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 1 of 2)

problem #38

Oct 142016


  • 125,000 miles


Re: NHTSA recall 14V168000, aka SC-E0M141007, (10/07/14) ¿a number of vehicles including the Toyota Highlander 2008-2010, where the steering column assembly contains electrical connections to the driver's airbag module housed in a spiral cable assembly, which includes a flexible flat cable (ffc). Due to the shape and location of the ffc's retainer, the ffc could become damaged when the steering wheel is turned. Consequence: If the ffc is damaged, connectivity to the driver's air bag module could be lost and the air bag deactivated. 2 yrs ago our '08 Highlander sport the cruise control started acting erratically, not engaging/not turn/off using the column mounted stalk. Our warranty had expired, & time passed, & the cc became unreliable, on a few occasions was unsafe when it did not ¿cancel¿ pulling back on the stalk. I'm handy so I pulled off the steering wheel and took apart the clock spring, discovered that the spiral cable was coated in a waxy dirty looking buildup & there were abrasions on the flat wire tape, exposing the copper beneath, which cracked. This to me is the same thing that happened to the wire tape for the vehicles in the airbag recall mentioned above, only the damage on mine happened to the cc wiring portion and not the airbag portion (or the HVAC controls or horn wiring). I feel our vehicle should have been included in this campaign and that our clock spring should be replaced as well. Please refer to the 2 photos I attached. The one showing the wear spot, if you download it and zoom in, shows the exposed copper and crack in it. The other photo shows the loop in the flat electrical tape where the wear spot happened as well as the dirty waxy buildup on the tape. This same wear could creep down to the airbag module wires in this flat tape and make the airbag system shut down, causing more unsafe conditions for my wife and I. my VIN should be added

- Hanover, MA, USA

problem #37

Apr 202016


  • 140,000 miles
For about 6 months or longer, the cruise control on this car has been operating erratically, when it wants to it seems. The problem always seemed to be that I couldn't turn the system on. Now, however, when I am sometimes able to turn it on, and set the speed, the problem becomes that the stalk on the lower right side of the steering wheel will lose it's connection and the movements of the stalk become inactive. This is very surprising if you're planning to slow down, speed up or more importantly hit the cancel button. The only thing to do is hit the brakes. This is very distracting and potentially dangerous.

- Hanover, MA, USA

problem #36

Feb 102016


  • 86,000 miles
On several occasions the vehicle has surged forward while traveling at low speed and applying the brake. Tonight, and on at least two other occasions, it has occurred while exiting the local wendy's restaurant. The exit slopes downward for ten feet or so before reaching the multi-lane one way road. Tonight, as I was coming down the exit with my foot on the brake, the vehicle once again surged forward and out into the road. I almost ran into the sides of several cars that were passing by, but I was able to get the vehicle stopped right before it got far enough out in the road to hit them. I don't know how close my front end was to hitting them, but it was very close. That's why I'm filing this complaint. I've checked the mat and it's not the mat. I believe it is something in the electronic speed control, but as you know, tests have been conducted on Toyota vehicles before for this issue, and nothing was found that I'm aware of. But I'm telling you now, and I have a degree in astronomy (I'm technically minded), there is something more than mats and driver error going on with unintended vehicle acceleration and Toyota vehicles. I did a search tonight online, and I found a number of reports from other owners of 2008 Toyota Highlanders, not to mention a myriad of other reports from owners of other Toyota vehicles. My vehicle has also surged forward while turning into parking spaces at grocery stores, once again with my foot on the brake. So far, I have been able to stop the vehicle before it ran over the parking block or hit another car, but something needs to be done, and as you know Toyota is no help with this issue. My vehicle is paid for, and I can't afford another one right now or I would trade it in. But even then, I would feel uneasy not knowing what happened to the next owner. Please do something now before more people are hurt or killed.

