Tag Archives: Toyota

Videos: How to Diagnose Faulty 2008 Toyota Highlander Hood Latch Switch Causing Intermittent Alarm Problems Plus Replacing the Micro Switch

Okay, while researching what to do with my 2008 Toyota Highlander’s flaky alarm, I ran across some good videos you can watch on how to diagnose the switch and even how to replace the microswitch. As for me, I wrote up how I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug from the old sensor’s wire. My approach still allows the rest of the alarm system to work just fine and can be done in less than an hour with little to no cost. With that said, let’s take a look at these really well done videos that helped me think out my approach – especially the first one on diagnosing the switch.

Diagnosing the Switch

The following is the best video I found on diagnosing the problem and he even disassembles the latch to show you what is going on in detail – it’s very well done. This video helped me figure out my approach and kudos to Ozzstar for making it:

If You Want To Replace the Microswitch

This next video is really well done and is specific to the 2008 Highlander. He ordered the same Panasonic automotive grade micro switch that Toyota used: ABS1413409 from Digikey.

I hope this helps you out.



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Easy & Cheap Solution for 2008 Toyota Highland Hood Latch Sensor Switch Causing Faulty Alarms: Make A Loopback Plug

We recently became the new owners of a 2008 Toyota Highlander. It was in great shape and I thought we got a pretty good deal on it. The previous owner disclosed to us that the hood alarm switch was flaky and the car alarm would go off randomly.

After we bought the Highlander and returned home I did some research that night. There is in integral microswitch in the hood latch assembly that detects if the hood is open or closed. The alarm system will not arm if it detects that the hood is open and it will sound an alarm if someone tries to open the hood. Uhm… ok. My first thought was “you can only open it from the inside lever that is protected by the door alarms so why have this one?”

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the switch is a known problem. It’s also one of the rare times where I will say Toyota did a bad design. Putting a basic microswitch in the front of a car where it will get wet all the time and corrode, not to mention the impacts and grease/oil from the latch itself, is not really that good of an idea — at least not to me.

After reading and watching videos, it seemed like there were three options:

  • Replace the whole hood latch assembly that includes the sensor. Third party, these latch assemblies were about $56 on Amazon and $50-60 on eBay. Original Toyota would be higher, of course. Pro: It is pretty easy to remove the assembly and install this one. Con: It’s a relatively expensive and will fail sooner or later unless someone fixed the switch design and sealed it better.
  • Replace just the microswitch. You can get the unit real cheap from Digikey and other suppliers plus there are Youtube videos that show you what to do. The previous owner did this and it worked for about two years he said. Pro: Real cheap (under $10 including shipping). Cons: Takes time and will not last without figuring out some better way to seal the original design.
  • Simply bypass the switch. As mentioned earlier – you can’t open the hood from the outside so what are the odds that someone will successfully break into the car and then open the hood without setting off the alarm? The risk is real low – low enough for me to go with this option. Pro: Easiest of all and is a permanent solution. Con: The hood alarm sensor will no longer work. This is the one I went with.

I’d like to point out that just unplugging the sensor is not an option. Doing that will make the computer think the hood is open and the car alarm will not arm at all. This means you must pick one of the three options listed above. I opted for the last one – I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug – a fancy term meaning I joined the input and output wires together thus making it look like the switch was always closed so the computer would think the hood was closed regardless of whether it was or not.

If you’d like to learn more about diagnosing the problem, seeing how to remove the latch and/or how to replace the microswitch, click here.

What I want to do next is walk you through what I did. If you are not comfortable with basic wiring, I’d recommend against your trying this just to be up front. Always ask yourself if you can reverse what you are about to do or can you recover if something goes wrong – if the answer is “no”, then don’t do it. For example, don’t cut wires off right next to a fitting – leave yourself some pigtails in case you need to reconnect them.

One last comment – these directions are just based on my 2008 Highlander. Different years and models may not be like this. Research your vehicle before doing anything like this.

