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Toyota Highlander Hybrid - Hybrid System Problems

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  • There is now a recall on the 2008 models. Check the vin# and call Toyota to see if this car is included.
  • I have an issue with my Toyota Highlander Hybrid 08 model. As I was driving home yesterday it's like everything stopped working. I could not steer the car or operate the brakes. Luckily, I was not driving very fast or I would have probably wrecked. It lasted only about 10 seconds and then everything came back on. Reading about all the problems with this model, I almost feel like I have been driving around in a death trap! I am afraid to drive it now because I don't know if or when this may happen again. I called my dealer and they said to bring it in but what I am afraid of is that they will say the repair is not covered and I do not have the money for any repairs. My husband wants to just take it and trade it in but I am not sure what to do? Has anyone else had this problem with this model and year? If so, what was the end result?
    Thanks, Kim
  • ruthruth alaskaPosts: 5

    a few months ago i got a recall notice from toyota for my 2007 HH to replace the Intelligent Power Module (IPM), apparently it's a transistor within the inverter. then a few days ago my 12 volt battery died and needed to be charged, which i did but car won't run anymore. this is the second time this has happened. my car has to be ferried about 300 miles to the nearest dealership to have the IPM replaced. has anybody else gone through this and did it correct the shutting down problem? i too am very disappointed with the whole affair however i will say that so far, over the phone, the dealer rep has been very helpful.

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072

    Since the IPM is being replaced for a second time, it sort of sounds like there may be an issue with whoever it is that supplies the IPMs to Toyota. Nice to hear that the dealer rep is helping you out!

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  • ruthruth alaskaPosts: 5

    no this will be the first replacement of anything. just curious if others have had this replaced as mostly i read here of inverters being replaced. and it seems there are lots of comorbidity issues as well, wondering what to expect in my case once it gets to the dealer, i can't afford any big ticket items like i've been reading about. i think i'll be done with toyotas after this as well.

  • ruthruth alaskaPosts: 5

    by second time i meant the second time the 12 battery went dead, and after recharge, car refused to run without a mechanic coming out to "reset the codes".

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072

    @ruth said: by second time i meant the second time the 12 battery went dead, and after recharge, car refused to run without a mechanic coming out to "reset the codes".

    Ah, I misread that. So when the 12V goes dead, there's some stuff that does not reset itself. Sounds like there's some kind of electrical issue causing the 12V to drain. Since they replaced the IPM, they may suspect that. Keep us posted on your progress!

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  • ruthruth alaskaPosts: 5

    they haven't replaced anything yet, i live about 300 miles away from the closest dealer and the car will have to be towed onto the ferry, and then towed for 80 miles to the dealer once it arrives on the mainland in order to address the recall. i've been trying to deal with the issue on my own up until now; having a local mechanic come to my house to "reset the codes" and see if it will run, which worked 6 months ago. now i can start the car but it will run only about 5 minutes before it shuts down. my brother has an 08 HH and has had no such issue, and has replaced his 12 volt battery with no problems similar to mine as well.

  • tatie50tatie50 Posts: 3
    edited September 3

    2007 Highlander Hybrid Problem

    I hope you can steer me in the right direction. We’ve been getting averaging between 15- 17 mpg from our 2007 Highlander Hybrid. This is really disturbing- it used to average about 28mpg.

    I’ve been running tests to try & isolate any problems, What I’ve seen is that no matter what Trip (trip A or trip B … ) I have set for the odometer BOTH Trip A & B log on miles.

    For instance today I was set on Trip A and it logged 1.7 miles for a short trip. Without moving the car an inch I switched it over to Trip B I saw that it had registered 1.9 miles.

    Does anyone have any experience with this?

    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. The dealer is extremely expensive even doing diagnostics.

    Thanks in advance for any assistance.

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072

    I guess it depends if that variation in the trip meters is a simple 0.2 miles difference (for whatever reason that might be) or the roughly 11% difference between those 2 readings. But even that doesn't explain the difference between 28 mpg and 16 mpg. The apparent difference in the trip meters is not the cause of your mileage drop. You might come up with a different number for your mileage because the readings are different, but if you calculated 28 mpg using the "longer" trip meter, (assuming an 11% difference between trip meter readings) you would get a number like 25 mpg if the "shorter" trip meter was used, so it seems obvious there must be some kind of mechanical/hybrid system issue.

