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Toyota Highland Hybrid Steering and Suspension Questions

lcarr8522lcarr8522 Posts: 5
edited March 25 in Toyota
I own a 2006 Toyota Highland Hybrid with 54K+ miles on it. Last week my power steering failed. Fortunately I was only trying to back out of my parking space and not driving down the interstate. I had the vehicle towed to a local Toyota dealership. Initially they said they had never seen this problem before and were unable to diagnose the problem. After a couple hours they said they would have to call the technicians in California and since there was no telling when they would call back they put me in a rental car at my expense. The following day they called to tell me they needed to replace my power steering rack and since the vehicle was no longer in warranty (less than 3 years but over 36K miles) the repair costs would be $1,840. I’ve owned many cars in my life with many more miles on them than this and I’ve never had a power steering failure. I started to do some internet research and found this is definitely not an isolated incident. There are numerous reports of similar failures on both the 2006 Highlander Hybrid as well as the 2006 Lexus 400h hybrid SUV. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into the defect in Nov 2006. In response to a request for information to support that investigation, Toyota reported there had already been 109 warranty claims related to the electronic power steering assembly on the 2006 HIHY. Unfortunately the investigation was closed in Mar 2007 without a recall because the defect seemed to only occur at no or low speeds and didn’t result in a loss of steering control. I’d like to try and find out the magnitude of the problem. Toyota reported 109 warranty claims as of Nov 06-Mar 07. How many have there been since then? How many non-warranty claims such as mine? On both the Highlander and the Lexus 400h? It’s certainly more than 109 and it sure seems like it’s a matter of when your power steering will fail and not if. Remarkably, after 109 warranty claims, I can find no evidence that Toyota even had the decency to issue a technical service bulletin. I would encourage everyone who has experienced this problem to file a complaint with both the NHTSA (http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/) as well as the Center for Auto Safety (http://www.autosafety.org/). Perhaps the NHTSA will reopen the investigation if enough consumers report the problem. The Center for Auto Safety will ask if you want to be part of a class action suit if you report your complaint through their web site.

Comments

  • sbehnkesbehnke Posts: 1
    First time poster so be kind!
    We just bought a 2006 HH Limited, AWD. During the test drive we noticed it pulled to the right just a little. The dealer gave us a "We Owe" ticket. However it is a Chevy dealer, not Toyota. I want to know if there are any concerns on a wheel alignment for a hybrid vs. non-hybrid. Are we better off going to a Toyota dealer? Would like to stay at the Checy dealer for this repair cause they'll do it for free.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    July...TX, AZ, NV......HOT...???

    The RXh/HH electric power stearing is already known to be of marginal design. It will actually go into degraded/derated performance mode AUTOMATICALLY if you cause it to overheat by...

    "USING IT TOO MUCH".

    Buyer beware...!!
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    THANKS for sharing it! Will keep an eye on this.

    So far, our '06 is doing fine, knock on wood!
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    I cannot find anything on-line that addresses specifically the steering design aspects of the RXh/HH. Can you please point us to them if you have found them? It would be helpful.

    Our '06 HH is driven often in average 95-F heat (on average) during hot summer months in central CA. During CA heat wave like the one that just passed, daily temperature soared to 105-115 F. We also often drive HWY 5 between LA and SF Bay Area and the Redding region. Everyone who knows that route knows how hot HWY 5 gets in the summer. Average is around 100+ F from LA up into Redding.

    We also crawl at low speed on ranch roads in >95-F often enough, no sign of steering problem yet coming on 45K miles, knock on wood.

    I thought the engine would be much hotter than ambient temperature. If the car is moving, air flow should cool everything to some degree? Why would high heat cause steering problem in the HH?

    Sure hope this is not some systemic problem though.
  • My 2006 Highlander Hybrid with 44,000 miles was just towed to Toyota on a flatbed after having problems with the power steering. We had not used the car in a while and as I pulled out of the driveway I couldn't turn the wheel easily. It felt like a lack of power steering fluid but we decided to drive it locally to see if it improved. It did not in fact it was a good thing that my partner took over the driving. All of a sudden the front wheels started to quiver back and forth violently and we got it to the nearest service station and called for assistance. It was headed for the guardrail on its own and if it had not been for the strength of my partner we would have crashed.

