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Toyota Highlander Transmission Problems



  • 1bythesea1bythesea 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 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 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 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 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 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 Posts: 308
    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 Posts: 320
    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 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 Posts: 16
    Unfortunately, my problem has returned. Same problem, except I'm now paying for 93 octane.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea 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 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 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 Posts: 52
    I believe Toyota's new slogan is:

    Moving forward...hesitantly.
  • djj7djj7 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 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 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 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 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 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.
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,785

    After my ECM was reflashed, I thought I was seeing a further problem. Then circumstances forced me to accelerate at maximum power from zero to 100kmh (62mph) rapidly in succession.

    Transmission behavious changed rapidly. Might be worth trying this and shifing to a premium fuel from a reputable supplier (Shell etc.)


  • froggfrogg Posts: 16
    In the middle of my ongoing problem with the Highlander, I took the car to an independant mechanic. We went for a drive, with the mechanic behind the wheel. He demonstrated how the computer reacts to "who is behind the wheel"; the shift points are more firm when the car is being driven more aggressively. He explained that the computer raises fluid pressures, to accomplish this. It not only tailors the shift patterns to the driver, but it is protecting the trans when an aggressive driver is behind the wheel. Unfortunately, this doesn't relate to my problem. I've also tried switching to 93 octane, and it helped for a while, but has since lapsed into its old ways. I went back to regular, with no change in the problem.
  • webgoodwebgood Posts: 95
    frogg--Is there a difference between a "re-flash" and "re-program"? When the dealer did mine, it took just over an hour as opposed to "quickie" of 10-15 minutes. I wonder if we/they are talking about/doing the same thing. Best regards.
  • Just thinking out loud...could our HL's have faulty catalytic converters or O2 sensors? Do I understand correctly either could cause hesitation problems? Or am I really making a stretch here?
  • kam108kam108 Posts: 16
    I have posted previously in a different thread about my transmission problems in my (previously owned) 2005 Highlander. I had hesitation problems, with sometimes a surging following the hesitation. I thought this was bad enough, then when the vehicle was not quite a year old, a newer, awful thing happened to me! I put my foot on the brake while parking, and instead of the car stopping, there was a severe acceleration which I could not control with the brake pedal. I slammed into the truck in front of me. I know that sounds bad but I'm glad it was there to stop me. Of course good old Toyota could not find a problem with my car. I filed a complaint with NHTSA. I then proceeded to read other Highlander and Camry (the Highlander is based on the Camry and has the same transmision.) To my horror, I discoverd that there were many complaints identical to mine!! Some of these people had severe accidents, and like me had unexplained vehicle acceleration when they put their foot on the brake! Some had witnesses, but to no avail! Toyota denied my claim telling me that two systems can't fail at the same time. Why has this happened to so many people then?
    As for the "fix", I had that done to my Highlander in between getting it repaired from the accident, and trading it in. When a sales person from a dealer was driving my Highlander so that he could give me a trade in price, he returned and asked if I had been having any trouble with my car. He said he had a severe hesitation, and then the car just took off like it was turbocharged!! So much for the fix!
    It's too late for me, but I sincerley hope owners of these vehicles get their cars fixed before someone gets killed! :mad:
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    You do realize, of course, that at trade-in time it's okay to admit the delay/hesitation problem is vey real..

    But think they told the next buyer...?
  • At trade-in time if I'm asked about the hesitation my comment will be..."Don't you know...the vehicle needs to get used to YOUR driving habits." Give them the same feed back we've gotten.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Impossible to believe...

    Ford has the answer.....!

    From the new 2007 Ford Edge PR..

    "The electronically shift controlled transmission also features a variable displacement pump, which matches the amount of fluid that gets pushed through the transmission to driver demand, making it more efficient."

    At full lift-throttle all of the FWD Toyota/lexus vehicles begin an upshift just as the engine RPM drops to idle. With the engine at idle the upshift will exhaust/use most, or possibly all, of the pressurized ATF.

    Now if you happen to re-apply foot pressure to the accelerator pedal just as the upshift begins the engine/transaxle ECU will "know" to delay the onset of engine until the low engine "idle" RPM can build enough ATF pressure to complete the corresponding downshift.

    The most obvious answer would be to increase the volume of the fixed volume ATF pump so enough pressure/flow could be provided for two sequential QUICK shifts with the engine at idle. But then most of that added volume would be bypassed, disapated as heat, as the engine RPM rises above idle.

    Ford's answer, apparently, is to have a variable displacement ATF pump so it can be switched to high volume when quick/SOLID shifting is required with the engine at idle. Makes me wonder if that allowed them to eliminate the ATF pressure bypass relief spring/valve also.

    That would REALLY increase transaxle efficiency.

    A second option would havre been to have an ATF pressure storage accumulator (like the ABS pumpmotor asembly). But putting one of those in an already "crowded" six-speed transaxle is probably out of the question.

    Anyone know if any of the newer Toyota/Lexus transaxles have either? Absent one or the other the delay/hesitation issue will undoubtedly continue.
  • Am I glad I registered to this site! I, myself, just had a recent problem with my 2001 Higlander but unlike you, I slammed into my house! And I thought I had a "blackout"! I now realize that I actually did put my foot on the brake pedal and not the accelerator; fortunately and I still consider myself lucky, I only got the shock of my life with no bodily injury and that no one was in the dining room at that time(although my wife was an hour before the accident!). After having the car fixed, my wife noticed hesitancy when she backed up and we've been fighting the insurance company since because all this time we felt that the transmission was damaged after the accident. But after reading your letter, I now know who to run after...the dealership, since they had just checked the transmission in Sept., '05 and that what happened was actually an accident waiting to happen! :surprise:
  • I recently posted a problem I had with my HL but this is by no means aimed to smear Toyota because I love their cars. Now, we all know that these are machines and prone to problems every now and then but when you experience what I just experienced, that is, slamming your house after pressing on the brake pedal, you cannot help but begin to have second thoughts: Are U.S. made cars really as safe and dependable as their Japanese made counterparts?(Toyotas are now made in the U.S.) ;)
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