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  • tatie50tatie50 Posts: 3

    Thanks for your thoughts PF Flyer!

    The variation is that I've put NO miles on trip B and it just keeps adding up. What ever I put on Trip A also goes on Trip B. Or visa versa.

    But if that's not what's causing the drop in overall mileage and it's a mechanical issue could you possible help me with any more specifics. As I said- the dealer costs are outrageous and I fear letting them loose to just look around could be thousands of dollars.

    Thanks again for any guidance!

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072

    Just to be clear, the problem with trip B is simply one that would be giving you a false mpg calculation. It could make it seem like you were getting better mileage than trip A because it would be showing that you went more miles than you actually did. (it also could be that trip A is reading low) It's possible that flipping between trip A and trip B is somehow ticking up the trip B a tenth or so, since holding in the button will reset the trip meter, but the trip meters are not the problem, or at least I don't think they are.

    A question. How are you calculating mileage? Are you relying on a dashboard reading, or are you filling up, driving most of the tank, filling up again and dividing miles driven by gallons filled up?

    If something has gone wrong with your gauges, your actual mileage may not have changed, it may just seem like it has. Given that you're talking about dropping from 28 mpg to the 16 mpg range, that's a BIG drop and I think I'd be seeing some kind of symptoms, like smoke, lack of acceleration, noises... SOMETHING that's physically going on. It's hard to have any idea of what might be going on if the only symptom is that the mileage has dropped. A short fill up (putting less in the tank than you think you did because the pump shut off early) can make it look like your mileage was higher (on that fill up) and then lower on the next fill up (when you actually get a complete fill up). But the drop you're seeing is too big for that scenario.

    So we're back to, either instrumentation, some kind of mechanical problem, or, since you have a hybrid, some kind of issue with the hybrid system that's got you running more on the gas engine than you used to.

    Since you only point to the big drop in mileage and no readily apparent engine issues, my first check would be to carefully check the mileage on my next tank of gas. Since that calculation is going to require assuming the trip meters and odometer are accurate, I would check them at the same time. Fill your tank completely, write down the mileage on your odometer, set the trip meters to zero. In the course of your driving, find someplace where you know the distance you'll be travelling to check if your odometer and trip meters are accurate. A good place to do this is on a highway because of the mile markers. Just take note of the trip meter and odometer readings as you pass the start of a marked mile, drive a mile or two to the next mile marker and note the readings on the trip and odometer. They may not be exact, but I would think they'd be within a tenth of a mile of agreeing with the actual distance. One other assumption here is that you have the correct sized tires on your vehicle. Oversized or undersized/underinflated can slightly affect odometer/trip readings, but I'm assuming your tires are correct.

    Once you know the gauges are accurate, just drive your normal daily driving for at least half the tank. You don't want to do a 10 mile drive and try to calculate mileage. Too much can vary in a short distance. Then fill up the same way you did the tank before, and do the math. Take the miles driven and divide it by the gallons you put in when you fill up. If you have a reading on the dash that calculates mileage, you can compare the result of your calculation to that. Your calculation IS the mileage you're getting. If the dash is showing you a significantly lower (or higher) number, that's an instrumentation problem. If your calculation and the dash number are within a couple of MPG one way or the other, I'd say the instruments are fine.

    If your mileage is way down at 16 mpg or so, and you were getting 28, then something is going on, but with no symptoms other than low mileage, there's no way to speculate on what it is. Given that it's a hybrid, I'd GUESS that you're running on the engine more than you used to, but that's only a guess. So much depends on the conditions you drive in. If you did a lot of stop and go and were driving on electric only a lot, and now you're suddenly running on gas all the time, that could cause a big hit in your mileage.

    If the vehicle seems to be running OK and you've noticed no changes in that, and if your odometer/tip meters are accurate after checking them, then it almost has to be some problem with the hybrid system and only a dealer/mechanic is going to be able to help you find out what that is unfortunately.

    ANY other symptoms besides the low mileage?

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  • tatie50tatie50 Posts: 3

    Thanks SO much PF Flyer! You've been very kind to put so much thought and time into my problem!