    I have not yet received a call from Toyota but I can tell you I am not happy and will be a lot less happy if the repair bill is close to $2,000.

    Prior to this incident there were a few times that I though the car turned a little hard but it didn't seem to last so I wasn't concerned.

    I will post the repair corrective action as soon as I hear from the garage and will follow up with the appropriate agencies as soon as I have a diagnosis from Toyota.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    According to Toyota there are situations and/or circumstances wherein the solid state electric drive control can/will overheat and reduce the driver stearing power assist functionality quite substantially. Look in your owners manual for word of this.

    There appears to be an additional problem in that when it is operating in the substandard state more MUSCLE is required of the driver and EXTENDED muscular effort will/might actually bend the torque tube out of alignment. In some cases this has actually resulted in the electric assist operating OPPOSITE the driver's turning of the stearing wheel.

    Especially HOT day, HOT surrounding landscape/roadbed, yes, the power stearing will be more prone to going into substandard, low assist, mode.
  • With my situation the temperature in northern NY was around 75 - 80 degrees tops. The car had been sitting in the garage to save mileage and a more efficient Yaris was being driven. My car will not be looked at until Monday.
  • The steering rack needs replacement with my vehicle. Fortunately my dealership is being fair about the situation. The car will not leave their lot after the repair is performed as it will be traded in.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Wow, good thing you all are safe when your steering system malfunctioned. Thanks for sharing this problem and sorry it did not work out for you all.

    I will be sure to post any problem we encounter in our '06. It is approaching 47K miles now. We are in southern SF Bay Area and just got hit by another heat wave, local temperature at our site was 109 today. It is normal for Summer to be in the mid-90's to low 100's in our neck of the woods. We also drive I-5 a lot and it can be baking in smoggy foul air at 100+ while the coast is blanketed by cool clean foggy air. So far, so good; knock on wood!
  • I really have some questions about temperature with the problem. As with the first poster there really did not seem to be any warning signs - just instant failure.

    I do have to say that the local Toyota dealership could not have been nicer and were very accommodating on the trade in etc.

    Would I consider a future hybrid - YES. Unfortunately the finances just did not work out for one this go around. Since the RAV4 grew up we almost have the same interior space as we did with the Highlander (which now has grown up more).
  • Just experienced the same problem on our '06 HH. It is actually still in the shop. It has around 64K on it. It hadn't been driven in about a week (husband's vehicle he's deployed and I'm trying to keep miles off the 'good' vehicle) and sat in the GA heat. I actually was lucky, in a sense, that I was at the dealership having just brought in it for an oil change. They rang me up, I got in the HH, and backed out and no power steering. I promptly pulled back into the garage. They have been fixing mine as a "good will" measure. Right now (as far as I know) they have replaced the mother board and are now replacing the whole power steering assembly. The cost the guy said was up to 3000, but no cost to me (yet). Hopefully it's working correctly when I get it back.

    Has anyone had all the repairs and are still driving? If so are you experiencing any further problems? I would love to trade it in (as I'm not to trusting of it right now) but it's the limited with bells and whistles and no way could we afford to get a different vehicle right now.

    I grew up with Toyota's and this is the first problem I've ever experienced besides the normal wear and tare. The garage that is fixing it has been great, thus far.
  • I'm the person who started this email string. I had the repairs and have driven it pretty much everyday since then and have had no other problems. I, too, have the Limited and I really enjoy the car, I'm just frustrated that Toyota doesn't stand behind their product with so many reports of the same problem.
  • 24 Dec 08: Yesterday as I was backing out of a parking spot at the local walmart the power steering went out. I pulled into another spot and lifted the hood to check the fluid in the power steering, being a former mechanic that was logical. When I did not find the pump I called the Toyota Dealer here in Daytona Beach. They told me there isn't a pump that it is all electric and to bring it in. They were open until 7 pm. They took a look at my 2006 Highlander Hybrid Limited and within 1 hour gave me a camry as a loaner. The dealership will not be open again until Friday. Prior to the hard steering in the parking lot there was not much of a warning. I was able to drive the car home and then to the shop, probably a total of 10 miles. The vehicle has 66,350 miles on it. No other problems with the vehicle.
  • I was told that there are 7 computers involved with the power steering. You were fortunate that you did not get the violent shaking that we had with our Highlander - I would not have been able to control the car (my partner was driving).
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    There is ONLY one "computer" directly involved in controlling the electric power stearing. It reads the output of the synchro's at each end of the stearing torque tube and therefrom controls the level and direction of the power assist.

