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Toyota Highlander Maintenance and Repair



  • mikefm58mikefm58 Posts: 2,882
    I have an 04 HL and apparently my owner's manual in regards to the tranny fluid is different than yours. Mine says something like replace at 6yrs/72K miles if towing, otherwise, check and replace if brownish in color or smells burnt.

    Good for you though that you know and trust your dealer. I'm in Florida, home of the $699 dealer fee so that should speak for itself.
  • mikefm58mikefm58 Posts: 2,882
    My 04 HL has been rock solid like yours, just tires, oil changes, and a battery so far, still running on the original brake pads at 65K miles. That has really impressed me. I'm driving my wife nuts telling her to listen for the chirp chirp of the break pad wear indicator, LOL. And I'm anal on keeping records.
  • My steering wheel feels loose. So
    Its either I need an alignment or it's something else. How often should I change the fluid?
  • toledo73toledo73 Posts: 130
    Hmmm, never checked the section if you are towing. Haven't towed a thing in years. But, a good heads up. Funny about the 699 ddeal! Take care, man.
  • mikefm58mikefm58 Posts: 2,882
    Hmmm, Good question, I don't believe that item is even mentioned in the maintenance guide, and I've never had a vehicle where I had the PS fluid changed. So IMHO, I would say never. Anyone else have experience with this one?
  • fbuchmanfbuchman Posts: 3
    My 2004 Toyota Highlander is giving me some electrical issues. When I use the left turn signal the turn signal light on the dash starts flashing extremely fast and then all warning lights on the dash light up. Also, when applying the brake pedal it causes the left turn signal on the dash to light up. Very odd, but I've been told it is most likely an electrical short somewhere in the car. Any advice on what could be causing this and where it is most likely located would be greatly appreciated.
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,783

    Oddly, the most likely point is in the trailer plug, or wiring for trailer, if you have it fitted. There is probably a short between stop cable and left turn cable in this area. Most likely is that there is a loose screw bridging the two terminals or the cable for one has fallen out and is touching the other terminal

    The warning for this is that speeded up flasher relay indicates reduced resistance as would come from parallel light circuits operating together.


  • fbuchmanfbuchman Posts: 3

    Thanks for the tip - will definitely look into this over the weekend and let you know the outcome.

  • phrosutphrosut Posts: 122
    Graham certainly had a good suggestion.

    Also when things like this happen, it's many times a defective ground connection. The current can't "get through" the normal ground connection so then takes whatever paths are available, typically through other lights.

    I would find the ground connection on the instrument cluster and attach a temporary ground wire direct from the cluster to a good ground and see if that changes the problem any.

  • herzogtum71herzogtum71 Posts: 470
    4-cylinder 2004 fwd -- I had the water pump replaced at the dealer in a small town an hour from where I live with 101,218 miles on the odometer. I had taken it in for recall work with the brake seal and asked them to do a 5K maintenance including tire rotation and oil change. They also replaced the cabin air filter, turned rotors and freed up a sticking brake caliper. The total was $512.00 and it looks like the water pump portion was $247.00.
  • tsotsitsotsi Posts: 98
    Okay, by actual experience, I now know that the Highlander does have wear indicators and what they sound like. When the local Toyota dealer told me at 40,000 miles that my brakes were completely worn out and that my car did not have wear indicators, I took a look for myself and found out that he was wrong on both counts.

    Now, at 65,000 miles, I finally heard a wear indicator on the left rear wheel and replaced the pads on both rear wheels. The wear indicators on my old Honda Accord made a sweet tone, almost like a tuning fork, but don't wait for that on the Toyota. The indicators make a plain scraping sound that can not easily be heard inside the car. On my car, it made the scraping sound even when I wasn't pushing on the brake pedal.

    This is important because the Honda's indicators were easily heard inside the car, unlike the Highlander's. Have somebody outside the car listen when you drive past with the brakes gently applied or drive past a fence or wall with the window open. The sound is distinct and obviously not normal so don't ignore it. I estimate that even though the pads were badly worn, they still had at least 1,000 miles left on them.

