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:
19 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
15 / 1
Average Mileage:
33,373 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 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #18

Oct 132008


  • 10,245 miles


Noted recently on six complaints registered with NHTSA regarding 2008 Highlander brake problems and five complaints registered with NHTSA regarding 2008 highland electric problems that involve brakes and electronic controls. I am submitting the following experiences with my 2008 Highlander because they mirror many of the complaints. The brakes on my Highlander have been an issue from the first weeks of ownership. I have taken the car to a local Toyota dealership and complained about the brakes. The dealership did adjust the emergency brake which they indicated was out of adjustment but have stated that the brakes are working normally. My specific complaint is brake response. There is roughly an inch of pedal travel before the brakes begin to respond. If one must make a hard emergency stop the vsc control will engage. On one occasion, while driving in town a car ran through a traffic light in front of me. I hit the brakes hard - the vsc light came on - and the car slowly stopped. There was no accident but it was extremely close. I have found that if I routinely press on the brake pedal until the vsc light comes on that the pedal travel is reduced. I took the Highlander to aaa auto diagnostics and they confirmed the pedal/vsc. Aaa was unable to read the Highlander computer because they did not have the proprietary Toyota computer interface. The local Toyota dealer has stated that the depressed pedal and vsc light response is normal. I also noted complaints of sudden acceleration when putting the car into gear. I have never experienced a surge to the degree mentioned in the complaints referenced above, however, while putting the car into drive with my foot on the brake I have had the car surge forward. I now always have the emergency brake on while putting the vehicle into drive. The date listed below is that of my first complaint to the local Toyota dealer.

- Santa Clara, CA, USA

problem #17

Mar 122010


  • 21,000 miles
2008 Toyota Highlander. Unintended vehicle acceleration. Pulled into parking space and applied brake but vehicle speed up. Vehicle went up and over the curb and continued to accelerate. The muffler hit the curb and stopped the car from going further. While car was still trying to go forward, managed to get the car in park and turned off the engine. Extensive damage done to the undercarriage of the car. Car was towed to Toyota dealer. Case number from Toyota is [xxx]. information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Howell, NJ, USA

problem #16

Aug 142009


  • 21,506 miles
While I was driving our 2008 Toyota Highlander (with 21506 miles) to the Toyota dealer for a tire inspection, the vehicle surged to approx 80 mph without accelerator pedal engagement. When I applied both feet to the brake pedal, it slowed the vehicle to approx 60 mph, but the engine continued to race out of control. I put the vehicle in neutral, but the engine continued to race. I put the vehicle back into drive and turned off the ignition. I eventually glided to a slow, difficult stop. No other vehicles were in the immediate area. After a 5 minute rest in park, I started the car and the engine raced. I immediately turned off the ignition. After another 5 minute delay, I started the vehicle again and it appeared normal. I drove the vehicle to the dealer and explained what had occurred. The dealer could not recreate the event and did not see any readouts indicating what had occurred. They explained it as a ect transmission that is common when the air conditioning is on. Given recent events, my fear it that the explanation given to me is not accurate. I called the dealer several times over the past 2 months to determine what my options are for recall and repair. They continue to tell me to wait for a floor mat recall notice from Toyota, and prior to receiving that notice, they cannot assist. I called the national Toyota service center 1-800-331-4331 to file an incident report. I explained the situation above, they gave me a case number. They indicated that our vehicle was made in Japan and should not be part of the pedal recall. They also indicated that we should be part of the floor mat recall which will include a computer chip adjustment that will install a brake override to ensure that the brake pedal will override the accelerator. Give the recent events over the past 2 days, it appears that may not be working properly on other vehicles. Since August 2009, this situation has not occurred again. My fear is that it will.

- Strongsville, OH, USA

problem #15

Dec 072009


  • 29,500 miles


On December 7, 2009, I had just arrived at my parking apron in front of my garage and was putting the car in "park" and had depressed the brake pedal to do so. The accelerator immediately jammed on "full" and the car went through a wooden two-car garage door taking all of the equipment with it and proceeded eighteen (18) feet into the garage and was stopped only by the stairs to the condo and the house foundation. There was $9,000 damage to the vehicle and $4,000 damage to the garage and stairs. Toyota has examined the vehicle and claim it is not one of the recalled autos and this event must have been my fault. This is very distressing as I am a senior volunteer driving seniors to their medical appointments and an "at fault" accident would prevent my continuing this project. I firmly believe that some defect, probably electronic controls, caused the vehicle to do what it did and I am very afraid to continue driving it. Even if, Toyota's claim is correct that my foot wedged between the brake and gas pedal causing acceleration, would this not also be a design defect? please provide any information or assistance available.

