Three days ago, my wife and I took our '09 Highlander to run some errands. We made a round trip of just 8 miles (fortunately). As we were waiting to turn into our neighborhood, we noticed a strange noise and thought it was the car next to us. But, when we turned into the neighborhood, we realized it was coming from our car, and initially thought it was something caught under the chassis.
It started to get louder, and more metallic-sounding, as we approached our driveway. I might add, neither the check engine or oil pressure light had come on. As soon as I pulled into our drive and stopped the engine, I hopped out to check. There was a fair amount of oil coming out from under the car. Naturally, I popped the hood and checked the dip stick. It was virtually dry! As I always check the oil when I fill up with gas, I knew whatever happened had to have occurred on our short trip. So, we jumped into my wife's car, and retraced our route to see if there were any signs of oil leaking along the way, and where it may have started.
If it wasn't so gut-wrenching, it would have been comical. About 5 or 6 blocks from our house, we could see a light streak of oil on the road, which gradually got worse. Basically, it was like Hansel & Gretel, but instead of breadcrumbs, we were following an oil trail. We didn't even need to know where we were going, as it was so clearly marked on the road. Each stop we made on our errands left a puddle of oil. It trailed all the way to our destination and back home, where it tapered off just about where we started hearing the noise.
It didn't take long to figure out what happened. A friend of our neighbor's is a mechanic, and offered to take a look. But, he was already pretty sure what the problem was. And, in fact, he was right. Our oil cooler pipe had failed. One of the rubber components had sprung a leak, draining every bit of oil in just a matter of minutes. He said he was aware of a TSB that had been issued for it, but wasn't sure if it was still in effect.
In fact, it was. Or, as Toyota calls it, an "enhanced warranty" was in effect. Check out this thread
to see the actual letter.
In short, repairs would be made pursuant to the "enhanced warranty," if our car was either under 10 years old, or 150,000 miles, whichever came first. We have 124,000 miles, and our car would be 10 years old just 2 1/2 weeks from the date of the incident! I don't think I've ever been so glad that a car of ours broke down when it did. As the dealer told us, just 10 years and one day after the "date of first use," and we would have been out of pocket for the repairs. And, possibly for an engine replacement! Since we were within the "enhanced warranty" requirements, the repairs were covered. The dealer even sent and paid for the tow truck to pick it up.
We just picked up the car today, and it sounds fine. They ran diagnostics, scoped it, and looked for metal shavings in the oil. Everything checked out OK. Still, I was concerned about what happens if the engine has trouble over the next few months, or year. I was given some assurance that Toyota would make good if that were the case. Especially, since there are detailed records on all past maintenance on the vehicle, as well as the oil cooler pipe fail.
So, in the end, it was a happy ending. Hopefully, someone out there reads this and discovers their repairs will be covered. Some of you may not have experienced this, and might go ahead and replace the oil cooler pipe, just as a preventative. It would be worth the money. Our situation was the best case scenario for having a failure. I've read other posts that say they were on the highway, and by the time they knew something was wrong, the engine seized. You definitely don't want to wait for that to happen.
Also, it's my understanding that the bad oil cooler pipes were limited to certain lot numbers. So, Toyota doesn't really know which vehicles are affected. That explains why there wasn't a recall. The bottom line, I don't think they'll pay for preventative maintenance. They'll only pay when the pipe fails. So, it's a gamble. Wait till it fails, and hope you're not on the highway, traveling along a lonely desert stretch. Or, go ahead and pay the $600-$1,000 out of pocket.
I hope this helps.