Print this page Notes: 2008 is the first year of the 2nd generation Highlander, & it may be a model year to avoid as Toyota most likely worked out some production quality issues with the new model.

The 2009 Highlander is the has far fewer complaints.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
81,300 miles
Total Complaints:
5 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. water pump replacement (4 reports)
  2. water pump bearing replacement (1 reports)
2008 Toyota Highlander cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2008 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #5

Jul 012024

Highlander Sport 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,800 miles


This is the second waterpump for the 2008 Highlander, within 40K.

This time it costs even more, more than $3600.

This is getting so ridiculous. Isn't Toyota supposed to be reliable?

- M W., Middle Earth, US

problem #4

Jul 012024

Highlander Sport 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles

2GR-FE has many issues. Water pump is one of those. Don't buy a Highlander from this year. It'll cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands.

Update from Jul 2, 2024 First water pump replacement was in 2009.

- M W., Middle Earth, US

problem #3

Apr 252016

Highlander 3.6L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,467 miles

I bought this car in late 2007, assuming that it's a Japan-made car, can buy me more quality insurance. But I'm wrong, this is the worst one in 4 cars I've purchased so far. First I got the brake disc worn-out problem for just 44000 km, cost me $500 to replace it. Then I get this one. I never heard any car need to replace water pump in such early life time - 78000 km. The cooling liquid leak for a long time but never alarmed up on my dash board. And this happens out of warranty, I called dealer without any help. This really annoys me. I seriously NOT recommend Toyota to anyone!

- Weimin X., Kanata, ON, Canada

problem #2

Dec 202015

Highlander Sport 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Highlander V 6 has always made grinding noise immediately after start up. Multiple Toyota Dealers in Richmond, Va. never had an answer for problem after repeated service attempts. Independent shop found that the water pump bearing has major wear & play in shaft is the source of grinding noise, as it now occurs constantly. Repair is VERY expensive, as Toyota allowed no clearance or access to replace the water pump, requiring REMOVAL OF ENGINE to replace water pump! The dealer quotes 20 hours of labor, for a repair bill that is over $1,600.! Very poor design by Toyota has no access panel in wheel well to replace water pump. There is a recall on V 6 Camry engine water pumps, but not the same engine that is in the Highlander? Toyota knows they sell vehicles with defective designs, & does nothing about it. I also own a 2013 Sienna with the same 3.5 liter engine & am worried it will have the same problems, as it is already noisy at start up. Feel duped by Japanese car manufactures, as I sold out Honda Odyssey, because it burned up more then a quart of oil every 1,000 miles. Does anyone make a descent, reliable car anymore?

- Jeremy R., Richmond, VA, US

problem #1

Dec 232015

Highlander Sport 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

Water pump on 2008 Toyota Highlander Sport 3.5 L V 6:

If your engine starts making a noise from the left side of the motor at the belt it is likely the water pump bearings & tensioner going bad. It is a really expensive labor bill to repair, as Toyota did not make this engine accessible to repair it, The transversal engine has no clearance to replace the water pump & no access from the wheel wells. Toyota first told me that the entire engine would have to be removed to access the water pump!?! I found a better private mechanic with Napa who was able to slightly raise the engine off the mounts to access the water pump for replacement. The pump is only $150.00 but the labor is over $600. because it takes a full 8-9 hours to replace the pump. Car is out of warranty, but water pumps should not go bad on a car that is only 7 years old & under 90 k.

Beware of a mechanic quoting over $1,800 in labor to pull the motor for water pump repair. Find another mechanic who has experience with Toyota V6 engine as this is a common problem.

ps.: If you V 6 motor grinds at start up for a couple of seconds like a chain saw: get rid of this car. The grinding is from a lack of engine oil getting to the top bearings of the cam shafts & VVTI timing gears & the timing chain is stretching. It will eventually kill the engine, & the cost to fix it is over $3,000! I am seliing this car, & was once a loyal Toyota owner. We sold our previous 2002 Highlander because it had high miles, but it ran better & was far more reliable then the "newer" Highlanders. Like the car, but I'm not gonna pay 3 - 4 k to fix a noise that lasts for 2 seconds at start up.

- Jeremy R., Richmond, VA, US

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