Lemberg Law is investigating complaints regarding brake problems in the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Vehicle owners report that the dual-stage braking system that switches between regenerative and hydraulic is malfunctioning and causing potential safety issues.
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Does the Toyota Highlander Have Brake Problems?
Yes, there is a problem with the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid brakes. The issue is that instead of switching seamlessly between the regenerative hybrid and hydraulic brake systems, many drivers experience what feels like temporary brake failure. Those who have previously owned or driven hybrid vehicles report that it is a problem they have never experienced before.
There is considerable discussion about this braking problem in Toyota forums and a growing number of complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Occasional comments on a forum that this is the way the hybrid is designed are largely dismissed. For example:
“Toyota AWD hybrids’ braking systems work exactly as designed and function that way because of the combination two stage regenerative/hydraulic braking system. Takes a little more driver skill in operation of the vehicle initially when coming from a standard hydraulic brake system….and then driven properly it will work flawlessly every time.”
Response: “If this is true then why have my past 2008 Prius and current 2015 Prius and our 2018 Hybrid Camry (not) had those same braking issues? Sorry, not buying that explanation.”
Another forum member echoes this view: “For those who say ‘I need to learn how to drive the system’, my primary commute is in a Prius that I have been driving since 2007. (My first was a 2007 and now I’m driving a 2018.) We have experienced this Highlander Hybrid braking ‘phenomenon’ many times but only at low speeds, i.e., less than 5 mph.”
What Brake Problems are Toyota Highlander Owners Experiencing?
2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid owners report that when they brake, the SUV doesn’t slow down immediately and it feels as if they don’t have brakes.
Complaints go back to March 2021 but there are still no technical service bulletins on record that relate to Highlander Hybrid brakes.
This is what some of the complaints to the NHTSA say:
An owner from Indiana states:
“The Highlander Hybrid is dangerous and someone will get hurt. The brakes will occasionally, at lower speeds and under a variety of circumstances, stop working for a second or two. It actually gives the feeling that the car is accelerating or surging forward.
“My dealer was able to replicate the problem but said they hadn’t heard of a fix yet. They had heard of this issue from several customers. Toyota maintains it is normal operation and is simply the hybrid switching from regenerative braking to mechanical braking. It is completely unpredictable. Sometimes it will go a week without happening. Sometimes it will happen several times in 1 day.
“My wife and I do not feel safe in this car. Very frustrating that Toyota doesn’t seem to take this seriously. It’s simply a matter of time before we rear end someone, or hit something else.”
An owner from New York states:
“My new 2021 Toyota highlander hybrid (is) having random issues when braking. I notice most of the time when the car is going downhill, the car will lose braking for a second and I have to depress the brake harder to slow the vehicle. In that second when it loses the brake the car is actually going forward, which can cause unpredictable stopping distance.”
This owner is worried that it may cause an accident if following too close to a vehicle in front. The complaint goes on to say that there is no warning light displayed on the dashboard and it isn’t possible to reproduce the problem. “It can happen randomly.”
An owner from Alabama states:
“At random times, when traveling at 10-15 mph and applying the brakes to stop or slow, the brakes will slip for a second or less and then re-engage. Never experienced this before with 2 other Toyota hybrids I have owned. Scary feeling. Have notified Toyota Customer service since I have read others with (the) same model (Highlander Hybrid Platinum) have (the) same problem.”
This same owner stated in a forum that the SUV was only two months old.
“It seems to happen when I’m braking to stop at an intersection and I’m driving at a decline (like going downhill). It doesn’t happen every time, so it is hard to reproduce the problem. The service center at my dealership said that there were no malfunction codes when I took it in to be serviced. Nonetheless, this has caused me enough concern that I’ve submitted a complaint with NHTSA and to Toyota corporate office. Something should be done about this before someone gets hurt.”
Another owner states:
“I am noticing a little ‘gap’ in the brakes when I am slowing down in traffic and going down hill. It is as if the brakes let up for just a second. The car surges slightly as if I had taken my foot off the brake. (Then) the brakes lose power and I have to press on it harder to stop the car. It’s a bit disconcerting! I’ve checked with the dealer, they confirmed the brake is fully functional, no issue.”
What Should You Do if Your 2021 Toyota Highlander is Experiencing Brake Problems?
Lemberg Law is currently investigating complaints about the brake problems 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid owners are having. It is possible that the vehicles they own are lemons.
If you have problems relating to brakes, all you have to do is fill out our contact form or call our Helpline. It won’t cost you anything because the law mandates that Toyota must pay the legal fees for lemon law actions.