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Toyota Highlander Maintenance and Repair



  • eddieeeddiee Posts: 25
    Are you sure that the oil is not leaking out?
    Are there any puddles under the vehicle?
    You might try having someone drive behind you at highway speeds to see if they can see any leakage.

    Is there smoke coming out of the tailpipe?
    If you are using this much oil, if it was going through the rings, you would get a lot of smoke.
    I'm a little skeptical of the "oil rings were seized" story.
    Rings can wear or crack, which will cause oil consuption, and will also cause a lot of smoke, but I've never heard of seized. If anything involving the rings seized, I would think that this would cause cylinder wall damage that just replacing the rings would not fix.

    I would push for a new engine or complete overhaul.

    I have a 2002 that uses no oil between changes.

    Good luck.
  • skutflutskutflut Posts: 3
    I assume this reply was to my question.

    I have complete service records from the selling dealer, and they are the only ones who have ever been under the hood. The engine has 56000KM (33,000miles) on it. They are going to send the valve covers out for some cleaning process on Monday to see if some obscure valve (PCV?) is clogged. Apparently, this item is very difficult to get at and cannot be inspected visually. The service manager told me they had another incident with a 3.0L engine since mine was torn down, and it turned out that this valve was clogged and allowing high pressure to build up in the crankcase forcing oil into the combustion chambers.

    I then have to put some high speed mileage on it to see if the problem is solved or not. If its not, then we start discussing engine replacement.

    As far as leakage goes, there is none. That much oil would certainly show and we were both under the car today and there is no sign of any oil leakage or telltale oil spatter on the underbody area. This oil is going out the engine via the tail pipe but at 70 MPH with the tinted glass, I cannot see the blue smoke trail. Its probably there but I will need to get somebody to follow me, or have somebody else drive it and follow them to see for myself.

    As far as inspecting all the other engine parts, they claim that everything was in good shape except for the rings being seized in the grooves of the pistons. They say that they replaced the rings with a slightly thinner version (undersized) to allow the rings to float better in the grooves. I do not know if this is valid or BS. In any case bearings etc are supposed to be good.
  • landdriverlanddriver Posts: 607
    I agree; Toyota should still be responsible for retropia's problem in this case (if only they could figure out what the problem is!) (I'd sure feel better if they replaced the rotors as you suggested). If retropia lived in California he would be able to take advantage of California's "lemon law," which says that if the dealer can't fix the problem after the third try then they have to refund your money or get you a new car. :lemon:

    No, I'm glad to say I don't have any vibration problems while breaking (smooth as glass), but I only have 15K miles on my '01 and I drive quite conservatively in terms of acceleration and breaking, so I figure I'm not too likely to experience the warping rotors problem.
  • desertguydesertguy Posts: 730
    California lemon law would NOT apply IMO. Its coverage is for 18 months or 18,000 miles; which ever comes first. Since his is a 2001.............
  • luvmycar1luvmycar1 Posts: 3
    I have an '02 HL and I'm having the problem right now that my dash board stys lit up with VSC, ABS, BRAKES, and TRAC OFF and the dealership can't seem to make it stop. My brakes never lock up on me while driving, but when coming to a stop, the ABS locks slighlty, as if I were driving in the snow or something. Also, background info, I was recently involved in a minor accident where someone hit my bumper in the back and the body shop is now trying to work with the dealership on resolving this.
  • luvmycar1luvmycar1 Posts: 3
    Hi I am having a similar problem, was yours ever resolved? I was involed in an accident w/ minor rear bumper damage and now the VSC ABS BRAKES and TRAC OFF lights are on and my ABS locks up slighlty when coming to a stop.
  • landdriverlanddriver Posts: 607
    California lemon law would NOT apply IMO. Its coverage is for 18 months or 18,000 miles; which ever comes first. Since his is a 2001.............

    ......thanks desertguy for the clarification. (Boy, you're sure educated on California law for someone who lives in Phoenix.)

    We would also be remiss if we didn't point out that under the law if the customer wants his/her money back as opposed to receiving a new vehicle, the dealer is required to so grant this and cannot force a new vehicle on the customer. (However the dealer is allowed to deduct from the reimbursement wear and tear based on mileage the new vehicle has been driven).

    In any case hopefully we're in agreement that retropia is probably entitled to a new vehicle or a reimbursement as, even though he doesn't live in California and is passed the 18 month point, he's still entitled to basic legal rights for consumers, and the problem occurred while the vehicle was under warranty and the dealer was unable to resolve the problem after several attempts. (Any lawyers out there?)
  • desertguydesertguy Posts: 730
    Hi Landdriver: 22 years of living in Calif. before moving to Phoenix will do that for ya. :-) I would think the factory should get more involved here and send one of their specialists to check out the vehicle. For all we know his dealer may have a bunch of idiots working for him. Since his state would probably not get involved which would be free, an attorney would be necessary and probably too expensive vs a deep pockets dealer.
  • tsotsitsotsi Posts: 98
    When I got home with my 2005 Highlander I noticed a plastic bag with two black rubber, oval plugs in the glove box. The writing on the bag said the plugs should have been installed under the car by the distributor . . . but they obviously were not. So I installed them myself, under the car, about three inches in from the rear jacking points on each side. The plugs are about 1 1/2 inches by 1 inch and pop right into the openings in the undercarriage.