- Bellevue, WA, USA

problem #14

Dec 212008


  • 2,000 miles
Gas pedal is too tight. I would like some one to check the car. I strongly believe that there will be a big problem found with this model also. Pedal is abnormally tight.

- Reading, PA, USA

problem #13

Feb 122010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. He stated that while driving 5 mph and changing lanes, the throttle caused the wheels to lose traction control. After a while, the throttle engaged and the vehicle began functioning normally. The dealer was contacted and stated that the failure was normal. Vehicle has been inspected but no errors were found and no repairs were made. The failure mileage was 8000 and the current mileage was 33000. Updated 03/24/10 updated 06/28/10

- Andover, MN, USA

problem #12

Feb 102008

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 13,000 miles


The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. On February 10, 2008 while driving approximately 35 mph, the vehicle suddenly accelerated when she put her foot on the brake pedal. The vehicle failed to slow down. She lost control and swerved the into the left lane and crashed into another vehicles rear bumper causing that vehicle to crash into the vehicle in front of them. She sustained injuries to her ribs. The other two drivers also sustained injuries. The insurance company was in the process of investigating the failure. The vehicle was destroyed. The failure and the current mileages were 13,000. A police report was filed. Updated 03/30/10. The consumer stated there may have been possible steering problems as well. According to the police report, the consumer was traveling too fast for the road conditions. Updated 06/28/10

- Summerville, SC, USA

problem #11

Jan 052010


  • 26,000 miles
In January 2010, I was parked in my daughter's daycare driveway. The driveway has a normal slope. I turned the vehicle on while in the driveway and even though I was pressing on the brakes the brakes failed and the car began rolling backward. I had to use the emergency brake to stop the vehicle. Thankfully no children were around me. The incident happened again moments later while the car was parked in my driveway, which has a minimal slope. Again the brakes lost pressure and did not work. In both instances I noticed the vehicle stability control light was on. I took the car to the dealership after the vsc light turned on 4X in the same day. The dealership cannot find the problem. The vsc light and brakes fail on a routine least once a week. I make sure that the emergency brake and parking brake are engaged and that the vsc light does not turn on before shifting to drive. This care is unsafe considering the vsc engages for no apparent reason.

- Pleasant Hill, CA, USA

problem #10

Mar 012008


  • 100 miles
This is an intermittent problem with acceleration we have had with our Toyota Highlander since we purchased the vehicle. When accelerating, the vehicle will periodically over-rev before the automatic transmission shifts into the appropriate gear. This results in a momentary lack of acceleration. Again this is an intermittent problem. When taken to the Toyota dealer, they say they cannot recreate the problem and that there is nothing that they can see that is wrong with the vehicle.

- Sherrills Ford, NC, USA

problem #9

Oct 282009

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 38,400 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander which was purchased in October 2007. She stated that while attempting to make a left turn with her foot on the brake pedal, there was a sudden increase in rpms without warning. She assumed the floor mat was blocking the accelerator pedal; however upon further investigation found this was not the case. The vehicle then proceeded to abnormally accelerate at speeds of less than 15 mph. The contact used both feet to depress the brake pedal and abruptly shifted the vehicle into the park position. The vehicle continued to idle until she shut the engine off. The dealer was contacted and she was advised that there were no recalls on her vehicle. The dealer nor manufacturer provided any assistance. The failure mileage was 38,400 and the current was 39,538. Updated 3/24/10 updated 08/18/10

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #8

Oct 282009


  • 38,400 miles


At the end of October, 09, I was driving with both of my boys in the car. I got into the left turn lane on bay area blvd, houston, tx. I had one car in from of me. I had my foot on the brake and my engine raced and I started to go forward. I looked down quickly to see if the floor mat was stuck and it was not. I pressed both feet on the brake and continued to move forward. I put my car in park and turned the car off. My 11 year old was in the front seat and he experienced the entire situation. I was very scared that I would hit the car in front which is why I put the car in park and turned it off. I did not think anyone would believe me so I did not tell anyone about it. Last weekend I was waiting at the red light with my foot on the brake to turn left and my car engine started to race again, I was ready to put my car in park but the light turned green so I was able to move forward. I contacted star Toyota in league city and spoke to the service manager. I was informed again ( once by the sales manager) that my car VIN had a J in front of it so it was not involved in the recall. I was told to bring it in at my expense to have it looked at and was referred to the 800 331 4331. I called that number and received a recording that due to the high volume of calls that they were not accepting calls and was referred to the Toyota press room on line. I went to that site and did not find any way to contact Toyota. I have a dangerous car and I cannot get help with it from the dealer. I don't care if the VIN has a J in front of it or if it was made in Japan. I have owned this car since Oct 2007. My husband complained several times that while he was driving the car on the interstate that it seemed to accelerate faster on its own.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #7

