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Toyota Highlander Transmission Problems



  • jbolltjbollt Posts: 734
    Are U.S. made cars really as safe and dependable as their Japanese made counterparts?(Toyotas are now made in the U.S.)

    The Highlander is now, and has always been, made in Japan.
  • mer66mer66 Posts: 14
    I had the exact same thing happen to me with my Honda Pilot last year! I put my foot hard on the brake pedal and the car took off and I hit the wall of the parking garage where I work. When I reported it to building security he said the same thing had happened a few months earlier involving an Izusu Rodeo. And, when I was telling my neighbor about it he said his son had that happen with his Nissan Pathfinder too! I am wondering now if it is a flaw common to all Asian SUVs?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Always be sure, make sure, the driver's side carpet is somehow tied down, firmly, such that its forward edge cannot lie over the gas pedal but behind the brake pedal.

    Happened to me twice in ~10 years both times in rental cars.
  • ekoeko Posts: 3
    I've had bad O2 sensor on one side of the V-banks (1MZ-FE), and drove about 1K miles w/o noticing problems. No hesitation. Late I found a lot more of sludge on intake valve seats and air passages which are corresponding to the V-bank side with bad O2 sensor. I think the sludge is result of my driving with bad O2 sensor. May be the ECM was not adjusting the timing correctly for the cylinders in that V-bank. So, it took an hour or two to get all the stuff clean. Anyway I wish I had it fixed right when I got the MIL light on.
    However, I noticed a hesitation when cleaned the trotle body - a vacuum leak and clogged air passages could cause hesitation. Funny, but my 1MZ-FE stops with air pipes removed from the trotle body, when old 5S-FE runs ok.
    I'd recommend to check intake, trotle body, vacuum lines and EGR. It could be as simple as loose or swapped vacuum lines.
    Good luck.
  • Hesitation and the following surge if you keep pressure on the gas pedal is what I experienced too and I drove a brand new highlander AWD for 1300 miles.
    The cruise is another problem. It overshoots by 5 miles/hr at times when you put the vehicle on "resume".
  • garywigarywi Posts: 54
    This is what I observe:

    Transmission – can’t find correct gear. Driver always fighting to slow the car down without the help of transmission.


    City driving. At 900 RPM, 25 MPH, car is in 5th gear! Taking foot off gas does not slow down vehicle. Will maintain speed! Constantly fighting car to slow down.

    City driving, coming to a stop sign. Transmission downshifting, but driver must fight with excessive breaking to slow vehicle. Car surges forward from 3rd, to 2nd, to 1st.

    Pulling into garage at home. At 10 mph, 900 RPM, car still in 3rd gear as I pull into my garage. Needs excessive breaking. Then just before I stop, car finally shifts to 2nd, then 1st, with a nice surge forward. Must apply more braking.

    Can you change the shifting characteristics of this transmission? Less shifting!
  • terry92270terry92270 Posts: 1,247
    A rogue car! :surprise:
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...Transmission - can't find correct gear. driver always fighting to slow the car down without the help of (the) transmission...."

    It has never, NEVER EVER, been a good idea to use engine compression braking for slowing the forward motion of a FWD or front biased AWD vehicle, not even with a manual transmission, but most especially so with an automatic one.

    Back quite a few years ago now the AAA started recommending that owners of FWD or..., vehicles practice quickly shifting their transmission into neutral in preparation for the day when that practice might pay off and save lives.

    I strongly suspect, and would be willing to bet money, that late in the last century the automotive insurance companies went to the automotive manufacturers and disclosed the statistically FACT that FWD or.., were more prone to accidents in adverse weather conditions that their RWD or rear torque biased AWD "brothers" (and sisters?/).

    The 99 RX300 is subject to premature transaxle failures simply because the transaxle firmware was revised to accomodate a shift pattern that resulted in more frequent upshifts. By 2001 Toyota had realized their mistake and adopted a higher capacity ATF pump so teh new "safer" shift pattern could remain. When that also turned out to be a mistake they went back to the lower capacity ATF pump, but with DBW, e-throttle, to prevent the engine from developing torque until the transaxle could be properly downshifted.

    Of recent note...

