Toyota Motor Corporation Highlander

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2004 Highlander Engine Replacement
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I purchased a 2004 Toyota Highlander with 12 miles on it on 3/20/2004. I loved the vehicle up and until 9/30/2009. I have had the vehicle serviced regularly (with all records kept), brakes replaced, tires replaced, etc. as needed. No major repairs. It has worked beautifully until 9/30/2009. I had an extended warranty on the engine until 72,000 miles.
We have owned Toyotas in the past and loved them as well. One Toyota had up to 300,000 miles. Since we had not had any problems up to 72,000 miles, I wrongly assumed we were in the clear.

On 9/30/2009, I saw some fluid under the vehicle in the morning and drove it carefully watching that it did not overheat. When the gauge indicated it was getting hot, I stopped and waited for it to cool down. I did that three times before I got it to my service station. They know the vehicle and have done all of the service work on it. They called and said they recommended it be towed to the nearest Toyota dealership because they didn't want it to overheat either. I did just that. I arranged for the tow. Once at the nearest Toyota dealership their service department was very helpful. However after they inspected the vehicle to see what the problem was, it was determined that it needed a new engine. I asked specifically if it had been anything I had done to cause the problem. They said no, I couldn't have avoided this problem. They said they had heard of this happening but had never experienced it at their dealership or service department. The problem was that there was an aluminum head attached to an aluminum block with three 18" (or so) steel bolts. The bolts were stripped and it couldn't be put back together. The leak was a coolant leak and was leaking from around the three bolts.

I asked an independent mechanic about the problem and he suggested that Toyota could check the number that is stamped on the engine to see when and where the engine had been manufactured and it sounded like there had been a manufacturing problem in that the bolts weren't treated with a chemical that would have prevented the chemical reaction of the two different metals (steel and aluminum).

The service department actually pleaded our case and even suggested Toyota provide the parts and we pay the labor. I agree that would have been fair. However the Toyota Rep. for the area said no. It was out of warranty and had too many miles. The mileage was 100,215. Remember one day it was great and the next it needed a new engine!!!

I emailed other Toyota representatives at the Corporate level and to no avail. I had been told Toyota had an "After Warranty Assistance program". If this situation doesn't fit the After Warranty assistance, I can't imagine what does.

Repeatedly, Toyota said in effect "Tough Luck".

One of their new TV commercials about two young people in a long distance relationship and how he travels every weekend to see her and after 200,000 miles they are married. The message is how dependable and reliable a Toyota is. I would have wholeheartedly agreed up and until 9/30/2009. I bought a Toyota expecting quality, dependability and reliability and I also expected at minimum of 200,000 miles from the vehicle. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought this would happen, let alone Toyota just shrugging their shoulders and saying "Sorry".

I tell everyone I know and especially those I have influenced to purchase Toyota, to definitely beware. If I could afford it, someone in Toyota would have a 3000 lb. paper weight sitting on their desk, but I can't afford it and have ordered a new engine.

I will never purchase another Toyota as long as I live. It really is too bad, It wouldn't have cost Toyota that much to retain a very happy and content customer up to this point.

Carol from Charleston

P.S. I did file a formal complaint with the Attorney General's Office. If I had to guess I imagine the complaint will fall on deaf ears at Toyota (they are just way too big to care about the little guy and what do they care about losing one customer).
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JR in Orlando on 10/27/2009:
You have in effect a "blown head gasket." I had a car that did that and allowed water into the pistons. It looked like a fogger machine so much white smoke/steam (not blue which indicates oil) came out the tailpipe.

Every time a head bolt is stripped they do not discard the engine. Look into a product called "helicoil." The bolt hole is drilled out oversize and a helicoil is put in. The head bolt then threads into the helicoil like new. I don't know if they work in aluminum, but I would check with an automotive machine shop about that. "helicoil" can be googled.

Also, if the rest of your engine is good, why not think about a "short block" which is just the bottom part of the engine. Your head, injectors, alternator, exhaust pipes, etc, are removed from the old block, the rebuilt short block is put in and your old head etc are installed. (In contrast a long block or full engine includes the engine top also). If you do this, make sure you know exactly what parts you are buying. Short blocks for highlanders can be googled also.
Eric Mendelsohn on 08/08/2011:
I have a 2004 Hilander and experienced the same problem with 2 of the head bolts (140K miles). I'd be interested in how many others have the problem.
amanda wilhelm on 12/31/2011:
I am so glad I am not alone. My story is identical to yours. I bought my toyota highlander new with 52 miles on it. Did all the required maitainance. Never had any problems. In November of 2010 I was driving home from work and my engine got hot. I had it towed to the dealership where the told me I had a blown head gasket. I posiblly had a blown moter. they wanted 2700 to fix it. I took it to a local mechanic for 1500 to fix head. After a day of tearing the head off and examining moter, it was shot.He told me he pulled my head bolts off by hand. They were competly stripped. I there for had to purchace a rebuilt moter for 3300 dollars. I am outraiged that a company that stakes its reputation on reliability and how long they last will not admit they have a defect in there moter. I will never buy another toyota again.
Hot In Baton Rouge on 09/01/2013:
Ditto - bought new Highlander in 2004 - was always reliable until the head gasket issue - approx. 136,000 miles. VERY Disappointed in Toyota. Our first has almost 200K when we sold to upgrade. Now - either $1,800 repair or new motor?? My LAST TOYOTA!
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$11,000 for a Single Part
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
ADAMSTOWN, MARYLAND -- My car stopped working on the way to work. The gasoline engine was still running, but the car would not move. I knew it was the electrical drive system, but had no way to troubleshoot, so I called the tow truck and had it towed to the nearest dealer (not my home dealer). Two hours later: the inverter/converter of the hybrid system had failed. The car was less than 4 years old. The kicker was the price of the repair bill of $11,000! The part itself was $10,600, and since I had 110,000 miles on it, warranty was out of the question. I called Toyota customer care, figuring that may be buying $75,000 worth of new Toyota hybrids in the past five years would count for something. I did call my local dealer and found they listed the part for $8200. In the end, Toyota got the dealer my car was at to sell the part for $8200, take 50% off the labor (half of $600) and Toyota would pay for half the part. Final total $5022 to repair the vehicle.

