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Toyota Highlander Maintenance and Repair



  • Feb. 5--The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to look into a transmission hesitation problem in certain Lexus and Toyota models to determine whether to go forward with a full investigation .

  • mikefm58mikefm58 Posts: 2,882
    I've had several vehicles with the dreaded warped rotor disease. The symptoms were exactly like you listed. The only known cure without replacement is to "turn the rotors" as long as they stay within specs. I've seen ads from auto parts stores for $10 if you bring the rotors in.
  • It sure sounds like warped rotors. Sometimes this is due to cheap rotors - not enough thermal mass to hold up under heavy braking. But more often it's due to bad procedures in torquing the wheel nuts. I've experienced this first hand, at the hands of an over-zealous tire-mounting jockey at a local tire store. (Since then, I only go to tire stores that offer the "hand-torque" to final torque specs).


    When I had my warped rotors, I was able to get it a little better by re-torquing the wheels. First, jack up the vehicle, loosening all 5 nuts, and re-torquing all five in the 5-cross pattern - and incrementally at that. By 5-cross I mean snugging up the first one, then going clockwise, skipping the next one, and snugging number 3. Then 5, then 2, then 4. Keep going, tighter each time (I use three passes), until you have them all to spec. When I do it, I do the first-stage of loosening before jacking up the vehicle - and the last tightening after lowering.
  • I just got a 2002 4-cyl. It doesn't have the Traction Control that the 2004 and later models do.


    I'm working from the theory that the Traction Control can't make any more traction - it just uses the brakes to transfer power from the slipping side to the other side. As the extreme example, if both tires are bald, you still won't go anywhere - both tires will slip. Essentially, a vehicle with good tires and no Traction Control will get thru more bad conditions than a vehicle with Traction Control and weak tires. So, I'm investing in some good All-Season rubber. I've read some not-too-flattering posts about the OEM tires. What tires does anyone recommend in the All-Season category for the Highlander's 225-70R16? The Yokohama Geolander H/T-S G051 looks good - anyone have these? How about the Michelin LTX M/S - are they worth the extra $$?
  • edhedh Posts: 246
    teenagers also cause warped rotors
  • mtrialsmmtrialsm Posts: 159
    I have wind noise at the rear passenger side

    window/door. Plan on taking it to the dealer.

    I've got 6k miles.
  • nimrod99nimrod99 Posts: 343
    Thanks for your input.

    I have always torqued my own wheels - to 80 ft-lbs, using a cross pattern.


    I don't think I want to "turn" the rotors. When its all said and done (factoring labor charges, waiting for the vehicle etc), I am just going to buy new rotors and pads, and install them myself.


    Looking at the physical design of the rotor and how the wheel attaches, it look like it would be impossible to warp the rotor by over tightening the lug nuts.

    The lug studs are attached to the axle hub flange. The rotor goes over the flange and sits flush against it. The wheel mounts to the rotor in the same area of the rotor / hub flange.

    The only downside to over tightening the lugs would be to stretch the studs ever so slightly, as all the surfaces in question are all stacked against each other like a stack of pancakes.


    How this can deflect or even influence the rotor disk where the pads are - is beyond me.


    I think its more likely to be a design issue with cast iron parts, ventilated disks.


    Thats just my 2 cents.
  • mikefm58mikefm58 Posts: 2,882
    << I don't think I want to "turn" the rotors. When its all said and done (factoring labor charges, waiting for the vehicle etc), I am just going to buy new rotors and pads, and install them myself >>


    You'd rather spend $150 for new rotors rather than spend the $10 - $20 to turn the old ones? You still have to take the old ones off since you said you're doing the work yourself. It's your money.
  • gwkisergwkiser Posts: 326
    GO TO POST 7198 in main Highlander forum. I've never tried it, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
  • nimrod99nimrod99 Posts: 343
    Lets add it up and see what happens if I do it your way.

    Take off the old rotors.

    Find some way to take them to the place to turn them (maybe get a taxi).

    Wait a couple of hours for them to be turned.

    Hope that the person doing the turning does it properly.

    Get them back and take another taxi home.


    So in total - I would have taken about 4 to 6 hours of my time messing with bad rotors. You can define for yourself, how much your time is worth.


