hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
132,148 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

The NHTSA is the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints can be spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem. See the Back button — blue bar at the very top of the page — to explore more.

Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2002 Toyota Highlander:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

problem #7

Apr 202015

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 114,434 miles
I drove vehicle crown Toyota for a minor service and mentioned that there was dripping of coolant noticed on the garage floor. Requested 'check and advise' on this. After approximately 3.0 hours, I went to the service desk for information regarding leak. I was taken to the service advisor [xxx] and he told me that they could not repair the leak because that situation is due to the head bolts pulling out of the block. The estimate for such repair was $6,780.28 plus tax and would involve replacing the short block. He mentioned this problem was known to occur with vehicles having the 2az-fe engines such as the above Highlander and that I could research same. Since I was buying only Toyota cars since 1972 and have owned 4 such cars and one Lexus based on my experience and conclusion that reliability is number one with Toyota. I can only say I was in shock. When I told my wife (this is actually her auto), she was sick for the next three days. A short discussion with aaa. Suggested we look at this web site for complaints, etc. It turns out that this problem has occurred many times before and applies to several models including the rav-4 and Highlander some with much lower mileage but there is no actual recall or letter notice from Toyota. Also, no proposed action by dealerships to resolve the problem. I think that dumping this sudden, major expense problem on owners is very irresponsible- not worthy of Toyota. Compensation regarding the time loss and expense should be offered to owners or dealers should be instructed by Toyota to resolve when found. Please note that this vehicle and all the previous was serviced by Toyota /Lexus dealerships. A positive response would be appreciated. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Pomona, CA, USA

problem #6

Jun 022014


  • 150,000 miles
The contacts owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving at various speeds, the vehicle would leak antifreeze and the temperature gauge warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who discovered that the motor needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000.

- Newburgh, IN, USA

problem #5

Mar 152014

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
Driving on I-26 East bound with kids near exit 110 in columbia, SC. Car veered violently 3 lanes and took a turn facing the traffic. Lost complete control of the steering, brakes and the engine shut down abruptly. Pictures and videos with tire marks are available for analysis along with the police contact report. Engine started after several trials at which time the car was pulled away form the main lanes. All 4 tires are replaced 6-8 weeks ago with brand new tires. Front drivers side tire shows the stress of the sudden impact. A pastor couple is the eye witness to the whole event. Luckily rear traffic stopped avoiding a major accident. Our sincere wish is to prevent this happening to other families by understanding the root cause of the problem. We moved the car to the nearest Toyota car dealer and requested them to analyze the situation to avoid repeat of similar incidents to other families.

- Columbia, SC, USA

problem #4

Jan 192014


  • 99,800 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Highlander. The contact stated that while driving approximately 40 mph, the vehicle began to shake violently as a strong odor of engine oil and fuel emitted from under the hood. The engine warning indicator illuminated continuously. The vehicle was maneuvered to the side of the road and towed to an independent mechanic, who stated that the engine would need to be replaced due to engine sludge. The vehicle had not been repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 99,800.

- Painesville, OH, USA

problem #3

Sep 162013

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 120,000 miles
While driving on a busy interstate, the vehicle began to overheat, causing the need to pull over. The vehicle's engine temperature was at its maximum and was loosing coolant. After several inspections, it was determined that the head gasket had blown at such low overall vehicle mileage due to the engine head being made of aluminum and the block being made of steel. This also caused the vehicle head bolt threads to be stripped, resulting in the need for a new engine.

- Fort Collins, CO, USA

problem #2

Jun 232013

Highlander 4-cyl

  • 151,000 miles
I was driving my 2002 Toyota Highlander on the highway and was accelerating to pass a car when I heard a loud noise coming from the engine area, all the lights on my dash came on and my car stalled. I struggled without the power steering and brakes to get my car over 2 lanes of fast moving traffic and get it onto the exit ramp. My auto had drastically slowed due to engine not working and I was almost hit several times as cars flew around and past me. I finally manage to get it off the highway and into a safe spot, but it was extremely difficult because I had lost all power and had no power steering or power brakes. I had it towed to the dealer. I am only the second owner of this vehicle and I know the original owner and he took very good care of this car doing all the maintenance himself and using only Toyota parts. The dealer says my engine is ruined but he never mentioned anything about the problems they have had with these engines and sludge and engine failure. The original owner says he never received anything from Toyota about the class action lawsuit nor any of the fixes for the sludge/engine failure problem. I could have been killed and am lucky I was not. Toyota should have recalled all these engines and fixed or replaced them instead of just secretly fixing them, only when forced to by the customer for only 8 years. Fact is, if the orig owner hadn't babied the car, the engine would have gone much sooner. So because he took good care of it, I am S-O-L because the 8 year extended warranty is up. I guess the real truth is that Toyota make its cars to last longer than 8 years.

- Moore, OK, USA

problem #1

Apr 132013

Highlander 6-cyl

  • 149,800 miles
Last Saturday 4/13/13 the check engine light came on and the car started shaking and making a weird noise. I haven't driven it since then when I parked it in the driveway. I didn't even trust it to park it in the garage because it smelled hot. White smoke and the smell of exhaust has been coming out of the exhaust. Today was the soonest I could get it looked at (by a trusted local repair shop) and I was just told it's an internal engine problem. I see this has been a problem with this engine and because of a class action suit Toyota has had to replace the engine in cars 8 years and newer, I don't qualify. I was never notified by Toyota of this problem....and I am the original owner. I have replaced 3 oxygen sensors and the air conditioning compressor.

- Kewaskum, WI, USA