really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
679,430 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.

2005 Toyota Highlander drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2005 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #16

Nov 282016


  • 120,000 miles


My Highlander has 120,000 miles on it and the transmission suddenly gave out while driving on the highway. It started by downshifting suddenly, making it difficult to retain control of the vehicle. Then I lost all forward power and had to coast to a stop on the side of the interstate. I am now stuck paying a $3500+ repair bill despite keeping up on regular maintenance according to the manufacturers maintenance guide. After talking with several mechanics, I found out this is apparently a common problem on the transmissions used by the rav4S and Highlanders, but Toyota has only issued recalls for the rav4S? very dissapointing.

- Westminster, CO, USA

problem #15

Jul 072016


  • 119,000 miles
Bought the car and not even a week after owning it I had transmission problems, I took it back to the dealer they replaced the trans and updated the computer. The problem still persist, there is a huge hesitation in the transmission when slowing to an almost stop and re accelerating. The RPM's rev up but the car does not respond sometimes. This is very dangerous when going through intersections or merging into traffic. There are numerous complaints from people experiencing the same problem. I have a new trans in my car, fluid levels are perfect the computer has been updated and still having huge issues with my trans. This is dangerous very dangerous.

- Luray, VA, USA

problem #14

Aug 052016


  • 50 miles
When I was trying to park my Toyota Highlander 2005 in front of the building where I work, backing up, the engine iddle went extremely high and I tried to stop, but I could not do it because the steering wheel and the brakes locked. I tried to put the gear in neutral, but instead, it went straigh to drive, so it causes major damages to 2 vehicles behind mine, and other 3 in front of mine too. Also my vehicle destroyed a mail box and a tree, but I could not stop until my Highlander stopped by itself totally destroyed. I ended up in the hospital with some trauma.

- Bronx, NY, USA

problem #13

Jun 152015


  • 0 miles


Have documented transmission problems since the purchase of the vehicle. Contacted Toyota with my concerns, no help was provided. Transmission failed. Provided Toyota with complaint on Oct.14,2015. And many times before then. Afraid for my life to drive it. Turning, jerking, hesitation in take off. Etc.

- Columbia, SC, USA

problem #12

Mar 312005


  • 6 miles
I'm the original owner & sole driver of the vehicle & ever since I test drove it the day I purchased it this car's had issues with "jerky/delayed" acceleration. During the test drive I was told that the car adjusts to how I drive & it'll get better. This happens pretty much every time I accelerate the vehicle after it's been stopped or the speed slowed substantially. Each & every time I try to gently accelerate the vehicle from a stop, there's a tiny delay in vehicle response from what I am inputting to the accelerator pedal. Then after the delay, it's like the vehicle tries to suddenly catch up with where it was supposed to be in the acceleration process & suddenly jerks forward with a lot of acceleration. This poses a safety problem when trying to pull out into traffic & needing the vehicle to respond to the gas pedal inputs that I'm giving it immediately as I'm giving them & not with even a small delay. That delay in response by the vehicle's acceleration has caused several near-misses with other traffic. I have tried taking it into my dealer at least a couple times to have the issue addressed but the technicians just wanted to brush it off saying they didn't notice it or blame it on the transmission & when I told them this isn't a transmission problem they just blew me off treating me like a dumb female who didn't know anything about cars, not knowing that I'm an engineer. Both of these times were within my warranty period, but it's obvious they didn't want to spend the time & effort to diagnose this issue. My safety was clearly not important to the people at my local Toyota dealership. So I continue to have this problem every single time I accelerate from a stop and most times I re-accelerate after having slowed down substantially. After having this issue for the past 9 years, the jerkiness of the acceleration probably has caused other problems with the vehicle.

