hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
70,897 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.

2002 Toyota Highlander engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #11

Jan 252011

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 126,000 miles


I purchased a new 2002 Toyota Highlander from Sierra Toyota of lancaster, ca. I have experienced no problems with this vehicle until 25 Jan. 2011 when the engine overheated while driving 40mph on city street. I took my vehicle to my mechanic and he informed me of a problem with the 2.4L 4cyl Toyota engines in which some of the head bolts become loose/stripped where they attach at the engine block. I called Sierra Toyota of lancaster and they denied any knowledge of this problem. On further investigation, I discovered that Sierra Toyota had a specialist servicing one of their vehicles by placing inserts into the stripped holes the very next day. Sierra Toyota refused to give me any monetary assistance in repairing my vehicle. After researching the bolt problem on the internet, I have found numerous Toyota owners with the same engine, that have had the exact same problem with their vehicles. The only fix is either a complete engine replacement or having an expensive anchor-bolt redo. My costs look like to be about $2500, if there is no other damage found due to the over-heating. At this point, I don't even know if the new anchor-bolt system will work. My vehicle was always well-maintained and currently has apx. 126,000 miles on it.

- Rosamond, CA, USA

problem #10

Sep 112010

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
Some earlier models of Toyota's 2az-fe 4 cylinder engine are susceptible to sudden failure and are dangerous. The engine is widely used in Toyota's popular Camry, Highlander, rav4 and Scion tc models. Toyota needs to accept responsibility and investigate the engine. On 9/11/2010, 2002 Toyota Highlander's 2az-fe engine failed and left occupants stranded. Event took place immediately after exiting the highway. The vehicle's engine sputtered and ceased to function. The vehicle had about 75,000 miles on it. The vehicle was towed to a Toyota dealership which reported the following: - oil and coolant leaking from the back of the engine head - hydrocarbon in the coolant - oil severely burnt due to overheating the estimate to open up and repair the engine could run anywhere from $2,000 to $7,500 depending on whether the engine block needed to be replaced. The vehicle had been regularly maintained according to the manufacturer's schedule with all the records to prove it. Toyota denied request to investigate and defray costs. While engine was opened by a local mechanic it was discovered that two of the head bolts were loose and that the threads in the aluminum engine block for 3 head bolts in the rear were stripped. Repairing the engine involved re-threading the holes in the engine block for all ten head bolts using the time-sert thread repair kit.

- Huntington Beach, CA, USA

problem #9

Jun 012008


  • miles
In June 2008, I was driving when my engine apparently melted down. It went completely hot. I pulled over and there was what appeared to be coolant pooled under the car. Prior to this all scheduled maintenance had been done and there was no indication of any trouble with the car earlier that day. I later took it to my mechanic who said he had never seen anything like that in his life. The engine had literally melted. He then tried to call Toyota and got in contact with someone but they couldn't figure out what happened either and was unwilling to deal with it. He said it obviously had to be a factory defect. It cost me a whole new engine.

- Vallejo, CA, USA

problem #8

Apr 182010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 110,000 miles


My 2002 Toyota Highlander V6 broke down on the side of the road. I had it towed to the Toyota dealership where they informed me that oil sludge has clogged my engine and I would have to have it replaced to the tune of $6000. I was shocked because I always got my oil changed well before the suggested 7500 mile mark. I did some research online and found out my car was part of a recall and class action suit. They never sent a recall notice. We purchased the car when it was 2 years old. I contacted Toyota usa and they confirmed that it was oil sludge but since a was a couple months beyond the class action suit of 8 years. I argued that they never sent us a recall notice. They pretty much said tough luck. I was lucky I was able to get my car to the side of the road safely ( my 5 year old daughter was in the back). I don't feel Toyota made enough of an effort to let the customer know of these issues.. I feel they were interested in protecting their reputation above their customers safety. I would have certainly gotten the car fix if they had sent the recall notice. I will not pay $6000 for something that Toyota should. These cars are dangerous and this company is wreck-less.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #7

Oct 292008

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 134,871 miles
4 cylinder engine blocked warped where head meets block. Head bolts were stripped and could not be tightened down. Following link describes the problem we encountered with our 2002 Highlander which has the same 2.4 ltr 4 cylinder engine as the Camry. www.tundrasolutions.com/forums/ Camry/148454-Camry-with-stripped-head-bolts/ all diagnosis and repair of our Highlander was done at a Toyota dealership in roswell, ga.

- Roswell, GA, USA

problem #6

Apr 022008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,000 miles
2004, my Highlander was serviced for gel in the valve seals. On April 2, my car was brought to leith Toyota because the car made a loud noise after being cranked and the oil light was on. As I drove a couple of miles, all computer lights came on and the car cut off. I was told testing was done and I had oil although it was not being pumped to the engine for some reason. (I have oil changed every 3,000 miles). The next day, I went to check on the progress and the service manager told me they drove the car around and it never cut off and he really did not know what was wrong with it. I decided to take it to another mechanic to find out and 10 miles away, the engine blew up. Now, I have no car to drive and I am a single mom that has to work. I feel that the service manager should have been honest with me regarding Toyota's past engine defects and to drive my car would be fatal. After having it towed to another Toyota dealership to check for oil sludge and requesting that my mechanic be present when dropping the oil pan, they told me that was not necessary and did it without calling me first. I have lost all future trust with this company and fell that their"hush hush recall" should have been made public.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #5

Feb 162007

Highlander 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles


I have owned a 2002 Toyota Highlander 4 cylinder, 2wd. My car stalled on the road about tow weeks ago and I had it towed to a Toyota dealer. I have taken very good care of my car and can provide some partial paper work of my maintenance. The dealer is telling me that I need a new engine, and my bill will go over $5000. It has only 77000 miles and no physical damage to the car (no accidents). I have heard about the oil sludge law suit but it covers only 6 cyl but not 4 cyl. Could you please help me out on this issue. Thanks.

- Jersey City, NJ, USA

problem #4

Mar 012006

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,000 miles
Past couple of months have seen smoke coming out of the tailpipe. Sludge has built up and clogged the pvc system and inside of the valve cover causing oil to sit inside and damaged the valve seals. Dealer wants to clean the sludge under the valve covers and replace the valve seals - cost of $3,900.

- Bowie, MD, USA

problem #3

Jan 222005

Highlander 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles
Toyota Highlander-2002-engine oil turned to sludge, engine just short of seizing-new engine installed.

- S.Burlington, VT, USA

problem #2

Nov 172003

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 20,000 miles
Black smoke came out of the exhaust pipe, and vehicle consumed excessive oil. Dealership wanted to replace the valve seal and piston O-ring S, but the parts were on back order. Vehicle is at the dealership for repairs and consumer was asked to use a rental car since vehicle's parts for repair where not available at that time. Consumer received a call from dealer that vehicle was ready top be picked up. When consumer picked up the vehicle, he noticed that vehicle is once again smoking and experienced hesitation. Took vehicle to dealership and replaced the timing belt which caused the hesitation. However, the problem with the smoke coming out and occasional hesitation still exist.

- Frederiksted, VI, USA

problem #1

Jun 262003


  • miles
While traveling on the highway and without prior warning the vehicle was leaking oil underneath.

- Williamsville, NY, USA

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