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2004 Highlander - Dashboard lights staying on requiring rear axle replacement
We have a 2004 Toyota Highlander (4-wheel drive, Limited edition) in good shape/running condition that has served us well over 10 years and 107,000 miles so far.
A couple of days ago we found that the dashboard lights (for VSC, Brake, ABS and Tire Pressure) stayed on even after the engine was started. We drove it home and did not feel the car behaving abnormally in any way. So, we assumed that it was some problem with the electronics/dashboard.
When we took the vehicle into a Toyota dealership yesterday, they informed us that the right rear ABS Sensor was broken and that the “Star Wheel” that it attaches to had broken off from the axle (due to normal wear and tear). And, that this Star Wheel, which would normally be welded to the axle, was freewheeling and messing up the ABS sensor and other electronics – hence the incorrect displays on the dashboard. The Service Advisor then mentioned that the fix was to replace the right rear axle (Toyota Part - $850) and the ABS sensor (Toyota Part - $250). He also strongly suggested that we not drive the vehicle around since it might lead to more serious damage.
Since the suggested repair involved significant cost ($1700 including labor), I am reaching out to this forum to get some advice:
1) Does the replacement of the rear axle seem like a reasonable solution to the problem?
2) When I went to a local car repair shop (he is supposed to be reputable), he said that a brand new after-market axle would run about $140. Is it safe/OK to use an after-market axle for this vehicle?
3) Are the concerns with continuing to drive the vehicle well founded? What are the risks in doing it?
We are trying to decide between going to a dealer and going to a local repair shop and determine how we should factor in the age of the vehicle in that decision – any help/advice is greatly appreciated.