- Palm Coast, FL, USA

problem #35

Jul 262015


  • 98,000 miles


The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While driving at 5 mph and parking the vehicle in the garage at home, the vehicle suddenly accelerated without the accelerator pedal being depressed. The vehicle crashed through the interior wall of the garage, only coming to a stop after damaging the outer brick facade of the building. The air bags did not deploy. There was no police report filed and no injuries sustained. The vehicle was towed to the dealer. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 98,000. Updated 10/07/15

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #34

Dec 102014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 49,000 miles
On December 10th, 2014, around 8:15am, our 2008 Highlander sport AWD suddenly accelerated at full throttle when approaching a stop sign, entered the cross section and crashed with incoming SUV on the passenger side. The car kept going at high speed after running a curb and flattened all 4 tires on straight lines and eventually stopped in a neighbor's yard, made deep trench into the lawn. The other parties were taken to hospital for medical exam and their SUV was badly damaged to the engine compartment. We have photos from various angles showing that this car was not stoppable by a human at the moment. We were told our car will be a total loss by the insurance company. Our evidence indicated the car's defects was the primary cause of full throttle acceleration which has been the case for many other Toyota car owners for the last few years. We need to hold Toyota responsible and accountable for this and other accidents and to be investigated thoroughly by the NHTSA. Our loss should be properly compensated by Toyota. Thank you for your attention. Case:Toyota Highlander uncontrolled acceleration accident on 12/10/2014 case number:[xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Bryn Mawr, PA, USA

problem #33

Dec 102014


  • 50,000 miles
The contact owned a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While idling at a stop sign, the vehicle accelerated independently and crashed into the passenger side of another vehicle. The driver sustained unknown injuries that required medical attention. A police report was filed. The manufacturer was not notified. The vehicle was towed to the insurance mechanic where it was deemed destroyed. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 50,000. The VIN was not available.

- Brynmawr, PA, USA

problem #32

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 #31

Jul 122013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 71,869 miles
Attempting to park car in a shopping center. Suddenly engine accelerated unintentionally. Hit curb & tree. Damage to car approximately $6000 to repair.

- Marana, AZ, USA

problem #30

Sep 122012


  • 63,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While driving approximately 5 mph, the vehicle unexpectedly increased acceleration. When the brake pedal was depressed there was no immediate response which resulted to the vehicle crashing into a cement wall. The front passenger sustained bruises to the body and injured the left leg. A police report was filed of the incident. The vehicle was completely destroyed and towed to a collision center. The manufacturer was notified and planned to launch an investigation regarding the unintended acceleration. The approximate failure mileage was 63,000.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #29

Dec 122011

Highlander 6-cyl

  • miles
I was parked in front of a subway restaurant in a strip mall at approximately 7:30 P.M. after eating, my family and I left the restaurant and got into our Toyota Highlander. I put the car in reverse and backed out of my parking spot just a few feet. (it is a very narrow parking lot and faces a very busy street.) I bumped into a concrete pole that was behind me, that I could not see because of the darkness. I then put the car in drive, so that I could pull back up into my original parking spot and renegotiate how I was going to back out. As soon as I applied a little pressure to the accelerator, the car suddenly seemed to jump forward. Before I could even process what what happening, the car accelerated very, very quickly and I slammed into the brick wall of the subway. There was not even time for me to think about applying the brake, it happened so fast. I felt like I had lost complete control of the vehicle. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but there was property damage to the building and some to my car. I've been driving for 25 years and have no history of tickets or accidents. I do not drink and was not drinking on the night this happened. I was not under the influence of any kind of medication or ilicit substances.

- Searcy, AR, USA

problem #28

Aug 172010


  • 23,000 miles


I was involved in a car accident on 08/17/2010 while driving my 2008 Toyota Highlander that has 23000 miles on it. The accident caused me total damage to my car and put my life in danger due to failure in the break/acceleration system on the car. The car did not stop but accelerated even though when I was pressing the break which caused me to hit a truck that was passing in front of me. I explained to the emergency crew that the accident was because of failure of the break/and acceleration system on the Toyota car and I explained the same thing to the police officer who was presented on the scene. I like to mention here that the Toyota dealer sent me a note of defection about my car prior to the accident and I took the car to the dealer shop and spent 2 hours there to have it fixed. The car now is at the state farm insurance and I can email/send you the car pictures after the accident.

