really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
120,950 miles
Total Complaints:
8 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replaced engine (5 reports)
  2. not sure (3 reports)
2002 Toyota Highlander engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #8

Nov 142015

Highlander Limited 6 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles


I bought the car from a private seller, car rode and drove nicely. Has 114,000 miles on it, drove less than 150 miles since i owned it, and the check engine light came on. Brought it to my mechanic, he said the oil was low, though i checked the level in the persons driveway prior to purchase, according to the last oil change sticker on the window, it wasn't due for a change for another 800 miles.

My mechanic took me right in and changed the oil. It looked like a dead bird fell out of it, it was sludge. After the oil change, drove 15 miles to work, light came on again. I had it towed back to my mechanic. It's still there after three weeks of waiting, he ran a diagnostic on it, number two plug is fouled with oil. He thinks it may be the head and not the ring, but until he opens it up, it's still unknown. The original owner said he never got a recall notice on it.

I had goggles recalls on this truck before I bought it, only two minor issues showed up, neither of which was this. My wife, hearing me mention the word "sludge" had typed in "Toyota sludge" and then it showed up. Apparently this is a known issue, they did a recall that was effective from the date of purchase for maybe eight years, which my truck is beyond that, thought the mileage isn't that high for cars of today. Toyota should have a better notification or disclosure out there for recalls on this truck or the 6 cly. motor.

I've seen people saying they spent thousands on fixing this. Of course the person I bought it from said "It was fine when he sold it to me", but I think he stuck me for $7,000 for a truck I can't drive and needs major repair. New Jersey laws are useless, it's pretty much let the buyer beware.

I've owned a lot of cars, and I mean a lot. I've never gotten stuck like this, both Toyota and the guy I bought it from should be held accountable. Once I get out of this mess, I'm going back to Honda's!


problem #7

Jun 162014

Highlander Sport V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 195,000 miles

I read some other posts and thought I would add mine. I am the owner of a 2002 Toyota Highlander V6. My wife heard a clicking sound in the engine area and took the car to our mechanic. He checked it out and gave us a clean bill of health. We went to a nearby city (150 Miles') for my cancer surgery. On the return trip the check engine light came on and a few seconds later the car died. She tried to restart it to no avail. We were left stranded a few miles into Wyoming just over the SD line.

The engine has about 194k miles and I guess I shouldn't complain but if it had failed in the winter it could have been a tragedy. I have no idea what to do about my new lawn ornament. It's worth a few $ K if I replace the engine but that costs about $5k . I have been a Toyota customer since the 70s. This is the second Toyota to blow up on me. I think I will replace it with a Honda CRV.

To old to fight the system

- dscott_60, Gillette, WY, US

problem #6

May 172012

Highlander Highlander 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 134,000 miles

I was driving my Highlander when I noticed a flipping sound like a card stuck in the spokes of a bicycle. I stopped the vehicle, called my Toyota mechanic and searched for obvious trouble spots such as broken hoses, engine light or leakage, there was nothing to note. In four minutes I made it to an all service station, during this time the flipping sound stopped. The mechanic performed some tests and determined that there was something amiss in the engine. I had the vehicle towed to my mechanic. He gave me the devastating news that the engine had failed, further this was not an isolated incident. He had to deliver the bad news to another Highlander owner less than a week prior to my incident. The issue was not with the car nor lack of any maintenance or the way the car was driven, it was a manufacturer's design of a faulty engine. The block caused bolts to break which in turn compromised the cooling system. I am not a mechanic, but basically that is a fairly accurate description. My Highlander was serviced regularly, oil changes every 3,000 miles, it was garaged, driven cautiously by one person and any recommended repairs/service was made on time. The vehicle ran like a clock, never required anything but scheduled maintenance. There was absolutely no indication that the entire engine would instantaneously give away. Thankfully, I was not on the freeway at rush hour with children in the car with me. I don't want to even think of what tragedies could have occurred in that scenario. Although my mechanic who is by the way a brilliant, dedicated man written up in magazines, won awards for his knowledge and service is in the middle. This is devastating for him because as Toyota owner's look to other manufactures for replacement vehicles it hurts his business. He could easily skirt the issue as Toyota has but he tells us the real story to remain true to himself and his customers. The only recourse we may have is to call Toyota customer service, state the facts, beg for assistance and be professional about it. That may not actually work Toyota does not seem to be taking responsibility for their faulty engines. However, when enough people file complaints, the topic of Toyota's faulty engine's may eventually become a media discussion. Hopefully there will never be a reason for a liability case, but if there is, my story coupled with other's could support a class action suit. Toyota proposed that I pay nearly $9,000 to have them rebuild my engine, basically they would pay an amount equal to the taxes of said amount. They were not willing to replace the faulty engine at their cost. They were not going to replace my engine with the new one that they have apparently designed to replace the compromised engines sold in other Highlanders like mine. Customer's have the power to dismantle Toyota's reputation faster than Toyota engines fail. Without honor Toyota is just like any other manufacture of substandard vehicles/service. Toyota is not exempt from losing their edge as well as their market share, it happened to Honda a few years ago placing Toyota in the lead. Toyota needs to step up and take responsibility. My research prior to purchasing Toyota vehicles indicated that Toyota vehicles, when driven properly and serviced regularly could run 200,000 miles and more, mine gave away at 134,000; sooner than my old Subaru. By documenting the incidents of Highlander engine failure others may benefit and that is something worth writing for.

