the ECM, sent it in, (to the gentlemen you suggested), they found the problem and fixed it in the ECM.
Now I am worried that the theft protection on the car will kick in after I re-install the ECM.
Is this a justified worry as the ignition key is not coded? Is there a procedure I should follow?
I am a general mechanic that works on all types of cars... I just happen to be quite fond of the Lexus line and hate to get rid of it over a shifting problem.