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10.0

really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
114,140 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #18

Apr 102013

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 95,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Driving in town traffic, car overheated for the first time ever having this car. Thought it was probably a thermostat so took to Firestone, they called and said I have a blown head gasket! at only 95000 miles. I have babied and had every single regular service done to this vehicle since it was the first new car I ever bought. I thought Toyota were long lasting vehicles. Apparently not. I'm going to have to come up with over $2000 dollars to have it repaired. I've taken the vehicle to the Toyota dealership in town that I bought it from and they are going to call me to let me know if they agree with Firestone's assessment. I understand that the head bolts are also stripped in this year model. I'm very upset that I couldn't pay what I paid for this SUV (expensive) and have it even make it to 100,000 miles. My american made car went to 130,000 and that's supposed to be the opposite. Toyota needs to pay for my repairs to this vehicle!! I am the only owner and I'm not buying Toyota again...I'm very sad.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #17

Dec 152012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving approximately 50 mph, the vehicle temperature increased. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnosis. The mechanic stated that the engine block bolts had stripped. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 140,000.

- Pikeville, KY, USA

problem #16

Mar 152013

Highlander

  • 135,000 miles
Original owner of a 2003 Toyota Highlander 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, serviced by Toyota dealer and local repair shop. My wife was driving the care when the engine temp shot up. Pulled over and took car to shop for diagnosis. --- my repair shop serviceman told me the radiator was almost empty, and it likely had a blown head gasket - a $2500 repair by my local repair shop. But when he went to take off the head, the bolt cylinders came out too, almost all were loose and apparently caused the leakage over time. He didn't have the tooling to fix the bolt sleeve issue, and I'd need a water pump, too. There are numerous reports online of this happening with this engine. Toyota should recall this to restore consumer confidence.

- Burlington, NJ, USA

problem #15

Feb 242013

Highlander

  • 91,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Original owner of a 2003 Toyota Highlander 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, serviced by Toyota dealer and local repair shop. 4 months ago it was making a fluttering noise and I had it serviced, it needed an oil pan gasket, got a full oil change, too. But apparently it also had a bad water pump, and had developed a coolant leak, and was burning oil. -- we never noticed any white smoke coming out the back, and no coolant temperature variance, always in the middle after warming up. We never got a low oil light warning, no check engine light while driving. --- the SUV shut down on it's own just coming off a highway exit ramp. I started it up again to pull over a block away and then shut it off. It steamed up, overheated. The tow service guy couldn't restart it. --- my repair shop serviceman told me the radiator was almost empty, and it likely had a blown head gasket - a $2500 repair by my local repair shop. But when he went to take off the head, the bolt cylinders came out too, almost all were loose and apparently caused the leakage over time. He didn't have the tooling to fix the bolt sleeve issue, and I'd need a water pump, too. So for less than the cost of all the repairs, known and possible future problems, like rust or other worn internal parts, he recommended a rebuilt engine, with higher quality steel bolt sleeves, (the way the original engine should have been made). He investigated and alerted me to the complaints online, and reminded me to keep the repair receipts. --- I am devastated, and had to borrow money from retirement to pay for this, since the kelly blue book value was still a few thousand higher than the repair cost. I bought this car new and serviced it with the anticipation of driving it for at least another 50K miles. It never had a single overheat problem, ran like a top, driving me back and forth to work 45 min away.

- Alameda, CA, USA

problem #14

Oct 172012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that the vehicle overheated. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for inspection and they stated that the engine needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified but provided no assistance. The failure mileage was 140,000. Updated 4/24/13 the consumer stated a mechanic advised that 3 bolts were stripped out of the block. It couldn't be rebuilt. The mechanic also advised this was due to a manufacturer problem. Replacing the motor is not a guarantee the failure wouldn't recur. Updated 05/21/2013

- Pikeville, KY, USA

problem #13

Dec 202012

Highlander

  • 140,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving approximately 45 mph, the temperature gauge fluctuated then increased to max. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The mechanic stated that the engine had to be replaced because the bolts were stripped. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 140,000.

- Pikeville, KY, USA

problem #12

Jan 082013

Highlander

  • 108,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

2003 Toyota Highlander 2.4 L 4-cylinder engine, 108,000 miles, perfect service, until it developed coolant leak on the back side of the top of the engine, adjacent to an insulator pad at the back of the engine block. The back 3 head bolts are completely stripped, allowing coolant to leak onto the engine.

- Lake Zurich, IL, USA

problem #11

Dec 132012

Highlander

  • 145,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving 50 mph, the vehicle began to overheat. The temperature gauge increased however, the contact did not see any smoke or steam coming from under the hood. The contact allowed the vehicle to cool before resuming operation. The vehicle was towed to a mechanic for inspection where they advised that the engine bolts were stripped. The contact was advised that the engine needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified and stated that they could not provided any assistance. The failure mileage was 145,000.

- Pikeville, KY, USA

problem #10

Jun 142012

Highlander

  • 106,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that there was coolant was leaking from the fire wall. The contact attempted to contact the dealer to schedule a diagnostic test but the contact could not get a response. The contact then called the manufacturer regarding the failure and the manufacturer advised that the vehicle was no longer under warranty. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 106,000.

- Detroit , MI, USA

problem #9

Sep 272012

Highlander

  • 160,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated while driving 25 mph, the vehicle began to overheat and coolant abnormally leaked from the engine. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnosis and the contact was informed that the engine would need replacing due to the head gasket not being able to be removed. The vehicle had not been repaired. The failure and current mileages were 160,000.

