If you own a 2008-2013 Toyota Highlander vehicle, you may have noticed a clunk, pop, or knock-type noise when turning the steering wheel left or right. Don’t worry, it’s not just you! A significant number of consumers have complained that their Highlander vehicles are making these noises—ranging from interior rattles, to a popping noise when turning the steering wheel, to a “distinct clunk” when turning or accelerating the vehicle. As the vehicle gains more miles, consumers have noticed that the “clunk” becomes more and more audible. Below are just a few of the multitude of complaints describing the clunking, popping, and/or rattling noise consumers experience when turning their steering wheel in a Highlander:
While turning the steering I feel a klunk this happens always when [I turn] the wheel. Frustrated really need your help.
This vehicle has a knocking or clunking sound when turning the steering wheel. This is a common complaint on Toyota Highlanders but vehicles when out of warranty. This is a defect in these vehicles and should be fixed by Toyota free of charge.
The vehicle has around 37K miles and started to get a bump or thud sound when turning to right and turning over all begin to get sluggish. I took it to the [dealership] has in Houston and it was diagnosed with a drive shaft problem and required a expensive repair and front end alignment. I questioned the service rep as it seemed to be very low mileage for a issue researching it seems that this is a Highlander defect and should be covered by a recall. If this car had 80k or more miles I might be of a different opinion but this car is way too new to have an issue like this especially on such an important element like steering. This is an obvious engineering and manufacturing problem and a replacement part that will only have a 1 year warranty is not good enough.
There is a clunking noise when turning at low speeds. My mechanic says there is a defect in the design of the steering shaft. He said this commonly occurs with this model Highlander, something supported by numerous complaints about the same issue. Toyota denies responsibility and won’t issue a recall, though it is a safety risk.
When turning the right the steering was making a clicking/knocking sound. I only have 30,000 miles on the car, which I have had 100,000 miles on cars and never had this issue. Apparently Toyota has diagnosed this with a bad U-joint in the steering intermediate shaft with a hefty price tag to fix. This seems like a complaint from multiple people and on multiple sites. I thing this should be looked into by Toyota and considered a recall item. Very disappointed in my Toyota right now.
This problem has become so prominent that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened up an investigation into the matter. The Office of Defects Investigation received a number of complaints reporting incidents of steering column separation that occurred while adjusting the steering wheel position using the telescoping/tilt feature. The investigation opened on May 4, 2018, and is currently ongoing. Any consumer who hear noise, popping or cracking from the Highlander’s steering wheel should consider immediate repairs.
While this problem may seem new to Toyota customers, it is not new to Toyota itself, who has known about the steering wheel problem in Highlanders for years, and the symptoms thereof, including popping and other noises when using the Highlander’s steering wheel. Indeed, on February 21, 2013, Toyota sent out a Technical Service Bulletin on the issue, acknowledging the problem and advising technicians that consumers reporting popping or cracking noises and letting dealers how to fix the problem. Moreover, Toyota developed a new intermediate shaft for Highlander steering wheels to address this issue. Significantly, however, Toyota has not issued any type of recall, and instead has put the onus on customers to pay for any and all repairs to their Highlanders if the steering column’s shaft requires replacement. Considering how much money these vehicles cost, it is inconceivable that they have such fundamental problems. If you own one of the affected vehicles—2008-2013 Highlander HV, 2008-2013 Highlander—and have experienced noises—including popping and cracking—when turning the Highlander’s steering wheel, you should look into hiring an attorney to get back your money. For its part, the national Plaintiffs’ firm Cafferty Clobes Meriwether Sprengel LLP is investigating Toyota’s behavior, and would be happy to take your call to discuss any potential claims you may have.