really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
125,315 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 brakes problems

brakes problem

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2003 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #10

Dec 292016


  • 150,000 miles


The contact owned a 2003 Toyota Highlander. While the vehicle was in reverse, it accelerated independently. The contact stated that the brake pedal was depressed, but failed to effectively slow down the vehicle. The gear shifter was placed into drive and the vehicle sped forward and crashed into a tree. The air bags failed to deploy. There were no injuries and a police report was not filed. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic. The failure recurred twice prior to the crash. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000. The vehicle was destroyed.

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #9

Apr 232016


  • 129,000 miles
I have been the owner of my 2003 Toyota Highlander, for almost 8 years. I got it in Nov.2008 at around the 69,000 mark. Since then, I have made sure that my car/baby has had the works in care, to keep the quality and value of the vehicle up. This would include:oil changes, new brakes, new tires, repairs of belts/filters etc, hoses, tune ups, great gas and car washes/body care. Most of this has been done by the dealership here in culver city ca. I've depended on them to tell me what was good/bad about my car and trusted them in doing so. I also made sure to do the repairs they suggested. Sometimes however they said it was fine, but would come to find out, I did have issues. This made me wonder if Toyota was trustworthy/doing their jobs right and now I feel the same lack of trust in my cars performance /current state. I can say I have only put 50,000 miles or so on my car in the last 8 years, and I know Toyota can/should last until 250,000 or so, without major issues. However since 2015 I have dealt, with one thing after the next with the car. Most recently this past weekend where my engine completely blew. How could a engine blow out on such a well maintained car" well after reviewing other complaints online, it seems this year and model has this problem often, once they reach around 110,000 mark or so. Why" it seems to be a faulty engine /something that should definitely be recalled. We as consumers shouldn't have to spend thousands on a car, thousands to keep it in great condition and then thousands when are engines fail and this has been reported. Other may simply think there is no hope and don't bother. But I am bothered, because now I am without a car. I don't have the funds for this repair. I have a young child and when I bought this car, thought it would last. I also have had problems with braking/cars pedal going into the floor! this is unacceptable!! help!!

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #8

Nov 032014

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 215,000 miles
Driver side rear brakes will not illuminate after you depress your brakes. Replaced bulb and socket that houses bulb and will not work. Check online for similar issues and read reports of 2002-2006 Highlanders having either left or right side rear not working.

- Mcdonough, GA, USA

problem #7

Nov 032014

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 215,000 miles


Driver side rear brake lights will not illuminate even when you depress your brakes even after you replace bulb and light socket. Right side rear is ok. I have looked online and it appears other 2003-2006 Highlanders are having similar issues. Some on right side and others on left like myself.

- Mcdonough, GA, USA

problem #6

Jul 212014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 60,000 miles
Driver side rear lights stops working once in a while. The bulbs are fine have replaced them with the new one and the problem still persist. There has been quite a lot of complaint and nothing has been addressed.

- San Mateo, CA, USA

problem #5

Jun 172014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 64,699 miles
Right side (passenger) brake lights do not light bright when brakes are applied, driver of another car almost hit our vehicle when turning right on to main road. Our car was stopping, but other driver did not see our brake lights on the passenger side as they were not working... the left (drivers) side works fine, but was not visible to the other driver. This seems to be an on going problem with 2002-2007 Toyota Highlanders, dealer said no recall was issued? this is a real safety issue that could be fatal. Not to mention the cost of a ticket for having a defective brake light. There are many other Toyota Highlander owners that have experienced the same problem with no recourse from Toyota. Just google "Toyota 2003 Highlander brake light problem" time to issue a recall for safety issues.

- Bayville, NJ, USA

problem #4

Jun 072014


  • 137,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Highlander. While driving approximately 25 mph, the contact had to depress the brake pedal to the floorboard in order to stop the vehicle. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnosis. The manufacturer was not notified. The VIN was unavailable. The approximate failure mileage was 137,000.

- Greenwood Village, CO, USA

problem #3

Mar 192014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 158,455 miles
Like thousands of other 2003 Toyota Highlanders only the right side brake light will illuminate when the brake pedal is pressed.

- Snellville, GA, USA

problem #2

Nov 182013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • miles
Grandmother was leaving and drove through a closed wrought iron gate that was over 10' tall and 16' wide. Continued accelerating through a parking lot across the street, drove over a large decorative boulders and came to halt after crashing into a neighbors fence. She said that she attempted to stop in front of her gate to open it but the breaks would not work and the car kept accelerating. Thankfully it ended how it did leaving her with minor injuries. It is also disgusting knowing that it could have been much worse and if a car defect is the reason nothing will be done until deaths begin to occur.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

problem #1

Jun 102013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 124,000 miles
I have a 2003 Highlander. When I press the brake, only the driver side of the tail/brake light becomes brighter. When the lights are on, the bulbs illuminate on the passenger side but they do not get brighter when the brake is pressed. When the lights are off, the brake lights do not illuminate on the passenger side. I saw the same problem today on a Highlander just like mine.

- College Station, TX, USA

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