- Lithonia, GA, USA

problem #8

Sep 122012

Highlander

  • 105,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that she noticed red fluid leaking from the bottom of the vehicle. The vehicle was able to be driven to a private mechanic where it was confirmed that the head bolt on the engine failed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer had not been contacted. The failure and current mileages were 105,000. The VIN was not available.

- Byram, MS, USA

problem #7

Jul 152012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 89,000 miles
I was taking a short drive on the freeway and first my A/C started blowing hot air and then the engine overheated. My toddler was in the car and I had to get over to the side of the road quickly and was stranded. It was dangerous and scary. The mechanic said the head gasket blew and that I have to get a new engine because there is a defect in the materials in 2003 Toyota that means the screws won't stay in the block. My car was carefully maintained, serviced and oil changes every 3,000 miles. This was a Toyota!, and I was just getting back on my feet with new job after losing my job, and now I can't drive to my different job sites -- and buses can't cover what I need. I bought this car new when I was doing better financially and thought that as long as I kept it maintained, I'd have 6 years or more left of a running vehicle. I am just shocked that Toyota won't take responsibility for this defect, nor will the service manager where I bought the car new even offer me a discount on the replacement engine or labor. He says there must be a recall ordered first. I'm a single mom hoping that Toyota is made to take responsibility for their error, and that I'm not left without a car until I can save to buy a cheap used one.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #6

Jul 222012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 115,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact was traveling between 65 and 70 mph when the air conditioner stopped emitting cool air and started emitting hot air. The vehicle was taken to a local repair shop. The repair shop stated that the engine needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not contacted. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 115,000. Updated 08/16/12 the consumer would like to have the complaint deleted. Updated 08/21/12

- Granbury, TX, USA

problem #5

Jul 062012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 107,000 miles
While driving on the highway, the temperature gauge went above the half way mark and within 15 minutes of stopping and starting it approached the red but never actually went into the red zone. No dashboard lights ever went on to alert me to an engine problem. When stopped, it went above the half way mark and when driving it went down to the halfway mark. I got home ( 20 minutes later), I parked the car and drove it the next day to the Toyota dealer ( 8 minutes away from my house). It did not go above the halfway mark at this time.fyi, all maintenance and check ups have always been on time and done at this dealer. The dealer called later that day and informed me that the head gasket was bad and in order to see what else may be damaged, it would cost $550. Just to investigate into to head cylinder and the engine. The $550.would be applied to any repairs. The next business day, the dealer called to tell me that the bolts of the head cylinder were stripped and the threads were in the block. I would need a new short block at the cost of $6,375 plus tax. All due to the overheating incident, which had never happened before.

- Glenside, PA, USA

problem #4

Jul 052012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 87,000 miles
The incident occurred on a family road trip from Chicago, il to hamilton, on, Canada. After driving about 7 hours into the 8.5 hour trip, I noticed the check engine light appear and the temperature gauge rise to the very top. I immediately pulled over and assumed that there was not enough coolant to keep the engine cool, as it was a hot day. After several minutes, I restarted the car and noticed the temperature gauge had returned to its normal position. I re-entered the highway and was only able to drive for about 10 minutes before I noticed the temperature gauge begin to rise once again. I exited the highway and found a Canadian tire store in london, on, Canada where a mechanic looked at the vehicle and concluded that there was some sort of leak in the engine. I was told that it could be one of two very uncommon problems that would both cost a great amount of money to fix and would most likely extend my family's stay in Canada. We were told that we could stay in london and have a mechanic begin working on the vehicle the next day or continue on to hamilton by stopping every few miles to refill the coolant, as we were only about an hour away. We decided to continue on to hamilton and stopped around 5 times to refill the coolant level. Upon reaching hamilton, on, Canada we found a local mechanic who took a closer look at the vehicle and its engine. We took the vehicle to him on Friday, July 6, 2012 and he told us that it looked like an intake manifold gasket leak. On Saturday, July 7, 2012 the mechanic informed us that the leak was in fact coming from one of the 4 cylinder heads as the bolts on the engine were stripped. Our only option was to completely replace the engine. The mechanic was able to find a matching engine nearby and completed the replacement by Tuesday, July 10, 2012. We returned home to Chicago the very same day without any problems along the way.

- Itasca, IL, USA

problem #3

Apr 302012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 160,150 miles
I saw a small pool of a red-brown liquid on the garage floor, under the engine. I drove it to my mechanic and he thought it was a head gasket problem. The mechanic called the next day to say the head bolts in the engine block were stripped and the car was undriveable. This required an engine replacement. My mechanic stated that this never should have happened. The mechanic had checked online and called his engine friends and it appears to be a defect with this year and model. www.carcomplaint.com details this problem which is exactly what happened to my car. My 2003 Toyota Highlander has been very reliable up to this point. When I reported it to Toyota, they stated that they will not offer any financial assistance because the car is out of warranty, and they will let me know if there are any recalls. I understand the car is older and is out of warranty and am letting you know because this appears to be a "defect", rather than normal wear and tear on a vehicle. The total bill for the engine replacement, with getting a few other parts replaced was $6,272.86.

- Laguna Niguel, CA, USA

problem #2

Jun 012012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 90,255 miles
2003 Highlander, 2.4 engine started leaking antifreeze on driveway. Pressure tested ok. Head gasket leaking due to stripped head bolts. Mechanic stated this is a common problem with the 2.4 engine. Usually between 80,000 & 120,000 miles. Repair estimated at $2000.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #1

May 072012

Highlander

  • 115,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. While traveling 55 mph, the contact noticed that the vehicle had began to overheat. After examining the vehicle, the contact noticed that the radiator was leaking from the bottom of the lower block. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the contact was informed that the engine needed to be replaced. The vehicle has not been repaired. The current and failure mileages were 115,000.

- Orlando, FL, USA

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