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2007 Highlander overheating in headlight area

628 Views 20 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  LargeDuck
Just picked up a 2007 Higlander 2wd, 4 cylinders. Doesn't look like it was maintained very well. Runs very well, almost so silent I'm not sure it's running.

Dashboard gauge is not showing the engine overheating, but I can smell water/coolant after a 20 mile drive.

Can also feel significant heat on the hood just behind the left headlight (facing the car) after a drive. The hose from the radiator to the overfill reservoir is loose. The liquid in the in reservoir looks clear so I'm not sure how much coolant is even in the car.

I need this for a medium mileage delivery job that I start in 8 days. I have $500 to spend on getting the car ready.

I've never done a drain and fill for engine coolant but believe I am capable. Just not sure what the best thing to do is since I might not have time to assess the car in full in those 8 days. Paying someone to change the coolant would be fine; would rather not pay someone a ridiculous price to change the hose. I'm assuming that part is easy but I've never done it.

If anyone can recommend the best course of action I would greatly appreciate it.

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If the liquid is clear it is probably just water. The preferred coolant is Toyota Super Long Life pink. However if you are cash strapped there are some Asian pink coolants that are supposed to be equivalent you can use. My two recommendations if you go that way:
1). Completely flush out what you have in the car. When doing the final fill use distilled water if the coolant is not premixed.
2). Change the coolant about every 30 months or 30,000 miles.
The criteria for full coolant:
1). make sure the radiator is full to the neck when cold. NEVER open a hot radiator.
2). And the coolant in the overflow tank should be between the full lines when cold.

Ifyou do a drain and fill there will probably be air pockets. After you think it is full, let it warm up, cool down, and then check the radiator level and reservoir level again. Repeat until the the radiator level remains full. And top-up the overflow tank as needed.

HOWEVER, unfortunately using water as coolant is a bad sign. These engines are known for pulling out head bolts. Do a combustion gas check or a radiator bubble check for a head gasket leak before you put more money into it. You should be able to find instructions on YouTube

Just put hose clamps on the overflow tube unless it is cracked. If cracked, any auto parts store has replacement hose. On these cars it is not a pressure hose. No need to have a mechanic do it. Any handy person should be able.

A very hot left fender behind the headlight seems to be normal. My theory is that they designed the underhood airflow to direct hot air from the radiator flow towards the engine charge air intake to help ensure better fuel vaporization and economy.
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Since it appears to be poorly maintained, consider having a mechanic do at least a safety inspection. Better yet, have a full “pre-sale” inspection done so you have a better idea of what you’ve got before you decide to put more money into it.
One thing you can do yourself is to pull the spark plugs - again when cold - and post pictures of them to the forum for opinions. Many knowledgeable and helpful people on this forum.
If you have the cash, invest in a borescope camera and take pictures of the tops of the pistons. If you have a few more dollars, buy a dual lens borescope and take pictures of the valves.
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By complete flush I'm assuming you mean more than just what this video shows, which is just a radiator drain and fill correct?

My current plan is

1. Replace the radiator -> reservoir hose.
2. Drain the reservoir
3. Drain and fill per video (open up the petcock, fill using a coolant funnel (with Toyotal LL pink) (also make sure to use distilled water)
4. Perform the tests you have recommended.
There is also a front block drain which I would open to drain out that fluid. I haven’t watched this video yet but the A1 videos are usually pretty good.

The 2007 specifies pink coolant, the premixed Toyota Super Long Life. Not the red Toyota Long Life, which requires mixing. I’ve been told by a Toyota mechanic to not use red in one that needs pink.
Check out The Car Care Nut YouTube channel. He is a Toyota master diagnostic tech and has at least one video on coolant.
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And make sure that the overflow reservoir cap has the hose that goes to the bottom of the tank still attached. Otherwise you will end up with an air pocket and not be able to see coolant level and consumption without opening the radiator.

You may also want to follow this thread:

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Just to be clear for us layman, there should be a hose that extends from this cap to the bottom of the reservoir.
View attachment 422692
I want to emphasize that with the tube missing, the reservoir level will not show how much coolant is in the engine. You must verify that the radiator is full by removing the cap when the engine is cold.
I also want to explain that if the coolant level is too low, and is below the temperature sending unit, the engine could be overheating even if the gauge reads a low or normal temperature!

I don’t know if you can take this car back, but I would try. It sounds to me like someone who knew what they are doing tried to hide a major defect and flip the car. I could be wrong, but Nothing I have heard so far is good.
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If the car was given to you then you are already ahead. If there is a head gasket problem it can often be fixed, but it will take some money. There is a second common problem with these engines- clogged oil rings resulting in excessive oil consumption and cylinder wear. If an engine has both problems then it is probably better to find a good used replacement.
Worst case, there are a couple of “mechanic-in-a-can” products that might- emphasis on might- keep it going long enough to earn enough to either get it fixed or get another car.
I say keep going. You can at least use this as a learning experience. Pull the plugs and post pictures. No cost. You can borrow a compression tester from most auto parts stores. No cost. They may have a leak down tester available too. A combustion gas tester is not that expensive but you can do a radiator bubble test, which is usually as good. Low cost - just buy the no-spill coolant funnel. I will see if I can find the video for the procedure.
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