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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
68,878 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.

2008 Toyota Highlander electrical problems

electrical problem

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2008 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #26

Sep 222016


  • 125,000 miles


Car automatically locked my young child in the car. I used the fob to unlock the car. Then I opened the back door to put my child in his carseat and placed my keys on the driver seat to have access to both my hands for the tasks. Once my child was strapped in I shut the back right door to go get in the driver front door. As soon as I shut the back door I heard a beep and all the doors locked down, locking my child inside with the keys. As it was a hot day in my town, I immediately called the police, who had to come and jammed the the door so I could get out my son. We have since changed the keys in the fob and on 9/25/2016 while seated in the car it again locked itself before I was able to put the keys in the ignition

- Eagleville, PA, USA

problem #25

Aug 252015


  • 113,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. After the contact placed the 7 month old child in the back seat with the smart key inside the vehicle, all the doors erroneously locked. The child became trapped inside the vehicle. The window had to be broken in order to unlock the doors. The contact indicated that the smart key safety feature did not prevent the doors from becoming locked while the smart key was inside the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who was unable to diagnose the cause of the failure. The manufacturer was notified. The failure mileage was 113,000.

- Sumter , SC, USA

problem #24

Jul 012015


  • 160,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While stopping the vehicle after pressing the keyless push start system, the vehicle continued to travel down a hill which resulted in a crash. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. A police report was not filed and no injuries were sustained. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 160,000. The VIN was not available.

- Clarks Summit, PA, USA

problem #23

Mar 222015


  • 84,000 miles


The contact owned a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving at an unknown speed, smoke appeared under the dashboard. The fire department was able to extinguish the fire. The contact did not disclose if a police report and a fire report were filed. The vehicle was destroyed. The cause of the fire was unknown. The failure mileage was 84,000.

- Margate, FL, USA

problem #22

Dec 112013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
The spiral cable in the steering wheel has caused the airbag light to come on, which means the airbags will not operate in the event of a crash. Also the horn and cruise control will not operate. These items are all associated with the spiral cable. Toyota customer service said they know of the spiral cable problem but do not have a fix for it now.

- Frankfort, KY, USA

problem #21

Jul 012014


  • 63,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated after turning on the air conditioner, it emitted hot air through the vents and would continue to do so once the air conditioner was turned off. The manufacturer was notified of the failure and did not offer a remedy. The dealer diagnosed that a computer chip needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage were 63,000.

- Taland, CT, USA

problem #20

Jun 142014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 141,451 miles


We were starting off to go on vacation when warning lights came on the dashboard and information panel with hybrid system warnings and brake warnings then the car completely stopped in the middle of the road and steering was lost. We were able to get off to the side enough to prevent causing an accident however we were on a busy street. Had it towed to the local Toyota dealer and the diagnosis was a failed coil. They replaced all 3 coils saying that it would be prudent as the engine was already apart (I agree). They also said that this is a relatively common occurrence with some of the Highlander hybrids. I have the part and it looks like the top of the coil became over heated and blew out the top plastic compound. I consider myself very lucky that this did not happen while on a highway on a rainy day where the vehicle abruptly stopping would certainly have caused me to be in an accident. This is certainly a flaw that Toyota should address for safety reasons and it makes me hesitant to want to purchase another Toyota product again.

- Sutton, MA, USA

problem #19

Mar 172008


  • 19,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated the electrical system failed to work. When the vehicle was turned on none of the electrical components would work. The failure occurred intermittently over a period of six years. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic; however, the diagnoses was not available. The manufacturer was notified of the defect. The approximate failure mileage was 19,000. Updated 8/12/14

- West Hempstead, NY, USA

problem #18

Feb 012014


  • 112,000 miles
The driver's side back door has stopped locking/unlocking with the key fob as well as the electrical lock. The beep doesn't occur when I use the fob to lock the doors because the door isn't locking, but does beep when unlocking the vehicle although the back door still remains locked. I did have the recall on the window lock switch completed, so not sure if that is factoring in with the problem or not..

- Huntsville, AL, USA

problem #17

Jan 312014


  • 129,000 miles
My windshield wiper defroster started to crackle and smoke. I turned it off and back on and it started to do it again.

- Kremmling, CO, USA

problem #16

Nov 122013


  • miles


In early November I received a recall notice from Toyota instructing me to arrange for replacement of the intelligent power module. The letter indicated that this replacement is urgent and that I would be in violation of California regulations if I did not do this repair. I called my local dealer, Toyota of santa cruz, the next day to schedule the appointment. I was told that Toyota rations the parts for these repairs and that I would be put an a waiting list and to expect a call in 2-3 weeks. A month later I called again and was told that I was still on a waiting list and it would be 2-3 weeks at the earliest before I could schedule the repair. I feel that Toyota (or the dealership) is not fulfilling its obligation to its customers by failing to supply parts for this repair in a timely manner.