    The only other control input, indirect input, would be the VSC ECU telling the electric power stearing to not provide "aid", stearing assist, if your own stearing wheel input might exacerbate the current YAW situation.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...violent shaking.."

    There are posts here and there on the internet indicating that the torque tube can be "over-twisted" temporarily or in at least one case permanently. Over-twisting puts the synchro outputs out of phase and that apparently results in the electric power stearing actually providing power assist in intermittent opposition to your own stearing wheel inputs.

    The one permanent torque tube over-twist resulted in HARD manual forces being applied to the stearing wheel with the electric system having previously failed and the need arose requiring a HARD stearing application.

    So be careful just how HARD you force the stearing wheel if you have electric power stearing assist.
  • Just to let you all know, had interesting experience this past Friday 2/6/09. As I have said elsewhere went to Phoenix AZ area to look at 2006HH with hopes to buy it and gracefully retire my 1993 Toyota Camry wagon w/ 220K miles. Just chicken enough to call on a friend to drive me there in his new BMW convertible and follow me back -- just in case.

    For sale at $19K was one owner, apparently gently used, 3-1/2 yr old 2006HH Ltd with 50K mi on odo. Car had 50KMi service just done at Toytoa and new battery installed.

    I prearranged a used-car inspection service at another Toyota dealer in Mesa, AZ -- about a 15 mile city street and freeway drive -- so I could see how the car drove and have it inspected by a stranger to the seller. Noted that steering feel was exceedingly light. Car went where pointed, but just no feedback from the road. Not at all Tyota-like.

    To make story short, arrived at 10:30am for scheduled appointment and met my service writer who didn't know me from Adam, at a company I had never been to before (Earnhardt Toyota) and at one I would likely never visit again since it sat 400 miles from home.

    First thing he did was check vin, mumble something about a steering recall, check the computer and tell me that Toyota has a recall on steering rack on certain HH and this one was included in that recall. Estimated 6hr labor and Toyota was supposedly footing a $1500 labor bill plus parts and part of the recall was a complete alignment when work was done.

    He said that now they had their hands on the car, it couldn't leave without the work being completed, and the old removed steering mechanism had to be destroyed so it didn't make it to the used part market.

    In response to my comment I had to go back to Las Vegas that afternoon, he had a rush service started -- supposedly two Toyota Master Mechanics to work on the car -- and 2 1/2 hrs later I had the car back, newly aligned and they even completed the used-car inspection I originally ordered.

    Greatest service experience I have had from a Toyota dealership in I don't know when.

    If you live near Phoenix AZ (Mesa) I don't thinkyou'll go wrong at Earnhardt Toyota.

    Drove back to Las Vegas that afternoon over a combination of Freeway, and two to four lane country roads at speeds ranging from 35 to 80 and at the end of the 351 mile trip, averaged 28mpg paying no particular attention to whether I was using the hybrid technology to its optimum or not.

    I think I made a great choice. :)

    Chuck
  • Wow! That is the first time I've heard anything about any kind of recall on the 2006 HH. I'll go back to digging some more. I still have my repair paperwork so maybe I'll see what I can do about getting some kind of refund. I know that's probably a pipe dream but I suppose it never hurts to try.
    I'm glad it all worked out for you. Enjoy your HH. Other than this one expensive issue I've thoroughly enjoyed mine.
  • You're as surprised as I was. Still haven't found any other references anywhere. Thought I had my inspection and warranty repair paperwork with me, but don't. I'll check it tonight and see if a particular code or program info is listed and let you know what I find.

