Toyota Highlander Transmission Problems

blondie6180blondie6180 Member Posts: 2
My '05 Highlander transmission seems to be geared wrong. When I slow down the car seems to slip into a higher gear and speed up. It is worse when the air conditioning is on. Anyone else have this problem?


  • wwestwwest Member Posts: 10,706
    As you slow to a stop at about 10 MPH or below the Transaxle upshifts by design. Instead of speeding up what I suspect you "feel" is the loss of engine compression braking. In the past that has been referred to "as if being bumped lightly from behind".

    Read some of the transaxle hesitations posts for more info.
  • izzo233izzo233 Member Posts: 7
    My '06 does the same thing so I hope they are right about the whole engine compression thing.
  • blondie6180blondie6180 Member Posts: 2
    Thanks this engine compression thing is beyond me. I still dont understand why it speeds up! But good to know mine isnt the only one doing it.
  • lugo_189lugo_189 Member Posts: 5
    I need help from some Ford Explorere Sport O/D ligth sudenly start blinking, what is this means? :confuse:
  • ladyjj3ladyjj3 Member Posts: 1
    I need help. I have a 94 Jeep Grand Charekee Laredo, which required rebuilding of the transmission. However, after the transmission was swapped out with another rebuild transmission vibration occurred at 1500 to 1700 rpm's. The mechanic has changed out the motor mounts, fly wheel and harmonic balancer; however, the vibration has not gone away. I didn't have this problem prior to the transmission being worked on. Please provide some advise on if the problem is with the transmission or something else.
  • seastar1960seastar1960 Member Posts: 3
    my 88 accord is sliping sometimes when you take off from a dead stop but not all the time .fluid is good i was wondering if it could be something going out or maybe a clog filter or some simple i,m hoping. please let me here from somebody about problem thanks jim
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    Try the Honda Accord (1976-1989) Maintenance & Repair discussion or Transmission Traumas?. This tranny discussion focuses on the Highlander and Honda owners aren't likely to see your post.

    Steve, Host
  • babygirl6babygirl6 Member Posts: 1
    i have a 93 4runner manual and it will not shift un till i cut the truck off then i can shift i have put a new clutch slave cylinder in it but still nothing plz help
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    Try the Toyota 4Runner: Problems and Solutions discussion or the Trauma discussion linked above.

    Steve, Host
  • karen18karen18 Member Posts: 2
    2006 brand new automatic 4 wheel drive. Transmission is rough, erratic.Over-revs, shifts too soon, hesitates, double shifts. Dealer says everything tests fine. Drives like someone driving a standard who doesn't know how, but of course, it doesn't do it all the time. Wish I had bought another Ford Escape
  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    I have an '05 Highlander, and I am in the same fix as karen18... Two Toyota dealers have tried to help me, but we're down to chasing ghosts: Last time I took the car in, the service manager spent probably 1/2 hour with me, driving around. It was if the car knew to be on good behavior! But my problem is just as Karen18 describes. It could be said this way: Sometimes the computer/transmission makes really bad decisions about selecting gears. Transmission "clunks". Car lurches. I'm at a loss to know what to do...
  • ceamunkyceamunky Member Posts: 1
    I just bought a 2001 highlander limited with78k on it. It's in mint cond. Paid 15,999. I had trouble finding one on a lot. Is there anything I should know about this vehicle since this is my first toyota. Did I get a good deal?
  • scoti1scoti1 Member Posts: 676
    Edmunds has closed down the sites that specifically addressed this hesitation problem in all Toyota models, but there has been recent interesting discussion regarding hesitation related to the gas pedal and foot position on the "Toyota Avalon 2005+" and the "Transmission Problems with Lexus ES300?" forums. I am not sold on this being "THE" problem, but the discussion is very interesting. You may want to see if adjusting your foot position on the pedal as described in these forums remedies/lessens you hesitation problems. Let me know what you find out.
  • tidestertidester Member Posts: 10,059
    Edmunds has closed down the sites...

