pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
21,500 miles
Total Complaints:
6 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (6 reports)
2013 Toyota Highlander AC / heater problems

AC / heater problem

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2013 Toyota Highlander Owner Comments

problem #6

May 142018


  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles


There is this moldy smell in the car. I was not sure it was coming from. Then, I noticed that it was coming from the AC.

- Mona L., Concord, NC, US

problem #5

Oct 012014

Highlander Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 13,000 miles

When I use the AC after not using it for a day or two, for a few minutes, it reeks! Sometimes it's a vinegar-y smell, at other times, it smells like sweaty socks or stale cigarettes, even though nobody has ever smoked in/near it. Dealership "could not duplicate" and offered no solution, but said to bring in while it was happening. The problem with that is that the dealership is approx 15-20 minutes away and the smell only lasts a few minutes.

- mamak, Aurora, IL, US

problem #4

Jun 012014

Highlander Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,800 miles

This is my second Highlander and there definitely are issues with the AC smelling of mildew when first turned on. The odor emanates from the dashboard air outlets. Oddly the rear AC does not seem to be affected. I believe there is condensation being trapped within the cabin filter element or its housing. Toyota needs to address this issue. This is probably my last Highlander and I will not own it for very long.

- Bryan M., Saint Louis, MO, US

problem #3

May 012014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,000 miles


Really?? I have a new 2013 Toyota that I paid a lot of money for that blows out dirty sock smell every time I start it up in the morning. It only lasts for about 2 minutes but this is unacceptable. Toyota find a fix!!

- Kathleen W., Holmes Beach, US: FL, US

problem #2

Jun 012013

Highlander SE V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles

I've experienced bad mildew/musty odor from the AC. I purchased a new 2013 Highlander in 2013. I practice shutting off the AC while leaving the fan on a few minutes before my arrival, however the odor problem continued. I drove approximately 55 miles to a Toyota dealer for service, but they claimed they could not duplicate the problem and stated I can bring it back if it occurs again. I explained the odor occurs as I first start the AC, it's a strong musty mildew odor and over several minutes of use the odor declines but does come back the next day when I first start up the AC. I'm told the tech installed a deodorizer of some kind in the ventilation system some where, as suggested by Toyota. The odor did continue to occur but not as intense. Summer ended thus haven't used AC for sometime. I hope next summer the problem does not come back. I've owned several vehicles with AC but never experienced this with any previous vehicle. I can only hope Toyota tech will take the time to look at the evaporator coil for mildew growth next time, should this reoccur next summer. Instead of simply stating he doesn't smell an odor.

Update from Jan 12, 2015: In addition to previous comment written summer 2013. The odor from the AC returns following use of the AC. It is mildew fungus growth on the evaporator coil. The service department tried to clean it by drilling a hole in the plastic housing and spraying a treatment of some kind on the evaporator, but it continues to return following AC use. Again I continue to practice shutting off the ac but leaving the fan on high a few minutes before my arrival as an attempt to dry out the system. In my opinion, Toyota is using a rough surface evaporator coil which is trapping organic material (dirt) and moisture causing mildew fungus development and the strong stagnant odor. The warranty is about to run out and I know it will be back during the summer cooling season. In my opinion, Toyota should be honoring service of this problem beyond basic the warranty since the fact-of-the-matter is, they haven’t fixed the problem and only temporarily covered it up. It is and will remain an ongoing problem with this vehicle. I’ve owned several cars in my life with AC and the Toyota Highlander is the only vehicle I’ve had this AC mildew odor problem with. Shame on Toyota for not correcting the problem, leaving vehicle owners to deal with it following warranty period.

- lindahlmn, Hutchinson, MN, US

problem #1

Aug 012013

Highlander Limited V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles

I purchased a new 2013 Toyota Highlander about 8 months ago (in the fall). Once Summer came and we started using the AC we quickly noticed a foul smelling moldy odor. I researched and read about turning off the AC 5 minutes before arriving at your destination and blowing only the vented air. This did help but did not eradicate the smell. My child cannot ride in this vehicle due to his asthma. I paid $40,000 for THIS! The service manager says ALL vehicles have this problem. REALLY?? I owned a Ford Windstar for 13 years and the AC still smells wonderful. My husband owns a Dodge minivan for 8 years--AC smells wonderful. My daughter purchased a 1995 Toyota 4 Runner 5years ago--AC smells wonderful. I could go on and on with friends and relatives. This is obviously a Toyota problem and needs fixed. Toyota is going to look at my AC unit tomorrow but I know there is going to be a battle ahead of me.

- juliehpa, Bridgeville, PA, US

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