really awful
Crashes / Fires:
10 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
7 / 4
Average Mileage:
59,688 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 (Page 1 of 2)

problem #26

Aug 292016


  • 76,171 miles


Vehicle was in motion on a city street going straight slightly downhill and then uphill. The weather was clear. Speed was about 15-25 mph. I was braking to slow the car down but the car accelerated on its own ( Toyota calls it "unintended acceleration"). the car continued accelerating even though I was pressing the brakes as hard as I could and it was now going uphill.. to avoid crashing I put the car in neutral, and engaged the emergency brake and hazards. The engine raced in neutral and then stopped racing.. Toyota started a case file and inspected it. They said everything is working properly now, case closed and I can come get the car. I had it towed there and am afraid to drive it until something is fixed. It was a terrifying experience. I am concerned it could happen again or to other cars. I am thoroughly disappointed in Toyota's nonchalant attitude; it was-is a potentially fatal situation, and it seems that according to Toyota if such an accident was investigated nothing would show up.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #25

May 012005


  • 22,000 miles
When engaging car in reverse the car will unpredictably at times suddenly accelerate.

- Vista, CA, USA

problem #24

Aug 142014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 55,000 miles
Bought this vehicle in 2002. A year later noticed that the idle controller had problem. When started the engine in the morning, the idle went down very low and the engine shut down automatically. At first it happened not frequently. Past two years I took to a dealer for mayor tuneup, the symptom still resisted. Told the dealer and there was no actions at all. Now it happens more frequently. Usually if it happens, step on the gas peddle ( over 2K RPM) for a few seconds. Sometimes the idle returns to normal; but most of the times, the idle sets very low. I think the idle control for this model should be recalled.

- San Diego , CA, USA

problem #23

Jul 112014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 90,100 miles


Engine accelerating when brakes were depressed.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #22

Aug 012012


  • 200,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated while driving at approximately 35mph, the accelerator cable disconnected causing the vehicle to accelerate. The contact mentioned that the brakes were engaged in to stop the vehicle from moving forward. The dealer stated that the wrong cable was placed in vehicle. The contact stated that the transmission became defective as a result of engaging the brakes while the vehicle was accelerating. The dealer and manufacturer were made aware of the problem. The failure mileage was 200,000.

- Rosenburg, TX, USA

problem #21

Jan 182012


  • 210,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The contact was driving 60 mph when the vehicle suddenly accelerated without any warning. The contact depressed the brake pedal but the vehicle failed to stop. The contact had to completely turn off the engine in order to get the vehicle to stop. The vehicle was towed to a dealer who diagnosed that the accelerator cable was stuck in the forward position and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure who did not offer any assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileage was 210,000.

- Rosenberg, TX, USA

problem #20

Sep 242010


  • 218,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander ltd (N/a). While driving 60 mph and speeding to 70 mph to pass another vehicle, the accelerator pedal stuck and would not release. The passenger removed the floor mats but the vehicle continued to accelerate rapidly. The contact maneuvered the vehicle to the side of the road by depressing the brake pedal firmly, shifting into neutral and turning the engine off. The rpms continued to increase excessively. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that the throttle body had carbon and built up corrosion which caused the failure. The contact called the manufacturer who offered no assistance as the vehicle was too old, too high in mileage and no longer under warranty. The VIN was unavailable. The failure mileage was approximately 218,000.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #19

Jun 272010

Highlander 4WD

  • 64,874 miles
From a stopped position on a side street, I pressed the accelerator to pull onto a main street. Because traffic on the main street moves rather fast, I accelerated somewhat above normal, but in no way excessive. After getting into my lane, I backed off the accelerator, but the engine acted as if I was flooring it and the car continued accelerating. It was scary. I pushed hard on the break. The car still accelerated. I stepped on the hand brake. It continued to accelerate. Finally, I took the car out of drive and into neutral. The engine continued to scream, but I was able to stop at the side of the road. At some point the engine did come down to normal idle, but I was so shaken, I really don't know when that happened. Fortunately no one was ahead of me, the road is straight and level, etc. Aside from shattered nerves, there was no harm done. But I can imagine all kinds of horrible outcomes had conditions been different. The car acted as if the accelerator stuck all the way down, however I know I didn't press it down that far. Later my husband drove the car home from where I stopped it. With the car off, my husband inspected the accelerator pedal pressing it with his hand and letting it back up. There is a point about half way back up where the mechanism is not smooth. The pedal comes all the way back up, but something inside catches and causes lots of gas to flow into the engine. At least one time he was able to reproduce the problem with the car in park. I am afraid to ever drive it again. This time I was lucky, but I shutter to think. If someone had been in one of the crosswalks. If I had been approaching a red light. When might this happen again?