    Discussions that are inactive for a period of time are automatically archived. Normally, we would reactivate a discussion when demand warrants but that capability is temporarily unavailable while we continue upgrading our system. Check back down the road a bit!

    tidester, host
  • karmatykarmaty Member Posts: 1
    I have a 2004 Sienna, which I am very anxious to get rid of - for the same reasons posted for the Highlander transmission problems. I love all of the features on my Sienna XLE - except one - driving it! It intermittently hesitates when rounding corners, pulling away from a stop, or accelerating onto the freeway. It is quite annoying - and not what I would expect from a $32,000 vehicle. I was (stupidly) considering getting a Highlander, but will not after reading that it has the same problems. Thanks for the info.
  • billranbillran Member Posts: 113
    I have owned a 2005 Highlander for over a year and have 16000 miles on it now. It drives perfectly and I have never once experienced any hesitation in any circumstance. I have two coworkers who also own Highlander V6s (2004 and 2005) as well as a neighbor who just bought a 2006 and they all love their cars. We have all discussed this issue and none of us has ever experienced any problems at all.

    There are over two million Toyotas on the road with the V6 5 speed drivetrain and you will be hard pressed to find enough complaints anywhere to add up to even one tenth of one percent of those vehicles. It is by no means the serious widespread issue that some in these forums would like for you to believe.

    There are some people who report a problem, but beware, there are others in these forums with the clear and obvious intent to amplify this issue and use it to smear Toyota for personal reasons. Test drive the cars and decide for yourself.
  • karen18karen18 Member Posts: 2
    I have no personal reasons to smear Toyota.As a matter of fact I happily owned a 4runner several years ago. I think what angers people is that Toyota, from the dealer to the company to the reps, all say that this is all within specs, "it's the nature of the beast" and that there's nothing they can do.
    Seems that you're a little too invested in hyping Toyota. These are just vehicles. For the amount of money we pay for them, they should drive properly. The problems we have experienced do not necessarily show up in a test drive. They are sporadic and unpredictable.
  • billranbillran Member Posts: 113
    Karen, Sorry, my comments were in no way directed toward you. The cars should drive properly and I am sorry to hear yours does not. There is a TSB available that has been reported as very successful by some people who have reported a problem similar to yours. You might ask your dealer about it.

    I have watched during that last year and these forums have become a mix of sincere owners like yourself looking for a fix, and others with the motivations I mentioned above. The latter group has often posted distortions, exaggerations and flat out untruths in their continuing quest to use this issue to their advantage. I am not at all invested it hyping any brand, but I feel it only fair to post both sides of the equation.

    Good luck, and hopefully the TSB will help your situation.
  • junepugjunepug Member Posts: 161
    The hesitation issue seems to be related to some drivers who use the left foot to brake and the right foot for acceleration. Seems like this could confuse the computer.
  • scoti1scoti1 Member Posts: 676
    This has been discussed in the Avalon and Lexus forums I mentioned above as possibly contributing to the problem, but there are plenty of people experiencing this who aren't left-foot brakers. One poster, wwest, has stated that applying the brake and accelerator at the same time could confuse the computer controls and aggravate the problem.
  • izzo233izzo233 Member Posts: 7
    I am experiencing the same conditions with my transmission in my 3 month old 2006 Highlander. I am going to the dealer next week. Has anyone had a problem with their brakes. I am not able to brake smoothly even at very slow speeds. The brakes just seem to grab on and off.
  • toinnytoinny Member Posts: 2
    I have an '04 Highlander V6 AWD. I too have experienced the intermittent issues with the transmission making really bad decisions. I noticed it about 2 months after purchasing the vehicle and tracked it for another 2 months before having the dealer look at it. They found nothing. One week later on a routine drive to work the transmission would not shift beyond 2nd gear. The transmission was replaced and has been good for the most part, however, the old behavior is slowly coming back once again. I notice it on the shift between 2nd and 3rd. Sometimes it seems like it slips into gear other times it attempts to go to 3rd and cannot decide so it lurches\hesitates.
  • grahampetersgrahampeters Member Posts: 1,786

    When I dropped my Kluger in for a service last week, I mentioned that it had been rough shifting from second to third a few times. This was cured in short term by three hard acceleration runs from stopped to 100kmh (60mph).

    Dealer flashed the Transmission Memory with a revised mapping and transmission is now behaving markedly differently. Change points have been modified and tends to downshift as you slow below 10kmh.