    Now I am wondering if there was some reason why the plugs were not installed. I live in Florida and possibly the open holes let moisture out? Why were the plugs not installed at the factory? I would call my salesman and ask but he seemed like an idiot and he would probably just feed me a story. Anybody know about they plugs?
  • jbolltjbollt Posts: 734
    I would call the dealer, and ask to speak to the service manager, the one who is responsible for overseeing the techincian who does the pre-delivery inspection (PDI)
  • toyotakentoyotaken Posts: 897
    They are plugs that are installed at the dealership after the vehicle is unloaded from the delivery truck. They go into the spots in the frame that are used to attach the hooks the delivery truck use to tie down the vehicle so they don't bounch during transit. They don't usually forget to put them in, but it does happen occasionally. It's basically so that dirt and water don't get up inside of the frame through those holes. Hope this helps.

  • bikeman3bikeman3 Posts: 85
    What dealer sold you this car? :)
  • luvmycar1luvmycar1 Posts: 3
    Can anyone tell me if they are familiar with this...
    I have 4 warning lights on my dashboard and the dealership can't find the cause for them. VSC, ABS, BRAKES, and TRAC OFF. The car rides fine but the ABS locks up slightly sometimes when coming to a stop. They have had my HL for 4 days now! A body shop worked on a minor repair to the back of my car and now this has happened. Anyone?
  • tsotsitsotsi Posts: 98
    Thanks for the info, toyotaken. Since I was pretty sure the dealership would make up a story to excuse their mistake rather than give me a straight answer I am happy to get the real scoop. This dealer also delivered the car with the tires significantly underinflated -- a real safety concern. I won't be returning to this dealer again and will tell the truth about their poor prep work on the car if Toyota sends me a questionaire.

    Someone asked for the name of the dealer. I am not sure this forum should be used to badmouth a particular dealer even though they seem to deserve it. Someone fill me in on the protocol here. The dealer is in northeast Florida.
  • billseribillseri Posts: 2
    Does anyone know how to change the cabin filter on a 2003 Toyota Highlander. I know it's behind the glove box but I can't figure out how to lower the glove box. Also are there any manuals like Chilton's or Haynes available for the 2003 Highlander?
  • junepugjunepug Posts: 161
    The instructions are on page 266 of the owners manual The screw you remove is a weird looking thing. Be careful after you remove the screw and lower the glovebox. A plastic part broke and caused the glove box not to fit properly. I was able to "super glue" the part together and it is working ok now.

    Good luck. Baring any problems, the job should not take more than 15 minutes.
  • tsotsitsotsi Posts: 98
    Even though I just bought my new Highlander I would like to understand more about future maintenance. The 4-cylinder engine and 4-speed automatic look like real beauties, but there isn't much information about them in the owner's manual or even on the internet. My maintenance guide says to change the automatic transmission fluid at 60,000 miles if the car is used for towing but doesn't say anything about changing it if it is driven normally. Is it possible the fluid is good for more than 120,000 miles?

    And apparently the engine valve clearances need to be checked only every 60,000 miles. One hit on Google mentioned that the camshafts have to be removed to change the valve clearances. I have seen this on motorcycles, but not on passenger vehicles. I am assuming that the valves won't need adjusting even at 60,000 miles but just in case -- do the camshafts really have to be removed to change the shims? If so, does this mean removing the timing chain and disassembling the entire front of the engine? I am not exactly worried about his because I am pretty sure the valves won't need adjusting. My Honda Accord, with rocker arms, went 107,000 miles without needing a valve adjustment and the valve train on the Toyota 2AZ-FE looks more bulletproof than the Honda's.

    What makes this funny is that I was pleased to find out that the Highlander engine has a timing chain instead of a timing belt. I thought that would simplify maintenance. But if the camshafts ever have to be removed, the timing chain might make it more difficult.

    I would love to know more about this engine. Any gearheads out there who can fill me in on the details or recommend a source of reference material? I really like to know more about the technical details then are given in the owner's manual.
  • billseribillseri Posts: 2
    Thanks for the info. and word of caution. I'll attempt to change the filter tomorrow.
  • kam108kam108 Posts: 16
    I recently bought a highlander, and also found the plugs in the glovebox. I wouldn't have known about them if I had not read your post. I called the dealership service dept to ask about them. They said to just leave them in the glovebox! I guess I'll have to put them in mylself. This makes me not trust their service dept, which is unfortunate since they are the closest to me. :mad:
  • loucapriloucapri Posts: 214
    i believe someone did explain what and why there are plugs in your glovebox in the Camry board.
  • tpoztpoz Posts: 4

    Thanks for your info. I also had to normalize the sunroof. It worked as per your directions. I don't understand why the dealers don't do this as part of the car prep or at the factory.