- Santa Cruz, CA, USA

problem #15

Sep 092013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 50,000 miles
I own a 2008 Highlander sport that has a major issue with the door locks. The remote key fob no longer works, and now even the button inside the car stopped working. I have done a lot of research and it appears that many people who have owned Highlanders have had this issue. My car was recalled recently for the power windows, and now the door locks no longer work. I would like to file this complaint with the hope that enough people complain to force Toyota to fix this issue.

- Carrollton, TX, USA

problem #14

Sep 032013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 93,255 miles
Airbag sensor light deployed, and remained lit for approximately three days. Toyota dealership at pullman, wa diagnosed the problem as a faulty spiral cable; the spiral cable assembly was replaced at a cost of $491.69. I wonder why there was a recall done on ~450,000 Tacoma, but not on the Highlander. It sounds like a similar problem: Poor engineering leads to friction, causing a short in the cable. Warning light goes on, and the driver air bag may not deploy during a wreck. I could think of 1001 better ways to spend $500!!!

- Pullman, WA, USA

problem #13

Aug 102011


  • 30,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that upon starting the ignition, the engine failed to operate. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer where the battery was replaced. The failure recurred three times where and battery was replaced on each recurrence. Most recently, a diagnostic was performed and the dealer was unable to detect a trouble code. The technician informed the contact that the vehicle did not have enough road mileage to could contribute to the defect. The manufacturer was not notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 30,000.

- Huntington Beach , CA, USA

problem #12

Nov 062012

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 61,000 miles
My steering locks when I was driving. I reported this issue before to the dealer, but they figure out that the computer has a problem after the big issue.

- Roslindale, MA, USA

problem #11

Nov 112012

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 122,856 miles
I was driving my 2008 Highlander on November 11, 2012 and the airbag light came on. The following day I went online to see if there was a recall on the Toyota website. There was a recall for the airbag light for the side curtain air bag system. I took my vehicle to my Toyota dealer to have the recall work done on November 14. The airbag light was still on after the recall work. I left them the vehicle so they could do further diagnostics. They said the squib circuit on the spiral cable for the airbag system on the steering column had a short in it. Toyota part number 84306-22010. It was not part of the recall. The dealership told me that if a repair was not done there was a good chance that the airbag system would not work in an accident. The dealership said the airbag light would light up intermittently if I didn't repair it and that they were pretty sure the airbag wouldn't go off on its own. My choice was fix it or park it. I had them do the repair, $276.63 for the spiral cable and $150 for the labor, $443.22 total with sales tax. I have over 122,000 miles on my vehicle and the dealership has been performing the maintenance on the vehicle. I have two other vehicles (not Toyota) and neither has ever had an airbag system problem and each one has over 100,000 miles. The wiring for the airbag system should never go bad. Please have someone look into this problem.

- Peachtree Corners, GA, USA

problem #10

Oct 012012


  • 100,100 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander sport. The contact stated that while stopped at a traffic stop, she noticed smoke emitting from the vehicle. The contact exited the vehicle and noticed flames coming from under the vehicle. The contact was able to allow a safe distance between her and the vehicle as it quickly became engulfed in flames. The vehicle was destroyed. The fire department was notified and determined that the cause of the fire was electrical. The failure and current mileages were 100,100.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #9

Aug 292012

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 69,000 miles
The spiral cable went bad causing the air bag light to come on making the airbags inoperable.

- Midwest City, OK, USA

problem #8

Jan 132011

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 63,367 miles
Dealer claimed " this is an electrical problem. Access and traced all related wiring to inside the fuse/relay panel. Found something had chewed and shorted out the wiring" they would not provide any proof. I notified Toyota motors and got no help from them.

- Easton, PA, USA

problem #7

Dec 292010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 40,000 miles
The sensor lights for ABS and vsc have gone on and off intermittently on my 2008 Toyota Highlander. Sometimes the brakes engaged the skid control, braking capability is lost and other times the speed needle does not gage properly. The system was inspected by Toyota, who indicated it was due to damage to the sensor from a rope. Toyota supposedly replaced the sensor and they stayed off for a few weeks, but continue to come back. My vehicle still has less than 50,000 miles, and Toyota is again telling me they have to look into the problem.

- San Diego, CA, USA

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