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Highlander Hybrid Brake Problems



  • Yes - I did hit a bump just prior to the accident. And the "bump-glide" combination has been pretty consistent. I have learned to compensate by adding extra distance to every stop - you can't always anticipate a bump in the road, and it takes very little.
  • halgrenhalgren Posts: 4
    I have recently purchased a used 2008 HH (13,000 miles) and have driven it about 2,000 miles since. I have noticed the same braking “skid”. By watching the meter, it occurs when the regen system kicks off, and you no longer have the regen braking assist – all you have is the hydraulic system. Disconcerting at first, but I got used to it.

    During this past week, I have noticed a new problem. Sometimes the regen fails to kick in when it should. The coasting regen works fine, but when braking for a stop at the bottom of a downgrade, sometimes the braking regen system does not kick in. Sometimes the battery is fully charged, sometimes only about half charged, so charge level is not a factor.

    Road conditions are not a factor. I drive 3 miles (minimum) on gravel roads when leaving home, or returning, and the braking regen functions normally on gravel (until recently).

    Someone mentioned tire pressure. They should be all OK, but I will check them and see if that makes a difference. (According to the tire pressure monitors, they are all nearly identical in pressure, but I am not confident their accuracy is exact.)

    I am reluctant to bring it into the dealer until the failures are at least 50% of the time, or he might have my car for a few weeks.

    Anybody notice this problem? Anybody have any advice?
  • hsalwenhsalwen Posts: 4
    I have a 2006 Lexus SUV Hybrid. Same system as Highlander. I ran the car for 30k miles with no problems. Then recently, the brake/regen problem has shown up exactly as described on this site. It feels for all the world like a loose connection. Let's say that there is a sensor that tells the braking/regen system whether the car is still rolling or is stopped. Let's say that the loose connect stops the "rotating wheel" signal so that the regen is shut off. That is what it feels like. It can't be generic to the hybrid system because 1) it just started to do it, and 2) it never - never- happens on a smooth road.

    But, here is the punch line. I called the Lexus service dept. and they played dumb. That is, they pretended to have difficulty understanding me. They never heard of a problem like this, etc. I am afraid to bring it in because they sound incompetent.
  • halgrenhalgren Posts: 4
    Thanx for the reply.

    My Highlander regen problem does not appear to have anything to do with rough roads. It happens as often on pavement as it does on gravel farm roads (and some of them are very bumpy) but I will keep an eye on the "rotating wheel" display and see if it shows any relationship. Good suggestion. Some of the roads I drive on have bumps, and I will try to keep track of bumps and see if it is bump related.
  • bmcfa0384bmcfa0384 Posts: 1
    I didn't notice any bumps when braking a 2006 Hybrid Highlander this morning.  I cornered, then I accelerated, then I coasted to slow down, I had to step on the brakes hard, I guess braking had let go, no firm braking.  I collided with the vehicle in front of me at 5-10 MPH.  
     Alternately, polar to this, 5 minutes from home coasting on a bumpy road slightly up hill to a stop sign, the regen stayed on after stopping.  When I continued the engine moaned and labored, so I let up on the gas and coasted but it moaned when I depressed the gas pedal again.  Next time I will touch the brakes to see if it resets the regen.  It's the opposite of what is happening when the regen discontinues while braking.
  • I called Toyota about the Highlander Hybrid braking gap problem described herein, and as of November 2009, they advise that they have never heard of this problem before. It am disappointed to see that this info has been posted for years, and that Toyota has even posted herein.

    We are experiencing the braking gap at moderate to low speeds, in rush-hour stop and start traffic (go 50 mph, then slow way down, repeatedly), on smooth roads. It feels as if the brakes are working, then suddenly stop working, and then resume working. The period during which the brakes are not working feels almost as if I am fighting against acceleration. Having rarely driven the HH since we bought it, I have been driving it daily since August 2009, as my commute requires it now. I was bothered by the braking gap experience, before the stories of runaway Toyota/Lexus cars came to our attention. The braking gap alone was worrisome because a) more distance seemed to be required to stop, which could lead to an accident, and b) it seemed as if the accelerator was involved, which would lead to lower fuel efficiency. But when the run-away Toyota/Lexus story broke, the CNN coverage of highly educated, extremely concerned, credible people talking about their run-away cars, with no floormats near the gas pedals, and an expert with a chart showing rapid increase in run-away cars after a computer governing the throttle was introduced, I took notice. Toyota seems to be doing no better than Ford did with their Explorers when the Firestone tires were killing people, and I had become more concerned about the braking gap problem. So I am quite relieved to see that others' accidents related to the braking gap problem have been relatively minor, although still hair-raising, compared to the other Toyota/Lexus scenario, with the crash-and-burn outcomes.