    The problem may still be there - as the issue only happens when the rotors are hot. I assume they don't turn the rotors at operating temperature. Not only that - turning the rotors leaves them thinner than before and even more susceptible to warping.


    I would rather put fresh set of rotors and pad on. I'll take the old one to my dealer and get Toyota corp to refund my costs.
  • edhedh Posts: 246
    go to a modern shop that turns them on the car as Toyota suggests best machines are "pro tec or something like that. . have them turned. even if you buy new rotors you may have to have them tweaked.
  • mikefm58mikefm58 Posts: 2,882
    You didn't mention the fact that it's very inconvenient for you to go to the auto parts store. That does change things. If it were me, I'd just borrow my wife's car. I've had the rotors turned twice on my '99 CRV and they're still within specs. You can do the math to figure how much I've saved versus putting on new rotors.


    And how do you think Toyota will refund the cost of the new rotors? They're wearable items not covered on warranty, unless you've some kind of extended warranty that covers rotors, which I've never heard of.


    I'm not trying to be a pain here, just making a suggestion hoping to save people some money.


    It's your car and your money, you do what you want.
  • I have the same problem with my 2002 V6 AWD with 36,000 miles when slightly braking at freeway speed only (about 65-70mph) but could not feel the pulsing at the steering at lower speeds. I had all my wheels balanced during my last wheel alignment but the problem is still there.

    My mechanic friend suggested that before spending too much on parts(also on labor), try to clean the rotor which I did and the problem was gone for a while and then back again lately. He told me several reasons why this problem occur:

     1) warped rotor

     2) defective pads/shims

     3) rotor/pads oil/grease contamination

     4) wheel balancing/tire pressure

     5) brake piston cylinder

     6) brake proportioning valve

    He suggested to start with the obvious and less expensive ones.

    As of now, I got no time checking/doing any of these. I also don't trust the dealer doing my brakes.

    I'll keep you posted for any solution or post your solution if you find it first.

    Have a nice day.
  • kadskads Posts: 27
    Thanks for updating us with the news from Pittsburgh. Glad NHTSA is looking out for our safety, Toyota has demonstrated they won't regardless how many customers complain.
  • I have a 2003 V6 AWD with 48k. I heard a similar noise shortly after purchasing. At 48K I need the left hub replaced for the second time. Toyota covered the cost, but will it fix the problem? I am considering trading for the 2WD. I love the Highlander but don't really want the problem. Also for the steering wheel noise, I have had it greased for the 2nd time and they said the camrys are worse than Highlander and it was routine maintenance?
  • Have them check the hubs! I have a 2003 V6 AWD and at 48K I am waiting for the parts for my second left rear hub. I heard a small noise at about 10K and they said it was normal. It will get worse. They said they have never had any problems, of course that is only one dealer?
  • loucapriloucapri Posts: 214
    is your 02 AWD?


    I have a 01 4-cyl myself but is a FWD no Traction Control as well.


    I kind of agree with you about good traction on the tires. If the tires bald and slip, it's going to slip no matter what (as far as I am concern)


    One other thing is my FWD has a "SNOW MODE" but it is noting but put your car in 2nd gear, just like a normal "P-R-N-D-2-1"s "2". I think sometime they put in so many term and 'features' that sounds like they are really cool but in fact, it's nothing but sales and marketing terms
  • Mine is 2WD - really FWD; not AWD.


    I have a pretty cheap set of tires on it now, put on by the previous owner. They are Korean (the tires, that is). If I stomp on the accelerator from a dead stop, or nail it while coming out of a turn, I'll spin a tire (sometimes both). With Snow Mode engaged, it is a little more controllable off the line. So, I can see how it might help in slippery conditions. It is a cheap and easy thing for Toyota to do, and might help some folks (lead-footed) keep from spinning a tire.
  • For tires, my research shows favorable reviews for the following in 227/70-R16


    Nokian WR SUV - only all-season tire with extreme winter certification


    Michelin Cross Terrain

    Michelin LTX M/S


    and Connor at Tirerack recommends the new Bridgestone Dueler Alenza, primarily a luxury tire for SUVs with good dry/wet traction.


    If you drive in snow, I would go with the Nokians which also are quiet. I'm going to get those when my OEM BStone Dueler H/Ls wear out.
  • Just a FYI.

    Being in the auto/truck industry for many years, here's a rule regarding brake rotors.

