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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
16,587 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.

2004 Toyota Highlander transmission problems

transmission problem

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2004 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #46

Jun 142012

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that the smell of burning oil was emitted from the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the dealer confirmed that the transmission oil bearing seal needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not contacted. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 85,000 and the current mileage was 85,250. Updated 08/08/2012

- Waterford, NY, USA

problem #45

Jun 212011

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
Toyota Highlander 2004 6 cyl AWD - last may squealing noise coming from back of the car. Made it to a Toyota dealer and found out it was the rear differential. Took 4 days and over $1200 to fix. This week, noise coming from front of the car. Continued to get worse. Took to Toyota dealer and was informed it was the drive shaft - so far out of alignment needs to be replaced" just had it at the same dealer for maintenance 3 weeks ago - said nothing. This will cost $1300. Searching internet and finding I'm not alone, but no recall. What gives with these cars"

- Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #44

Jun 052011

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
Car hesitates and suddenly surges forward. The is the 2nd time this has occurred in the past 3 months. The first time was near my garage and fortunately the car only traveled several feet forward before hitting the corner of the garage and coming to a stop. Last Sunday, I was leaving a parking lot. I was turning left when the car hesitated and suddenly surged forward at a rapid speed. Before I was able to regain control, the car had traveled approximately 20-25 feet forward, ran up on a median and crashed into a tree. I called the police about filing a report but as it occurred on private property, they declined.

- Boulder, CO, USA

problem #43

Nov 132010


  • 91,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph and depressing the accelerator, the vehicle was hesitant to respond. The failure would occur most prominently when the vehicle was first started. The vehicle was taken to the dealer but the dealer was unable to duplicate the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 91,000 and current mileage is 93,000.

- West Pointe , VA, USA

problem #42

May 312010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
My 2004 Toyota Highlander V6 at time has very rough shifts. The transmissions seems to hesitate and lag when I try to accelerate during normal driving speeds. This has happened when I was going 20 to 60.

- Wellesley, MA, USA

problem #41

Mar 182010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
S10 appropriate handling re complaint against Toyota motor corporation and jay wolfe Toyota of West county fm owner of a 2004 Toyota Highlander. After driving the vehicle for a few weeks, it became apparent there was a problem with the shifting with the automatic transmission. The condition was most noticeable during sharp acceleration periods. The engine would rev up, but it did not gain speed relative to the amount of pressure applied to the accelerator. The engine would sound as if it was under stress and it would then shift with a severe jolt. The dealer informed the consumer Toyota was aware of the transmission flaw, but there was no fix. The consumer has since traded the vehicle.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #40

Jan 222010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 35,000 miles


2004 Toyota Highlander V6 - auto (2wd) since we've purchased the T-Highlander, the car will occasionally suddenly jerk forward uncontrollably when shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear and when the shift takes place between 2,000 and 2,500 RPM when in 2nd gear. We have brought this in to the Toyota dealership on numerous occasions only to be told this is a "programming" issue and the car is trying to figure out how to shift based on different drivers. I've looked online and on forums and other owners have the same problems. I think it's Toyota trying to save $$. my concern since we've brought the car in to the Toyota dealerships is the same concern that I want the NHTSA to be aware of now and that is, there is a problem with the car and there is a potential for an accident here due to something that is clearly defective with the transmission and/or the "programming" of how the computer shifts. This complaint is being filed because all of the other Toyota problems that have surfaced have reaffirmed what I've known all along, that there are problems with Toyota and in our case, not having complete control of the vehicle when driving. However, I was made to feel that I had no basis for my complaints when in fact, I do. I hope that even if nothing is done to fix my T-Highlander as I have given up on it (short of legal action, which might be worthwhile now) that the NHTSA does do something to ensure that no one is injured as a result of this "programming" issue.