    I gather that I need to adjust my driving style. No longer can I count on the consistent braking I have long enjoyed as a driver of German and Swedish cars. I will have to anticipate the braking gap, and try not to be bothered by what feels like equipment failure, until I can replace the 2007 HH.

    We have spent over $100,000 with Toyota Lexus in the last five years, buying a Lexus for each of two college grads, and the HH for ourselves. We gave Toyota/Lexus the benefit of the doubt on safety, and allowed them a spot on our short list of Trusted Brands in the car category. They have now removed themselves from the list. We were down to one Lexus, and the HH. The Lexus was traded in for a German car last week. Now we're down to one slightly problematic (we hope) Toyota Highlander Hybrid with a braking gap. Thank you for your help in calibrating this risk.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    With a standard HL if ABS needs to activate it begins releasing brake fluid pressure from the wheel(s) approaching lockup IMMEDIATELY.

    With a hybrid the FIRST action of ABS will be to DISABLE regen braking. Disabling regen ALONE may resolve the problem. The result is that ABS activated without your EVER being aware. All you thought you felt was a surge or lurch forward when regen ceased opperation thereby (momentarily) lessening the braking HP.

    Also. There are MANY instances wherein a single pulse of ABS would be all that was needed, would be "felt" by the driver via the brake pedal kick-back or otherwise. With a regen vehicle all you "feel", think you feel, in these instances is the slight surge or lurch forward.

    Since NON-ABS controlled/limited braking is deemed so highly dangerous there are indications that regen braking is disabled/reduced/limited somehow in cold sub-35F temperatures. Even moreso for most hybrids since there are consistently FWD or F/awd. Ford, I believe, disables regen entirely during coastdown periods if the temperature is sub-freezing. Obviously regen MUST be disabled anytime ABS (initially) activates.
  • This is to call the Toyota or Lexus Hybrid car owners’ attention to braking gap problems. We owned the Lexux LS 600 HL for one year before we experienced the braking problem.

    The first incident happened in a parking lot in early October ’09. The Lexus would not stop and ran over the curb and walkway and ended into a grassy area near a fountain. We ignored this incident and did not report it until the last incident happened. The last incident happened at a one-way stop which crosses the intersection of a two way heavily traveled thoroughfare. The car failed to stop at the stop sign, crossed two lanes of traffic, and ran into hedges and a street sign before coming to a stop. There was damage to the body of the car (bottom & front). We reported this to our Lexus Dealer. They were very nice to accommodate us with a loaner car. They sent our complaint to the Lexus Customer Satisfaction Center in Naperville, IL. Their complaint investigation was totally unacceptable. They advised that they have no history for the subject warranty problem and repair records and are unable to duplicate our concerns.

    We are surprised that Toyota/Lexus did not even consider human life issue or even their own brand image. They should know that similar problems did occur and exist in Prius and Highlander hybrid vehicles during the past few years and are all shown on this website. I can’t believe that Toyota/Lexus ignore this problem and don’t even educate the vehicle operators on how to control the brake if this is a minor problem (which I believe is a major problem).
    I don’t want to wait until someone crashes and dies.

    Please advise me what action I should take or how to advise the other owners so they won’t be sacrificed.
  • mimersmimers Posts: 7
    I also had a braking problem with my 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, where I coasted into the car in front of me because I was travelling under 20 mph and the ABS brakes never "grabbed" during an emergency stop. I filed a complaint with the government agency the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration at If enough people file complaints there, they will open an investigation for a possible recall. The Consumer Affairs website is useful for lawyers to find class action lawsuits, which would be nice to recover all of the money that people are spending on these rear-end and slow speed accidents. I also alerted Consumer Reports, as they always rate these cars very highly, which is misleading.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    One has to be extremely careful.

