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09 Highlander
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Discussion Starter #1
2009 Base AWD 6cyl 2GR-FE w/ tow prep 210,000 original mi. Bought new, dealer serviced for first 7 years. No major issues until had Oil cooler rubber hose fail/upgraded by dealer @145k. Has metal vvt-i hoses.

One fine day after driving approx. 45 min, then parking for about 30 min. Started up to hear a loud ticking noise in valve train. Drove it briefly. Ticking didn't stop. Read out codes that said something about cam timing, and cyl #1 misfire. Had car towed and it sat for a long while before I had time to deal with it.

Fast forward to now. Finally dug into the engine. Pulled VVT oil line screens, didn't see any clog or debris. Got compression of 205, 220, 220, 210, 210, 220 #1cyl at 205. During compression test, had pressure release 'pop' through #1 intake.

Figured the only way this was going to get right was by dropping the engine, so I took it out, pulled the valve covers, and found #1 exhaust rockers ajar, laying beneath the cam, beside the valve springs (photo attached). One valve lash cap still in place. The other has gone missing. One of the cam lobes (the one with the migrant cap) is slightly scarred, but doesn't seem too bad. I'm disassembling the engine to remove timing cover and bank 1 cams and lifters.

As I search for the missing cap, I'm looking for recommendations on the minimum disassembly I can get away with, parts I should replace while I'm in there, and tests/inspections I should do. My hypothesis is degraded oil flow through VVT oil channel or valve cover shower tube caused a collapsed lifter at startup and the ticking came from dislodged rocker or valve lash cap.

I'm planning to replace the bad lifter and cap, and probably the associated rocker. I'm guessing it makes sense to soak/clean all the lifters. I'm hoping to avoid pulling the head

I should mention I replaced the water pump and t-stat at 160k.

I'm trying to get the car functional quickly as a loaner to my brother-in-law for local use. I will have the opportunity to go back in sometime later if there are 'nice to do' long term recommendations.

Any help from the community, including source for parts in Seattle area, greatly appreciated!

I'll plan on documenting the journey and posting when time allows.
 

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2009 Highlander Limited 3.5, every factory option
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131 Posts
wow, that engine looks amazingly clean for a failure like this to happen. I just did an engine swap myself and coincidentally same year/mileage and also had towing package. My failure was the camshaft gear which is a known but not that common issue. In my case, I had metal in the oil so the decision was easy and I swapped in a used 45k engine.

That would be concern in this case. Where is the missing cap and what damage has it done? If it's pretty chewed up obviously that metal is now circulated throughout the engine. You've done the hard part of the job with the engine removed. I guess the other paranoid thought is if it happened to one, is there another one that will fail?

With all that, it might be worth checking around for a low mileage swap.

Bob
 

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09 Highlander
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3 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the update Bob. What's the going rate for an engine these days? I haven't looked too hard. You're right it's been a lot of work, I'd rather not repeat it (but I'd be a lot faster if I had to.)

Found the missing valve lash cap in the bottom of the oil sump, where I hoped it would be. Not damaged.

Reviewed my dealer maintenance history. They reported that when they replaced the oil cooler lines in Sep 2017 (rubber hose failed @149K) that there was an engine rattle on startup, so they replaced both exhaust cam vvti gears, all under warranty.

I figured I'd try to save the engine (and the cost) and soak/ clean out the lifters and replace the spark plugs, pcv, and front main seal.

The only things I'm hesitant about are knowing the timing is set properly and the tensioners are still good.

Ned
 

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2009 Highlander Limited 3.5, every factory option
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131 Posts
I got mine for $2k, I have seen them for less as well. I was able to tie the VIN to a carfax (and VIN on block) and got all of the service history so that was worth a bit more. Interesting, it was the vvti gear that failed on mine. I have a video but here is EXACTLY how mine looked - this guy had same issue. I started getting a knocking noise just after I bought it.


I wonder if something ELSE caused your issue and you're just seeing the result? Hmmm, tough call. I'm not sure what I would do. For me, metal in the filter and oil made it a 10 second decision. It might be worth a look around for a used engine, there are several years and models that'll work. Mine is from an '06 Avalon and I wasn't worried about the towing package which opened up the search. If you tow, you can always swap the oil cooler over from the old engine. I didn't bother with mine.

Bob
 

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Listen, as far as I understand, the engine has too much mileage. It seems to be natural selection. Therefore, there is only a replacement. I used to check vehicle history by vin through carfax. I didn't really like this service. I looked for analogs and came across Get free VIN check of your vehicle | EpicVin . I will say so, it works no worse. Check it out, maybe you will also use it.
 
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