- Mountain View, CA, USA

problem #39

Jan 032010


  • 56,000 miles
My 2004 Toyota Highlander limited V6 developed substantial transmission/ transaxle leak at 56,000 miles. Transmission fluid was able to leak into the front transaxles and then onto the ground. Toyota is aware that the #2 axel seal is at fault as it is well reported. The repair was over $2,000. I fixed mine, but am concerned about those that won't be fixed. I am concerned that if the transmission leaks out in total would the resulting transmission failure result in injury.

- Pine River, MN, USA

problem #38

Jan 182010


  • 15,000 miles
Have a 2004 Toyota 3.3L 2wd Highlander that has had a surging problem when taking off from a start since I had it recalibrated computer but didnt fix the problem....they told me this is is not normal and is very dangerous....being they dont want to fix it, I guess it will come down to a law suit if something happens.....there are all kinds of post on this problem and Toyota should be recalling and fixing......wont never buy Toyota again if something isnt done because they still seem to be having this problem in other makes and models in Toyota line....and Lexus........

- Winterville, NC, USA

problem #37

Apr 282008


  • miles
2004 Highlander, having same problems as all other reported problems for this vehicle. Hesitation, steering shaft replacement, 2 wheel bearing replacements, lousy original tires, bad sodering of heat/air board leading to not working properly, can not have back windows down due to noise and vehicle shaking, had rear wiper motor replaced within 1st month of ownership. While I did purchase the extended warranty, which did cover the cost of the wheel bearing replacement, it did not cover the cost of having to replace the tires damaged by the bad bearing - and Toyota does not care. In their race to become the number one car maker, they have given up on being the safest, most reliable car maker - and they have certainly given up on being customer friendly. According to several Toyota dealers, they don't have to, since they continue to be popular selling vehicles. I am getting nervous as the time for my warranty comes due to expire - and for the first time am seriously considering trading it in before that happens. That was not the intent when I bought the vehicle, but after reading all the people having all the same problems, I am very concerned.

- Bloomingburg, NY, USA

problem #36

Jul 222007

Highlander 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,500 miles


2004 Toyota Highlander with AWD and 4 cyl. Vehicle is leaking transmission fluid at 67,500 miles. Dealership say that Toyota will not help with this problem as it as the warranty expired at 60,000 miles. I bought this vehicle due to the expected reliability of a Toyota product, but it appears that Toyota does not stand behind their product. My other vehicle is a Lexus rx 300 which I love, but I will be hard pressed to buy another Toyota product in the future after this experience.

- Lodi, NY, USA

problem #35

Nov 302006

Highlander 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 300 miles
Transmission shift hesitation on acceleration at lower speeds. Just enough lag time to scare me a few times that I wouldn't make it across traffic.

- Yakima, WA, USA

problem #34

Jun 262006

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,902 miles
Let me start by saying I am a die-hard Toyota owner, my current vehicle being the 3rd Toyota we own. I own a 2004 Toyota Highlander, V6, 5 speed automatic with AWD. This vehicle has a very serious hesitation problem which is dangerous. Upon acceleration from a stop or at speed, there is a very serious lag in throttle response. Many times leaving a stop or accelerating from a slow speed I.e. parking lot driving, the vehicle will lag with no response, then lurch & accelerate suddenly. Merging into traffic, safe passing, starts at lights and safe driving in parking lots and around pedestrians can be hazardous. Thousands of owners across the nation are affected by this defect. From my recent research it apparently is not restricted to the Highlander, but affects many Toyota vehicles with "drive by wire" as opposed to mechanical transmission & throttle linkage. I took the vehicle back to the dealer right after my purchase in November of 2004 and was told they could find nothing wrong, now recent research tells me they were well aware of the problem at that time. I love Toyota but there methods of dealing with problems like this is deceptive at best and just short of criminal at worst. Please "google" Toyota Highlander hesitation problem and also visit for more evidence of what I am talking about. Toyota has not devoted enough resources to this problem or a permanent fix would have already been developed. Please contact Toyota and urge them to take care of this matter with all the thousands of owners across the U.S. that are having to deal with this matter. I will be following this matter with keen interest to see if anything is being done and am advising aaa of the issues as well as my state and federal representatives. Toyota commands a premium price for what are otherwise exceptional vehicles and their customers and the nations drivers deserve a better more responsible response from Toyota.

