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1.6

hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
106,646 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 1 of 2)

problem #27

Apr 252012

Highlander

  • 100,000 miles

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

2003 Toyota Highlander (4 cyl. Engine) developed a coolant leak. Vehicle was taken to dealership who advised the water pump was leaking. Water pump was replaced at a cost of $600. Vehicle was driven home and immediately found to still have a coolant leak. Dealership was contacted and owner advised to bring the vehicle back. Dealership checked and advised that cylinder head bolts were stripped out and that engine would have to be replaced at a cost of $5400. The engine never lost enough coolant to overheat but the only repair option given by the service manager was to replace the entire engine rather than replacing the head gasket and repairing the stripped out threads to head bolts. Service manager slipped up by saying this is a defect in the engine but when questioned further about the problem he stated he only sees it "once in a blue moon". this seems to be a contradiction to all the other similar complaints for this 4 cylinder engine. Toyota issued a service bulletin March 2, 2011 for the Highlander, rav4, Camry, and Solara which states: There may be damaged cylinder head bolts. The vehicle was taken to a private mechanic who stated he has seen this problem before and knows how to fix it (and will give a 2 year 24000 mile warranty on the repair). Why does a vehicle defect have to kill someone before it prompts a recall. This is obviously a vehicle defect and is still hazardous to consumers if they are sick, elderly, or left stranded on the side of the road. How many people are killed every year when they are stranded on the side of the road and struck by another motorist. (too many!) come on Toyota, does it take a lawsuit over someone's death for you to correct the problem?

- Montgomery, TX, USA

problem #26

Apr 142012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 114,000 miles
There are two speeds associated with this. It was on the freeway driving back home when the check engine light came on at about 65 mph. Later, after exiting the freeway and driving for about 10 minutes, the radiator hose blew off from the pressure, shooting coolant and contents of the radiator back onto the engine (4 cylinder). I was going 40 mph at the time. The thermostat must not have been working because I wasn't reading any overheating going on, though there obviously was. After getting it diagnosed, apparently the bolts were stripped, the head gasket blew, and the engine got too hot. I am now asked to pay almost $3,000 to rebuild the engine (rethread, etc.). this thing with the head gasket and the bolts failing at relatively low mileage (114,000 in my case) seems to be a recurrent problem with this particular make and model. I had been driving it and keeping it well maintained for about five years with relatively few problems until this happened.

- Anaheim, CA, USA

problem #25

Mar 142012

Highlander

  • 145,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that the temperature gauge indicated that the engine overheated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the failure was located at the head gasket. In addition, the dealer advised the contact that the engine bolts were stripped. The vehicle was repaired. The dealer replaced the head gasket and the bolts thread. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure and the current mileage was 145,000.

- Bettendorf , IA, USA

problem #24

Jan 082012

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 181,000 miles

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

Engine overheated while driving, and vehicle was parked overnight and coolant restored. When taken to local Toyota dealer for repair was informed that bolts holding engine block had failed due to threads inside block being stripped, and coolant was leaking from seal in engine block. Aside from hitting a deer once (minor vehicle damage in which the headlight needed to be replaced), this vehicle has not been in an accident. In reading information on web, this issue has been reported by other Toyota owners.

- Wimberley, TX, USA

problem #23

May 012010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
The engine on this vehicle required a complete rebuild, at a cost of over $5000 due to oil leaking into the engine and fouling the components. In the months leading up to the complete engine failure, the vehicle stalled repeatedly on both city roads and highways, creating a dangerous situation several times. Whenever the oil was changed, the problem became worse and the vehicle would use up to 4 quarts of oil per week for several weeks. I contacted Toyota's corporate office by letter and phone and was told that no defect existed. Toyota is currently recalling earlier models of this vehicle for the same problem. The vehicle was emitting white smoke from the tailpipe for several months before the engine failed. Eventually, it would only sustain a speed of 30 mph. The vehicle was checked by three mechanics who all found the same problem. This vehicle is used to Transport a handicapped person, and was also used to Transport children frequently. In order to save the money for the repairs, which I had to make because I am still making payments on the loan for this car, I had to purchase a very old and inexpensive car to get to work. The Toyota sat parked for 9 months before it could be fixed. Had I not been able to buy this second car, I would have lost my job. I could not put my daughter's wheelchair in the other car. She is able to walk only for short distances. This created a severe hardship and also contributed to her developing a foot wound and infection of the bone in her foot. This medical issue required 3 surgeries and 5 hospitalizations, plus over 6 months of iv antibiotic therapy. I narrowly avoided several accidents when the car stalled in traffic. If I was not such an experienced driver, it is highly likely that a serious accident would have occurred.

