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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
47,614 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2002 Toyota Highlander engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #10

Jun 022014


  • 150,000 miles


The contacts owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving at various speeds, the vehicle would leak antifreeze and the temperature gauge warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who discovered that the motor needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000.

- Newburgh, IN, USA

problem #9

Nov 272011

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
A couple of months ago white smoke emitted from the exhaust pipe. Last week, on a trip within 400 miles of my home, the engine and vsc light came on intermittently. I immediately called Toyota and was told that the car could stop suddenly and leave us stranded so I made an appt for Monday morning. The car rode very rough for the last two hours and it seemed as if it is ready to stall anytime. Toyota charged me $ $321 for a compression and diagnostics test. Toyota found that I had low compression. Toyota also offered to take apart my engine for $2667 to see if the rings were damaged. I refused the work and picked up my car. We called an engine repair business. The owner knew the make, model and year of my car and asked if we had just hit the 100,000 mile marker. We had. He told us of the oil sludge problem, settlement and faulty aluminum engines. I have researched similar characteristics with the Highlander and see that it is a common problem for the 2002 Highlander. The sludge situation would only be covered if it was within 8 years of the purchase date. What about the many consumers who still have this problem and it is past the eight years? I bought this Highlander in 2005, had it serviced regularly and we also changed the oil ourselves. In 2008 I brought the car into the Toyota dealership for a tune up and an oil change prior to a long trip. On the way home, the engine light came on and we pulled over to a local gas station and there was literally no oil in my engine. Toyota did the oil change but did not put 5 quarts of oil into my car for this long trip. When I returned I did confront the dealership but they denied any wrongdoing. We have, since that time period had to add oil continuously. It turns out that I will need to replace my engine for $4500.

- Annandale, VA, USA

problem #8

Nov 222011

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 109,200 miles
Vehicle has Toyota 2az-fe (2.4 L) 4 cylinder engine. Oil & coolant leaking from back of engine. Head bolts on main gasket failed. In searching internet, countless other owners have unfortunately experienced the same failure which is due to an inherent design problem by Toyota. Bolts between gasket and main engine block fail and cannot be repaired or replaced. Have to buy and install a new engine. Called Toyota usa headquarters in torrance, ca. And spoke to them, they said they will do nothing for me. Spoke to dylan and the case number is 1111291430. I believe that a recall should be issued and that Toyota should assume financial responsibility for these failures, which are obviously due to a design and manufacturing problem of Toyota.

- Hawthorne, NY, USA

problem #7

May 172002


  • 1,000 miles


May 17, 2002, I was in a car accident with my 3 month old 2002 Toyota Highlander. I was traveling in the right hand lane on highway 80 West bound between davis, ca and san francisco ca at 8:30 am. According to the police report from eye witnesses, my vehicle left the roadway without any brake lights, went through a cyclone fence, continued.10 miles and down into a ravine. Brake lights never came on and the car never slowed. I was life flighted to the john muir medical center trauma unit. I arrested in the helicopter. I suffered a significant traumatic brain injury, multiple fractures, including a shattered jaw and a paralyzed vocal chord. No other vehicle was involved in the incident.

- Davis, CA, USA

problem #6

Jan 012003


  • 0 miles
I bought a new Toyota Highlander in 2002. I'm not sure about the exact year, but I'm guessing in 2004-5, I also experienced the sudden racing accelerator problem around 4 times. Each time I was able to pull over and put the car in neutral while the engine raced. I turned the engine off, and it worked properly after restarting. It hasn't happened in the last maybe 5 years. I reported this to the Toyota dealer, and they told me it was a floor mat problem. I didn't believe it, because I experienced this, and the floor mat had nothing to do with it. As I said, it hasn't happened since, so I didn't follow up on it. There was no accident, and no one hurt, but I see that Toyota has not included the 2002 Highlander as a problem car, but I know that it is. I don't want anyone being hurt by this year and model car either. I still drive this car. Thanks for anything you can do to fix the problem.

- At. Thomas, VI, USA

problem #5

Aug 102009


  • 56,000 miles
I noticed coolant leaking from underneath the plastic into intake manifold in the rear of the engine. I brought it in for repair and the mechanic said he noticed a large piece of foam rubber between the intake manifold and the engine block and head.the leak was behind the foam piece. The only option to discover the source of this leak was to remove the plastic intake manifold, which the mechanic did. After this was removed, it became obvious that coolant had been leaking a minor amount for quite some time due to build up between the cylinder head and block. The only option left is to remove the head, which requires an extensive disassembly (R and R cylinder head). After loosening the bolts in sequence, he noticed three of the head bolts in the back of the engine were loose. After he removed the head sure enough, one bolt came out with aluminum in the thread thus indicating a stripped bolt. And the other three were loose. He said the only option was to replace the engine block, which will cost about $6000 including shipping/labor. I can not afford this and so had the Highlander towed back to my home.

- Tamuning, GU, USA

problem #4

Jul 192007

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


Have regularly maintained my vehicle with all required and suggested Toyota maintenance schedules, through the dealership, and with only 68,000 miles, I now have learned I have an oil leak between the motor & transmission.

- Fayetteville, NC, USA

problem #3

May 152006


  • miles
2002 Toyota Highlander stall-reduce speed to 1000/2000 RPM and shut off engine during cold/hot weather.

- Garden Grove, CA, USA

problem #2

Aug 122004


  • 41,000 miles
While driving oil pressure warning light illuminated. This caused the vehicle to overheat.

- Amory, MS, USA

problem #1

Jun 152003


  • Automatic transmission
  • 18,939 miles
The engine oil light was coming on when braking. I had recently had the oil changed. The engine was also emitting a white smoke when starting the car. Oil was showing about 1/2 quart low on initial inspection. It took two trips to the dealer for them to finally discover internal oil gelling. No information was given by the dealer about previous problems with this vehicle and engine gelling.

- Weston, FL, USA

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