- Wichita, KS, USA

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problem #11

Sep 062007

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 25,000 miles
I am the original owner of the vehicle and throughout my ownership since 2/2005 when it was bought this car has issues with acceleration. It usually occurs when you are sitting at a stop and try to accelerate the vehicle. The car does not recognize when you are pushing the acceleration pedal and has a delay when it finally responds. There have been numerous incidents where I have tried to cross a busy intersection or pull out into traffic and the vehicle hesitates when trying to accelerate, ending with a jerk of the vehicle. I have almost been T-boned a few times trying to cross busy intersections and the car doesn't want to move. I have brought this to the dealership numerous times and the only response they have is that the car adjusts to different drivers and it then programs itself based off your driving habits, so they reset the coding on it. Still have the issue, didn't fix anything and now I am reading where others have had issues, I just think they brushed it under the rug to not have to honor my warranty that was in place on the vehicle. I have also have had issues from day 1 on this car with the transmission pan leaking, they have had to replace the transmission pan gasket numerous times on the vehicle; claiming it just went bad. Really, that many times it just goes bad, I don't think so.

- Lakewood, CO, USA

problem #10

Jun 162013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 111,900 miles


Traveling at approx 35mph the vehicle suddenly and without warning decelerated rapidly to zero mph and a loud gear - like crunching and grinding sound was heard under the engine compartment. The vehicle would only move at 1 mph to pull off the road and was totally disabled. Vehicle had to be towed. Mechanics concluded the front drive differential suffered a major failure and then ruined the automatic transmission.

- Wyckoff, NJ, USA

problem #9

Feb 032014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 96,444 miles
My transmission has failed on my Toyota 2005 Highlander after 96,000 miles. I have read other consumer complaints and I am convinced there is a serious problem with the2005 Toyota Highlander hybrid transmission. I spoke to Toyota and they advised me to take my car to the dealership. I was told that the transmission had to be replaced and that it would cost $5060,00 to replace. Toyota offered me.10% off the cost of repairs. I was shocked as I have only owned the vehicle for 15 months and have a 4 year note. I am very fortunate that I did not have a horrible accident as I was coming down a very steep incline on the highway when the transmission began to fail. I am forced to repair the vehicle as I am not in the position to purchase another vehicle. I would like for the NHTSA to look into this issue further.

- Chaparral , NM, USA

problem #8

Jun 012013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
Bought the car used with 49K miles approximately. Did not do this for the first 1.5 yrs we owned this now problems with the tranny and dealer told us it is suppose to do that. I dont think so by other people in the Toyota Highlander forums. There are thousands of owners with this tranny problem and Toyota has no fix but to replace the tranny for $5000 wife's 2005 Highlander is not shifting correct when she slows down and then tries to speed up or when she goes around a corner slow and speeds up the tranny has a delay and then shifts kinda hard. When starting from a dead stop shifts fine no problems just slowing down and then accelerating it will delay then shift. It kind of jerks the car and makes you wonder what is going on. Car has been doing this for about 6 months. This is very dangerous when in traffic with the delay shifting trying to merge in stop and go traffic. Many close calls of getting into an accident. Been on many forums and many people have been told by the Toyota dealers that this is normal which I feel is a bull crap story just to get rid of the person/complaint. I'm putting in this complaint because it is a safety complaint in my judgment and Toyota needs to fix these tranny problems. Thanks

- Everett, MA, USA

problem #7

Jul 022013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 9,972,300 miles
Engine/transmission is very jerky and on again off again with acceleration and deceleration. This has almost caused me to have several accidents, and I am considering getting rid of the car. It seems that Toyota has known about this problem with Highlander for some period of time. And I feel that they should honor the hard working citizens that buy their vehicles and provide a recall to repair the afore mentioned problems.

- Hebron, OH, USA

problem #6

Jun 122013


  • 99,000 miles


The contact owns a 2005 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that he noticed transmission fluid leaking from the transmission. The vehicle was neither diagnosed nor repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 99,000.