Dec 052009


  • 20,000 miles
I am leasing two Toyota vehicles... a 2008 Toyota Highlander and a 2009 Toyota Camry. During December 2009 I experienced problems with the 2008 Toyota Highlander transmission and sudden acceleration while braking. Details include a transmission noise rattle while driving on a California freeway at about 60 mph. This transmission noise continued for 3-4 minutes, sounding louder as if a part was loose inside of the transmission. I shifted the transmission on the 2008 Highlander between gears and the noise eventually stopped. The second complaint on the 2008 Toyota Highlander occurred on December 5, 2009, while I was parking the vehicle. As I approached the parking place, with my foot covering the brake pedal, I experienced unexpected acceleration while braking. The 2008 Toyota Highlander suddenly lurched without warning and would have continued to accelerate through a plate glass window at the bank if I didn't apply full force of the brake! I was able to apply the brake firmly enough to overcome the sudden acceleration in order to stop the vehicle in time. Carlsbad, California Toyota of carlsbad was notified on December 9, 2009 in writing regarding these two issues. I had personally delivered a two page document detailing both of these complaints to the Toyota of carlsbad service department. I have not received any response from my complaint by Toyota of carlsbad or the Toyota motor corporation.

- San Marcos, CA, USA

problem #6

Nov 302009

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 33,000 miles
The contact's sister owned a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact's sister was driving and the vehicle accelerated across the interstate, hit an embankment and was struck by semi truck. The vehicle burned and the driver was killed as a result of the accident. The vehicle was destroyed but there was no investigation into the cause for the accident. The contact called the manufacturer but was not able to get in touch with any representatives. The current and failure mileages were approximately 33,000. Updated 03/10/10 updated 07/07/10. Update 9/19/2011

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #5

Dec 212008


  • 2,000 miles
Crash and injury on dated 12/21/2008 where I thought my 2008 Highlander which I bought a month ago skid on a dry road in broad day light. Speed was below 20 mph 1000 ft away from my home inside the neighberhood of reading, pa 19606. We were going to see a movie on a weekend. On lynn ave my car skid and hit a parked trailer behind. I could not get time to press the brake at all. All I thought is snow/ black ice. Myself and attending police officer did not find any ice on the road. So, as usual human error was blamed. But my 14 yr son noticed the skid before incident. My wife and son both were injured in the crash. In over one year I could not get satisfied with the police report which said my speeding was to blame. We all knew I was not speeding near my home. The control of my car went away from my hand. The car sped up and before any realization it hit the back of the trailer. If you see the car and the way it hit, only reason you will believe that the driver must have been drunk. But I was not. Now I know what really happened that day. It is the reason why the recall happened.

- Reading, PA, USA

problem #4

Aug 132009

Highlander 4WD

  • 8,000 miles
On August 13, 2009 my wife was driving our 2008 Toyota Highlander limited, 4WD SUV when she suddenly lost control and crashed into a wooden telephone pole, totaling the car. According to her, the car suddenly accelerated and she couldn't stop the vehicle.

- Smithtown, NY, USA

problem #3

Aug 112008


  • 4,957 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While driving in reverse out of a parking garage, the all-weather floor mat shifted under the accelerator pedal and caused it to stick which caused him to crash into the garage. The vehicle was taken to a collision center and repaired at an estimated cost of $4,000. The failure mileage was 4,957. The current mileage was unknown.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #2

Mar 132009


  • 12,000 miles
2008 Toyota Highlander - accelerated to pass a car in the next lane so I could pass and the accelerator got stuck. I could not stop the car. I pulled into the shoulder and though the car into neutral and had both feet on the brake and still the car wanted to go but it slowed a bit so I threw it into park and the jerked but finally came to a stop and I shut off the car. This is the 2nd time this has happened to me and I am afraid that it may cause a serious accident. Currently the car is at the dealership. However, the dealership says they haven't heard of this before. Yet when I googled the issue Toyota has had this problem before with the Highlander as well as other vehicles including the Camry.

- South Plainfield, NJ, USA

problem #1

Apr 212008


  • 6,500 miles
In feburary 2008, I purchased a 2008 Toyota Highlander. On two separate occasions since purchasing the vehicle, when slowly pulling into a parking space the vehicle unexpectedly accelerated. On the first occasion (April 2008), the incident ended in an accident as the vehicle slammed into a wall. The second incidence occurred approximately 3 months later and nearly caused another accident. Again, as I was pulling into a parking space the vehicle unexpectedly accelerated. However, the vehicle was stopped by a parking pylon before hitting a wall. I have had the vehicle inspected by the local dealership and they claim that they can not find any issues with vehicle. Based on my research, this does not appear to be an isolated problem as other Toyota vehicles are noted as having the same issue. I feel that this vehicle is threat not only to the safety of my family, but to others on the road. Updated 08/08/08.

- Phoenix, AZ, USA

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