    Ford has just received a patent in which two techniques are described that while applying only directly to their hybrid series speak VOLUMES about the hazards of engine compression braking on FWD or.., vehicles.

    Ford hybrids, Escape and Mariner, use regenerative braking to (re)charge the hybrid battery. The patent describes a technique wherein the level of regenerative braking to be used is reduced substantially if the prevailing outside temperature is hovering around or below freezing.

    GET IT...??

    Regenerative braking (engine compression braking{??}), is potentially HAZARDOUS, especially so when the probability of encountering a low traction roadbed surface is elevated by climatic conditions.

    The second technique involves disabling regenerative braking the instant the brakes are applied so as to prevent regenerative braking from interfering with the anti-lock braking system's ability to keep those front, stearing, wheels rolling.

    Will we soon see Toyota and/or Lexus FWD vehicles that allow/use engine compression braking when the prevailing temperatures are above freezing?

    Not on your life...!

    Another recent development..

    Ford has announced that the new Ford Edge will have a variable displacement ATF pump in the transaxle to improve overall efficiency.

    It will certainly, undoubtedly, do that.

    But the reasons, the real reasons, go a bit beyond that explanation. Ford has its own history of 1-2 throttle lag, downshifting delay/hesitation in their FWD and front torque biased AWD vehicles.

    With a variable displacement ATF pump the pump capacity can be adjusted, dynamically, to fit the situation. If a lot of pressure/flow is needed for a quick downshift with the engine at idle the ATF pump can be adjusted to provide same. When the engine RPM is at a cruising level, or even on the high side, and no shifting is required, the ATF pump's displacement can be minimized.

    I'm will to bet that Toyota and Lexus FWD or.., vehicles already use teh variable displacement ATF pump, at least as of the 2007 model year.
  • garywigarywi Posts: 54
    Thanks wwest. You seem very knowlegable. What am I going to get Toyota to do on this transmission next week? I do not like it at all, that I have to fight the car to slow down. I don't have to do this on my Corolla. I went to a back road in Arizona last night. I got the Highlander up to 40 mph and then took my foot off the gas and coasted to see what would happen. The damm car would not stop. I coast for two miles and final applied brake. After a mile, it got down to 15mph, in 3rd gear at 900 rpm. There are times when I am going about 35 in 5th, and it will not slow down of I take my foot off the gas. I stays at 35 as if I had the cruise control on.

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Other than downshifting manually, unless they even have a way of defeating that, I don't know of anything you or the dealer could do.

    If you wish to "feel" the effects of engine compression braking go test drive a BMW X3 with an automatic transmission.

    Keep in mind that engine compression braking on a FWD or front biased AWD vehicle can be very hazardous if you happen to encounter the right (wrong!) roadbed circumstances. Even in everyday driving it is entirely possible that engine compression braking will interfere with your anti-lock braking system and thereby result in an accident.

    Perhaps sometime in the future Toyota will adopt, license, the Ford patented technique but I have my doubts, that would only cover adverse roadbed conditions due to freezing.
  • garywigarywi Posts: 54
    I mean, I don't want braking with the engine like I would have down shifting a 5 speed manual car. I just dont want this trunk to drive itself at a speed it chooses. If I am making no inputs, it should not drive a 30mph in 5th for one mile!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I know.

    But only you, as the driver, can know, be reasonably sure of the road conditions you are currently driving on. Since the design engineers cannot possibly know or predict the roadbed conditions they have defaulted (FINALLY) into the safest procedure available for a FWD or front torque biased AWD vehicle.

    I only wish they would use the same thinking with regards the defrost/demist/defog mode of their automatic climate control systems.

    Engine compression braking on a FWD vehicle has been a serious safety issue ever since the original Olds Toronado was introduced back in the late sixties. Its about time something positive was done about that.
  • Are the transmission hesitation and shift problems still prevalent in the 2007 models? How about the Hybrids or 4WD versions? I am strongly considering a new Hybrid Limited with 4WD but now I am hesitant or leery of the purchase.
  • I would say maybe on some 5spd vehicles. Yesterday, I drove two Highlanders and a Rav4. Both Highlanders were 2wd, one had the 3.3L V6 & 5spd, the other had the 4 banger with the 4spd. The Rav4 was a 2wd, 4cyl with the 4spd. Only the 5spd had hesitation. I was rather disappointed. In the end we bought the 4 cylinder Highlander.