    Many of the major auto makers now recommend that rotors be NOT machined or turned, just replaced. And from what I've experienced, they are right but I knew this before they brought it public.

    We all know what heat does to metal. After a period of time, the heat generated by hard or excessive braking will warp a rotor.

    The problems by machining/turning a rotor is many.

    The tech doing the service probably doesn't know how to do it correctly. Often they are in a hurry and remove too much metal at one time, again creating heat.

    The other problem is that the rotor might "true" up after re-surfacing but once the heat from braking is applied, chances are, the warp will occur all over again.

    Another very important issue as mentioned above is that ALL wheel lugs must be properly torqued in sequence.

    Save yourself time and money, make sure all your brake components are working correctly and if your rotors are warped...replace them.

  • nimrod99nimrod99 Posts: 343
    Thanks for the input. I agree.


    I still don't understand how overtightening lug nuts (equally and in sequence) can affect the rotor disk as the bolt forces are near the axle and no force is being applied to the disk?

    The hub, rotor, and wheel mounting surface are all flat, and stack on top of each other, so there shouldn't be any twisting or bending force.


    Am I missing something?
  • mikefm58mikefm58 Posts: 2,882
    A difference of opinion. My '99 Honda CRV with 104K miles has had the rotors turned twice, but then again, they weren't warped either. The brake pads were in need of replacing and the work was done by an auto shop I trust. I rotate the tires myself being sure everything is properly torqued.


    Unless the manufacturer recommends differently, I'll probably continue.
  • Lug-nut tightening is crucial because the accuracy of the plane of the center hub determines the accuracy of the plane of the brake surface. Distort the inner plane, and you can't not distort the outer plane. Plus, if the smaller diameter hub is distorted .002 inch, the outer edge is out by 0.006 or more.


    I am resisting the urge for the cheap Seinfeld character line...
  • typesixtypesix Posts: 320
    Snow mode starts the car off in 2nd gear to minimize wheelspin. Putting the shifter in 2nd will not start off a Highlander in 2nd gear, it will do a normal 1st gear takeoff and then shift into 2nd. Some vehicles will start off in 2nd gear if auto shift is manually selected for 2nd.
  • nimrod99nimrod99 Posts: 343
    Thanks for your input.

    However - I don't see how the hub plane can be distorted as the clamping force exerted by the wheel mounting plane and the hub (with the rotor sandwiched in between)doesn't exert a net overall force to deflect the plane of the hub. The clamping force is "internal". Take a plate with a hole through it. Stick a bolt through the hole and tighten a nut on the other side. The bolt is in tension (a lot of force), but I can hold the plate in my hand and the bolt clamping force won't cause the plate to bend.


    I could see how cornering forces on the tires would be transmitted to the hub and wheel bearings to deflect them.
  • It does seem strange, I agree. But I had it happen to me before I ever thought about why it happens. Two warped brake rotors in one hour, during a visit to a tire store for a spin balancing. I noticed it on the way home, after two stops. When I went back to Mediocre Week's (or a shop with a similar name) to complain about it, they told me that it wasn't common, but it did occasionally happen, and that it had to be because the rotors were about ready to warp on their own anyway. I didn't believe it, then or now. They refused to pay for new ones as I couldn't prove they weren't warped to begin with. Life in the big city. That's why I now get my wheels and tires serviced at a place that advertises Hand Torquing Only as their written policy. When you ask them why, they tell you that it's to avoid over torquing, and the warped rotors it causes.


    Thinking about it now, it's never happened to any of my rear discs; unlike the front rotors, they aren't weakened by the spaces in the casting that they need to add for ventilation. Perhaps it's the imperfections that this extra complexity adds to the structure that makes them more vulnerable to dimensional instability - whether caused by thermal cycling, or by exceeding some design limit on clamping force linearity.


    Now my brain hurts from thinking about all this. Man I'm glad it's Friday, and I've got good true rotors. Good luck with your new ones.
  • edhedh Posts: 246
    One reason is impact wrenches.

    Many lug nuts need 60 - 90 ft lb torque. But even a small impact wrnch will put out 325 ft lb torque.

    they do mega damage in dumb hands.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The front brakes need those "spaces" for cooling because they provide ~70% of the stopping HP. The rear brake don't because.....
  • wwest - Well, duh. But they do weaken them. Which was my point. QED
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