    Much more aggressive feel to transmission and seems to have solved the issues that many posters have complained of. However fuel consumption is up a bit. I won't have a definite fix on fuel economy until I drive a standard route but seems to be about 5% worse


  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    I posted recently under the more general "Problems and Solutions" heading, but will add a note here: With help from Toyota, I fixed my Highlander shift delay problem as follows: Began using high octane fuel (92 or 93). After 1 1/2 tanks, do the following: Open the fuse panel (next to the battery). There is a fuse removal tool in the lid. Remove the fuse identified as "ECU-B" for at least 5 minutes. Reinstall it. This will reset the computer to original settings. You won't believe the difference in the way the car shifts! And my evidence suggests that the higher cost of the fuel is offset all/part by the better mileage. No surprise: the car doesn't spend so much time in neutral.
  • webgoodwebgood Member Posts: 95
    I've owned a '04 Highlander V6 4X4 for 2 years, now with 15,000 mi., and have always run mid-grade, name-brand 89 octane gas. I've monitored the discussions over the Highlander "hesitation" and "transmission shift delay" complaints on Edmunds forums for quite some time now(thank you Edmunds for this great service!). I noticed the phenomenon develop with my HL and pretty-much just altered my driving habits and techniques to "accomodate" it. Yesterday, I took it in for regular service at my favorite local dealer, mentioned it to the service writer and asked about a TSB on the engine. He said he'd look into it. Twenty minutes later he said it would take about 1 hour for their tech to "re-program" the transmission shift computer, that there wasn't a "TSB" per se, but I gathered there apparently was some kind of "alert" from Toyota that there's been complaints and this might be the fix.
    Long-story short, it took 45 minutes, no charge (always nice), and it now runs, accelerates, and shifts so differently I'd swear it's not the same vehicle! Smooth, quick, correctly-timed shifts, no "hunting" for gears or "bogging" when I stomp on it at low speed or when de-accelerating. Thank you folks at one fabulous dealership service center (I supposed I can't plug their name here, but I'd like to)!
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    Just wanted to thank you for your post. I am going through the same experience with my 2005 Highlander Limited. When I first contacted the dealer I was blown off by the same tactics as other owners. (This is the way the fly-by-wiring works, the vehicle needs to get used to your driving style, there was no TSB.) Anyway I took in the article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette from April 2005 stating Toyota had updated computer software to help alleviate the hesitation along with a copy of your post. I specifically pointed out your last paragraph and said that's how I wanted to feel about my dealership.
    After a 15 minute wait I was shown there WAS a TSB on this and my Highlander will be going in June 1st to be checked. Supposedly there are vehicles with certain numbers (of what I don't really know) but if mine has one of these numbers it would take approximately 2 hours for the service. Keep your fingers crossed. Thanks again!
  • webgoodwebgood Member Posts: 95're very welcome. Hope it works out for you; please post the results. The HL's still running great and I made sure I called the service manager. I told the gal who answered first, "I want to file a compliment with your service department." Took her rather aback. Then heartily thanked the service mgr. and his crew for a job well-done and I'll send every bit of business their way. It really gets their attention. But it also depends on the dealership...we've got another one in the area that I wouldn't recommend to do anything beyond simply changing the oil.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    You'll be happy to know that after receiving my HL from the performed hesitation TSB the problem was 90% alleviated. YEAH! However, I need to take it back tomorrow morning because now it's as if the HL goes into cruise control with any speed lower than 33-34 mph. It performs fine with de-accelerating, as it's supposed to, from higher speeds until it hits the magic numbers above. Where ever I break or accelerate between 0-33 or 34 mph is where the HL will remain. Craziest thing I've ever experienced on a vehicle. The service writer also thought that was very strange. The other issue is a very noticeable downshift just before coming to a dead stop. Never did that before the TSB was performed. We'll see what service dept. says tomorrow. Will keep you "posted".
  • cagogirlcagogirl Member Posts: 2
    I have a 2005 HL with 12K. The transmission problem didn't appear until after the 10K mark, and will not go away. I have had it in the dealership twice for reprogramming and asked for a new chip to be installed. The service department told me the only thing they could suggest is to use 92 octane. My previous SUVs were a GMC Jimmy and Mercury Mountaineer and although this vehicle has a superior ride and MPG, I am quite unhappy with this problem and the total lack of concern on the part of Toyota.
  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    Simply switching to 92 octane won't help: The computer has a loooong memory on some things, and fuel is one of those things. You will have to pull the ECU-B fuse for 5 minutes as I described earlier. This resets the computer to original settings. Your problem will be gone - instantly.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    cagogirl...I've read of others with your issue and had this problem confirmed by the tech that reflashed my HL. He mentioned a Sienna owner who has been in 3 times at 2-3 month intervals to have the hesitation reflash redone. I'm hoping this will NOT be a problem with my HL. Hearing your story is very disheartening indeed. I agree Toyota needs to step up to the plate and properly deal with this issue. When you drop $30K plus on a vehicle it should work properly, period.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    I'm hoping you can help me out with a few questions...did you ever have the reflash done on your long now has it been since you've been using high test and pulled the ECU-B fuse (approximate time and mileage please)...can the fuse be pulled using regular grade fuel and get the same results ...will the fuse need period pulling for the life of the vehicle, in your opinion..?
    I'm still holding out some hope Toyota will properly fix the hesitation problem. This is my sixth Toyota; the HL is the first vehicle with ANY problems.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    First, I've discovered the new problem doesn't exist while the engine is cool. Second, the tech who went out with the vehicle did notice some of what I experienced but felt it would dissipate with driving and keep an eye on it for a couple of weeks. Should I notice anything out of the ordinary to bring it back in. It was better yesterday so we'll see...
    Keep us posted should the hesitation return and how your dealership handles it. Thanks.
  • wwestwwest Member Posts: 10,706
    A few days ago I noted a few of the hesitation symptom complaints on the GS thread and assumed that the problem had now propagated to the RWD based vehicles.