- Kernersville, NC, USA

problem #22

Nov 042011

Highlander

  • 189,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that the head bolt detached from the engine block while driving 65 mph. The vehicle began running hot and water was leaking from the back of the engine. The vehicle was taken to a mechanic who inspected the vehicle and advised that the head bolt was stripped from the engine block. The mechanic advised the contact to take the vehicle to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The vehicle was not yet taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 189,000.

- Panama City, FL, USA

problem #21

May 082011

Highlander

  • 111,400 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 while driving approximately 70 mph the vehicle started to overheat. She drove onto the emergency lane and waited for the vehicle to cool off. The vehicle was then inspected by a independent mechanic who advised her that the engine bolt was stripped and caused the coolant to leak onto the engine. The mechanic also stated that the engine needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were approximately 111,400.

- Galveston, TX, USA

problem #20

Feb 102011

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 204,000 miles
I have a 2003 Toyota Highlander 2.4L that had engine failure due to 3 headbolts on the intake side of the head become loose as other numerous folks have experienced. The engine blew the headgasket and lost compression/power and died. The seems to be a very well known issue by Toyota, repair shops, and salvage yards. Seems someone should hold Toyota responsible for repair cost - I.e new engine since this is an obvious manufacturing/engineering design flaw. Beware of Highlanders, Camry and ravs since they all have this 2.4L engine.

- Carriere, MS, USA

problem #19

Dec 202010

Highlander

  • 125,249 miles
Car temp gage went up past H and there was no heat in car. I stopped as soon as possible at a mall parking lot and called service. Had car towed to garage. Per owner of garage, the head gasket leaked due to bolts stripping in the engine. He then fixed the problem and then upon test drive the tensioner failed and chain jumped causing further repairs to not be cost effective. Through research he informed me that this is a well documented problem with the 2003 Highlander engines and that Toyota is not backing the problem. I called Toyota and since recall has not been issued they stated they cannot help me. I feel the Highlander should have lasted more than 8 years as I had kept up with required maintenance.

- Middleton, MA, USA

problem #18

Dec 202010

Highlander

  • 125,249 miles
Car temp gage went up past H and there was no heat in car. I stopped as soon as possible at a mall parking lot and called service. Had car towed to garage. Per owner of garage, the head gasket leaked due to bolts stripping in the engine. He then fixed the problem and then upon test drive the tensioner failed and chain jumped causing further repairs to not be cost effective. Through research he informed me that this is a well documented problem with the 2003 Highlander engines and that Toyota is not backing the problem. I called Toyota and since recall has not been issued they stated they cannot help me. I feel the Highlander should have lasted more than 8 years as I had kept up with required maintenance.

- Middleton, MA, USA

problem #17

Jan 012010

Highlander

  • 40,000 miles

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

The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. While driving approximately 55 mph the check engine, asc, and traction control lights began illuminating on the dashboard. The vehicle began to lose control and the wheels would spin uncontrollably while accelerating. The vehicle was taken to an independent repair shop where they were unable to diagnose the failure because the check engine light was no longer illuminated. The failure recurred and the vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was told that the oxygen sensors failed. The oxygen sensors were replaced. The failure continued to recur intermittently. After each failure the oxygen sensors were replaced again. The failure mileage was 40,000 and the current mileage was 55,000.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #16

Apr 042006

Highlander

  • miles
2003 Toyota Highlander 4.0 heater has gone out in this vehicle and only the A/C now works this happened right after the purchase of this vehicle and the cost to fix this is very high and should be dealt with per Toyota since it seems alot of others are also having the problem due to a faulty knob becoming loose and breaking a tiny wire.

