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We had a Jeep Liberty that literally fell apart in the 2 years that we owned it. I wish I had stripped off the plastic kick plate (?) when we first got the thing. Here in North Central Vermont the plastics totally wrecked the rocker panels and made our Liberty a junkyard ornament. So now we have a 2004 Toyota Highlander. It came from a warmer Southern climate and was well cared for. It is a Limited version and has all the goodies including heated seats and a sun/moon roof. All we wanted was a good car with a clean body that wasn't about to die. 

I'm still learning about the Highlander so I am not exactly sure how this SUV qualifies as a 4x4, but that's what the tag says. So far we have gotten 17.5 MPG with combined driving so I'm a little confused as to why a 3.3 L V6 gets that kind of fuel mileage if not for the weather we've had and the use of 4x4 as needed. We've had it for about a month now and it rides like a cloud on pillows compared to the Liberty. I'm also glad to have room for my knees. If you have never had a Jeep Liberty, and you have the chance to drive one, give it a try. You'll appreciate your vehicle that much more. I suppose after 2 years you get really tired of things like that.

I'm not sure if Moses would allow a Highlander addition to this sight, but it would be interesting to know what has been tried and what has been accomplished with the Highlander 4x4. If you drive one, let me know what you think, and about its longevity. Ours has just over 103,000 miles on it now. I can't wait to drive it this summer without the heated seats on.

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BadDriver4x4, you just opened the first discussion on the Highlander and prompted a new sub-forum entry.  Your preowned 2004 Highlander sounds like a wise buy...Let's trust that you've started something by opening the conversation here.  Perhaps more Toyota SUV owners will jump into the discussion about their all-wheel drive vehicles!  For those unfamiliar with the Highlander, this press-type photo should provide insight:

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As a confession, we bought a new Jeep KJ Liberty in 2002.  My wife actually liked some of its features and its driving ease.  There were minuscule signs that Daimler's German engineering was present when the Liberty came to life. 

I was out from under the ether of the new car smell within the first 10,000 miles.  The Liberty had it's share of recalls and could frighten a seasoned driver with its scary handling in a crosswind with a cargo rack on top.  One round of spark plug changing on the 3.7L V-6 convinced me this was not a reasonable vehicle to service.  It took tricks I had acquired in a lifetime of wrenching to remove and install the plugs.  They fit at the inside (intake manifold side) of the cylinder heads:  My tip for anyone changing 3.7L spark plugs is to use a piece of rubber fuel hose to hold the plug ceramic and start the threads;  this will reduce the risk of cross-threading the spark plugs at this awkward position!  Vacuum around each spark plug before removing the plugs to prevent debris from falling into the cylinders.

Convinced that this car-like 4x4 was not our cup of tea, by 2004 we were ready to part company with the Liberty—and willing to take the expected depreciation bath.  Sale of the vehicle led to purchasing our Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Quad-Cab (see the Member Photo Gallery), quite a contrast with its Cummins turbo diesel.  Bought new (see my "Speaking Out!" blog for insights into what I think of buying new vehicles today), the Ram is a keeper at 165K miles. 

On a go-forward, we're perfectly content to buy and drive preowned vehicles.  Over 80% of our vehicles have been preowned.  All vehicles become "used" when they roll over the dealership's curb with a temporary registration on the windshield and a paper plate.

Pleased that you like your Highlander...Toyota quality!

Moses

 

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It's been a few months since I purchased my Highlander and I have a short term report to make. The vehicle is definitely capable in the snow. It would have been nice to have had more aggressive tires on it during the snow covered months. We got plenty of the cold white stuff this year and at one point I had to plow through a pile of snow left on the road by town road crews that were obviously having problems with the distribution of the fluffy white rain.

