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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
96,552 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2008 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #29

Dec 212015

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 128,000 miles


The primary issue of concern is regarding the vehicles valve springs. As a result of the valve spring which was in place, the vehicle in which I drove, stalled multiple times while in motion on a highway, before I was able to get it checked. In order to rectify this it cost over $2,000 in repairs. This issue is of grave concern, as a faulty valve spring, if it were to happen on a highway, could result in the death of a driver, passengers, and other vehicles. This issue is similar to the 2010 valve spring issue which affected Lexus vehicles. In that 2010 issue, Toyota admitted fault and recalled issues for 2006 to 2008 Lexus models. Given that the issue happened to other brands owned by Toyota the dot should see whether the issue is more widespread, and whether my vehicle falls under this issue as well.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #28

Sep 172015


  • 112,000 miles
Engine oil cooling (rubber) hose burst while driving and dumped all of my oil... Toyota has since repaired this part with a series of metal pipes, which suggests to me that they realize that this is a defect but it is not acknowledged as a recall

- Apex, NC, USA

problem #27

Sep 012015


  • 83,500 miles
I recently noticed a rattling sound out of the engine area that occurs intermittently. It typically occurs after the vehicle sits for a couple hours after it has been driven up to operating temperature. The sound happens for less than 2 seconds. The Toyota dealer in our area diagnosed the issue as a failure of the intake cam gear per Toyota technical service bulletin 0094-09. The service advisor stated that if the issue is left unaddressed, it could lead to complete engine failure. He also stated that the updated cam gear made by Toyota does not fit the existing camshaft. This means that all 4 cam gears and two camshafts would have to be replaced which dramatically increases the labor and parts costs. I was given the following quote for the repair: Part's $3748 labor $2137 tax $348 total $6233 I took the vehicle to another Toyota to confirm the diagnosis and they confirmed the issue and quoted me at a similar price to do the repair. Message boards all across the internet describe a similar phenomenon. After discussing the matter with Toyota corporate, they agreed to cover 50% of the parts cost, but I believe this to be unfair because their updated part intrinsically and dramatically increases the labor and parts costs. Even though only one cam gear failed, the replacement of all 4 cam gears is now necessary.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #26

Oct 102015


  • 113,000 miles


The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that the air condition tube failed while driving. The contact inspected the vehicle and discovered that the air condition tube was exposed to the motor ventilator causing the tube to overheat and explode, spilling the coolant. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The VIN was not available. The approximate failure mileage was 113,000.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #25

Oct 022015


  • 126,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While driving 50 mph, the contact smelled burning oil. The contact pulled over and found a leak in the motor oil cooling hose. The vehicle was towed to a dealer to be repaired. In addition, the mechanic found an issue with the cam shaft of the vehicle. The manufacturer was made aware of the issue. The failure mileage was 126,000.

- Millis, MA, USA

problem #24

Jun 212015


  • 134,000 miles
According to the following website, there is a known issue with a cheap part on the Toyota V6 engines. There was even a recall for the part, however, I"M told my car wasn't on the recal list. Https:// the issue at hand is the car has been to the dealer for all maintenance, so its not a neglect issue. The rear bank vvt-I oil line used in prior to 2008 (mine has this issue as well) is metal with a rubber host connecting the two. The hose ruptures, dumps all of the oil, which squirts onto the passenger wheel, in the brakes, etc. It can not only cause a fire in the engine bay (which it did not in this case), but it could also lead to an inability to steer or brake (neither were the case here). Lastly, 6 quarts of oil drained out in less than 60 seconds, and the engine could have seized. This is a seriour issue for a $35 part.

- Columbia, MD, USA

problem #23

Jun 012014


  • 102,321 miles


When you start up car there is a engine grinding noise for a few seconds. This has been reported by many people on the internet, just google 2008 Toyota Highlander start up engine noise and you will get a better look at what it sounds like. This could lead to severe engine damage. It is a defect in the engine.