    So far, most HH owners have reported a "slip" or "gap" in braking at low temperature but few, if any, have reported incidents that resulted in a "run away" condition as you have reported. So I will caution against generalizing this to be something that has been reported "all over" the web.

    I have heard of ABS incorrectly activating at very low speed (Chevy?) when it ought to shut off. ABS activation at low speed causes the brakes to not fully engage so the car keeps on rolling. Low speed rolling though should not send a car across so many lanes plowing onto curbs. So something is definitely wrong with your vehicle.

    Unfortunately, the recent "gas pedal" run-away problem that resulted in deaths have shown that Toyota will also hide the truth and refuse to acknowledge safety concerns. It continues to blame the matt instead of looking into the accelerator system. Anyway, do be careful how you make the claim.

    All that said, I am losing confidence in Toyota's reputation. Having a defect is one thing but refusal to own up to the problem and fix it is much worse. Time to look at Ford again.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Not sure what this means. You need to be very careful and not confused the problem. Is this inappropriate ABS activation at low speed causing car not to stop? Certain Chevy trucks of a particular model year had this problem.

    By not grabbing, do you mean the brakes did not work? Or did you cause the car to lock up and skid because ABS did not work?

    The manual states that ABS will not activate under 25-MPH. This is not new and is actually a requirement of ABS systems. ABS is supposed to shut off at low speed else it will keep the brakes pumping and not able to stop your car. This is a totally different problem that the ones we have been reporting? Is this what you are experiencing?
  • I have a 2006 Hi Hy Limited that I bought pre certified in 2008 with 38K on it. First let me say I LOVE THIS CAR!! I would buy it again in a second!! I have experienced the brake "coasting" slightly when I step on it lightly but I believe this to be less a defect and more of an after effect of the regen brakes. You simply have to learn to brake differently? The brakes are drive by wire as is the gas pedal. NO LINKAGE!! This is a radically different driving concept and you really need to treat it as such. I've always tried to follow other cars at a safe distance and when the coasting effect does occur, simply pressing the brakes slightly harder corrects this and stops the car on a dime!! I am amazed at how well this car does stop!! Follow at a safe distance proportionate to your speed!!! This more then your Hi Hy's brakes is probably the bigger problem?? Hope this helps???
  • Not Applicable. My brakes work properly as long as i don't hit a bump in the road. Let's say I am slowing down from 25 mph. The dial on the left (mine is an Rx400h) show regeneration, i.e. it is below the neutral zone. Then, I hit a small bump, an irregularity in the road surface. It doesn't take much. The braking power is reduced and the dial shows that regeneration has stopped. Regen, doesn't come back unless i stop braking momentarily.. If I stop and reapply the brakes, the dial shows regeneration again and the braking power returns to normal.

    This could be a loose connection. The dealer says he never of heard of this problem. But, it could also be a bug in the ABS or stability control systems.. That is, the small bump could stop wheel rotation which is sensed by both of these systems.

    Thanks for trying to help...
  • 400e400e Posts: 41
    Seeing the news today about the Prius braking problem coming to light, it sounds all the world like what we've been describing on this thread with our HH's.

    Wonder when HH's will finally be recalled to address the braking gap problem.
  • 400e400e Posts: 41
    Hot off the presses Feb. 3, 2010, from Toyota:

    Statement Regarding 2010 Model Year Toyota Prius Inconsistent Brake Feeling
    In certain 2010 model year Prius vehicles, Toyota has received reports that some customers have experienced inconsistent brake feel when the vehicle is driven over potholes, bumps or slippery road surfaces.

    Toyota is currently in the process of confirming these reports and investigating the vehicle driving conditions under which the reported phenomenon occurs. It would be premature to comment until the investigation has been completed.
  • I have to agree with this comment. When you have been mentally calculating your stopping point while gently breaking and hit a small bump in the HH you suddenly discover your mental calculation was wrong. This isn't some sort of expressway experience. The comments about "traveling too close" demonstrate that there is a lack of understanding about the problem being described by some of us who have experienced the sudden change in braking friction after the bump. It's the unexpected transition from regen to hydraulic. This is NOT normal or something we just need to get used to. The denial by certain reps is cover. I talked to a Toyota mechanic just yesterday - having the car serviced - and he knew exactly what I was talking about and admitted the problem exists. Now Prius Hybrids are being examined for brake problems. I have enjoyed this vehicle - but am very frustrated with Toyota's response of "plausible deniability". Why did they wait until a family was killed with a proven gas pedal irregularity before taking action. Chances are these brake problem will only cause a slight bumper crunch for those who have learned to anticipate it - but someone is going to be mortified when they didn't stop in time for the pedestrian at the mall when the brake transition fooled them into stopping a further distance than intended.
  • Hi all,

    Today Toyota released info. that they had fixed a problem in Prius where the gap in braking was noticeable. They did not do a recall, but said it was a programming problem they corrected in models designed after January. It's disapointing that it wasn't made public before now, but I would guess that many companies do this.

