really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
90,648 miles
Total Complaints:
1 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace original airbag sensor with improved one (1 reports)
2003 Toyota Highlander seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2003 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #1

Feb 032011

Highlander Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,648 miles


I live in an area where there is snow and icy road conditions for more than half the year, so I needed a 4wd or AWD car for safe travel. Having the side air bags and the extra ECT snow button as options (ECT = electronically controlled traction for added torque) made me think the Toyota Highlander would be my best choice for a vehicle that would suit my local driving conditions. After saving for years to afford to buy a Highlander, and after spending several months not being able to find a good, pre-owned one in my local area, I finally found this one at a Toyota dealership in California and had it shipped up to where I live near the Canadian border. It came up in late November from this reputable Toyota dealer who told me there were no outstanding recalls on it, and for additional backup I had it taken to an independent garage that specialized in Japanese cars for a pre-purchase inspection and they deemed it to be in excellent A+ condition overall. For the first couple months of owning it I didn't go out in the early morning hours so I didn't experience the problem until last week, when the overnight temperatures had gone down into the 15 - 20 degree range and I left the house early to drive the 20 miles into town. The airbag warning light kept steadily flashing so I immediately went to the Toyota garage to ask them to diagnose the problem. It cost me $46 dollars to have them tell me that there had been a Technical Service Bulletin issued way back in August of 2003 alerting Toyota mechanics to the problem that in cold temps the original factory installed center airbag sensor can malfunction, which will cause the airbags not to deploy in the event of an accident and recommending that it be replaced with a redesigned sensor that is more cold tolerant. Even though it is obviously the poor design or the inferior materials used in the original part (which I believe should be Toyota's responsibility to replace,) Toyota's Customer Experience Center deemed it not their problem, leaving me stuck with the sadness of needing a $700 repair for an AWD car that I bought because it was supposedly designed for safety in snow but has airbags that won't work in cold weather. Good job, Toyota! Obviously you are putting your profits over the safety of your customers! How corporate of you!

- , Colville, WA, US

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