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:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
13,440 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2008 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #7

Nov 142010

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles


The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. While stopped a stop sign and the rpms begin to increase excessively. When the contact attempted to pull off she was unable to drive forward or in reverse. A mechanic came and was able to drive the vehicle to the contact's residence. The vehicle was then towed to the dealer who stated that the transmission dropped out of the vehicle because the front axle had broken. The vehicle was being repaired when the complaint was filed. The failure and current mileages were 12000. Updated 01/24/11 the dealer stated the driver side axle broke in half and half of the axle became stuck in the transmission. Also the camshaft position needed to be replaced. Updated 03/16/11

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #6

Jan 122010


  • 31,077 miles
2008 Toyota Highlander purchased used Toyota certified 9-3-09 fails to shift into gear. Most occurrences at low speed after slowing to 5mph vehicle does not respond to gas pedal - or will not engage into gear and move forward. This occurs or is most noticeable at slow speeds when the gas pedal is pushed after having slowed down or in the midst of a turn into a parking spot. Wife has also complained about transmission not engaging into gear when car is first started up acts like you didn't shift it into gear. We have also noted transmission doesn't always seem to disengage when slowing from highway speeds 55 mph. Feels like it is dragging car to stop. There is a noticeable whine between 55 - 62 mph. Talked to dealer mechanic and he said that was normal everything is controlled by computers. We are going to take it back in this week and complain about the transmission slippage. We have also had a issue with the toyo tires. At 28,345 they were down to 5/32 to 4/32. They have major problems in snow and heavy rain with loss of traction. When ESC kicks on in the snow on a turn do to sliding at slow speed it makes matters worse be better off with it turned off.

- Mccordsville, IN, USA

problem #5

Sep 142009

Highlander 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 12,000 miles
The contact owns a 2008 Toyota Highlander. The contact was backing out of the residence driveway on a slight incline. The driver stepped out of the vehicle while the gear shifter was placed in the reverse position and within three seconds the vehicle rolled over top of the driver. The ambulance was called to the scene. The driver was transported to the hospital and sustained severe injuries to the left leg and chest area. There was no damage to the vehicle. The cause of failure has not been determined. The failure mileage and VIN were unknown. Updated 4/5/10 the consumer stated she stepped out of the vehicle not realizing it was in gear. It stayed stationary for several seconds before running her over. Updated 05/11/10.

- Tracy, CA, USA

problem #4

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 #3

Jan 022009


  • 14,000 miles
When the front of the car is on a downward slope and it is shifted into reverse it will roll forward the same as a manual transmission will do when the clutch is depressed. The brake has to be applied with one foot while the other foot is pressing on the accelerator. The could cause injury and or property damage if parked close to person or property. The slope angle does not have to be a steep incline for this to occur. The Toyota dealership was notified of the issue and stated they were not aware of this as a problem and it was a normal occurrence for the car to roll forward.

- Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA

problem #2

Apr 122009


  • 5,000 miles
2008 Toyota Highlander. The vehicle will roll forward when the vehicle and transmission are positioned in reverse, if the front of the vehicle is on a downward slope.

- Brandon, FL, USA

problem #1

Mar 012008

Highlander 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2008 Toyota Highlander with transmission problems. Consumer states that the vehicle will roll forward when the vehicle and transmission are positioned in reverse, if the front of the vehicle is on a downward slope. He also states that the hill holder feature doesn't work on a downward slope.

- Travelers Rest, SC, USA

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