- Glenview, IL, USA

problem #22

May 042015


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While attempting to accelerate, the vehicle hesitated and the check engine light illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The technician diagnosed that the fuel pump needed to be replaced. The technician stated that the fuel pump failing was a known issue. The vehicle was then put through a stress test and the service department kept and drove the vehicle. The service manager stated that the failure was not the fuel pump and that there was an issue within the system once the vehicle warmed up that caused the vehicle to lose power. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 90,000.

- Parker, CO, USA

problem #21

Mar 312015

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 115,000 miles
I purchased a qualified pre-owned 2008 Toyota Highlander sport from rice Toyota in greensboro, nc in February of 2013. Since that time, I have properly serviced the vehicle and retained all service records. On or about March 31, 2015, while I was driving home from work on I-40 (65 mph interstate highway), the engine in my Highlander suddenly stalled and the check engine light came on. I coasted into a rest area (luckily) and was towed to a service station in greensboro. A complete diagnostic was performed and it was determined that the engine failure was due to a faulty engine valve spring. Every mechanic I have spoken with have indicated that a valve spring should not break on a 2008 Toyota with around 100K miles. I searched online and found that Toyota has recalled hundreds of thousands of certain Lexus models, including models from 2008 with the same 3.5 liter V6 engine as is in my Highlander, for faulty valve springs that result in sudden engine stalling. Rice Toyota has refused to provide any assistance, as has Toyota corporation. Further, Toyota corporation has refused to provide me with any information regarding the manufacturer of the valve spring in my vehicle and/or any indication if the same valve spring was in the recalled Lexus modes. I have seen class action law suits filed against Toyota for concealing issues with valve springs. This defect can be very dangerous as the vehicle stalls suddenly and without warning. I need assistance to motivate Toyota corporation and rice Toyota to correct a clear design and/or manufacturing defect that caused a potentially dangerous engine stall in the middle of a major interstate highway.

- Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #20

Nov 062014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 129,000 miles
Engine oil leaked almost empty. When I picked up kid from school parking on the driveway on that rainy day, saw a leak line on the wet ground. Next Saturday I filled a qt oil to the level and drove to repair shop. The technician said almost all 5.5 qt oil was leaked out. Turned out it was timing chain covers silicon sealer broken. I am the person always check around my car before going out, if not checking, things could be very bad.

- Herndon, VA, USA

problem #19

Sep 172014


  • 70,000 miles


The oil cooler hose on my 2008 Highlander suddenly malfunctioned, causing most of my car's oil to spill out on to the driveway. Apparently, this particular rubber hose has been the subject of recalls and equipment upgrades to a metal pipe in other Toyota models, but not the Highlander. This is a safety issue that Toyota is neglecting to acknowledge in its Highlanders. I called my local Toyota dealership to report the problem, and ask what Toyota is doing to fix it, and they denied there was any kind of problem with the oil cooler hoses. A simple google search implies otherwise.

- Granville, OH, USA

problem #18

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 #17

May 282014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 92,800 miles
I normally ride a vanpool, but due to flash flood warnings today I decided to drive my car into the office. My husband called me at work to tell me he noticed a big oil spot on the garage after I left for work. He told me to pull over and not drive my Highlander if it started clacking or smoking on my way home. My husband just changed the oil in my car a few days prior. Before I could make it home the car was smoking, knocking, and shifting very loudly. My husband said I was lucky this didn't lock up the engine. He discovered oil splatters all over the tire and near the engine. We had no issues at all prior to today. We are going to try replacing the oil line as denoted in other peoples comments. Their experiences with this issue mirror my experience. I'm disappointed to hear Toyota issued a service bulletin about this and not a safety recall. This could have been a huge safety issue as I'm hauling kids to/from daycare during rush hour traffic not to mention locking up the engine. This came out of the middle of nowhere.