    I found that the brake pad job is easy, but probably not for somebody with no mechanical experience. Also, it is best to do one pad at a time because the thin metal plates on the two pads on one corner are not the same. I used brake grease between the plates and the pad backing to reduce the chance of brake noise, but there was a thin plastic spacer that may make the grease unnecessary. I used grease anyway.

    My rotors were not thin enough or scored enough to need any work. The dealer said I needed new ones. So I reckon I can do a complete brake job, including changing the brake fluid, in three hours or so and for just over the $100 I paid for genuine Toyota pads (not at the dealer, who quoted me over $200).
  • mdhuttonmdhutton Posts: 195
    Brake wear indicators are actually mandated by federal law, and have been since 1968. You were wise not to believe the dealer!
  • tsotsitsotsi Posts: 98
    edited April 2011
    I would like to modify what I posted about waiting for the wear indicators to kick in on the Highlander before doing a brake job. That was based on actual experience with my previous car, a Honda Accord, which had much more intrusive warnings and gave those warnings when there was a little more pad left.

    My Highlander's wear indicators could easily be ignored by somebody who drives primarily with the windows closed. Also, the pads were still safe when the indicators sounded the alarm, but pretty darn thin.

    If I had it to do over again, I would still ignore the dealer's advice at 40,000 miles, but would have checked the thickness myself every 5,000 miles and probably do the brake job at 60,000 miles instead of 65,000.

    The brakes were safe, but I wouldn't advise anybody to wait quite so long. Of course many people will get more than 65,000 miles on their brakes if they drive conservatively.
  • ch1133ch1133 Posts: 43
    Does anyone know what part of the engine increased power for 2004 2.4 liter 4 cylinder?

    link here nder&cp-documentid=435102

    The 2004 Highlander's base, 2.4-liter four cylinder also gets a bit more power, going from 155 horses a year ago to 160 and from 163 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm to 165 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. Fuel economy ratings are increased only in the four-wheel-drive Highlander with four cylinder.
  • fbuchmanfbuchman Posts: 3
    Thanks for the suggestions. I checked the trailer hitch wiring at the back of the car and everything looked fine. I replaced the fuse for the trailer lights/blinkers and the problem went away.

    Now I have another issue. The VSC, oil temperature and traction control lights on the dash panel are all light up. Car seems to be running fine. Any suggestions as to why this would be happening and how I can fix it. Manual says any time one of the lights comes on to take it to the dealer but I refuse to get hosed on a repair.
  • phrosutphrosut Posts: 122
    I've got a similar problem but not identical.

    Our check engine and VSC lights are on. I bought a scanner and, tho I can't tell you the exact codes at the moment, some Google searching of those codes provided some answers

    The 2 codes are for emissions. It seems that the problem is the charcoal canister assembly, according to many people that have posted the same problems, sometimes with other Toyota models. It CAN be the little hose that comes loose when the air filter on the HL is inspected or changed (I've not only double checked it, but I've removed it to make sure IT didn't leak). Another problem that can cause the codes is a faulty gas cap... I tried a new one with no change. The most common problem after those is the canister. Typically with mileage over 100,000. Some say overfilling the gas tank causes the charcoal to break apart and clog the valves on the assembly.

    The HL has a complicated (compared to most cars) evap canister. There are valves and a solenoid and a few little hoses. $600 seems to be the going part cost at the dealer with 3 - 400 for labor.

    I took the cover off of the canister just to check for an obvious problem, but didn't see any. It's directly under the spare tire well and the cover has only 4 bolts and can be removed in 5 minutes. The canister has another 4 bolts plus 4 hoses. Looks to be a 15 minute job although I'm sure I can turn it into a half-hour.

    The best price I've found so far is $338 + shipping at I haven't ordered it yet only for financial reasons. My next smog inspection isn't until the fall so I'll have to replace it before then. In the meantime, the car drives and performs normally and mileage isn't any different.

    You have more lights than me so it may not be the same problem. Buy a scanner or have it scanned at an auto parts store. Google the codes.

    I wasn't going to post this UNTIL I bought the canister and had no more warning lights but it seemed appropiate to mention it now.

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Oil temperature..??