Bypassing the Sensor

So, to bypass the sensor we just need to create a circuit that normally exists when the switch is closed. First, I needed to get a better look at the location of the wiring so the cover needed to come off.

The plastic cover between the grill and the frame needs to come off. It is held in place by Toyota push-type retaining clips and two 10mm screws. The screws are to the front on the left and right sides. Note that two of the clips on the right side are bigger than the others – this will help you with reassembly later.
I use a small flat screw driver to pop the middle part up. You then grab hold of that, lift up and the clip comes right out.
Just remove the clips and then the plastic cover simply lifts off. I found one more that anchors the grille in the middle of the grille vertically and I removed it. That gave me ample room to work and I did not need to remove the grille given what I planned to do.

I did not take as many photos as I should have so let me explain. With the plastic cover off and the middle anchor clip removed, I had plenty of access to the switch and wiring to see what to do. The wire assembly runs from the hood latch – and there is only one wire – do not pick the hood cable used to open the hood. The wire runs from a small switch in the latch assembly and then plugs into a connector shortly below it.

I inserted a small blade screw driver to release the plug from the socket. To be safe, make sure you confirm the wires that you plan to cut lead up to the sensor and are *not* the wires going to the harness / wiring loom.

Why care? Because if you cut the wires on the sensor side and connect them together, you can easily replace the hood latch assembly and go back to having a sensor if you want. However, if you cut the wiring loom, it’s gone. You can manually splice in but it simply is not an elegant approach.

Note I am saying wires and when you look at the plug it looks like just one black wire. What you are seeing is the insulation tube that is black. Inside are two thin green wires that run from the plug to the sensor switch.

I’ll not get awards for artwork but hopefully this will give you an idea. When I faced my the front of my Highlander, the wiring from the sensor was on the right hand side. You need to confirm this just in case. It is the wire to the sensor switch wire that you want to cut and not the wiring from the harness. On my 2008 Highlander, the harness wiring was on the left.

Once I was certain which wire to cut, I reached in with some snips and cut the wire leaving a couple of inches to work with. DO NOT CUT THE WIRES FLUSH TO THE PLUG!! You need a short length of the wires to connect together to make the circuit loop back.

To make work easier, I took the short wire with the plug on it and worked at a bench where everything was handy, I stripped a bit off the end of each wire, twisted the bare wires together, soldered them, bent them over the small wire pigtail and then used heat shrink tubing and electrical tape to secure everything. Total overkill but I never wanted to bother with this again.

Here’s the finished result. The front of the car is to the left. Part of the hood latch spring is to the upper right and we are looking down at the newly made loopback plug. As far as the alarm system is concerned, the hood is closed. The red color is the heat shrink tube I had on hand. I folded the heat shrink tubing over at the end and then applied electrical tape to seal it.

I installed the newly create loopback plug back into the socket. I then tested the system by turning the alarm on with the key fob, putting the key fob out of signal range in the garage and waited for the system arm. Once the alarm indicator light went solid on the dash, I simply reached in through the open window and tried to open the door from the inside and the alarm went off. Yeah, I had to run back to that fob to shut it off 🙂

If the system thought the hood was open, it would never have armed by the way. That’s why you can’t just unplug the switch. I then reinstalled the plastic cover by installing the clips and then pushing the middle piece down to lock it in place. By the way, remember that the right two clips are bigger than the others. The two 10mm screws went back in with a dab of non-seize on each just in case they ever need to come out again.

That was it – the alarm is happily armed and protecting the Highlander as I write this and not one single false alarm since. I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.



What to do if your 1996 Landcruiser’s Shifter Will Not Come Out of Park – How to Release the Shift Lock Button

Have you ever noticed that things go bad at the worst time? In my case it was during heavy snow. I was plowing wet snow out of the way and had a few hours to beat when the temperatures would drop and turn the melting snow into a block of ice.

My plow truck is a 1996 Toyota Landcruiser that has a rear mounted plow made by a long gone firm named “Super Plow”. It works pretty good when snow stays under 18″ so I plow a few times during a storm to keep it knocked down.