- Pearland, TX, USA

problem #16

May 162014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 107,472 miles
Toyota's T-sb-0201-1 should trigger a recall!! my wife was driving her '08 Highlander, with 2 co-worker passengers, to a funeral. On 95N in danvers, MA, a motor biker pulled alongside & flagged my wife to pull over asap as there was smoke coming from the engine compartment and under the car. After stopping the car & waiting for the smoke to dissipate, he checked & found there was no longer any oil in the engine, the oil had emptied from the engine the last few miles while on the highway. I arrived later that morning to investigate, to discover that the oil was below the dipstick. The bottom of the engine & entire underside of the vehicle, including the exhaust system, spare tire, wheel wells, right wheels & tires & rear liftgate were coated in engine oil. The smoke apparently was from oil splashing onto the hot exhaust system, & vaporizing due to the high temp, creating a potential fire hazard. We had the car towed to the nearest Toyota dealership. They determined that an oil cooler line external to the engine - part of a towing option package the car has - had ruptured! the engine's oil had been pumped out by the oil pump. We have since discovered that Toyota had issued a technical service bulletin - T-sb-0201-11 - in December 2011 which addressed "oil seepage" from this exact oil line. Now we are $480 poorer, & we could have experienced a $10 K engine failure due to seizing, & possible injury or loss of life due to this. This tsb was never performed on our car as we had never seen spotting in our driveway from this leak. The new part installed was redesigned as solid metal tubing to fix the original rubber hose with clamps. Instead of recalling all of the affected vehicles to replace this potential life taker, Toyota simply swept it under the rug and only replaced them when someone saw a leak and only when they still were below their 36,000 mileage warranty. Crazy!

- Hanover, MA, USA

problem #15

Mar 222014


  • miles
The oil line has degraded, causing total loss of engine oil and possible engine damage.

- Brooklyn Park, MN, USA

problem #14

Mar 222014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 92,221 miles
Driving in parking lot at approximately 5mph when smelled burning oil. Parked car and noticed smoke from under the hood. Turned off car and checked under the hood and noticed oil over engine. Searched online and saw issue with oil-cooler line "Toyota: On some vehicles, the engine oil cooler pipes may exhibit an oil seepage. Information has been provided regarding this issue". this did turn out to be the issue. Fortunately this even occurred when we were in a parking lot and not driving down the highway with kids in the back. This is a significant issue that could result in a fire and/or engine damage. The dealer stated they were aware of this service notice but no official recall had occurred. This has the potential to be a significant issue to both the cars and passengers and I hope that a recall would occur.

- Sartell, MN, USA

problem #13

Mar 052014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 86,857 miles
High pressure oil cooler line failure of rubber hose section dumped 5 qts of engine oil soaking undercarriage and spraying onto nearby hot exhaust pipe and right rear tire. No indication of loss of oil pressure on vehicle monitoring system. Noticed a faint smell of burnt oil when vehicle was parked. Returned later to start vehicle and heard audible engine noise and turned of engine to investigate under hood, a noticeable puddle of oil had accumulated under car. Vehicle towed for diagnoses and repair.

- Glendale, AZ, USA

problem #12

Feb 232014


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving 10 mph, she began to her a knocking noise in the engine. The contact parked the vehicle and had it towed to a certified mechanic which stated that the engine cooler hose had a hole and cause the engine oil to leak out of the vehicle and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 100,000.

- Sateburn, MA, USA

problem #11

Jan 072014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 121,931 miles
Oil pressure warning light went on almost immediately pulled over found no oil on dipstick had rapid oil leak, dealer replaced oil cooler hose with oil cooler pipe.

- Menands, NY, USA

problem #10

Nov 112013


  • 200,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact was driving 55 mph when the vehicle began to emit a burning oil smell. The check engine lamp illuminated so the contact added oil to the vehicle. The contact stated that the burning oil smell still lingered and the check engine warning lamp illuminated again. In addition, a hose from the engine failed and spilled motor oil on the exterior of the vehicle. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for inspection where the contact was informed that the oil cooler line had exploded. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the incident. The approximate failure mileage was 200,000.

- Tualatin, OR, USA

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