We bought this SUV new in 2002. We bought it because we have a 1998 Corolla that's been a very reliable car. But not the Highlander. At just under 200,000 k the old leaky head gasket then the stripped head bolt got us. Last year we thought we would keep the Toyota for a few more years so we put money into the few body chips. Bought new tires, winter and summer and put in a new wind shield in the spring. Now we had an engine that was toast. Our local Toyota dealer found us a used motor from another Toyota and installed it. They say it only has 70,000 k but who knows. So we spent $7600.00 so far. As of January 2016 it's still running great. there hasn't been any new surprises.
Beware of the dreaded code stating leakage in exhaust system, for this is an idication of the head gasket going and leaking coolant. Upon further review it is found thatrear head bolts are stripped due to excessive heat most like caused by foam insulator pad between plastic intake manifold and engine. Some say engine is toast, but the fix rec. is a time sert insert kit (approx $500 helicoil) with drill guide. Mine is to be currently repaired at about a total cost of $2,900.00 as long as the helicoil kit holds the head bolt torque, we will see? It is a design flaw in my opinion as it seems to be a regular issue with the four cylinder Highlanders approx.2001-2005? Failure was at 160,000 mi.
I've had my Toyota highlander for about 5 months now. When I first got it it had almost 216,000 miles. It's a great SUV and pretty reliable with decent gas mileage. At about 218,000 miles the temperature gauge started going up , almost to red. It would go up and then down to normal and repeat. Turned out I blew a head gasket. While it was at the shop being repaired they found that the head bolts were stripped which is a known problem with this year ,make and type of engine my highlander has. Ended up paying $3,700 to get fixed. Despite the major repair I haven't had any other problems with it. I'm at 222,000 miles and it runs great. I'm hoping on making it to 300,000 + miles.
Just like others I have read on this site, my 2003 run hot and after having it towed for service and repair I was told the engine needs to be replaced. The cost for the re-built engine was $6,400 - $8,500 depending on who you called. Very disappointed in the built strong organization I put so much trust in.