I was plowing, put the truck in park and got out to see what I needed to touch up. I got back in and it would not shift out of Park. I could tell that the shift lock button was not going in as far as it should. First, I tried turning the steering wheel left and right – no luck. The lock would not release. I then put the truck’s transfer case in Neutral and rocked it some – nothing. I dropped the blade to make sure there weren’t any stresses – nothing. Well, that meant the selector solenoid wasn’t moving out of the way. Argh!! Of course I was stuck right in the middle of the driveway.

I called my buddy John Freehling up who is a real mechanic and will forget more about cars than I will ever learn. He told me that there ought to be an emergency release somewhere near the lever and to do a quick search on the Internet to find out just where, which I did.

You get access to the emergency release by using a blade screw driver, knife or something, to pry the little rectangular lid that is located to the upper left of the shift console. You then can insert a screw driver to gently push down and release the shift lever.
Bingo! Problem solved. I then got the truck back to my garage and went in and read on the computer instead of my little phone screen.

The access plate is at the upper edge of the console. You can see the small plate sitting in the boot of the transfer case lever. You need to reach in and press the release each time you want to take the lever out of park.

The Work Around

Now, it is literally subzero weather right now and I’ll work on permanently solving the weather this weekend when it warms up. Until then, I found a great solution on the web – cut a carpenter’s pencil off so it sticks up slightly – just the body – you don’t need it to be pointed. I put my pencil in and gave myself about an inch protruding and cut it off in my bandsaw.

Getting out of park takes two hands – I push down on the stubby pencil with my left hand, push in the lock button like normal and pull the lever down with my right. Again, you just need it to move the shift lever out of park – not all the time. It works just fine. I was able to finish plowing my hose and my mother-in-law’s no problem.

What might the problem be?

Troubleshooting and fixing this one ought to be pretty straight forward when it is warmer. Here’s what I am going to try in order:

  1. Push down on the brake pedal. If the lights turn on, then the brake pedal switch is good. If they don’t then the problem is most likely the brake pedal switch. I read an interesting post where the guy said unscrewing and removing the brake pedal assembly makes it very straight forward.
  2. If the brake lights come on, make sure they all come on. If not, one blown bulb could potentially cause the problem.
  3. Related to #2 – Check brake light fuse and replace if blown.
  4. If the light all come on, check for power at the solenoid because odds are the solenoid failed.

So, we’ll see what the final fix is but I hope this helps anyone stuck and unable to get the shift lever lock switch to depress and let them shift out of park.

2/3/19 Update: It blew the fuse — As you see, the truck’s plow is on the rear. I smashed the trailer light hookup assembly pretty good and it must have shorted somewhere. This summer I’ll use a hole saw and cut the rear bumper to install a trailer electrical assembly that is better protected vs. under the bumper. So, the truck’s brake lights and shifter are working again.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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Valvoline Max Life ATF Works Great in 2002 Toyota Camry XLE

We are a Toyota family and most of our cars were bought either used or very used from private parties.  At any rate, a few years ago I bought a 2002 Toyota Camry XLE with a 4-Cylinder engine.  The other day my older daughter said it was making a funny noise in reverse so I checked the dipstick.  Wow.  Not only was it low but the ATF looked awful.  For comparison, the below photo with the brownish ATF on the white paper towel is on the left and brand new ATF is on the right.  Wow!!  (Yeah, I wrote wow twice because I was stunned.

So I told my daughter to ride with her sister in our old 92 Corolla and that I needed to work on their car.  First thing I did was to look at the fluid a couple of times – it was brownish but not black, no metal flakes and no bad smell.

In reading the manual, Toyota wrote that the transmission fluid should be good for the life of the car … right.  I guess it depends on how you view that, or at least how they view it.  I’m sure I checked the fluid when we got the car and it wasn’t this color but I’m not in a habit of checking it regularly unless I see drips or a puddle under a car or truck.

This car had almost 195,000 miles on it and we put about 50,000 of those miles on it.  I figured a change was past due.  So, before I did anything, I decided to do some reading first.

