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Discussion Starter #1
Hey everyone glad to be part of this forum as I am new here but loyal Toyota owner! I’ve been in the market for a 2008-2012 Toyota Highlander, did my homework seems like a great SUV my step mother even works at Toyota dealership, and backs these years of Highlander. My only real question is how concerned should I be about the vvt cam noise upon cold start up? I’ve researched hours about this issue and it seems like it’s very common and some people say they’ve always have had the noise and had no problems then you get people that had to do whole engine tear downs to replace the cam gear. My understanding is the cam gear isnt being lubricated due to the fact the oil draining back into the oil pan over night and causes the cam pin to not move properly. Ive seen a tsb for the 2008- 2009 Highlander’s. I’ve even heard of people installing prelube oil pump to “solve” this issue. What are your thoughts should I be concerned about buying one of this vehicles?
 

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I am not getting it but it maybe in the early gen builds. As a used vehicle I would be concerned. The oil use previously or service interval may have not been correct. If you are looking stick to the newest you can find 2012 has a lot of the needed fixes factory done. As you go back not so much a lot of fixing or patching is needed.

Read the stickies and there is another thread for someone else already on these. Note, these are not as reliable as they're made out to be. If you spend much time here. You'll see all sorts of power train failures and repairs needed which aren't even at high mileage. Get in one at night, most of the controls have no backlighting and cannot be seen. You have to fumble for window, door, and other controls.
 

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Like all cars new to you...driving the car allows you to become comfortable with the controls. Never had an issue finding a window switch, door handle, etc...

Would it be nice if there was a few more backlights on a switch or two? Sure, first world problems. No reason to not buy a highlander
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the replies and good suggestions and that’s pretty much my concern is reliability on these vehicles. I heard they have very little issues but after digging it seems that owners of the second gen definitely have there complaints just like any other vehicle, but like stated the vvt cam is my main concern, Obviously it’s a gamble you don’t know if the vehicle will have the vvt cam noise or not but I’m just seeing how many people have had it and lived with it without any major problems. Or have actually had catastrophic failure or did the repair themselves.
 

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Thanks for the replies and good suggestions and that’s pretty much my concern is reliability on these vehicles. I heard they have very little issues but after digging it seems that owners of the second gen definitely have there complaints just like any other vehicle, but like stated the vvt cam is my main concern, Obviously it’s a gamble you don’t know if the vehicle will have the vvt cam noise or not but I’m just seeing how many people have had it and lived with it without any major problems. Or have actually had catastrophic failure or did the repair themselves.
I’ve had my 2008 Highlander since it was brand new. The VVT clatter has been there probably since 20,000 miles but repairs for it are quite expensive as I think it requires dropping the engine. My Highlander has reached 150,000 miles and there’s still no issues though and the startup rattle hasn’t increased in length or a frequency so I think I’m fine and I’m not really worried about it. If it’s done it since basically the 2nd year of ownership and it’s already 13 years old I wouldn’t be too concerned.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I’ve had my 2008 Highlander since it was brand new. The VVT clatter has been there probably since 20,000 miles but repairs for it are quite expensive as I think it requires dropping the engine. My Highlander has reached 150,000 miles and there’s still no issues though and the startup rattle hasn’t increased in length or a frequency so I think I’m fine and I’m not really worried about it. If it’s done it since basically the 2nd year of ownership and it’s already 13 years old I wouldn’t be too concerned.
Thank you for your information, and helping to reassure that this is common issue and most of time doesn’t result into any major problems. I have read that other Toyota engines do the same thing although my current 2003 Toyota Camry with 218k on it doesn’t make that sound, but my father the previous owner did rebuild the head and installed a time insert kit(around 140k))due to the fact he had one of the unlucky Camry’s were the head bolts stripped out. He also replaced the cam gear as well so never any noise from the vvt cam. Anyone else have the vvt cam noise and have just lived with it, and have put a lot of miles on the vehicle without issue?
 