    Regarding symptoms: The quick answer is I see no other symptoms- just the low mileage.

    I've been calculating the mileage using the dashboard reading only and I have no other symptoms from the car. I checked the tire size and it's correct. I also checked the inflation and it was low in one tire. That's pretty recent though as I check the tires about once a month.

    For me to stand on if my driving has changed or not would only be a guess. And my guess is that I'm driving about the same with one exception. I no longer drive the Highlander for longer trips (than just around town). I use the Prius instead. But those trips are infrequent at best.

    The Prius is a 2010 and I've re-learned how to drive as a result. It's averaging 47 mpg. As an aside I love that car and it's very easy to easy to drive and gauge the mpg. Not so much with the Highlander, but I do drive using it's dashboard gauge.

    I've been trying to pinpoint when I noticed a drop in the mpg. It had to be after the Polar Vortex hit during our mid-Atlantic winter. There were so many other things going on that I didn't focus on the mpg during the winter and when I finally did it was 15.2 mpg. Yeah.

    I've been trying to think of other simple factors that might affect the mileage. Both my husband and I drive both cars and my husband is much more laissez -faire about the mileage. But I drive more than he does as he works from home.

    I thought I could get the mph back up by careful driving and it has gone up steadily. Only not as much as I had hoped and its been stalled at 17.4mpg for over a month now.

    Again I'm very grateful for your all your information. I'm printing out your whole post for reference and then going to fill up the car today and test it as you suggest. I'll post my results once I get through the tank.

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072

    The dashboard mileage readings are nice, but I only consider those approximations, usually pretty accurate, but something that I like to verify.

    Cold weather will affect mileage performance, as will the changeover from summer to winter fuel blends.

    Remember to fill up the same way. Try to use the same gas station since some pumps like to shut off sooner than others. You just want to be sure that you're filling the tank as close to the same level as you can. It IS going to vary a little depending on temperature and things like that, but that variation should be fairly small. You just want to avoid accidentally "filling up" a half gallon short which could have an effect on the result of your check.

    Besides, it's good practice for your brain to do a little long division once in a while!

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  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,863

    @tatie50 said: Thanks SO much PF Flyer! You've been very kind to put so much thought and time into my problem!

    Regarding symptoms: The quick answer is I see no other symptoms- just the low mileage.

    I've been calculating the mileage using the dashboard reading only and I have no other symptoms from the car. I checked the tire size and it's correct. I also checked the inflation and it was low in one tire. That's pretty recent though as I check the tires about once a month.

    For me to stand on if my driving has changed or not would only be a guess. And my guess is that I'm driving about the same with one exception. I no longer drive the Highlander for longer trips (than just around town). I use the Prius instead. But those trips are infrequent at best.

    The shorter trips could be one issue - that vehicle is heavy, and if your trips around town are short, the hybrid system does not have enough time to heat up the engine. The other issue is that your vehicle is now 7 years old, and the traction battery may be losing some charge capability. But if your engine is not able to warm up due to short trips, it may just be the way it goes; all gasoline based cars are less efficient on short trips. Plug-in and EVs are an exception to that rule.

    I used to own an Escape Hybrid (just switched to C-Max), and I found that a scanguage, which hooks up to the vehicle diagnostics system, was very useful in helping me drive more efficiently. If you are now on an in-town cycle, you may need to learn some new techniques.

    PF has some great tips, BTW. I always checked MPG exclusively at the gas station with a calculator.

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072
    stevedebi said:

    PF has some great tips, BTW. I always checked MPG exclusively at the gas station with a calculator.

    I'm thinking that there may be an issue with the traction battery as well. Most of my calculations are done in my head at the pump, but I'm never far away from a slide rule! B)

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  • Hi, pls I just bought an 07 toyota HH ignorantly but already captured in fear with the posts so far, what can i do?
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072

    Hi, pls I just bought an 07 toyota HH ignorantly but already captured in fear with the posts so far, what can i do?

    First, don't let message board posts scare you! Pretty much every vehicle I've ever owned has posts from someone not happy about something.

    Take a breath and think about it. Are you happy with your car? Is it living up to your expectations for performance, reliability, etc?

    If it helps to talk about it, what concerns do you have now that you didn't have before you saw the posts here?

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