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #15

Aug 172010

Highlander

  • 109,171 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. While driving approximately 65 mph with the air conditioner on she noticed hot air began to flow from the vents. She also noticed that the temperature gauge malfunctioned. The vehicle was driven onto the emergency lane and shut off while she added coolant to the engine. The vehicle was then taken to an authorized dealer where she was informed that there was an engine leak and some of the bolts were loose. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 109,171. The current mileage was 110,000.

- Atascadero , CA, USA

problem #14

Oct 042010

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
2003 Toyota Highlander 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, 108,000 miles, 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 were stripped, allowing coolant to also leak into the engine. The Toyota dealer says that the short block or entire engine must be replaced, with no other option. The head had never been off since original factory manufacture/assembly. Based on the frequency of identical engine failures, faulty assembly and/or design assures eventual failure of the engine.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #13

Jul 152010

Highlander

  • 123,073 miles
2003 Toyota Highlander has head bolts stripped from block, causing fluid to slowly leak from engine and overheat. First symptom is ac blows hot air. Most folks who experience this burn up the engine, but I was fortunate and was able to have it repaired at a cost of $2750 !!!!! this is a clear defect, head bolts do not simply get stripped from a block.

- Baton Rouge, LA, USA

problem #12

May 262010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 97,000 miles
Vsc (vehicle stability control, including ABS) & check engine lights have been turning on intermittently almost from the start of our ownership of this 2003 Toyota Highlander V6 AWD limited and after costly repairs at the dealer they are still on continuously. Last time (may-June 2010) dealer replaced front brake pads & rotors; rear axles and speed sensors and now wants to replace additional components that do not appear connected. First time car was serviced under warranty at dealer and that too did not last for long. Toyota car satisfaction center has not been helpfull. Case # [xxx]. Ford has issued a recall for similar issue recently: 10S13 for rear axle breakage in the snow belt! Toyota refuses to acknowledge issue and internet has many discussions on topic. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- West Bloomfield, MI, USA

problem #11

Jun 152010

Highlander 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that the vehicle was parked in his garage when he noticed coolant leaking from the engine. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer and the technician stated that the failure was contributed to a defective engine block. The contact notified the manufacturer who confirmed that the warranty had expired. The manufacturer was unable to provide assistance and informed the contact that there were no related complaints pertaining to the vehicle. The vehicle had not been repaired when the complaint was filed. The failure mileage was 118,000. Updated 01/24/11 updated 04/18/11

- Avon, IN, USA

problem #10

May 252010

Highlander

  • 135,599 miles
My wife's truck began leaking coolant. I was told the head gasket was blown. I paid nearly $1600 for the repairs. A year later, the coolant is leaking. When the head was pulled, the thread stripped out on 3 bolts. I found the same complaint numerous times on this website and on others. At this point, the options are thread inserts that may work or a new engine! at this point, I have been attempting to get help from Toyota. There has been nothing to date.

- Humble, TX, USA

problem #9

Jun 022006

Highlander

  • 125,000 miles
Faulty electronic computer module on 2003 Toyota Highlander throws multiple error codes to indicate a number of problems with emission components. Error codes call out oxygen sensors, (there is four sensors on 2003 (4) cylinder Highlanders). Fix one sensor and another pops up bad according to the error codes. Another $400 repair bill ! Toyota will replace the module on cars with warranty, no problem. However, they deny there is any problems with the module when no warranty is involved. Codes at times also show a faulty catalytic converter ($1000 repair bill ). if you visit the Toyota nation web site you will see many reports of the component at issue. This is on the same vehicles as the one I own. Some people have reported Toyota charges unsuspecting customers $1600 to repair these four sensors. ( not my words, taken off the Toyota nation forums). Please demand Toyota replace the modules on these vehicles. Thank you !

- Georgetown, OH, USA

problem #8

Sep 152009

Highlander

  • 135,000 miles
1. engine overtemp 2. engine continually runs hot. Cannot use vehicle 3. replaced head gasket, radiator, thermostat.

- New Port Richey, FL, USA

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