Tag Archives: Highlander

What To Do When Your Highlander’s Battery Is Dead And the Remote Power Door Locks Will Not Unlock?

My wife and I ran into a first for us – she went to unlock our 2008 Toyota Highlander and it wouldn’t unlock with either remote. Yeah, I figured the battery was dead as we hadn’t run it for maybe two months due to the pandemic crap. We put it on storage and I really hadn’t thought about the battery … until the doors wouldn’t unlock.

How to get in the highlander with just the key fob?

Okay, I tried both key fobs and my wife was right – no sounds of any kind came from the Highlander. There was a key slot in the door so I figured Toyota must have had some kind of plan. We bought the car… truck… thing, used and never needed to get in manually until now.

I knew with other keyless cars that I had seen in the past there was a backup key that could flick out of the fob so I took a close look at the fob for the Highlander. There was a small rectangular button on the side with the image of a key on it.

I pushed on it and nothing happened. I then looked at the attachment where the key ring connected and noticed it looked really beefy. The button wasn’t the key, it was a rocker that unlocked the key to pull out.

There’s the release button right there. Push on the circular dot for that end of the release to push in.
So push the dot in and pull from the end and the key slides right out of the end with your key ring.
So there’s your skeleton backup key. Just reverse the operation to push it back in.

Not Home Free – Expect to Lubricate the Lock

Okay, I saw one key slot in the driver’s door and thought I was home free. Nope. Wouldn’t turn. Not only that, there were no other key slots because I thought I would simply try another one.

There’s the one manual key slot to the right of the handle. You do not want to break your little key off in there.

Okay folks, piece of advice here from past mistakes – don’t crank on the key or you will break it and then you are completely out of luck and will need to pay a ton to get help. I busted a key in college trying to do just that and had to enter from the passenger side and slide across for almost a year before I could afford to have the door fixed.

Push the red tube all the way to the back of the lock and start spraying as you pull it out. Why that way? I tend to find I make less of a mess. I am still standing their with a towel to wipe up the black goo as it runs out. I sprayed and tried the key three times. After the third spray and testing, the mechanism freely turned. This stuff works great for sticking door and ignition key cylinders by the way. I keep it in stock.

So, if the key will not turn, spray lubricant in the slot. You will get a ton of conflicting advice on the Internet. What I have always used is Lock-Ease. Put the little red tube on the nozzle and hose down the inside of the key slot starting as far back as you can. Try and turn the key. If it still will not turn then spray it again. What I have found is that most of the time things turn fee with the first try and almost always by the third. I think the solvent that is carrying the lubricating graphite helps free up what is sticking and then the graphite takes it from there.

Okay, so the door was open and now I could open the hood. The battery read 0 volts – empty and introduced a new hurdle.

Why Smart Chargers Aren’t Always

So this takes us to the topic of smart chargers. The designers built in all kinds of safe guards including the need for a voltage to be present before they start. I really like my NOCO Genius chargers and was using one of the G26000 models. Here’s what I tried:

  • Just attached the charger – it would not switch to charging
  • Went to boost mode – it would sense the lack of voltage and switch off
  • I tried turning on the 5A 12 volt supply mode and that was just enough to make the security system chirp and reset over and over … crap.

So much for the easiest ones. That meant I needed to try and trick the charger. I brought my 96 Landcruiser over and connected good old jumper cables to start charging the “dead” battery and also hooked up a digital meter. It showed the alternator was cranking out 14.09 volts and as soon as I disconnected the positive cable from the Landcruiser, the meter showed the volts dropping down through 13 volts down into the 12s and so forth over the space of a few seconds.

Now this is the trick, for about 5-7 seconds the “dead” battery would appear to have enough juice for me to connect and start the NOCO. So, I staged stuff and had the gear ready to go. I charged the battery for a minute or two, disconnected the positive jumper cable from the Landcruiser, safely moved it out if the way and quickly attached the NOCO charger and it started charging. I jumped the dead battery just enough for it to show a charge to the NOCO that then turned on and did the rest. By the way, I am not faulting the NOCO. They are great chargers and I own three of them right now.

I really like the NOCO G26000 charger and definitely recommend it and their other chargers. Here. the battery is past 50%. It just so happens my camera caught the flashing 75% light while it was illuminated.

After about 12 hours the battery was fully charged and I then set the NOCO to repair mode to desulfinate the plates. The battery appears to be okay and we’ll see what it looks like come this fall when the temperatures start cooling off — the colder it is the harder it is for batteries to work and the marginal ones fail.

Lessons Learned

First, I now know where the spare key is. Second, I plan to hook up my smaller NOCO G7200 charger and run the cable under the power out of the hood so I can periodically top the battery off. Modern vehicles have a ton of electronics in them so I am not overly surprised it ran out of juice.

I hope this post helps you out!


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How To Fix A Broken Vacuum Line Fitting on the Air Box or Air Filter Housing Of A 2008 Toyota Highlander And Other Models – It’s Easy and Cheap!

I’m going to leverage my inner Forrest Gump – used cars are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. In this case, it was our 2008 Toyota Highlander. I decided to check the air filter just in case and noticed both that the vacuum lines had cracked and that someone had done a “creative” fix on a 4mm vacuum port that had snapped off.

So this vaccum line was just resting in the hole. There’s some white glue – maybe silicone and som odd metal insert.

If there’s one thing I have learned with modern computerized cars – don’t mess with their sensors or vacuum lines. You can get odd random codes thrown, lose performance, fuel efficiency, etc. So, I knew this needed to be fixed. The big problem – the vacuum fitting was cast into the airbox!! By the way, the air box is the car part that holds the air filter in this case – the air filter housing is another way of thinking of the part.