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My two early 3.5 liter 2GR-FE cars would have been likely candidates; there are always teething problems. For example, the bad external rear oil-line rubber hose, not even a recall until somewhere in 2010 (?).
2005 Avalon, one of the first in the US to get the 3.5. Sold in 2018 at about 100,000 miles - no VVT-i issues.
2007 Lexus es350, again, an early 3.5L. Currently at about 93,000 miles - no VVT-i issues
 

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Discussion Starter #8
My two early 3.5 liter 2GR-FE cars would have been likely candidates; there are always teething problems. For example, the bad external rear oil-line rubber hose, not even a recall until somewhere in 2010 (?).
2005 Avalon, one of the first in the US to get the 3.5. Sold in 2018 at about 100,000 miles - no VVT-i issues.
2007 Lexus es350, again, an early 3.5L. Currently at about 93,000 miles - no VVT-i issues
Thanks for the info, and your input. It’s nice to hear you’ve owned two vehicles with the same engine without issues! It seems like some people never have the issue and others do, keep the replies coming I want to hear from as many people I can, thank you!
 

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No clatter from mine with about 155k (miles). BUT, mine had a stellar service history. Everything done at the dealer. So proper oil and filter. That same service has continued in my hands as the same dealer is doing all the work on it for me. Could be of of the reasons Toyota spec's 0-20 oil. Perhaps 5w-X or 10W-X was not getting to the valve train quickly enough and causing premature wear. I know it's one of the reasons that Toyota Master tech that specializes in hybrids says the new ones all are specing out 0-16. I don't know for sure. I just know from the day mine was deleivered to the original owner the local dealer has done all the service work, and there are no issues. Though I will say it's definitely not as quiet an engine as the old belt driven V6.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
No clatter from mine with about 155k (miles). BUT, mine had a stellar service history. Everything done at the dealer. So proper oil and filter. That same service has continued in my hands as the same dealer is doing all the work on it for me. Could be of of the reasons Toyota spec's 0-20 oil. Perhaps 5w-X or 10W-X was not getting to the valve train quickly enough and causing premature wear. I know it's one of the reasons that Toyota Master tech that specializes in hybrids says the new ones all are specing out 0-16. I don't know for sure. I just know from the day mine was deleivered to the original owner the local dealer has done all the service work, and there are no issues. Though I will say it's definitely not as quiet an engine as the old belt driven V6.
It sounds like you found a gem of a Highlander! I have seen a couple of Highlander’s for sale in my area, that were serviced at the dealership it was purchased from, then traded back in for whatever reason. That’s something I personally prefer to see in a Carfax history based on the fact that the dealership will almost always take care of any recalls or relay any issues they see on the vehicle. Thank you for your information it’s very helpful!
 

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Toyota dealer is highly unlikely to sell a HL that is not in above average condition. But you need to check, and if in the rust belt that as well. Service history if it was one of theirs as mine was resold to me from a buyer who bought a newer model. I do my oil change on or within their specifications with premium synthetic oil as well since buying it. Oil is cheap service and just do it as needed. Make sure you test/check every accessories in it as well.
 

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It sounds like you found a gem of a Highlander! I have seen a couple of Highlander’s for sale in my area, that were serviced at the dealership it was purchased from, then traded back in for whatever reason. That’s something I personally prefer to see in a Carfax history based on the fact that the dealership will almost always take care of any recalls or relay any issues they see on the vehicle. Thank you for your information it’s very helpful!
It's on advantage of having a solid relationship with my dealer. I have a solid salesperson I deal with all the time. When we decided to get a "newer" Highlander after my 06 blew it's front differential I told my guy, this is what I am looking for. He called me one night as the deal for the owner's new Highlander was being negotiated LOL. I had a target value and such, they shot me a fair price right off including a new set of Michelins and a new OEM battery as well, plus a full service. I didn't even haggle. I was happy with the deal and the car. They even let me look at it before it was even touched by the detail dept so I knew exactly what I was getting, they pulled and printed full service history as well. I've bought 4 vehicles from them myself, my daughter 2 as well. They take good care of me. When we wanted the RAV4 Hybrid, he was right on the spot. Let me know they had 2 just roll off the truck (again literally within the previous 12 hours), we went in and I bought the one that was a "J" car (built in Japan).
Now I am considering getting a Taco, and if I decide on one I'll call the same guy give him parameters and he'll watch out for me
 

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I am not getting it but it maybe in the early gen builds. As a used vehicle I would be concerned. The oil use previously or service interval may have not been correct. If you are looking stick to the newest you can find 2012 has a lot of the needed fixes factory done. As you go back not so much a lot of fixing or patching is needed.