- Stafford, CT, USA

problem #5

Oct 262010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • miles
I have 2005 Highlander limited V6 AWD. The car has issues with the differential fluid leaking after 30,000 miles or every two years. The dealer fixed the leaking for my car at 35,429 miles (no charge due to warranty) in 2008; however, the differential was leaking again at 67,329 miles this year. I contacted Toyota and they told me that the warranty for the differential is 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Once the vehicle is outside of these warranty guidelines the cost of repairs becomes the owner?S responsibility.

- Centreville, VA, USA

problem #4

Jul 292010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 65,220 miles
Front differential catastrophically failed on 2005 Toyota Highlander (4WD) (65,220 mi) while traveling at 65 mph on interstate. Vehicle instantaneously lost speed (to 30 mph) & we narrowly avoided being run over by semitrailer at highway speed. Due to configuration of road - only sporadic shoulders because of terrain - this was a very dangerous situation. Car stuck in travel lanes for an extended period. Feel very lucky that no one was hurt. Repairing dealer asserted that the part had no fluid remaining due to seal leak. Vehicle was last serviced by local dealer ~2,000 miles earlier (63,226 mi) with no leakage seen. Entire front differential / transfer case assembly was replaced (still have part). Car was totally inspected by repairing dealer at the time (65,220 mi) and no other problems found. One month later found fluid puddle in driveway (66,216 mi). Dealer investigated and reported that the inspection plug on the rear differential was rapidly leaking differential fluid. Told not to drive vehicle till plug and gasket replaced. Seems to be ok now. So, within a month and 1,000 mi use, both the front differential and the rear differential rapidly lost fluids. I suspect bad gaskets were used in manufacture.

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #3

Aug 012010


  • 90,004 miles
The rear wheel bearings on our 2005 Toyota Highlander failed at 94,000 miles. We heard strange noises from the rear end and asked our mechanic to check. He indicated that the right rear tire was "cupped" and suggested replacement. Since it was time for new tires anyway, we did that but the noise continued. Upon returning to the mechanic he dug further and reported that both rear wheel bearings were worn, the left (to the point of being dangerous) more than the right, to the point that they needed to be replaced. We went to the Toyota dealer from who we purchased the car and their service department confirmed the diagnosis and we arranged for the needed repairs. When we asked the dealer and Toyota directly whether this was problem they had seen before they indicated it was just wear and tear and basically, our hard luck.

- Vero Beach, FL, USA

problem #2

Dec 312009


  • 81,950 miles
I own a 2005 Toyota Highlander. I went to a friend's house and parked vehicle in front of the house in the driveway by placing the gear shift in the park position. I left the vehicle idling while I went into my friend's house to get a grocery list. I went in and out of the house on 2 different occasions over a period of about 10- 15 minutes to retrieve items for my friend that were outside. On both occasions my vehicle was in the driveway idling. While I was back inside retrieving the grocery list my friend and I observed my vehicle moving through her back yard and proceeded into the woods behind her house where it came to a stop after hitting a tree. This vehicle somehow took itself out of the park position and into drive!!!! I reported this to my Toyota dealer and the insurance company. The Toyota dealer and the regional Toyota manager said there was no way this could have happened and that it was not the same issue being investigated (gas pedal issue). I went ahead and had the car repaired and the insurance company paid for it (except for my $500 deductible) with no investigation or questions. I picked the car up today and now I am hearing on the news that many of the so called gas pedal incidents have not been explained and that it is possible that many of the previously reported incidents can only be explained by a faulty computer. Right after the accident I asked the Toyota dealer/regional manager specifically if my incident could have been caused by a computer malfunction. The answer was no!

- Drums, PA, USA

problem #1

Mar 032007

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 0 miles
My 2005 Toyota Highlander, V6 model, always on applying the brakes the first time after starting in the morning is like the ABS system is engaged, it takes longer to stop than it will on the succeeding braking applications. This is very dangerous, especially to someone who may not be prepared for this or is not the usual driver. At first I thought this was just hydraulics but now I think it is tied to the ABS system, after reading of the problem with acceleration.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

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