    You should drive the vehicle in a variety of situations to see if you notice a problem. I wonder how big an issue the "shift problem" is on the 5spd. In the Consumer Report New Car Preview for 2007 the reliability history for the 4spd and 5spd transmissions are still very good (2001-2006). The CR reliability report for the 06 hybrid transmission was excellent.

    You might also want to drive another car with a CVT so you can compare the driving feel.

    My sense after driving the 5spd was that it would be slightly annoying in some situations. It was not the main reason we did not get the 6/5spd. The lower cost ($3K), nimble feel, better mpg and color won out.

    Sorry I cannot help you more with the Hybrid. Did not even drive it. The floor model was $35K or so, way beyond what we wanted to pay for a vehicle.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Posts: 52

    To my knowledge Toyota has NOT changed anything with the drive by wire/ECU on the V6 engines. Investigate '07 V6 Camry's and you will find many people are having hesitation issues so I have to assume the V6 '07 Highlanders will also.

    It's so dicey as to whether you will get one that will hesitate or not. My HL did not hesitate until about 30 days after purchase. The TSB worked for about 6 months with hesitation gradually returning plus it now bogs 0-30 mph. For the past year I have suffered daily with this vehicle and am very seriously considering trading the HL in on a '07 Hyundai Santa Fe. Now that's a strong statement after having owned 7 Toyota's over 21 consecutive years. However, I'm not willing to risk obtaining another one that hesitates.

    If you are set on a HL my recommendation is the 4 cylinder. But for the hesitation issue Toyota is still a great product. Best of luck on your decision.
  • garywigarywi Posts: 54
    There are no two ways about it. The transmission in the 2005-2007 Highlander is a big defect. Shifting problems, wrong gear for situation, hesitation, always in overdrive. I bought a 2007 Honda CRV. IT'S WONDERFUL. It's transmission not only adjusts for throttle position and speed, but also the grade of the road. Example, if you are traveling on a flat or slightly down hill road, the transmission will not just shift all the way through the gears like the obselete Highlander. The Honda will STAY in the appropriate gear, 3rd or 4th, until 5th is appropriate. IF you let off the gas on a hill, you get engine braking. Who would have thought?! The Honda is not in a rush to get to 5th and does not get stuck there like my old 2007 Highlander. I encourage everyone I know to dump the Highlander as Toyota will do nothing about this.
  • billranbillran Posts: 113
    :sick: I am sorry to hear of your bad experience. I have had my 2005 Highlander V6 AWD for over two years and 35K miles and love it. Fast smooth acceleration and a quiet smooth ride and drivetrain that is as good as any I have driven, and better than most. I also have a couple coworkers and a neighbor with the same cars and I have talked to them a lot, and they have nothing but great things to say. In fact I have yet to meet someone in real life who does not agree that the Highlander is one of the best mid sized SUVs available today.

    We liked ours so much we recently got a 2007 so both my wife and I would have these wonderful, safe cars to drive. Based on Toyota's published sales data there are way over two million Toyotas on the road with this exact drivetrain, and you will be hard pressed to find enough people with complaints to total even one tenth of one percent of those cars.

    I am happy you found a car that you like. We love our Highlander and would highly recommend it to anyone.
  • 1bythesea1bythesea Posts: 52
    You may be correct about the 1/10 of 1%, however, based on the number of camry, tundra, solara, highlander, avalon, ES 330, and RX 330 owner blogs complaining about this issue it would seem the percentage is higher. Had I'd not had this issue, I may have felt the same way you do.

    To add insult to injury, after 21 years of loyalty I was highly dismayed at the lack of respect Toyota Motor Corp. demonstrated toward me. This idea the vehicle needs to get used to your driving habits is ludicrous. The dealership denial across the country (and I liked my dealership very much until this) where one has to show evidence this is not just your vehicle and there really is a TSB available is shameful.