    Oil pressure maybe, in which case the VSC and TC would likely be disable by default.

    Transaxle ATF oil temperature maybe...??

    In which case you have an ATF sensor problem.
  • mrgrldmrgrld Posts: 6
    I had a similar problem but it turns out it was just a vacuum tube that was accidentally disconnected while replacing the air filter. Right after it was reconnected and the codes erased the engine light didn't come back on again.

    The tube was located connected to the air filter.

  • phrosutphrosut Posts: 122
    edited May 2011
    I thought I'd mentioned that tube in my post. Reread the second paragraph. I've had it come off after an air filter change, got the two lights, found and reconnected the hose, lights gone.

    THIS time it's not that tube, guaranteed, and it's not the gas cap. Same indications, tho, so the problem is in the evap system.

    I WILL explore all the things attached to the evap canister when I replace it in hopes of finding the particular component that causes this problem.

  • I spoke to the Lead technician last week at our local Toyota Dealer and asked about the high cost. He related that the labor is high because the engine has to be lowered from the engine bay to get access to the pump. He told me there is not enough room to replace it otherwise. Toyota has an engineering problem with this repair and those affecting the Camry models with the 3.5 V6 engine. Don't believe replacement is in the range of most do it yourselfers due to the engine removal process
  • luckysevenluckyseven Posts: 134
    edited May 2011
    It is doable from the passenger wheel well, google it. This would DIY way though. I'll quote a poster from another forum who had to replace the pump on his own

    "Here is the official scoop: Toyota TIS says flat out the engine needs to come out at the tune of 11 hours. Even Toyota corporate follows this declaration. At 74k they were willing to pay half of the repair which was quoted at $1300 from 3 different dealers. I was not about to pay even $650 to replace a water pump that I got in town for $50 brand new. I did the job on my '08 Limited Highlander 2GRFE V6 in less than half the time Toyota quoted (around 4hours). Knowing how to tackle it now I am sure I could even save more time if I had to do it again. It was actually fairly easy just time consuming since there are 16 bolts on the water pump alone AFTER you get to it. "
  • herzogtum71herzogtum71 Posts: 470
    I have a 2004 4-cylinder FWD Highlander. A couple months ago I got a letter saying there would be a recall due to the floormats, but the illustration bore no resemblance to how my floormats are held in place. I just got the actual recall notice in yesterday's mail, so I must assume they have checked the serial number and determined that my vehicle is affected.

    But what does the HV stand for in the phrase "Certain 2004-2006 Model Year Highlander/Highlander HV Floor Carpet Cover and Retention Clips"? Thanks.
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,783

    HV stands for "Hybrid Vehicle"


  • herzogtum71herzogtum71 Posts: 470
    Thanks, Graham. Sometimes things are so obvious that I can't figure them out!
  • Do the transfer case oil or differential fluid have to be changed ever on my 05 Higjlander?
    70k miles
    No towing
    Live in WI
  • eenglish99eenglish99 Posts: 25
    I have a 2002 AWD 6 Cyl Highlander with only 88,000 miles. It has been babied and looks and runs like new. At my recent service they tell me that my front drive shaft universal joints are going. Even though the drive shaft comes in 3 pieces they say you can only get the whole thing for a $1,500 repair cost. You can't just buy the front shaft (crazy!!!!)
    I have never had a drive shaft failure in any vehicle, especially at less than 90,000 miles.
    Is this a common problem? This is important to me where typically if there is a systemic problem you replace a design-defective $1,500 part with another design-defective $1,500 part.

    Has anyone just replaced just the front shaft? It looks like 4 or 5 bolts and looks like you remove these bolts and it would drop down and you could pull the spline out of the transmission. This is the way that it worked for the first of my 5 Toyota's, a '72 Corolla. I was thinking of looking for a junk yard replacement. I have seen references where the same parts are used for 2001-2007 so I would look for the newest possible. Any feedback on this?

    The repair manager was surprised that the whole drive shaft need to be replaced but also did a "dudge-nudge, wink-wink" suggestion that I might check out some performance company that might be able to replace the universal joint parts of the front only drive shaft. Has anyone gone this route?