- Stanardsville, VA, USA

problem #33

Feb 022006

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 200 miles
I have a 2004 Toyota Highlander with a 3.3L V6 automatic transmission. Within the first week of driving the vehicle that was purchased new from the manufacturer, I noticed that the transmission seemed to hesitate when accelerating at low speeds. The problem persisted and I took the vehicle in for service. The dealer said they could not reproduce the problem or find anything wrong. Now the car has almost 20,000 miles on it, I've taken the car back to the dealer a few times as the hesitation has gotten worse and they continue to tell me there is nothing wrong with the car. I rarely drive the car now since I have come very close to having a major accidents numerous times. In each case, I will try and merge onto a freeway. Going up the ramp (or down) and accelerating to get up to speed, the transmission will delay for 2-3 seconds. I then push the gas pedal down a bit more and the RPM's will shoot up, the car will jerk, and speed ahead. If I don't apply the extra gas, it leaves me in a situation where I might be hit from behind by other cars. When the car jerks ahead, I've come close to slamming into cars ahead of me. I've done some research on the web and have found numerous other Toyota owners with this same exact problem. I hope no one has been killed or injured from this defect that Toyota is unwilling to address, and that the NHTSA will investigate this before anyone is killed or injured.

- Kailua, HI, USA

problem #32

Jan 252006

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles
: the contact stated while depressing the accelerator pedal, the transmission momentarily hesitates before properly selecting the correct gear to engage. The vehicle was taken to the dealership several times for inspection. The dealership mechanic reset the software three times, but this did not correct the problem. Diagnostic testing were performed on the vehicle. The manufacturer was contacted and sent a representative to inspect the vehicle. The representative drove the vehicle and experienced the hesitation and explained, this is a flaw in the design and the vehicle is free-wheeling. The representative would contact the engineers and try to solve the problem. Updated 03/17/06.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #31

Jan 242004

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The automatic transmission electronics get confused at street speeds, not allowing me to accelerate, especially when making a left across traffic. I have been nearly T-boned on numerous occasions. I talked to the Toyota dealership about a year ago, and the technician said that he was aware of the problem and expects Toyota to come up with a software update to fix the problem. Recently, I left a message with the same technician asking what progress has been made, and I received no reply. It is extremely scary to find this 'dead spot' in acceleration. This is our fourth Toyota, and might be the last if Toyota does not address this accident waiting to happen.

- Perkiomenville, PA, USA

problem #30

Oct 012005

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 15,000 miles
Engine hesitation when accelerating from low speeds; transmission shifts hard at low speeds causing the vehicle to hesitate and then surge when accelerating.

- Monett, MO, USA

problem #29

Nov 062005

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
2004 Toyota Highlander limited developed a hesitation after around 10,000 miles. The hesitation is followed by a head-jerking surge. This situation is very hazardous when attempting to make a right or left-hand turn, or fast acceleration merge, in high traffic situations. I am very concerned about my 15-yr-old twins who are learning to drive in this vehicle. I don't understand why this issue has not been addressed by the NHTSA considering the very large number of complaints about this issue, here and on the web. Are you waiting for a death? my dealer says there is nothing they can do.

- Federal Way, WA, USA

problem #28

Aug 012005


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2004 Toyota Highlander automatic transmission had experienced a dangerous hesitation while trying to downshift.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #27

Sep 012004

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 500 miles
My 2004 Toyota Highlander V6 (3.3L with 5-speed transmission) has an intermittent fault where the automatic transmission will abrubtly drop down a gear (or gears) while simultaneously trying to accelerate creating a sensation like it is bucking or porpousing. Usuall stepping off of the accelerator is sufficient to eliminate the bucking sensation. This has occured since I purchased the vehicle new in August 2004.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

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