- Munster, IN, USA

problem #27

Jul 152010


  • 48,700 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While the vehicle was in drive gear, the vehicle began to surge backwards until the ignition was turned off. Upon restarting the vehicle it began to function normally. The vehicle was not examined to determine the cause of failure. The failure mileage was 48,700 and the current mileage was 48,880. The VIN was unavailable.

- Burke, VA, USA

problem #26

Jun 242010


  • 30,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated while driving at approximately 15 mph, the vehicle rapidly accelerated without driver intent. The contact shifted into neutral and depressed the brakes until he was able to stop the vehicle. There was no warning prior to the failure. The manufacturer was contacted and advised an investigator would further assess the failure. The manufacturer stated also that the vehicle would be towed to the nearest dealer for diagnostic repairs. The vehicle was not yet repaired or diagnosed. The failure and current mileages were approximately 30,000.

- Destrehan, LA, USA

problem #25

May 222010


  • 5,000 miles
On May 22, 2010 my Toyota Highlander sudden accelerated. I was at a full stop (red light) on 14th street at the intersection of castro heading West uphill. My foot was on the brake when my truck suddenly accelerated. The truck jerked forward even though my foot was on the brake. I reported it to san francisco Toyota service representative when I brought in my truck for the recall service on May 29, 2010. They completed the recall as required, but he dismissed my comment about the above incident. I believe the real issue is the electronic or software programming of vehicle controls and wish to have this documented if a more serious problem occurs.

- San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #24

May 132008


  • 15,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While driving 45 mph, the contact depressed the brakes and the vehicle began to slow down. When he depressed the brake pedal a second time, the vehicle abnormally accelerated and crashed into the vehicle ahead of him. The vehicle continued to accelerate into the preceding vehicle every time the contact attempted to depress the brake pedal. The contact crashed into the same vehicle three times. A police report was filed. The dealer was unable to duplicate the failure. Both of the drivers of the vehicle were able to continue driving normally after the crash occurred. The failure mileage was 15,000 and the current mileage was 15,100.

- Bensalen, PA, USA

problem #23

Apr 092010


  • miles
Toyota safety recall notice. I received a safety recall notice from Toyota about floor mat interference with the accelerator pedal. While the pedal may get stuck on the floor mat, it is highly unlikely that this will cause a sudden increase in acceleration. Common sense tells you that if the pedal gets stuck, the vehicle will remain at the speed in which the problem occurred. This also is true for the alleged sticky accelerator problem. It is disappointing that the ntmvsa has not recognized this problem and is allowing Toyota to continue down this road.

- Thorofare, NJ, USA

problem #22

Oct 012009


  • 25,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While the contact was driving up an incline approximately 60 mph with the cruise control in activation the speed rate increased to 85 mph or higher. When the brakes were applied, the vehicle came to a complete stop; however, the identical failure occurred three weeks after the first failure. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for inspection. The technician was unable diagnose the failure. The failure mileage was 25,000. The current mileage was 38,000.

- Galena , IL, USA

problem #21

Apr 042010


  • 34,000 miles
While driving in reverse my 2008 Toyota Highlander gas pedal continued acceleration after braking and crashed into my garage.

- Hobe Sound, FL, USA

problem #20

Feb 022010


  • 20,000 miles
My 2008 Toyota Highlander has had one incident where the accelerator got stuck. I brought the vehicle to bernardi Toyota in framingham, MA on 3/2/2010 and they advised that my vehicle is not part of the recall and they also conducted diagnostics on the vehicle and reported that all systems are normal. I am concerned about all of the confusing information pertaining to this problem offered by Toyota and the fact it happened once to my vehicle, I am worried it might happen again.

- Waltham, MA, USA

problem #19

Mar 112010


  • 5,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While depressing the brake pedal from speeds of 5 mph, the vehicle suddenly accelerated. The contact attempted to stop the vehicle by depressing the brakes however, the brake pedal fell onto the floor board and did not engage. The vehicle proceeded to crash into a concrete statue. The vehicle did not come to a stop and proceeded to crash into a vehicle. The contact did not report any injuries. The police arrived to the scene but a police report was not filed. The vehicle was towed to a local independent mechanic. No repairs were made to the vehicle. The VIN was not available when the complaint was filed. The approximate current and failure mileages were 5,000.

- Seal Beach, CA, USA

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