This was not the end of the story. Because Toyota "paid" for half the part, they considered a warranty coverage, and would not give me the old part as I had requested. I know a bit about electrical systems and how an inverter works. There isn't $500 worth of parts in the thing, but I wanted to see the inside of this thing to see what justified anyone thinking thy could charge over $10,000 for one. I'm not going to get the old part.

Bottom line is for five years I have praised the hybrid technology. I'm no environmentalist by any stretch, but I love cool technology. It is insane that any single part on a vehicle could cost $10,000, or even $5000 to repair. For me, hybrid technology is over priced and no where close to worth the initial costs, or the savings in gas. Which is why I now drive a 2011 Chrysler 300c. V-8's and rear-wheel drive are the best!
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clutzycook on 02/02/2012:
Yeah, from what I've been told by other hybrid drivers, they're expensive to buy, expensive to maintain and will darn near bankrupt you if you need to repair them.
NickL11354 on 02/02/2012:
The car had 110,000 miles on it (in 4 years!!). That is a lot of wear & tear. Even with good maintenance, many of these cars are still only good until around 100,000 miles.
trmn8r on 02/02/2012:
I'd say Toyota stepped up to the plate for you, under the circumstances, between setting that dealer straight, who appears to have attempted to rip you off by jacking the list price $2400, and giving you a break on the price of the part and labor. As an engineer, I'd love to examine the old part also - but I think they are right to keep the part in this case.

Yeah, I heard hybrid technology was expensive to repair. I guess they weren't kidding.
ChuhBaca on 02/03/2012:
I'd have to agree that this should really be a compliment for Toyota. They did step up even though the car was out of warranty.

I'm voting this helpful because it shows how expensive a hybrid can really be. You can get the same mileage from a small diesel, cheaper maintenance, and still get good performance.
traceylynn on 02/04/2012:
I really want to know what part on the car cost 11 grand! Was it the battery?
GenuineNerd on 02/04/2012:
I know that the battery pack on the Prius costs about $3000. A local Toyota dealer once offered for sale a 2007 Prius, with 147,000 miles on it, for $8000. Only catch-it needed a new battery. If the Toyota dealer installed a new battery, the car would come to $11,000-$12,000...about the normal asking price for an '07 Prius. I still think that hybrids are a waste of money and are more glitchy and complex than regular vehicles. A Toyota Corolla would cost about $6000 less than a Prius. That $6000 could buy a lot of gasoline. And the Corolla has less to go wrong than the Prius. Same with any non-hybrid vs. hybrid comparison. Hybrids need to be perfected, as well as come down in price, before I would buy one.
FoDaddy19 on 02/06/2012:
"It is insane that any single part on a vehicle could cost $10,000, or even $5000 to repair."

It's not just the car of the part. It's cost of the labor to design the part and engineer it. Look at the iphone, or any cell phone for that matter, the cost of the parts and labor to produce the phone is only like $50-$70 for any given phone, but they sell for 7 or 8 times that. Because the designers and engineers who designed the product don't work for free
Ticked Off on 08/20/2013:
Same part died on my Highlander Hybrid. Cost is $9800, of which Toyota agreed to pay half.

The reason they did is because they know they put a lemon out there so this is their way to appease annoyed customers.

The 06/07 models have recalls on this part. I only found this out after I started doing research once my car died two weeks ago. In my opinion, it will be only a matter of time before 08s will have the recall too, but people have to report these things to the head office (Toyota USA and Toyota Canada) and start putting pressure on them to issue a recall.

In case the model is recalled, you can get reimbursed for the repair cost.
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Poor Quality
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EATONTOWN, NEW JERSEY -- I bought my 2004 Toyota brand new with the expectation that it would be reliable. Wrong, wrong wrong. The vehicle has been back to the dealership for a front axle seal leak in March 2006, and now, 4 months later sits there because of as problem with the rear differential. They may have my car for a week Both of these are major repairs. If they were not covered by warranty these would have hit me pretty hard. I estimate that each would have been a minimum of $1,000. I am not waiting for this piece of junk to come off warranty before I trade it in or sell it. Buyer beware if you are looking for a used Highlander. Reputation appears a myth to me.
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Sparticus on 07/27/2006:
It is not often we see a Toyota complaint regarding quality. I hope this is just a fluke and your car will run smooth from now on. I've had my 4Runner for about 7 years now and I've never had any problems with it. Knock on wood!
Anonymous on 07/27/2006:
Sparticus, I was thinking the exact same thing. I've seen complaints about Toyota dealerships or peripheral issues this is the first complaint I've read about the quality of the Toyota vehicle itself.
Anonymous on 07/27/2006:
That being said it doesn't matter if 99% are flawless if you are the 1% and if anything that makes it worse. On the plus side, 'HateMyToyota', you should get excellent resale value. :-}
Anonymous on 07/27/2006:
I *love* my Highlander!
Anonymous on 07/28/2006:
We inherited a 2k corolla with 24k miles on it. Kind of small, but so good on gas, we use it to commute back and forth to work.
Anonymous on 07/28/2006:
With the higher demand and output Toyota is achieving, we have noticed some "slipping" of their notable quality. Of course Toyota's "slipping quality" is still leaps and bounds above some other manufacturers "falling down" quality.
Anonymous on 07/28/2006:
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