- Los Altos, CA, USA

problem #18

May 082010


  • miles
2002 Toyota Highlander. Consumer states brake failure causing an accident the consumer stated the brake failure caused her to roll down a hill and flipping over three times. She was trapped upside down in the vehicle.

- Gaithersburg, MD, USA

problem #17

Mar 122010


  • 114,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated while driving at speeds of 70 mph, the vehicle abnormally accelerated. This was the third incident of unintended acceleration in the vehicle. On the first incident, the contact was able to stop the vehicle by applying constant, steady pressure to the brake pedal. On the second incident, the accelerator pedal became stuck in the open throttle position and he was able to manually remove the pedal from the stuck position. The dealer was unable to duplicate the failure and there were no repairs made to the vehicle. The manufacturer advised the vehicle was not under recall and would not provide any assistance. The failure mileage was 114,000 and the current mileage was 114,532.

- Upland, CA, USA

problem #16

Jun 012006


  • 50,000 miles


Sometime in 2006, my 2002 Toyota Highlander experienced unintended acceleration. I was standing on the brake to make the car stop and it wouldn't. I pulled into a parking lot through the car into neutral, hit the brake, then through it into park while it was still moving. I called jiffy lube who just had performed an oil change. They sent a technician over to look at it. When I started the car for the tech the engine continued to race. We both looked to see if there was something stuck under the accelerator. There was not. We both pulled up on the accelerator and it did not appear to be stuck. The tech couldn't explain it. I can't recall if I had the car towed to Toyota or if the problem stopped suddenly and I drove myself. Toyota is one mile from where the incident occurred. Toyota told me they couldn't replicate the problem and assured me that it wouldn't happen again. I drove him without incident until I pulled in my driveway, the car accelerated and I again had to throw the car into park while moving. The car was then towed to Toyota and we were told the problem was "fixed" and given some excuse that didn't make sense. It never happened again and we traded the car for a new one in 2008. The dealership was bob rohrman Toyota in westmont, il. I think the recall needs to go back further to include 2002 vehicles.

- Downers Grove, IL, USA

problem #15

Oct 282008


  • 38,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The driver stated that the vehicle suddenly accelerated and crashed into a wall of his garage while driving approximately 5 mph. There were no injuries. A police report was not filed. The vehicle was taken to the dealership who was unable to diagnose the failure. The manufacturer was not notified. The current mileage was approximately 48,690. The failure mileage was approximately 38,000.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #14

Apr 132007

Highlander 4WD

  • 45,000 miles
I pulled into my garage during early afternoon and came to the usual stop facing the wall. My foot was still on the brake and I had not yet put the car into park. Suddenly the car lurched forward and hit the wall with great enough force to deploy the air bag. The bag fractured my sternum in two places. At the time I was not aware of the prevalence of unintended acceleration problems and did not report it. There have been no episodes since.

- Larchmont, NY, USA

problem #13

Jun 122008


  • 62,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The contact was driving 5 mph into a parking garage when suddenly, the vehicle accelerated. She attempted to engage the brake pedal to stop the vehicle and crashed into a tree. The contact notified the insurance company and they covered the repair cost. The contact was sore after the crash occurred due to minor injuries. Three weeks ago while parking the vehicle it surged forward and hit another vehicle. The manufacturer was notified and stated that they would send someone to inspect the vehicle and if there was something wrong with the vehicle they would reimburse her in 35 days. The contact is concerned about the safety risk and chose to rent a vehicle to drive. The failure mileage was 62,000. The current mileage was 75,000.