    This has prompted me to think about dumping the car as a trade-in, not for a Toyota. I have had 5 Toyota's that have been good but this one (and the sludge issue) has pushed me to try a CR-V.

    This is because my other issue is high oil consumption which I have also seen on this discussion group. I have been religious with oil changes and have used synthetic oil after break-in. I had never used oil between changes (5000 miles with synthetic) but the dealer recently switched to Toyota 0W20 from Valvoline 45W30 ( but 5W30 is in the manual). Since then I have been using 1 quart per 1,0000 miles. I must admit that I typically don't check the oil between changes because I never had to for 40 years with the cars I've had but the oil light has never come on. with my Highlander. If the car was sitting for a while I was getting a blue oil smoke poof at start-up (typical for valve guide leakage???). I just changes the PCV valve and switched to Mobile One High Mileages 5W30. If this doesn't help, I'm definitely dumping this piece of sh*t car. I'm also due for the $600+ timing belt change so this accelerates my decision.
  • This worries me...I have the same vehicle with 105,000 miles on it...had the timing belt replaced a few months back..but those U joints worry me. At 54,000 miles, I started using all kinds of oil...engine needed to be replaced. So I only have 51,000 miles on the engine. Keep us posted in this forum...thanks.
  • jrfierojrfiero Posts: 123
    I'm a little confused by your message. It says "Even though the drive shaft comes in 3 pieces they say you can only get the whole thing ." Each driveshaft is more than three pieces, but basically its the center shaft, two CV joints, and two ends. It is unusual to try to replace parts of a driveshaft.
    Then your post says "You can't just buy the front shaft." I think there may be some misunderstanding there - you can buy either front shaft separately. Rockauto has them for from $45 - $99.
    Go somewhere else - no need to have it serviced at a dealer. Driveshaft replacement is a common repair and can be done by any competent shop.
    Also, driveshaft failure often occurs if any boot is torn by some road debris, then water and abrasive mud, etc, enters the CV joint. I doubt it's a design defect, I don't recall anything about them on this forum.
    Re your oil consumption, it'll be interesting to see if the return to 5W-30 solves the problem. Some mfgs say that a quart per 1000 is normal, but I don't buy it. Since you've been using synthetic, your engine should be pristine at 88K.
    Good luck!
  • eenglish99eenglish99 Posts: 25
    Perhaps I need some clarification, jrfiero.
    Thanks for the post.
    I am referring to the drive shaft that connects the front transmission assembly to the rear differential, not the CV joints that drive the front wheels.

    The dealer says that they only SELL the whole shaft but it appears to come in three pieces. The front piece looks like it is has a flat plate that bolts at the rear of the first section to a bearing assembly (connected to the second section) and when unbolted would drop down ( I hope) and would then just pull out from the rear of the transmission, with (I would guess) have a spline attached at the front. There are no rubber boots and the universal joints at the end of the section have no grease fittings (which I believe is typical for most modern construction).

    I checked Rockauto and they sell the front drive CV joints and drive shaft bearings but not drive shaft themselves (at least I didn't see any). Thanks for the link to Rockauto. They seem to have a good selection and I missed them with my prior searches.

    I did find several references to problems with the Highlander drive shafts in this board which makes me worried about replacing an old crappy part with another new crappy part. See #4953, #3533, #2546 and # 4953.
    If this doesn't seem to be a universal defect then going the used part route with a low mileage part might be the best route.

    I would appreciate any feedback from anyone who has replaced the front drive shaft piece or seen it replaced to confirm that it would come out as easily as I am guessing (4-5 bolts and drop and pull out the shaft.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Tell your dealer to go pound sand.

    Since the rear wheels are RARELY driven at any significant level of torque it is EXTREMELY unlikely that you have a U-joint failure, failing due to wear. The only time any significant level of torque is routed to the rear driveline is once TC has activated and as of course you know the engine is simultaneously dethrottled along with braking of the front wheels.

    So, if the rear driveline is U-joints are failing it is most likley due to a factory defect....someone forgot to lube the bearings.

    U-joints have always been a relative inexpensive DIY job for me.
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