    Chuck
  • I received the recall notice - I traded my vehicle in last August after the failure. The notice reads "Special Service Cam[paign 90A" - Certain 2006 - 2007 Highlander HV and 2007 Camry HV Electric Power Steering Link (EPS) Assembly Replacement.
  • Interesting...thanks for the info.
  • wvgasguywvgasguy Posts: 1,405
    I'd always go to the free dealer first to see if they solve the problem. If its a simple alignment then any shop should be able to do that.

    If that doesn't solve it I might want to have the Toyota dealer see what else might be wrong. I'm guessing it's just alignment which should probably be performed annually anyway.

    Oh, get it done soon as a bad alignment won't take long to ruin a set of tires and that cost would be yours.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The regular HL uses hydraulics for power stearing whereas the HH uses electric. The electrics are not as "positive"/firm as is the hydraulics.
  • maartenmaarten Posts: 5
    Hello Chuck,

    Thank you for this posting on the recall. Im from the Netherlands and in my stock I have a USA bought Highlander wich is from 2006 and it has now 600 miles on it. I bought this vehicle because we went thru a tax reform here in the Netherlands that made it more interesting to run hybride vehicles. At that time we only had 2 brands / types hybrides on the market overhere ( Toy Prius and Honda Civic ). The experiment only partly worked out, we were to busy etc so the Highland went into the warehouse and now the powersteering is not working anymore. Im happy you posted about the recall and I looked into the partssystem to find that Toyota changed the partnumber on the steeringrack assy twice. Going from my more than 30 years Toyota expirience this usually means an upgrade on the existing part or a change of supplier. Lexus RX400H has the same partnumber and changes.

    If anybody has the original recall info available I would be grateful because I have to get that highlander back on the road again.

    With best regards, Maarten
  • Maarten: It's actually not a recall in that it's not been ordered by the U.S. govt agency that controls those. It's a Toyota Special Service Campaign, #90A. You may try searching on that through the Toyota website. I think you can also register at the My Toyota section and enter your VIN and it may come up. It says it is directed at "certain 2006-1007 Highlander HV and 2007 Camry HV electric power steering link (EPS) assembly replacement." It goes on to say, "On certain Toyota vehicles, you may experience a noticeable gradual increase in the steering effort necessary at low speeds when turning the steering wheel to the complete left or right position. This condition may be most perceptible when parking your vehicle. This condition is caused by an insufficient adhesion between the permanent magnets and the rotor of the Electric Power Steering Link Assembly, causing the motor to gradually lose torque when the wheel is turned to the complete left or right position." It then says, "Any Toyota dealer will replace the Electric Power Steering Link Assembly at no charge." I'm not sure what you do if you don't have access to a Toyota dealership. I paid for the repair last summer and have now submitted that repair paperwork for reimbursement.
    Hope this helps.
  • This thread has been VERY enlightening. Let me start off by saying that this has been a very good car for us. It does everything it is suppose to when it is suppose too. We also have a fully loaded 4x4 limited with every bell and whistle.

    We noticed what appeared to be a slight pull to the right a little over a year ago. Toyota said "It's normal" but we had an alignment performed anyway (Jan '09). We also had the original Integrity tires on it and when they wore down prematurely, Goodyear was kind enough to provide us a "wear credit" of 60% the value of the original tires so we got a new set of 60K mile Fortera Triple Tread tires.

    We may have been more fortunate that others here as we were notified by Toyota April of this year ('09) of this TSB and at the time we had only 44K miles on the car. The service was performed and they even provided us a rental car as we arranged everything in advance. Not another thought was put into it UNTIL this past weekend when my wife mentioned that the car had been getting a "shimmy" between 30MPH and 45MPH but now it was staring to occur even at regular highway speeds now.

    So, I took a look at the car and I'll be darned if the right front tire isn't starting to show excessive signs of wear. I checked service records and verified that we have rotated these twice now since the TSB was performed so I was wondering if the dealership performed the alignment that was (apparently) REQUIRED as a portion of the TSB. A quick check of the service report from than work verified that no alignment was executed at that time so it is entirely possible that this is simply an alignment issue post-TSB service. At least that is what we are hoping it is.
This discussion has been closed.