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hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
115,050 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.

2003 Toyota Highlander cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2003 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #6

Oct 242010

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 175,000 miles


The coolant kept leaking on my Highlander 2003 4 cylinder for last few months. The temperature gauge one day showed heating of engine. Took it to Toyota, they said it is blown head gasket. Demanded $3500.

- Victorville , CA, USA

problem #5

Aug 012010

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 84,560 miles
2003 4 cylinder Toyota Highlander. Coolant leak and subsequent need for a new replacement engine due to the defect of 3 rear engine short block screws/threads. Had less than 85K miles on vehicle, when found a coolant leak underneath engine block of vehicle in garage after having no issues prior with engine, radiator or any associated accessories to the coolant system/engine system of vehicle. Took to a Toyota dealer prior to any overheating or vehicle operation failures or radiator failure. Toyota dealer pulled engine manifold and cover off to investigate and found that when they pulled the three screws that connect the engine cover that cover the heads/cylinders, the threads associated with the screws came with them. The only fix per dealership determined to be a brand new short engine block and accessory replacement for $6,470. Date on this is August/2010. Have all past service history oil changes/transmission changes, radiator changes, water pump service, etc from 0 miles to current. Told that the screws were never sprayed and sealed correctly, thus corroded into the threads and caused failure with both items. Very unhappy that an engine is going to be paid for and replaced by consumer on an obvious manufacturer error. More and more of these specific issues will arise with time on these 4 cylinder early 2000 Toyota Highlanders. They will need to relieve the consumer of a full payment of a new engine or burden themselves on losing even more loyal Toyota consumers. ----Toyota only consumer since 1994.....till now!!!!

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #4

Mar 302010


  • 163,323 miles
My 2003 Highlander heat gage indicated the engine was starting to get hot. I pull into service station to check coolant level and noticed coolant leaking on the ground. I waited for about 15 minutes to assure myself it was safe to take off the radiator cap. I could not see any coolant so, I purchased a gallon of pre-mixed coolant and poured in about 1/2 to 3/4 gallon to bring it up to full. I made the trip home without the car getting hot, but noticed the leak was still there. I had the vehicle looked at by a local Toyota dealer and was told the car needed major repairs. There is a technical support bullitin on the engine in question. A 2.4 litre (4 cylinder) engine common on camarys and Highlanders. I feel Toyota should have to repair this vehicle in light of the fact Toyota has known of the design defect on other models (camary and Highlanders). When I took the car in for repairs the service scheduler knew exactly what problem I was describing to him about my car. This indicated to me, Toyota has informed their dealers of the problem or, they wouldn't have sent a service bullitin on the very fix to my cars problem. The service bullitin described (3) head bolts around the intake manifold would stretch and fail to seal the head thus, leak coolant. The bullitin even describes installing heli-coils in the (3) affected bolts to solve the problem. This appears to be another failure of Toyota taking responsibility for known defects in their automobiles. I bought and paid for this vehicle in good faith on the reliability record of the Toyota company's past record. I now feel I have been treated unfairly by this company. I would understand if this was an isolated occurance, but it is not and Toyota knows this full well. Service bullitins don't get sent to all dealers for a single occurance. Please help !

- Georgetown, OH, USA

problem #3

Feb 012010


  • 135,000 miles


Vehicle suddenly leaks engine coolant to the outside of vehicle without any warning of overheating. Leak is coming from a defective head bolt and cannot be fixed. Entire engine block needs replacement. A very common issue among 4 cylinder 2001-2006 Toyota engines in the Camry, Highlander and rav 4 leaking harmful coolant to the outside of vehicles that is deadly to humans and animals if consumed. Not to mention overheating of engine that can result in loss of engine power and vacuum that supplies power to steering and brakes.

- Corona, CA, USA

problem #2

Nov 012007

Highlander 4WD 4-cyl

  • 68,000 miles
While driving on the highway, my engine temp in my 4 cyl, 4WD 2003 Highlander suddenly spiked high. I had to pull of the road. Towed to dealer. Dealer said bolts on short block of engine were stripped and allowed coolant to leak out and engine overheated. I was at 68,000 miles, so over the warranty period. I took it to my local dealer and they said I had a bad water pump...I paid to have that fixed, but the car still overheated. I took it back to the dealer and they then said it was the engine itself..the short block, something about the screws were stripped, that I had gotten a bad engine with stripped screws. Dealers service manager told me this was a known issue on some 4cyl 2003 Highlander but couldn't help me as it was out of warranty!!! the service manager called me back later and said that Toyota would help out...I ended up paying a total of almost $1000 for the replacement short block, with Toyota paying the rest of the cost for the short block replacement. This was on top of the cost I paid just a few days prior for a water pump that turned out to not be the issue. Very frustrating...I have all my receipts for maintenance and for these repairs. I am filling out this complaint over a year after the incident, because I have seen the same thing in the complaints and wanted to add mine. I do have all the documentation for my repairs for this and am more than willing to answer any questions, thank you.

- Puyallup, WA, USA

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problem #1

Apr 222009


  • 64,417 miles
The SUV was out of coolant & water and my husband take the car to the dealer to check this problem and for regular maintenance (the car only has received service at the dealer, except for tires). The diagnostic was that the shock block has it threads separated from the screws (or bolts). The engine has to be removed in order to change the shock block. The repair has cost $4701.31, because it was also recommended to change the oil pump. Previous to this repair, the SUV was taken to the dealer because there was a recall to reprogram its computer because the check engine light turned on (this happened twice). We have a full record in the dealer of all maintenance checks and repairs the SUV had.

- Cayey, PR, USA

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