    Thankfully you have not had this very real problem. It is an accident involving a death waiting to happen. As I stated earlier, Toyota IS a GREAT product WHEN it runs correctly. All the best with your new HL.
  • nifty56nifty56 Posts: 279
    I have seen billran's type of posts on other forums before, various makes. Many unhappy owners having issues with their cars than suddenly someone chimes in and says, mine is perfect, my nieghbours have the same vehicle, my co-workers also own the same vehicle and they have no problems. Nice he knows so many who own the same vehicle as he does. The poster will go as far as stating how many cars a manufacture makes per year, we own 2 etc. etc. Now I am sure (?) billran is enjoying his HL and is driving it trouble free. But for me personally I see red flags all over the place. Not convinced. Good luck to all those with your problems and hope they are corrected. :lemon:
  • billranbillran Posts: 113
    Well first of all I feel that personal attack is completely uncalled for. And I personally believe that these type of flame posts have no place in these forums. I have never said I doubted anyone's claims that their car had a problem, nor have I attacked them or their credibility, as you have mine. When someone posts however slamming an entire line of cars, one that I happen to own two of and love, I feel it only right to comment. I am not saying that every single Highlander ever produced is perfect. But the poster I was responding to had very bluntly stated that ALL of that model was defective. That is obviously untrue. It is the posts like yours that I find most worrisome of all.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Your might want to keep in mind that up until just a few years ago EVERY 737 that Boeing built was DEFECTIVE. Every one of those was equipped with a multi-stage rudder hydraulic servomotor valve that had a rather serious design defect.

    Luckily only maybe 3 out of ~3000 crashed as a result.

    So every HL out there can be defective, seriously so, while most might never encounter the circumstances wherein that defect becomes critical to normal operations.
  • billranbillran Posts: 113
    Fair enough. In that case we could probably say that every car on the road could be defective in one way or another. No doubt your Lexus is defective as well in some way. I respect your opinion and knowledge and I know you and I have gone back and forth on this indirectly. There are an awful lot of people driving these cars without complaint, and mine has performed wonderfully under all types of conditions, so I still feel it wrong to condemn the entire line and suggest everyone dump them for Hondas, as a previous poster had.
  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    you make a good argument for avoiding mass hysteria and dumping one product line for another.

    however - there is ample evidence people need to exercise caution w.r.t. purchasing these advanced vehicles with "smart/adaptive" controls. even people that have test driven units which were fine at the time of purchase have ended up having issues later.

    the manufacturer and dealerships' ability to address these issues and completely satisfy the customer remain important.
  • tomdtomd Posts: 87
    My 2007 HL has 5,000 miles on it. This morning I was on the highway in the right lane and wanted to move over. I looked in my mirror and the person in the left lane was pretty far back so I gave it some gas and proceeded to get into the left lane. Well, it took between 1 and 2 seconds to "kick down" and when I looked in the mirror, the person in back of me was scaringly close. I guess when I want to pass, I have to make sure that I really step on it. My '99 Lexus ES300 had a similar delay so I don't think this is anything unique. Toyota transmissions have been criticized for downshift delay for years. I hope the '08 improves upon this. My wife's Mazda Tribute kicks down instantly. I don't understand why Toyota hasn't addressed this. They seem to have a fundmental flaw in their design philosophy regarding automatic transmissions. I can't believe that a company with all of their resources can't fix this. Apparently this can't be fixed with just software alone because they have tried this. I think there is a mechanical design limitation here. I keep going back to the same thing: Do they give their engineers the vehicles that they design to drive on a daily basis? I think they would uncover lots of problems before they become an issue.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Keep in mind that your 2007 HL doesn't have a manual clutch but for your own safety needs to act like you have one and are using it correctly.

    That's the design limitation the Toyota engineers hare been trying to get around since ~2000 for most modern FWD or front torque biased AWD vehicles.

    Not a simple task and insofar as I can see Ford (Edge) is the only marque having solved it, seemingly, so far.
  • tomdtomd Posts: 87
    Sorry wwest, but you lost me. I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. Can you explain?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    There are times, places and circumstances wherein unintentional, inadvertent, engine compression braking, even slightly so, on a FWD vehicle can lead to loss of directional control. An icy downhill slope for instance, a place wherein you would normally disengage the clutch should you have one.

