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).