- sharonadams, Orinda, CA, US

problem #5

Nov 022011

Highlander LX 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 155,000 miles


Can't believe this from a Toyota- bought this new and maintained it according to schedule. Engine locked up and need a new one. Mechanic told me the head gasket blew up. For reliability purposes I can't recommend this vehicle nor will I buy another Toyota.

- stubber, Old Hickory, TN, US

problem #4

Nov 102010

Highlander Sport 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,000 miles

Toyota dealership said it would cost 4500.00 to replace with a used motor with 93000 when original only had 89000 miles. Disappointed I bought a Toyota with the intention of having this vehicle for aleast 200000 miles.

Update from Feb 19, 2011: I am so digusted with the email your company has sent me, like your company is truely concerned with my complaint! I have a vehicle that I am paying car insurance on that I can't even drive because I can't afford to fix the problem. I bought a Toyota because your vehicles WERE at one time the most reliable on the road, but your company and products are anything but! Your company should correct the problems for your consumers when the vehicle has not even come close to breaking a 100,000 miles. I can assure you I have maintained my vehicle regularly and in a timely fashion with the expectations that my TOYOTA HIGHLANDER would carry me well over 200,000 miles! I am considering calling my local television station to put the word out to other consumers considering buying a TOYOTA product DON"T YOUR COMPANY AND IT"S PRODUCTS are NOT what they used to be!!!

- michelle.branigan, Metairie, LA, US

problem #3

May 042008

Highlander V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,000 miles

I can't believe that a company as big as Toyota with the reputation they have is not just taking care of these well documented problem with these engines. How dare them do this. People invest there money, and time, then put their confidence in product that's supposed to have such a good reputation, and when people don't get what they pay for, they become consumers of other products, then tell about 12 people about there situation. This is not good for PR for companies like Toyota.

You can a lot about a company, not only when things are good, but when things go wrong with the product they sell, do they stand behind what they sell?

- Bruce P., Issaquah, WA, US

problem #2

Mar 282008

Highlander Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

I was involved in a little fender bender and brought my car into a collision shop that was recommended by my insurance company. They kept the car for 1 week and I picked it up. Before I made it home, the car cut off. (It was in perfect shape prior to bringing it to the body shop). I put it in park, and it started right up. The next morning I started the car and it made this odd noise, almost like a belt was loose. The oil light was on and before I could get to the main highway, all the computer lights came on inside and when I stopped at the stoplight, the car cut off. I put it in park and it started right up although all the lights were still on. I finally got to work and called the collision shop who informed me that I could bring it by, although they only replaced the fender and did not unplug anything. I took it back to the body shop and about an hour later they called and said they were taking the car to Leith Toyota for testing. A couple of hours later, the service manager called and said he thought the problem had something to do with the oil pump. Perhaps something was lodged and oil was not being circulated to the engine which caused the computer lights to come on. I told him that I could not afford $350.00 just to check out the oil pump without fixing the car so I would pick it up and take it to Performance Car Care, who had serviced my car for the past 2 years. The next day I picked it up, paid $100.00 for the guy to tell me that my car never cut off for them and that he thinks it is the oil pump causing the problem. Not one time did he advise me not to drive it or the engine may blow up. I had someone follow me to Performance Car Care about 15 miles away and the car cut off and never started again. I had to have it towed and left my keys in the drop box with a note as to what was going on and received a call the next morning that I had to have a new engine which would cost me about $5,000.00. Well, I am a single mom that does not have this kind of money to spend and can not believe that my engine blew up without any notice. I have not had a new engine put it yet.

- Theresa W., Raleigh, NC, US

problem #1

Sep 052007

(reported on)

Highlander 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,500 miles

Catastrophic engine failure with pitted and scored bearings & damaged valves with only 46,500 miles, but 1 month after warranty expiration. Engine failure occurred almost immediately after a recall on the ECM was "fixed."

- Scott H., Pasadena, CA, US

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