Read the stickies and there is another thread for someone else already on these. Note, these are not as reliable as they're made out to be. If you spend much time here. You'll see all sorts of power train failures and repairs needed which aren't even at high mileage. Get in one at night, most of the controls have no backlighting and cannot be seen. You have to fumble for window, door, and other controls.

According to objective reliability data, all generations of the Highlander are highly reliable. It is the second best mid-size SUV, behind only the FJ Cruiser (and just ahead of the 4 Runner).
 

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As a dealer tech I would, and do, highly recommend these vehicles to anyone looking for an SUV this size. Although the vvt noise is alarming it really causes no harm to the engine, and it is not nearly as pronounced on these as some of the 4 cylinder engines. If I were looking for one of these the main thing I would look at is make sure the front engine cover is not leaking oil. It’s not super common but does happen, and if it’s bad enough that it needs to be resealed the engine and trans need to be dropped together out of the vehicle, very labor intensive. Look down by where the power steering pump would be (low on bank 1 side) and make sure it is mostly dry, a little dampness not a big deal. Sometimes it’s just the banjo gasket for the oil line but many times front cover. Aside from that somewhat rare situation, these cars are bulletproof and amazing in the snow with decent tires.
 

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A dealer tech writes "Look down by where the power steering pump would be (low on bank 1 side) ..."

Does anyone find this a bit amusing? 2nd Gen Highlanders with the v6 2GR-FE engines do NOT have a power steering pump.

No wonder there are trust issues with dealers!
 

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A dealer tech writes "Look down by where the power steering pump would be (low on bank 1 side) ..."

Does anyone find this a bit amusing? 2nd Gen Highlanders with the v6 2GR-FE engines do NOT have a power steering pump.

No wonder there are trust issues with dealers!
Yeah I just meant where the mounting points for the power steering pump are, where the power steering pump “would be”, and is on other models with 2GR. I’m aware this vehicle has electronic assist.
 

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A dealer tech writes "Look down by where the power steering pump would be (low on bank 1 side) ..."

Does anyone find this a bit amusing? 2nd Gen Highlanders with the v6 2GR-FE engines do NOT have a power steering pump.

No wonder there are trust issues with dealers!
He didn't say it HAD a pump only indicated where you would expect to find one if it had one. And BTW the 2008 at least had hydraulic steering
 

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Discussion Starter #19
As a dealer tech I would, and do, highly recommend these vehicles to anyone looking for an SUV this size. Although the vvt noise is alarming it really causes no harm to the engine, and it is not nearly as pronounced on these as some of the 4 cylinder engines. If I were looking for one of these the main thing I would look at is make sure the front engine cover is not leaking oil. It’s not super common but does happen, and if it’s bad enough that it needs to be resealed the engine and trans need to be dropped together out of the vehicle, very labor intensive. Look down by where the power steering pump would be (low on bank 1 side) and make sure it is mostly dry, a little dampness not a big deal. Sometimes it’s just the banjo gasket for the oil line but many times front cover. Aside from that somewhat rare situation, these cars are bulletproof and amazing in the snow with decent tires.
Hey thank you for your expert opinion. It’s always nice to have a tech to reassure a vehicles reliability. Nice to know the vvt cam noise isn’t a big issue, and that’s why I wanted to ask people what they thought. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the front engine cover leak, very good description and a nice bit of info for someone looking for a used Highlander. I am very thorough when looking at a vehicle, I have a mental checklist, I always pop the hood(first engine off) check the oil, check the transmission fluid make sure it doesn’t smell burnt, check the radiator fluid, look at the serpentine belt and pulley accessories. Then I roll under the vehicle check if any the suspension is wore out, make sure it’s dry everywhere, look at the exhaust system. Then the brakes the tires, etc. then turn it over and listen to it run, then give it a test drive if it passes my checklist lol. I want to make sure someone maintained the vehicle close to as I would, at the very least it gives me peace of mind when purchasing a used vehicle! Again thank you for everyone’s comments, it’s appreciated!
 

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i bought my 2008 (V6 AWD) a little over 2 years ago. I got a decent deal on it as it was due for many services (diff fluid, rear diff, transmission drain/fill, etc etc) and needed some minor body repairs. I did all the services myself in the garage and they were surprisingly easy and not time consuming. The only issue i've had so far is the alternator needed replacing which was not a difficult job but took around 5 hours. These are very reliable vehicles that seem to last forever as long as you maintain them. Change the oil and filter frequently, every 5K miles at least. Enjoy !
 
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