Picking Valvoline Max Life ATF

I knew there were a ton of different automatic transmission fluids (ATF) out there and that getting the right one was key.  The transmission was designed to use Toyota ATF T-IV and there are different brands that claim to meet the spec.  The problem is that the wrong one can cause headaches.  One particular formulation kept coming up as I read about what others used – Valvoline Max Life ATF:

Note in the next photo you can see that Valvoline says this can replace Toyota T-IV as well – it’s not just guys on the Internet.  By the way, if you feel uncomfortable with what I am saying, definitely do your own research and you’ll see tons of favorable posts about using this fluid.

Okay, so I bought two gallons of the above.  The automatic transmission in the car uses about 4.1 quarts.  I used a 10mm allen bit in my Onyx 3/8″ impact wrench and drained everything I could from the pan.  I then put the plug back in and added two quarts of fresh Max Life and let it run for about 30 seconds and shifted through the gears (I was up on 6 ton jack stands with rubber wheel chocks and the parking brake on).

I then removed the plug again and drained the fluid.  I then removed the return line, started the car for maybe 30 seconds if that – I turned it off when nothing else was coming out.  I then buttoned it all back up.

In  theory the transmission was empty.  I’ve had issues in the past where I assumed that was the case but it was not so I didn’t want to assume anything.  I added two quarts and moved it to a perfectly flat spot on my driveway.  I could just barely see a hint of ATF on the tip.  I added a bit more to get it short of the cold empty mark.

I don’t trust the cold measure on the dipstick.   With an automatic transmission it must be up to its operating temperature to get a good reading in the hot zone (the bottom mark is for cold is a ballpark – get it hot and then test as you absolutely do not want to overfill an automatic transmission).  As it gets hot the fluid expands hence my wanting to know at temperature where I was at.

How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid Level

Now, to check the ATF level, Toyota does not tell you in the operator’s manual and I frown on that.  With the car flat, let it idle (or drive it 10 miles if you have fluid in it – I had an unknown level so I didn’t want to get on the road) and let the engine and transmission come up to operating temperature (158-176F).  Then, with your foot on the brake, shift the gear selector from park through all the gears, stopping at each one and then back up.  With the car idling and the transmission in park, check the dipstick.

To make sure the engine and tranny were hot enough, I used my BAFX plug in OBD II probe that connects to the Torque app on my Android phone via Bluetooth.

I kept adding smaller and smaller amounts of ATF and moved the selector lever per the above before I would test the level again.  I got it close to full in the hot range and then stopped.  As mentioned, I did not want to go past full.  By the way, when you are reading a dipstick with during filling, you must wipe it off each time to get a good reading and you may find that you get a better view of the fluid level on one side or the other of the dipstick.

In case you are wondering, I did not do the transmission filter.  It would have taken a ton of time and I figured I would start with the fluid and see what happened.

The end result – it shifts beautifully.  I could not be happier — even my wife thinks it shifts smoother and feels better.   To wrap this up, I wrote this post in case one of you has questions about what transmission fluid is a good substitute for Toyota Type T-IV, and also how to properly check the automatic transmission fluid level.

6/1/2019 Update – Still no problems.  Our 1992 Corolla sprung a leak in the transmission fluid cooling line so I had to both install some fuel like to patch the corroded line plus I had to refill the transmission fluid.  That was about 2-300 miles ago and that is working fine too.  Bottom line,  I do think this fluid performs just fine in place of Toyota Type T-IV fluid.

9/10/2018 Update – The Camry XLE has been on a number of 200-400 mile highway road trips at highway speeds and shows no signs of shifting problems.  The family agrees the car shifts smoother.  I have now replaced the ATF in our 2004 Solara SLE and 1994 Corolla with Max Life ATF also and all are running well.  The Solara has close to a 1,000 miles on it now.  I’m very pleased with Max Life and will continue using it in my Toyotas.  By the way, I now use an EWK Fluid Evacuator for getting the ATF exactly where I want it.  Here’s the post about that tool.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.

Amazon product listing are at the bottom of the post.