There’s no denying that the Toyota Highlander is one of the most reliable midsize crossovers out there. Unfortunately, like other vehicles, it can develop problems as the mileage accumulates, which is why we will show you the common Toyota Highlander failures in this post.
Here you will take a look at its reliability and the most common problems in its years of manufacture so that in this way you get an idea of the repairs that you may need over time.
How good are Toyota Highlanders?
As America’s best-selling midsize SUV, the Toyota Highlander has received much praise. It has been rated best in class for reliability, safety and affordability, and consistently shows high owner satisfaction ratings.
The Toyota Highlander has received above average scores in all reliability ratings. RepairPal gave it 4.0 out of 5.0, ranking it 7th out of 26 contestants on the sports car model.
The Highlander’s gas mileage is considered slightly above average at 24 mpg for the sports car category. It also has impressive resale value , only depreciating 44.6% after five years compared to the median value of 51.6% for sports cars.
The common faults of the Toyota Highlander
It’s hard to imagine that the Toyota Highlander could have any problems. However, while the general reception of the Highlander is consistently positive, there are a few issues to watch out for, especially on older models.
Like any other vehicle, the Toyota Highlander can also develop problems over time. Here we bring you some of the frequent failures of the Toyota Highlader in the different model years.
1- Faults in the fuel tank and the air conditioning condenser
The 2020 redesign has been reported to have problems with its fuel tank. Owners have complained about not being able to fill the tank to its maximum capacity of 17.1 gallons. Instead, they were only able to fill 12 to 14 gallons of fuel.
There have also been reports of a damaged air conditioning (A/C) condenser, preventing the A/C system from blowing cold air. Most owners were able to fix the problem by replacing the faulty part. A new A/C condenser can cost anywhere from $60 to $150, plus labor costs.
2- Defective Airbags (Safety Airbags)
Defective airbags were common in some 2013 and 2016 Highlanders. The airbags in these model years did not deploy in a collision, increasing the risk of injury.
Although no recalls were made for them, Toyota issued a recall for the 2020 redesign due to the same issue. Toyota recalled more than 3,300 Highlanders and Highlander Hybrids to replace faulty trim covers that could prevent seat-mounted side airbags from deploying during a collision.
3- Excessive wind noise
Excessive wind noise is one of the most common failures of the 2017 Toyota Highlander. Owners have reported hearing loud screeching and hissing sounds from inside the cabin , which may be due to loose side mirrors or door trim.
4- Problems inside
The 2015 Highlander has been reported to have uncomfortable seats that caused back pain during long drives. Drivers have also complained about a malfunction in the audio system that automatically resets the radio and navigation settings.
Meanwhile, there are two common Toyota Highlander faults about the 2008 model’s interior: a panic alarm that kept going off randomly and a faulty CD player. Several owners have also reported that the redesign’s flimsy armrests sagged and tore after some time.
5- Oil leaks and loss of oil pressure
Oil leaks and loss of oil pressure are common on 2005-2013 Highlanders. Drivers have reported seeing a puddle of engine oil under their vehicles and smelling burning oil inside the cabin.
These problems are usually caused by a faulty Variable Valve Timing (VVT-i) gear and a broken oil cooler line.
6- Defective ignition coils
Engine misfiring is a common problem found on 2001-2005, 2007-2008, 2010 and 2013 Highlanders. Many drivers have also complained that their Toyota shakes and jerks under acceleration .
The mechanics discovered that these problems were usually caused by a bad ignition coil. The cost of ignition coil replacements can range anywhere from $100 to $400 plus labor costs.
7- Faults in the air filter box hose
Several owners of 2001-2011 Highlanders complained about a disconnected air box hose after changing the air filter or engine oil. This can affect the vehicle’s air-fuel ratio and cause the engine to hesitate, stall, or rough idle.
8- Battery problems
The 2010 Toyota Highlander has had a few cases of battery problems. Some owners of this model year have complained of having a dead battery despite having only 4,000 miles on the odometer. This prevented them from starting the engine, rolling down the windows, or unlocking the doors.
9- Failure of the oxygen sensor and the cylinder head gasket
Owners of 2001-2007 Highlanders have reported their engine overheating due to a blown head gasket. Mechanics discovered that the cylinder head bolts stripped the threads in the engine block, which lifted the cylinder head and caused the head gasket to fail.
Head gaskets typically cost $50-$250, plus labor costs. On the other hand, some 2001-2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 Highlanders have faulty oxygen (O2) sensors, causing misfiring and mis-idling . A new O2 sensor can cost anywhere from $100 to $250 plus labor.
10- Peeled engine screw threads
Stripped engine bolt threads were a common 2003 Toyota Highlander failure, causing head gasket problems and engine overheating. This problem also causes the A/C system to blow hot air as the vehicle loses antifreeze.
11- Clogged idle air control valve
Some owners of some 2001-2003 Highlanders have complained that their engines stall on start-up and are unable to idle in cold temperatures. These problems are usually caused by a clogged idle air control valve that restricts airflow into the engine.
12- Failure of the purge control valve
Purge valve failure is another common failure of the 2001-2003 Toyota Highlanders. Debris can clog the valve, affecting the vehicle’s combustion process and resulting in a failed emissions test.
13- Engine failure and excessive use of oil
The 2002 model had many reported cases of engine failure and excessive oil usage. The engine failures of this model year were due to various reasons including a faulty oil pump, blown gasket, scored bearings, damaged valves, and broken engine block bolts.
Meanwhile, some owners have complained that their cars are burning oil at an alarming rate, causing the oil warning lamp to illuminate before their scheduled oil change.
Old Highlander Views
In general, Toyota has an excellent track record of improving its vehicles as problems arise, and the Highlander is no exception. Toyota took the issues seriously, and engine issues with post-2013 models are few and far between.
In fact, the total number of consumer complaints dropped significantly, except for 2015, when there was a spate of complaints about vehicle seat comfort.
People considering purchasing a pre-2013 Toyota Highlander would do well to have a trusted mechanic perform a thorough inspection with particular attention to the engine bolts and oil passages.
Despite the severity of the engine’s problems, the number of complaints is dwarfed by its high owner satisfaction scores, so it’s fair to say that even an older Highlander can be a sound investment.
You should keep in mind that, as reliable as the Highlander is, problems can arise over time. Therefore, it is important that you familiarize yourself with their most common problems to know what parts may need repairs in the future.