    We just sold a Mazda CX9 with multiple problems, none of them recalled or discussed by the company, even though service knew them to be recurring problems. We bought a 10 HiHy fully loaded except DVD at invoice plus $200 for color (only amethyst pearl equipped this way in California) but discounted XM install $400, so all good. We feel very confident with Toyota and were happy to get the discount, as he had been quoted $1500 and $700 xm install over invoice at the beginning of the month. Good luck with brakes, ours seem ok but will take to the dealer if a problem comes up.
  • I have the same car with the same problem. But it happens to me even more than bumpy roads. It happens all the time without warning or explainable reason (braking from high speeds, low speeds, smooth roads, bumpy roads, cold started vehicle, warm started....) This just happens all the time. I have been to 2 dealership and can't "recreate the problem" because they take it on a 1 mile loop, hook it up to a machine and say it didn't read any bad codes. I made a formal complaint with the NHTSA today and suggest everyone does. There is more of a chance they listen now than ever. I am taking back to another deal again on Tuesday after hearing about the prius problem.

    I will give an update on Tuesday. In the meantime, everyone who owns a Toyota/Lexus hybrid, start your complaint. There is a safety problem with these cars. It is the best way to save us all money and maybe a life.

    P.S. If your gas pedal sticks, PUT IT IN NEUTRAL!
  • I have a 2006 Highlander Hybrid that has done the same thing off and on since I bought it in June 2005. I was told it was a "Hybrid thing" and get used to it. Thanks Toyota...
  • 400e400e Posts: 41
    I made a formal complaint with the NHTSA today and suggest everyone does. There is more of a chance they listen now than ever. I am taking back to another deal again on Tuesday after hearing about the prius problem.

    You are absolutely right, and beat me to the punch. I just filed my complaint on the NHTSA web site myself. If everyone with this problem files a complaint, maybe Toyota will include our HH's in the recall effort (as they should).
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Hi hsalwen,

    It definitely is NOT a loose connection. Your description is the best and clearest I have read since 2006 because you included the charging-meter behavior.

    Our '06 HH behaves exactly the same as you described *except*, the braking "slip" happens even when it is not hitting bumps. It happens when weather is cold. Once the car has been traveling for a few miles and everything "heats" up, the slippage never happens again.

    I hope Toyota simple would acknowledge there is this "gap" and just fix up for all of us. We have been dealing with it since the 206 HH model year! Enough is already enough!
  • Hi cdptrap

    I am relieved to learn that I am not the only one with this problem. One would think that I was if one talked to the Lexus dealer!

    I will start looking for changes in braking behavior as the car warms up. I bet I will see the same thing you are seeing. I will let you know..
  • ed34ed34 Posts: 1
    We have had our 08 HH for two years now, and I've experienced the change in braking power/feel that others have described, particularly when the regen kicks off suddenly over bumps.