- New Orleans, LA, USA

problem #12

Aug 132009


  • miles
2002 Toyota Highlander accelerator sticking in the full down position when passing another vehicle. First happened summer of 2008. Second time this happened August 13, 2009. Put on full brake and turned ignition key off. After vehicle stopped, about 5-10 seconds, pedal released. Service appointment with dealership August 18, 2009 to correct problem. Dealership could not find anything wrong with vehicle. Said it was the floor mat that made the accelerator stick in the open position. Don't think Toyota informed of this complaint. Since Toyota recall has taken place, I wanted to get my vehicle back in the dealership to correct my problem. Appointment made 2/09/10 at 10:30 with dealership. Dealership checked throttle body and throttle cable. Said all okay. Dealership continues to tell me rubber mat could catch pedal and cause problem. I disagree with this diagnosis. I asked dealership to please inform Toyota about this problem in my model since the recall is only correcting 2010 models. The only way I will try and pass another vehicle now, especially on mountain roads, is place the car in second gear and accelerate. I don't trust placing the pedal down to floorboard. I offer this as additional information regarding this dangerous problem. I hope Toyota will correct this situation in "all" models of their cars.

- Estes Park, CO, USA

problem #11

Jan 262010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. While starting the vehicle he heard a loud noise, and the rpms rapidly increased for approximately 15 seconds before the rpms decreased. The failure occurred one time and didn't recur when the contact was driving the vehicle. The dealer stated that there were no related recalls. The failure mileage was 23,000. The current mileage is 23,500. Updated 03/12/10. Updated 07/12/10

- Butler, PA, USA

problem #10

Oct 122005

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. While driving 40 mph, the vehicle accelerated an additional 10 mph. The contact stated the first failure occurred approximately four to five years ago and has recurred within the last seven months. The dealer adviser her that there are no related recalls. The failure mileage was 86,000. Updated 03/30/10 updated 08/30/10

- Ft Wayne, IN, USA

problem #9

May 302008


  • 61,000 miles
I bought a 2002 Toyota Highlander limited in May 2008. The car had just under 60,000 miles on the odometer. This car is my second car, mainly to be used to tow my horse trailer. Within a month of owning the car it showed the sudden unexpected acceleration. This was not unfamiliar to me because I also own a 2002 Toyota Camry. I have owned the Highlander now for 1 and 3/4 year and the car has showed the described behavior off and on. It happens mostly on the freeway and mostly when I am not towing. It does not have anything to do with floormats or sticky gaspedals. Since the same behavior happens in both Toyota's I own, it is time that Toyota starts looking at something else than the silly explanations of floormats and sticky gaspedals. It is the engine which runs away, leaving the driver no control over the speed. I had not expect this from Toyota. I bought Toyota because of their reliability and because I trusted the company (as opposed to Ford, which I also owned and experienced a problem which turned out the company knew a long time about and did not do anything about). I guess Toyota is not different. Also, it is time that the recall goes further back then the 3-4 years. I even have a copy of a professional car review of the Camry who experienced the problem in 2002.

- Chandler, AZ, USA

problem #8

Oct 132009

Highlander 6-cyl

  • miles
Toyota Highlander 2005. Peterboro, nh. 11 am. Driver was reported to pass vehicle on right in break down lane, then tried to pass another car by going into left lane and hit oncoming vehicle. Four people killed. Driver was very experienced --excellent safety record. I had been in his car with him hundreds of times. Very safe driver --no cowboy. Believe car had uncontrolled acceleration. Updated 05/10/10 updated 10/04/10 updated 9/27/11 the investigating police officer inspected the interior of the Toyota and noted the driver's carpeted floor mat was out of position forward under the accelerator and brake pedals.

- Chestnut Hill, MA, USA

problem #7

Nov 042008


  • 50,000 miles
Accelerator does not respond when pushed, the failure occurs regularly when passing vehicle wont accelerate, the dealer acknowledge this is a problem with these vehicles than can be repaired for $1200.

- San Juan, PR, USA

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