I have to say that as much as the traction control \ 4wd helps to get you going I find that there is a tendency to lock out power in a skid or slide. It felt as though I had no power at the wheels while trying to negotiate a turn and going into a slide. This really bothers me because I'm used to full control and a loss of power takes away the option to power out of a slide. I'd need to read up on this situation to see if my vehicle model or year has a problem with this particular maneuver, but I can't find a Haynes or Chilton manual for the Highlander anywhere in my area. I like to look at a repair manual when I can, so I will look online when I have exhausted the parts dealers I frequent. (Not on a daily basis 😉 )

There are some other quirks and issues that may belong only to my vehicle so I won't expound on them at this point. I guess at this point I'm more happy than bothered with this choice. It did come down to money and availability, so I can't say that I wouldn't have prefered another vehicle with a better 4wd pedigree, but the dealer had to do some serious repairs to it and the price was getting out of out hand for our comfort zone for a local vehicle. (Rusty or worse) At this point the reliability and features sure outweigh any pet peeve issues.

Vehicle Update on July 26, 2020:

 

So, I've had some issues with my 2004 Highlander Limited that I think need to be exposed. I know that everyone's story will differ, but if this can happen to me, it might happen to someone else: 

At 121,932 miles I had to have the drive shaft replaced, we nursed it for a few hundred miles too long, but I had to come up with $1600.00 + for the repairs. Then recently, the power steering line developed a hole from rubbing against the frame because the wrapping had been rubbed away or fallen off. This was a "cheap" repair of $370.00 +. When you add new rear brakes to pass Vermont's draconian inspection laws, then a new windshield, and the typical tires and a set of steel wheels for next winter, we have racked up well over $3000.00 in the last 9 months. 

The major issue was the drive shaft. This is a three section, single unit that is priced over $1200.00 for the lowest priced refurbished unit and over $1500.00 for a lifetime warranted unit. The three sections have to be balanced to work together or they will vibrate themselves apart. However, as of right now, as I write this, there is a groaning coming from the rear end that I think might be the "differential".  That probably should have been check when the drive shaft was replaced, but it is yet to be diagnosed by a professional. 

My current opinion is that the Highlander is a decent 4WD vehicle, but as they age you may find yourself paying a lot more than you bargained for. Toyota has a good reputation, but we just didn't get the right car. You can't always find a bargain in the 4WD, 4x4 market when you're on tight budget, so search hard. If we had a respected expert in the area for inspections and troubleshooting, these things might have been spotted before we bought the Highlander—if they could have been spotted at that point.

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It would be worth Google-ing the traction control issue, I'm sure others have experienced it, too.  There may be a Toyota update or remedy.  I would discuss the traction control system with your local dealership's service manager, he or she may have insight...Look to Consumer Report and possible NHTSA recalls related to the traction control.

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Thanks for the update, BadDriver4x4!  The objectivity and stark reality of your shared experience is helpful to others.  Toyota vehicles are generally well built and at one time were distinctly the best vehicles on the planet for longevity and dependability.  Many vintage Toyota pickups, FJ 4x4s and SUVs made it to the "300,000 Mile Club". 

Models worth noting:  the 1979-85 4x4 pickups and the earliest 4Runners with beam front and rear axles, any of the original FJ and DJ 4x4 series trucks and SUVs with solid front and rear axles, and those derivative Lexus (Land Cruiser) badge vehicles with solid front and rear axles. These were rugged, truck-based chassis designed for the global market (including primitive roads in Asia, Africa and Australia).  Beam front axles were far less troublesome and easier to maintain than later IFS models.  Fast forward to Toyota's unitized body SUVs, and they are often no better than any other manufacturer.  I would pit a 4.0L Jeep® XJ Cherokee 4x4 against any Toyota 4WD SUV for longevity and least cost for maintenance or restoration.

The downside with Toyota, Nissan and other Asian and European SUV manufacturers has always been the cost of OEM replacement parts.  Beyond filters and routine service parts, Toyota chassis, powertrain, axle and sheet metal replacement parts rank among the highest priced in the U.S. auto/truck market.  I was a die-hard fan of the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 in the eighties and nineties and built/restored/upgraded three of these 4x4s.  Two of my FJ40s were built as magazine and book projects.  The second project was a joint venture with BTB Products and became a SEMA Show display vehicle. 

I stopped building Land Cruiser FJ40 project vehicles when I realized the disservice it was to encourage wage earning 4x4 enthusiasts to build up a vintage Toyota Land Cruiser.  The parts costs to fully restore or build up an FJ40, relying upon OEM Toyota parts, was two to three times higher than a comparable Jeep® CJ or Wrangler model.

Moses   

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