    Much appreciate the info.

  • desertguydesertguy Posts: 730
    " I don't understand why the dealers don't do this as part of the car prep or at the factory."

    I agree 100%. It is unbelievably stupid for a dealer not to automatically normalize the sunroof before delivery. There may be a reason why it is not done at the factory since it is included in the owner's manual but as far as I'm concerned there is no excuse for the dealer not doing it. I had to do it on mine and it is no big deal, but it starts you off on your HL ownership with a bad impression of their service right off the bat.
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,783

    The rubber plugs cover two points which are used for securing the car during delivery. The emergency towing eyes found in the tool storage area are screwed into these points at the factory and then ued to tie the vehicle down during delivery to the inwards port or dealership. They are then removed and placed in the tool storage area, one going into a plastic clip and the other just lieing around. The rubber plugs should be placed over the tie down points as, hopefully there will never be a need for a tie down point again.


  • ecotrklvrecotrklvr Posts: 519
    Hi - As an owner of a 2002 Highlander with the same engine (OK, mine has 5 HP less) - I think I can ease your mind on all points.

    Mine now has 67,000 miles. It's never towed anything, and the fluid has never been changed. The fluid looks and and smells fine. I'll probably change it next year or so, but purely as a preventative measure - that is, if I haven't bought something else by then (I really want something with a manual transmission). All in all, the 4-speed auto is more reliable than the 5-speed in the V-6, and behaves better as well. However, if you are going to tow something for any great distances, you should change the fluid at 50-60k miles.

    My valve lifters sound fine as well. Yes, adjusting them is crazy hard. But odds are you'll never have to. My '96 Maxima had the Nissan VQ V-6 that used the same method of valve adjustment, and it's still never been adjusted. Now at 130k+.

    This is a great powertrain. I've owned it for only 6 months, but it consistently amazes people who ride in it for the first time how smoothly, quietly, and powerfully this engine can move this 3500 lb. vehicle. Averaging over 20 mpg as well.

    All I can recommend is going to synthetic oil at about 1000 - 2000 miles, and use the Toyota filter (less than $6 regular, and less than $4 on a monthly sale). I've been using Mobil 1 for many years, and now they have oils rated for up to 15,000 mile changes. The Toyota air filters are a great value as well - $15 or less on sale.

    Enjoy your Highlander!
  • thock33thock33 Posts: 6
    The vibration problem was corrected for a time when different wheels were installed, but is now starting again. Have you considered that water may be getting into the tires when air is added? Most air compressors will accumulate water that must be bled off frequently. I remember hearing years ago of a problem much like yours that was traced to water in the tires. You might think that the water would be evenly distributed at road speeds and not effect balance, and this may be true when the wheels are placed on the spin balancer. But when the tires are on the road they are no longer round because of the reduced radius at the ground contact point and they may go way out of balance. Just a thought.
  • tsotsitsotsi Posts: 98
    Thanks for the information. One reason I bought the 4-banger was because I had heard that some of the 5-speeds, used with the V-6, had an annoying hesitation. The 4-speed certainly seems like a nice gearbox -- it appears to almost read my mind when it comes to shifting. Also, I like to do some servicing on my cars myself, and there is much more room in the engine compartment with the 4-cylinder, something important for a shade tree mechanic.

    I am planning to at least measure the valve clearances myself after 60,000 miles and am pretty confident that is all that will be needed. I am still puzzled over the very limited list of maintenance items though. Okay, I guess it is possible the automatic transmission fluid will last for 120,000 miles, with gentle use. But what about the brake fluid. Most car companies recommend changing it every two years or so because it is hygroscopic and the water in it will boil when the fluid gets hot and can also cause rusting. I guess it is possible that changing it when new brake pads are installed is often enough so they don't see any point in making it a separate item.

    The funny thing is that when I bought my Highlander the dealer seemed more interested in making money then prepping my car properly. I can't figure out why the maintenance schedule doesn't give him a chance to make more money. Not much profit in oil changes.
  • How do you reset the Maint Req flashing light when your approaching 5000mile intervals? :D
  • Mine did go on at 10,000 miles? What's up with this flashing light approaching the 5K intervals?
  • mckeownmckeown Posts: 165
    After you do the required service for the vehicle interval, turn the key to ON without starting the vehicle. Push the odometer button until ODO reading is displayed. Turn the key to off. Now PUSH AND HOLD the odometer button AND turn the key to ON again WITHOUT starting the engine. Wait 3-5 seconds until the 'Maintainence Required' light goes out, Now the interval is reset.
    On US spec vehicles, when you are within 500 miles of the next interval, the light flashes after startup for 15-30 seconds as a reminder. Within 50 miles of the next interval, the light stays on until reset.
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