2021 Toyota Highlander Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Fuel system, powertrain and structure issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

The 2021 Toyota Highlander sets to make right the wrongs of models in the past. Even the automaker claims it is “refined for the daily drive.” Yet customers are finding some of the very same issues from the previous models, including the fuel system, powertrain and structure.

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Problems with the Fuel System

In previous years, the Highlander suffered from massive fuel pump failures, leaving customers furious. Sadly, it doesn’t look like much has changed with the 2021 Toyota Highlander.

One NHTSA complaint states, “My 2021 Highlander Hybrid Platinum is experiencing a fuel filling issue. Over the first 2,000 miles, the vehicle will not take more than 13.5 gallons at fill up. No topping off. The car has a 17.1 gallon tank. The car has gone as low as 2 miles to empty according to the car estimate. At each fill up it takes between 12.5 and 13.5 gallons. It is not clear if the tank is filling up completely and there are 4-5 gallons left at empty or the tank is not able to fill completely. I purchased this car for its fuel economy and range while traveling with my family. It is important to know if the tank is actually empty or still has a substantial amount of fuel remaining so my family is not stranded out of fuel.”

As of now, Toyota has nothing to say about this problem, nor any other fuel-related issues. It’s no wonder that the company wants to keep quiet, considering all of the class action lawsuits occurring on other models due to a defective fuel pump that wasn’t being repaired correctly. The way it’s going, it’s only a matter of time before this “refined” model faces the same type of litigation.

Problems with the Powertrain

When it comes to enjoying a smooth and controlled ride, the transmission plays the largest role. However, Toyota customers find that the powertrain in this Highlander isn’t what was expected.

An Edmunds user wrote, “I trust Toyota before purchase and now it’s a big disappointment. What kind of nonsense they are doing with transmission? Very jerky and the gear is slipping. Sometimes can hear the gear slamming inside and when driving to low speed and accelerating feels like it’s hunting for gear. I searched internet and came to know it’s a known issue from 2017 till now and 8sp transmission got issues.”

Along with the transmission come several engine problems that Toyota has addressed. One such issue is documented with Service Bulletin #T-TT-0615-20 Rev. This correspondence states that some customers are complaining about the vehicle surging or hesitating when the accelerator is pushed. However, instead of doing anything about it right now, Toyota is simply taking a survey to “better understand our customers’ expectation regarding vehicle drivability.” It really doesn’t require a survey to know that customers expect to drive their SUV without these problems. It’s no wonder Toyota is losing the trust of some of its most loyal drivers.

Problems with the Structure

Finally, a look at the Highlander Structure reveals that it might not be designed well. Customers that expected Toyota quality might be incredibly disappointed.

Here’s another Edmunds review to look at. “We purchased a 2021 Highlander Platinum AWD Hybrid. Worst mistake of our life!! The third row is useless. Our small children sat with their knees in their chin. We cut our losses and traded it 23 days after purchasing new. Value was horrible at trade, but did what we had to do.”

When a vehicle markets itself as a third-row SUV, it should have room in those seats to actually hold people. However, Toyota isn’t saying anything about this problem either, regardless of how many complaints have been posted on the internet. Instead, the company might be planning to market the Highlander to families with small dogs instead. The seat might fit a few Chihuahuas comfortably.

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About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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