really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
86,201 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.

2004 Toyota Highlander brakes problems

brakes problem

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2004 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #15

Sep 062020


  • 250,000 miles


While traveling through a highway construction zone my car suddenly became hard to steer, and my speed became greater, tried to (break) decelerate the car began sliding out of control-plowing into the road construction barriers part lodged in front passenger windshield. The car went through the ditch became airborne through a rod iron fence shattered the rear second-row right side window spun out, and came to rest just feet from the some pileings. This is the information of my daughter whom is an out of state college senior and very shaken up from this ordeal, this her statement to the best of my knowledge. Possibly the placement of the 🚧 could have been a contributor, and the uncontrollable acceleration. Vehicle was bought used a year ago. Can you help up learn why?

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #14

Apr 042017


  • 157,489 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander. While driving various speeds, while depressing the brake pedal, the pedal traveled to the floor. The traction control, check engine, vsc, and brake indicators illuminated. The vehicle was serviced per NHTSA campaign number: 10V499000 (service brakes), but the remedy failed to repair the vehicle. The contact observed brake fluid leaking from the vehicle. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 157,489.

- San Benito, TX, USA

problem #13

Mar 262016


  • 110,000 miles
I was driving about 15 mph on a city streetand the vsc indicator light came on and the vehicle started breaking on its own. A loud scrapping sound was heard. It was about 70degrees and sunny and the car thought I was going down a slippery slope. I stopped the vehicle. Every time I got above 8-10 mph the light would come on and the care would start breaking becoming unable to drive.

- Modesto, CA, USA

problem #12

Mar 242016


  • 143,000 miles


In Feb 2005 while doing about 30 mph the vsc light came on and started braking, on it's own, to the right making it almost impossible to drive. The next morning the car was towed to the Toyota dealer. The car displayed no codes and they said that they had calibrated the steering angle sensor. We had no further problems until Mar 24, 2016. This time the vsc indicator came on at about 40 mph. If I slowed down to about 20 mph the indicator would go off. We were able to drive the car home but the car braked, on it's own, several times. We have an appointment with the Toyota dealer. I'm afraid that the expense to repair it may come close to what the car is worth. NHTSA needs to wake up and investigate this issue. It's been going on for a long time. This problem could result in a serious accident if it occurrs at highway speeds. I can't imagine what would happen if the car brakes on it's own at 75 mph.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

problem #11

Nov 062015


  • 95,000 miles
Traction control came on during normal driving

- Santee, CA, USA

problem #10

May 012014

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 110,000 miles
My vehicle is having an issue where the vehicle stability control and ABS are being disabled. This is the default mode whenever there is an issue. It is now occurring every time I start my car.

- Avon, IN, USA

problem #9

Dec 302009


  • 51,249 miles


Summary: On Dec. 30, 2009, I experienced a malfunction in the electronic stability control system of my 2004 4cyl fwd Toyota Highlander SUV. The malfunction is exactly of the nature described in the summary of findings following an ODI investigation of malfunctions in the electronic stability control systems of 2003 Toyota sequoia vehicles(NHTSA campaign id number 10V176000, NHTSA action number EA09006). Complaint: The malfunction in my Highlander occurred when the vehicle started forward at very low speed after having been backed out of a parking space. The vehicle subsequently hesitated and surged during acceleration and the brakes were automatically applied and released as if the vehicle were experiencing a skid. Unlike the complaints considered in the ODI investigation, however, the malfunction in my Highlander did not self-correct. The vehicle was serviced the following day at acton Toyota in littleton, MA, where the malfunction was corrected by resetting the on-board computer. The vehicle operated normally after the computer was reset. Since acton Toyota was unable to identify a cause for the malfunction in the electronic stability control system, I had them replace the steering angle sensor as a precautiion on January 6, 2010. Action: Based upon my experience, I think that a recall of 2004 4cyl fwd Highlanders similar to that for 2003 sequoias should be undertaken.

- Acton, MA, USA

problem #8

Mar 072010

Highlander 4WD

  • 74,400 miles
The check engine, vsc, trac-off lights appeared on my dashboard of my 2004 Toyota Highlander on or around March 7, 2010. On March 9, I went to my local mechanic whose Toyota diagnostic machine informed them that since this vehicle had under 80,000 miles - it was still covered by my original warranty. I made an appointment with sunrise Toyota, in oakdale, NY where I purchased this Highlander. After showing sunrise Toyota service rep: Charles salvato the diagnostic printouts - he refused to address the problem because the previous mechanic inadvertently cleared the warning lights. They wouldn't accept the diagnostic printouts as proof of a problem nor would they agree to check-out or re-run the diagnostic test. After formally complaining, I did hear from a bob johnson at sunrise Toyota who ask me to stop in. When I did stop by, I was told he was at an all day meeting. My distinct feeling is that they are hoping to let the clock run out (let the mileage go over 80,000) so that nothing has to be done. I am asking for NHTSA's assistance with this important safety concern. A concern, I feel, Toyota is still responsible for. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #7

May 022005


  • 9,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 50 mph, the vehicle began to sway out of control from left to right. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealership for diagnosis where the contact was advised to reduce speed to 35 mph to gain control of stability. The dealer also stated that the stability control module computer was off balance and needed to be replaced. The electronic stability control failed again in 2008. The vehicle had not been repaired at the time of the complaint. The VIN was unavailable when the complaint was filed. The current and failure mileages were approximately 9,000.

