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:
76,350 miles
Total Complaints:
6 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (5 reports)
  2. replace cam actuators (2 reports)
2008 Toyota Highlander engine problems

engine problem

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2008 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #6

Feb 152017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 149,000 miles


I had knocking engine on Toyota Highlander 2008 and I parked on my drive way for a month now. I worry the engine getting worse if i keep driving. So, I looked for solution how to fix it on website but no luck. I read on the web site even Dealer don't know what's wrong with it. Hope some one find solution.

- lskott67, La VergneLa Vergne, US

problem #5

Mar 312015

Highlander Sport 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

Others have written about the grinding noise that the Toyota Highlander 3.5 Liter engine makes at cold start up. But none have stated what it specifically is, & the huge cost for this manufactures defect.

The engine grinds at start up, because the V.V.T.I. (Variable Valve Timing) actuators, tensioners & the camshaft bearing ends do not receive adequate oil pressure at engine start up. The seals of the top end of the motor leak when they age, & the oil drains back down away from these crucial parts at start up. This causes the timing gears to grind & also stretches the timing chain over time. The actuator for the timing increases the pressure after a few seconds, taking the slack out from the timing chain. This does not sound so bad if its just happening for a couple of seconds. But over time it will cause severe engine wear & eventual failure.

The fix is VERY EXPENSIVE! It requires pulling the motor to remove & replace the cam shaft bearings, both of the two VVTI Timing actuators & the stretched timing chain. The parts alone are nearly 2 grand, & the labor is another 2 grand as it calls for over 20 hours of labor to repair, at $85.00 per hour for most Toyota mechanics. If you have this problem with your Toyota Highlander V 6 engine, or Venza or Camry get rid of it fast, before the problem becomes constant. Toyota knows that there is a consistent problem from design failure of oil flow to the top end of the motor, which will cause eventual engine failure.

They will do nothing about it, & will give you a bunch of lame excuses from the dealer, until your warranty expires. They will also try to blame lack of perfect oil changes on the problem. The oil seals, fail on this engine & it has nothing to do with how often you change the oil. This V 6 also has problems I've listed on other complaints such as leaking from the oil cooler hose, leaking from the timing chain cover, water pump bearing failures, and the list goes on & on.

We had a 2002 Highlander the we ran for 10 years & never changed anything but oil & break pads & tires. Toyota quality has gone way downhill. Can't tell you what car to buy instead, as Honda's suck now too!

- Jeremy R., Richmond, VA, USA

problem #4

Oct 212015

Highlander Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

This loud rattle happens on start up sometimes even when the engine is not cold. It is very annoying and embarrassing when this happens . I went to Toyota dealer and they haven't figured out what the cause is. The car is now 7 years old so i don't want to spend a lot to fix it but it still runs good.

- davecalder69, richmond hill, ON, Canada

problem #3

May 012014

Highlander Limited 3.2L, V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles


So, this isn't fixed yet. It is at the selling dealer, where they are attempting to get my extended warranty to cover it because, of course, I am past the TSB mileage for Toyota to repair it. If you have this vehicle, be vary wary of engine grinding upon start up and get thee to a mechanic quickly. The parts are expensive, and the labor is very expensive due to the nature of the problem. Toyota knows this is an issue, has a TSB dating to March 2009 (which was 2 years and 9 months BEFORE we bought this car as a "certified pre-owned vehicle'") but does not have a recall out for it. Numerous vehicles are affected - Avalons, Camrys, Highlander, Sienna, RAV4, and Venza are on the TSB.

- Jennifer W., Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #2

May 312012

Highlander Sport

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

This piece of crap suv has been nothing but problems from day 1 , we bought it new but it drives like an old beater. The engine revs up really high (in park or stopped) and has almost like a card in the spokes of a bike tire sound or clicking. I did find out from other reviews its the engine getting ready to go. Also when I accelerate there is an awful rotten egg smell which I believe is the catalytic converter this has been a problem from day one and the Toyota dealer says its normal.???? My husband is deployed so its been sitting for months now when i start it and drive it around the block it doesn't do the clicking sound or rev up high . When he gets home we will trade it in and never ever buy from Toyota again . We used to be a die hard Toyota family. Now with how Toyota has gone down in manufacturing good quality vehicles,we are just trying to get rid of our newer Toyotas and find a better quality vehicles. NOT TOYOTA

- patriceh, Havelock, NC, USA

problem #1

Dec 152009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 37,000 miles


- Wilfredo S., Aguadilla, PR, Puerto Rico

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