    Fwiw, my take on this has always been that its not an electronics 'problem' per se, but a more simple fact that the logic can't always predict the exact amount of friction/stopping power that your brake pads will provide at any given moment -- so when the regen kicks off, if the pads are particularly wet/hot/cold or whatever, and say you were near the limits of the regen's stopping power -- the transition to pads may be more or less noticable due to the change in stopping power provided.
  • I am doing this research tonight because of the news about the Prius brakes. I can't really pinpoint like most of you seem to be able to what causes the "jump" but my car definitely lurches sometimes when I step on the brake. I know for certain that it happens when I brake at the end of a street leaving my neighborhood in the morning. It has happened a few times lately so it could be the cold that causes it. I will pay more attention to the circumstances surrounding this event, but I will also lodge a complaint in the hopes that NHSTA will pay attention to this car too.
  • A braking system should never release or stop braking for even a split second when you are applying the brake, period. Highlander Hybs do not come with a warning that you will have to learn a new style of braking or to expect your brakes to let go sometimes when you are braking. I am mad at myself for accepting this. I went to the dealer and the service mechanic took it for a spin around a neighborhood nearby and said he didn't feel anything wrong with the brakes. I again told him about the slippage I experience and he said something about it being the way High Hybs brake, the regen system etc. I stupidly accepted his answer. When I asked him if other people were complaining about this he said no. I find it hard to believe that of all the High Hybs they have sold at that dealership, not one other person has complained about a problem that has been talked about in this and other High Hyb forums. I really hope that Toyota puts High Hybs on recall for this brake gap problem and stop telling people top accept that the brakes will stop working every once in a while. And as far as applying more pressure to make up for this slippage goes, it can result in jerky less smooth stops and in a 40K plus car I did not expect to have to deal with that.
  • Hello to everybody here who owns a Highlander Hybrid and has experienced the brake slippage or gap at low speeds. I have noticed that this is a pretty common complaint on High Hyb forums, this one included. I just filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Association about this problem. I bought my car this summer and have noticed that the problem has gotten worse. Maybe it is the cold weather as some people have said. I asked how many other people have complained so far about this problem and she told me seven. Now that may have been for my particular model High Hyb Ltd. 09. I have read posts on this from people with other models from other years. The woman from NHTSA told met that they haven't received enough complaints to look into this problem yet. If you are experiencing this problem and don't feel that you should have to learn a "New" way of breaking I recommend filing a complaint. My dealer did nothing. They took it for spin and said "Everything seems okay, that's the way Hybrids brake."

    Go to:

    Or call: (888) 327-4236 Expect to be on hold for a few minutes. I put my phone on speaker and went about my business until they picked up.

    Highlander Hybrid Drivers should not have to put up with brakes that slip,ever.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Sorry, but we have had a 1st gen Prius for many years and miles. While I am not the primary driver I had a long discussion yesterday with the person that is. He basically agreed that while the "lurch" is noticeable and he typically reacts by applying more pressure to the brake pedal it has not represented a problem otherwise.

    Personally I am currently a champion of using ONLY the rear brakes initially, for light to moderate braking, and then only transitioning to the inclusion of front braking if a preset brake fluid pressure threshold is reached or ABS detects impending lockup.

    My '01 F/awd RX300 gives me that same "lurch" feeling as I slowly brake to a stop below 10MPH and the transaxle upshifts in order to alleviate the potential danger of loss of directional control arising from engine compression braking should the roadbed be slippery.

    Noticed it back at the beginning but it faded into the background.

    And yes, there would most definitely be a transitional feel, in this case MORE braking coming online, but to the overall benefit of additional safety. Also make more use of those rear brake pads.
  • Brakes have to do their job always in any situation. Deer darting out in front of cars are a reality in many parts of the US. What about a child chasing a ball into the street? This slippage happens to me in all kinds of conditions, bumpy, smooth, all kinds of weather, though more often when cold. I can't understand Quality Control allowing a potentially hazardous braking condition like this to pass inspection. Okay, so maybe they can't inspect something like this easily because it is dependent on certain conditions. But I have read reports going back to 2006 of this phenomenon and I am sure that Toyota has heard about them too. So now the Prius have been recalled, for what sounds like this very problem and we Highlander Hybrid drivers are supposed to "adapt" our braking techniques? Where is our recall?

    I have reported this to the NHTSA and unfortunately, even though many people seem to be complaining about this problem for High Hybrids only seven have filed a complaint(I asked the woman who took my complaint). Now maybe she meant for my particular year and model the High HYb Ltd 09, but she still said they haven't gotten enough complaints for them to recommend a recall yet.

    If you want to file a complaint go to this site:
  • I have had ABS cars before and the ABS did not come very much for the most part unless the conditions needed it. This slippage thing with the High Hyb is a daily occurrence, especially now that it is colder.
  • I've posted before. I too am noticing it more often recently. I suspect the cold wheather connection has something to do with it. I live in Charlotte, NC where it is not generally very cold -- but the last few weeks have been. I don't think I have noticed this at high speeds, but I am paying closer attention now. I also filed a complaint today.
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