- Lisle, IL, USA

problem #6

Apr 192009


  • 40,000 miles
I am the owner of a 2004 Toyota Highlander 2wd. This vehicle is in excellent condition, low mileage (about 40,000) and has never been in an accident. On April 19, the vehicle stability control/anti-slip buzzer sounded. The icon lit on the dashboard, and the vehicle started to break as if the car was slipping. The road was dry, our speed was extremely low (about 15mph), and there was no reason for this to happen. Thankfully, we were just out of our driveway and could turn safely around though the problem persisted. On April 20th, we phoned Toyota of keene to make an appointment to bring in our vehicle. We weren't thrilled with the prospect of driving under these conditions, but figured if we kept to low speeds we should be able to make it safely. We took down the tow company's number just in case. On April 21st, my husband set out for the appointment for repair in keene. About 10 miles from home, the problem suddenly went away. The skid warning light went out and the vehicle stopped breaking automatically. My husband made it the rest of the way to Toyota of keene without any issues. After a test drive, the technician stated, 'that was the scariest test I've ever experienced, ' as the problem had returned while he was on the road. But by the time he returned to the shop and hooked up the car to diagnostic computers, the problem had again ceased. Toyota of keene has had my vehicle since April 21st, and has been unable to repair it or offer any solution to this issue. They claim that they can't repair it if they can't replicate the problem while the vehicle is hooked up to computers. Though I understand this explanation, it does nothing for the safety of my family, as well as anyone else on the road. I contacted the Toyota complaint center and they opened up a case number but were essentially useless in assisting me. I did some research on line and found a technical service bulletin as well as customer complaints about this very issue.

- Peterborough, NH, USA

problem #5

Feb 192009


  • 53,217 miles


Wife was driving on clean dry road. Suddenly, the vcs light and traction lights came on the dashboard while alarm sounding came on as well. Car suddenly braked, brakes made a grinding sound, and car jerked to the right. Tried to drive forward and it would not go over 10mph. If the car did, the above happened again. Car was not drivable, and was towed to the nearest Toyota dealership. The situation was very dangerous, as the behavior of the car, not controlled by my wife, the driver, could have easily caused an accident. Turns out, the dealership stated the steering angle sensor went on the car. First...the car only has 53K miles on it. This is not a 'wear and tear' part. This part should never go with only this many miles on it. Garbage. Second, the failure of this part causes a very dangerous situation on the road, as once it goes, the driver basically has no control over the car until it slows down to under 10 miles an hour. Toyota needs to stand behind their product, Focus on the safety of the public, and issue a recall for this problem. I've researched this on the internet and there are many, many complaints and documented cases of this same problem happening on Toyota vehicles. The dealership fixed the part for $700. Rip off.

- Andover, NJ, USA

problem #4

Nov 272008


  • 49,450 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander. While driving 5 mph, the contact experienced unwanted traction control activity, which caused the vehicle to brake excessively. He took the vehicle to a local repair shop and the mechanic reprogrammed the PCM memory, which remedied the failure. The dealer could not determine the cause of the failure. Currently, the failure has not resurfaced. The failure mileage was 49,450. Updated 01-26-09 updated 01/27/09.

- West Orange, NJ, USA

problem #3

Dec 192008


  • 86,210 miles
The car's vsc (vehicle skid control) system activated on a dry straight road. The brakes went on and reduced the speed to about 5mph, making the car undrivable. Glad this didn't happen in traffic. The car was turned off, and restarted, and I could get it to about 10mph, and then it would apply the brakes quickly and reduced power no-matter what the throttle position was, and the car was limited to about 5mph. Once this happened the car has not been able to be driven, unless the fuses for the anti-lock brakes are removed. I did this just to get it to the dealer... it had buzzers and warning lights going off. The dealer looked at it and thought that it was the anti-lock brake & vsc "ECU", which was going to cost $2,400, but there could be extra sensors that needed to be replaced too. This seemed very excessive so I didn't have the work done. Now the car is sitting. I've heard there is a service bulletin out on this but I haven't been able to find it. I've heard that it can be the steering angle sensor, or the wheel rotations sensors, or the G-center (accelerometer). Each one is several hundred dollars apiece. A failure in the skid control system should just stop working and not cause the brakes to be slammed on, leaving the car undrivable. And the repair cost should not be $2,500 to over $4,000. This is ridiculous.

- Manitou Springs, CO, USA

problem #2

Mar 102008

Highlander 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles
Vsc system activated and started applying brakes when the auto was on dry roads. System has no disconnect switch in order to disable system. Drove auto home at about 10 miles an hour because system would not dis-engage. The auto only has 25,000 miles. Happened once before at 4,000 miles.

- Amarillo, TX, USA

problem #1

Jan 042007

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 39,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander. While driving 40 mph, the vehicle stability system activated on dry surface and attempted to steer the vehicle. The failure affects the steering and occurs every few feet. Since that time, the system attempts to activate automatically while driving 15-20 mph. The vehicle stability system activates at full speed when driving at highway speeds. The dealer stated that the failure was in the microtrip that controls the vehicle stability system. The dealer is currently attempting to have it reprogrammed. The purchase date was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 39,000.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

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