    The AAA is on record suggesting that vehicle owners with automatic transmissions practice quickly moving the shift level to neutral in preparation for times, as above, when this capability might mean avoiding an accident

    Engine compression braking can also interfere with ABS' ability to keep the front wheels rolling ever so slightly in some instances like the above.

    Since the manufacturers of these FWD vehicle cannot predict, forecast, or have a vehicle system(***) to detect these circumstances the best thing they can do is prevent engine compression braking on their FWD vehicles altogether, ALL the time.

    To that end late in the last century most manufacturers of FWD and front torque biased AWD vehicle modified the transaxle shift pattern. What now happens is when you lift the throttle, especially a FULL lift throttle, to enter a period of coastdown the transaxle will automatically upshift to alleviate any substantive level of engine compression braking.

    No big deal, right...?


    What if, just at the precise moment the transaxle BEGINS the upshift, you see an upcoming opening in traffic into which you wish to merge.

    So you FLOOR the gas pedal...

    1001, 1002, 1003....

    Oops, that "spot" in traffic just went by...

    What happened...??

    First, the transaxle had to complete the upshift, which undoubtedly would take 500 to 700 milliseconds. But now with the engine at idle there is no ATF pressure "reserve" to support a quick second sequential DOWN shift. So DBW was adopted to "protect the drive train". Allow enough time, again with the engine idling, for the ATF pump to build enough pressure to support, and complete, the upcoming downshift.

    Only then will DBW allow you to go forward.

    *** Ford was just granted a US patent over/for this very issue. The patented technique involves significantly reducing the level of regenerative braking of a hybrid vehicle (presumably applied to the FWD/AWD Escape and Mariner) if the OAT is near to or below freezing. The second technique involves INSTANTLY disabling regenerative braking if actual braking is applied and ABS activates.

    Obviously our vehicles could be modified to only perform the upshift sequence if the OAT is close to freezing. But that wouldn't take care of an oil and rain slicked street nor black ice in the shadow of a tree line at 10 AM.

    Just as obvious, the upshift would be too late and too slow if ABS were to activate during braking.

    Ford has also announced that the new Ford Edge has a variable displacement ATF pump. Presumably to allow a HIGH volume of ATF pressure/flow at engine idle if needed/required while at the same time not being HORRIBLY wasteful of FE by continuing to PUMP HIGH volumes of ATF at 6000 RPM.
  • tomdtomd Posts: 87
    Great explanation, makes a lot of sense! However, how do explain when driving along at say, 50 mph, the tranny is in it's top gear and you step on it to kick it down. Why does the Highlander seem to take so much longer to react than my wife's Mazda Tribute? Assuming that the software is taking the same amount of time in both vehicles to detect the change in throttle position and send the downshift command to the tranny (maybe this isn't true), the difference must be a mechanical design issue, no?
  • froggfrogg Posts: 16
    I continue to see posts on the subject. My experience is simple: The shift pattern on my Highlander is erratic. Even whenI have been the only driver for days, it is erratic. You might drive all around town, for example, and notice nothing unusual. Then, a block later, you step on the gas and as the trans leaves first, it doesn't go into second for a while. The engine revs up noticeably. If you are merging into traffic and this happens, you do the only knee-jerk thing: mash it. Of course, with the engine screaming, it really takes off when the trans engages. There are many other situations, including delayed downshifting when the problem is evident. I have had it to an independant mechanic, and he has verified that there is something wrong. Not an easy fix. Could be the computer. Could be a wiring harness. To fix it, a technician would have to spend some time with the car. Something that Toyota is not willing to do. They are only interested in reaching a point where they can declare the car....NORMAL. You hear that word - Normal - a lot when you take the car in, hoping to get it fixed. I have given up, and will get rid the car at the earliest convenience. As for those who love their Highlanders and are driving problem-free, I can only say that you are fortunate. But your happiness doesn't do anything to help me or others who have been stiff-armed by the company.
  • user777user777 Posts: 3,341
    that seems like you've got a bad transmission. i would consider this a safety problem. i think you're making a good decision by "moving forward" (in this case moving on).
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