    On second thought it now looks as if the complaints are based on the AWD version of the AWD GS series. In that case the problem may remain with FWD based vehicles only provided the AWD GS used the standard transaxle based AWD system.

    Anyone know?
  • cagogirlcagogirl Member Posts: 2
    How is this different than what the dealer has done? Should this be done in addition to another tank of 92 octane and is the higher octane a necessity now or always?
  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    Yes, I had the reflash. It helped, but only for a matter of days. My "fix" removing the ECU-B fuse came from the factory tech specialist who I was referred to when the dealer could not go any further with the problem. The specialist did suggest that I might try going back to regular gas; worst case, you have to reset the computer again. But I've been very happy with performance and fuel economy, so will problably continue with high octane. I did the ECU-B reset about a month ago, and have about 1400 miles on the car since. If you refer to my earlier posts, I detailed the info for finding and removing the fuse. Hope you get your problem solved!
  • vrmvrm Member Posts: 310
    I am planning to buy a 2004 FWD Highlander (22,000 miles) from a private seller.

    I am going for a test drive this Saturday.

    How do I test or find out if the HL has a transmission problem? What are the symptoms? Should I drive on the highway or city driving is good enough?

  • typesixtypesix Member Posts: 321
    If you're the same one looking at the 4 cyl Highlander, there is no issue with the 4 cyl tranny, only V6 transmissions.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    It's been a month since the reflash on the HL has been done and I am noticing the hesitation gradually returning. Just wanted to check in to see if you are still achieving success with having pulled the ECU-B fuse along with using high octane fuel. Have you had to do anything else or pull the fuse again? I'm concerned about voiding the warranty by pulling the fuse myself. Any opinion on this?
  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    Unfortunately, my problem has returned. Same problem, except I'm now paying for 93 octane.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    So sorry to hear the hesitation is back. I was so hoping that may be the answer. Perhaps we are all doomed to pulling the fuse every few weeks, disconnecting a battery cable to obtain the same result, or simply having to put up with it. I wonder how much damage that will cause over the long haul. As a loyal Toyota customer (HL my 6th) I can't say how disappointed I am this issue is being swept under the carpet by Toyota Corp. I love everything about my HL except driving it. How depressing.
  • airmaxxairmaxx Member Posts: 9
    Hesitation began to show up immediately after purchase on 4/06. Dealer said at first nothing could be done. Later after several meetings the dealer found the computer flash fix. This did not solve the shifting or transmission hunting at Interstate speeds and hunting with speed control on. We went to arbitration with Toyota and dealer, all to no avail. Their rep said he had the same problem with his new 2005 Avalon and another Toyota factory rep had the same problem with her 2005 Highlander. According to the rep, Toyota is not addressing this problem 1) Because this Highlander model will be changed soon,2)Lack of complaints, 3)these vehicles are made to run this way and 4)the computer controls have to learn the driver's driving habits. What nonsense from a major manufacturer. This problem began with the 2002 Toyota (5-speed models-Camery, Highlander,Sequoia, etc.) and still persists. Needless to say I will never purchase another Toyota and am informing others of this poor design and response from the Toyota Corporation. Good luck with getting anything positive from Toyota on this problem. Oh,What A Feeling Toyota. Oh,How They Hesitate and Deny-Toyota.
  • ilboyilboy Member Posts: 4
    I have a 2003 HL with 35,000 on it, my first Toyota vehicle I've owned. I want to change out the transmission fluid as good preventative maintenance but the manual does not recommend it until 60,000 miles. Does this sound like an extended period of time to anyone else? I've always changed the fluid and filter for all my past automatic transmission vehicles. The owners manual states to inspect the fluid at 30,000 but not to change it until 60K. Has anyone changed out the trans fluid already and does it have the filter inside the trans? One last question, does it have the type of gasket that can be used again?
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Member Posts: 52
    I believe Toyota's new slogan is:

    Moving forward...hesitantly.
  • djj7djj7 Member Posts: 1
    I have a 2 month old Highlander and have the same problems that you have mentioned. I have not contacted the dealer yet, could you please let me know how you made out at the dealership regarding your problems, what did they do for you are your problems resolved?
  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    I began dealing with this problem several months ago. The dealership couldn't solve the problem. They put me in contact with a Toyota Tech Specialist. Nothing has been of any help. Both were more interested in proving that the car was "normal", which is the flipside to proving I'm a nut who's imagining things. My alternative at this point is to either go through arbitration or live with the problem. And it is a real and serious problem.
  • wwestwwest Member Posts: 10,706
    Let's assume that the engine/transaxle really is "learning", somehow trying to predict what the driver's next "move" will be and acting accordingly.

    Back long ago, say in the fifties when Ford starting building more cars with automatic transmissions, many of us learned that if we wanted the transmission to upshift more quickly than otherwise, normal, we could just momentarily lift the accelerator pedal slightly.

    There are now lots of indications that this delay/hesitation "symptom" has something to do with the way we "treat" the accelerator pedal.

    Suppose, as the driver, I'm looking ahead and see a stop sign coming up, as a rule I would lift the accelerator pedal completely. That should be a "message" to the engine/transaxle ECU that I DO NOT wish to enter cruise mode, rather that I either wish to coastdown to a lower speed or come to a full stop.

    But now lets suppose that just by happenstance I keep just the slightest level of pressure on the accelerator pedal during the time I'm coasting down to stop at the upcoming intersection.

    Might the ECU just "sit" there in a "what do I do now" stage or would it look to my past driving history for a clue? My guess is that it would "upshift", thinking that my real intent was to enter "cruise mode".

    Quite a number of posters have indicated that foot placement seems to help to alleviate this symptom. The higher you place your foot on the accelerator pedal the more foot pressure it will take for a given position of the throttle. Obviously that would make it more difficult to "feather" the throttle, hold the accelerator in a slightly throttle open position.

    High foot placement would therefore likely result in less "confusion" on the part of the engine/transaxle ECU.

    So, for those of you with these experiences, try this.

    When, or while, you are certain you wish to come to a full stop, remove your foot fully from the accelerator pedal. Do the same when you have the need to slow, say in the merging situation, lift the throttle completely until or unless you reach the point wherein you make the decision that actual acceleration is needed.

    And let us know....
  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    First, we need to realize the major difference between this transmission and others, especially past: When an automatic transmission moves from one gear to the next, the gear that it's leaving doesn't "let go" until the gear it's entering has control. Not true with the Highlander trans: Between gears, the trans goes into neutral. If all is working well, the driver isn't aware of the fleeting moment that the car is out of gear. Not the case with the problem I - and others - are experiencing: There is a long and very noticeable delay between gears. And worse: the delay isn't consistent. It is especially erratic in city driving conditions, and would have to be considered unsafe under certain conditions, when you are trying to accelerate, and all you get is engine rev. Sure wish your idea was relevant to my problem. But it isn't.
  • webgoodwebgood Member Posts: 95
    frogg-I posted awhile ago that I made the "hesitation" complaint back in mid-May with the local dealer from whom I get service. They found the TSB, spent a little over an hour with it and "tech re-programed ECM per TSB" (language from the repair order). It has worked PERFECTLY since. Unfortunately maybe you and others need to find a dealer who "cares" and knows what to do. Wish ya luck!
  • froggfrogg Member Posts: 16
    I appreciate your help, but I've been through the re-flash twice. It helped, but only for a very short time. Seems it helps in some cases, but not others.
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