Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

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hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
73,290 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #5

Jan 262011

Highlander 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. While driving approximately 25 mph, the contact applied to brakes but the vehicle began to accelerate. The contact tried several ways to stop the vehicle (shifting into neutral, using the emergency brake) but the vehicle continued to rev. The tires also were spinning. The contact shifted into neutral again and turned the vehicle off which stopped it. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer who stated that the transmission dropped and the extra floor mat caused the failure. The vehicle had not been repaired. The current and failure mileages were 90,000. Updated 03/24/11 the consumer stated the floor mat was nowhere near the gas pedal. It was securely in place. Updated 11/16/11

- Fullerton, CA, USA

problem #4

May 152009


  • 115,000 miles
I have a 2003 AWD V6 limited Highlander (hl) with 115,000 miles. About 200 miles ago, the transmission started slipping during the third to fourth gear shift. Hl goes into neutral, the revs go way up, then it shifts with a clunk. I can minimize the clunk from a stop by accelerating to 25 mph, taking my foot off the gas, letting the revs drop down to 1200 RPM (at which point the trans will shift to fourth gear), and then stepping on the gas. There are no problems in first, second, third or fourth gear. The car runs fine in fourth gear. It is only a problem with the third gear to fourth gear shift. Tried not using overdrive, but problem persists. This is my first problem with the hl. I always get my hl serviced at Toyota dealer at 5000 miles intervals. Dealer says the trans needs to be replaced. In California, the price is over $4500 for the "new" trans. Dealer will give me a 10% discount on parts and labor. I asked the service manager if there was a way to reprogram the transmission computer module on my 2003 Highlander. He checked and said that there was no way to re-program the module and there were no technical service bulletins on this problem. I replaced the transmission. The transmission was replaced with a "rebuilt trans" from Toyota. The transmission case is a used case, but all of the internal parts are new. I sent an E-mail to the local Toyota dealer to thank the service manager for customer service. I also asked them to forward the note about the transmission problem to the regional Toyota service representative. Other Highlander owners have similar automatic transmission problems. See needless to say, I am very disappointed in the quality of the Toyota transmission, which is a major part of the drivetrain, and should last more than 100,000+ miles.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #3

Sep 132008

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 66,450 miles
2003 Toyota Highlander V-6 with 66450 miles. Driving home going 40 to 45 mph, car transmission started to skip, engine would surge then buck and engine would hesitate. Drove on to dealer for diagnosis.

- Albany, GA, USA

problem #2

Nov 032007

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,000 miles
After only 64,000 miles, the transmission on my 2003 Toyota Highlander started skipping. When I accelerated, the car would jump/skip. This could have easily caused a wreck.

- Scottsboro, AL, USA

problem #1

Mar 182005

Highlander 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 31,000 miles
2003 Toyota Highlander, 4 cyl, auto trans. Between 25 and 45 mph, when you apply the brake on the auto and then press the gas to resume your forward travel, there is a kick (like a looseness in the transmission and drive shaft) followed by the motor revving as it should and the transmission down shifting. I went to the dealer who told me yes, there is a looseness caused by the fact that there is a lot of rubber connectors holding the differential and drive shaft assembly to the vehicle frame. Over time they had fatigued (31000 miles). The dealer took no action. I have a registered a complaint with Toyota (200508090110). A final end result would be the differential and attached drive shaft falling off the auto while it is in motion causing a serious injury or fatal crash.

- Southbury, CT, USA

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