Let me start by telling you the expensive and time consuming way – buy a replacement air box. Yeah, this is going to cost you a bundle. A OEM Toyota air box will run you $275-400, used is about $100-185 and aftermarket tends to be under $60-90 and maybe iffy quality. Then there is the labor to do the actual swap – it’s going to either take your time or you are going to pay a mechanic to do it and the cost is going to go up fast. There is an easier and faster way.

My Recommended Approach

The magic fraction for today is 5/32″. Why? Because 5/32″ is almost exactly 4mm. If we get a small brass, aluminum or stainless barbed 5/32″ hose fitting with a threaded rear, we can easily fix this. I live in a rural area and this isn’t something I can easily walk into a hardware store and find so I did some searching for NPT to 5/32″ hose barb and found both 1/16″ NPT and metric fittings plus some were brass, aluminum and mystery metal. I discounted anything plastic/nylon because I wanted a stronger fitting.

Another reason I went with 1/16″ NPT is that it can fill a pretty big hole all by itself up to about 0.31″ given the taper plus I could then use a 1/16″ to 1/8″ bushing adapter if I needed to go larger.

After much digging around using Google and Amazon, I opted for an Aeromotive #15630 hose fitting made from 6061-T6 aluminum that I did order off Amazon. There was a no-name generic brass one but no spec so I didn’t go with it. By the way, searching for fittings like this really shows the limitations of general search engines to find parts. I spent a ton of time filtering through tons and tons of search results that turned up the wrong products. What a headache.

Aeromotive #15630 that has 1/16″ NPT thread on ne end and a 5/32″ hose barb on the other.

Installation

The first thing to point out is that the molded vacuum fitting is above the air cleaner so you can safely work on the box without removing it from the vehicle! Any debris from drilling or sanding will land on the filter and you can vacuum it out later. If you have a used car, peak inside and make sure the air cleaner is there and intact.

If you have just the old busted remains of the hose fitting to contend with then Dremel or sand the area flat. You want the installed barb to be able to sit flat against the wall of the box.

Next, pick a drill bit that is just the same size as the tapered bottom of the thread. NPT thread is tapered so the bottom has a smaller diameter than the top. If the air box was steel, we would use a letter “C” drill bit to make a 0.242″ hole. Notice how this is slightly smaller than 1/4″ but I am betting most people do not have lettered drill bit sets so you pick a close size and run with it. We do want the hole slightly smaller in order to thread it. Because this is plastic, we are going to push forward with the metal adapter fitting while turning and let the thread on the adapter cut the thread into the plastic. We aren’t going to bother tapping it first. That’s right – don’t buy a tap to do this uness you are a tool junky and perfectionist, which is fine if you are – I get accused of that a lot.

I’d recommend you start with a bit smaller than 1/4″ where the bit is slightly smaller than the bottom of the adapter, drill the hole and see if you can press it in. If not, go to a bigger bit. If you mess up and have a slightly too big hole, all is not lost – read the “Well crap” section below 🙂

Let’s say that everything goes great and you can screw the fitting into the plastic – Once threaded in, it’s done. Just screw it in and quit. Don’t put too much torque or you can strip it. That works just fine unless the previous guy bubba’d it, which takes us to the next part of the story.

Well crap….

In my case, I had a box of chocolates moment. The previous owner or a mechanic had drilled the hole out and installed some small metal bushing that was hidden due to the white silicone on it. I have no idea what it was from. Once I discovered and removed it, the hole in the air box turned out to be just a tad bigger than the entire 1/16″ tapered thread. Argh… not what I wanted to deal with.

Dear bubba, thank you for hiding this under the white silicone. You just made my fix a bit more complex but not impossible.

Okay, I wanted to get this job and had three options, go to the hardware store and try and find a 1/16 to 1/8″ bushing, install a 1/16″ NP threaded nut on the back to hold it in position, which I also did not have, or glue the hell out of it and call it even.

Because I am always working on cars and pressure systems due to Ronin’s Grips, did have a tube of black Permatex Optimum BlackGasket Maker that I could use. Being black, it wouldn’t be so glaringly obvious. By the way, I opted not to use epoxy due to the flexible plastic walls and expected vibrations that might break down the bond with time.

This is what I had on hand at the time and worked great. I could have used any quality black silicone RTV glue/gasket maker and gotten the same results. I tend to either have Permatex or LocTite brand products that I use the most.

First, I scuffed the surface around the hole with 100 grit sand paper so the glue could get a better grab on the surface. The second thing I did was to spray brake cleaner on the area to remove any trace oils that might prevent a good bond.

I was wearing nitrile gloves and also sprayed brake cleaner on the fitting to make sure it was clean. Gloves both keep your hands clean and also prevent you from getting oils from your skin on the parts — assuming the gloves are clean of course. Having a clean surface makes a HUGE difference in terms of how well any glue is going to stick.

Next, I applied a bead around the top of the NPT thread of the fitting and pushed it into the hole. Since I was wearing nitrile gloves, I just took a finger and smoothed the glue out a bit and let it cure for about an hour or so. You want it cured enough to hold the adapter in place – you don’t need it fully cured yet. With warmer weather it will cure faster and in cold weather it my take a long time and need a hot light or something to warm it up above 70F to get things done. Depending on what I am working on, I try to get somewhere between 60-110F. The warmer it is, the faster it will cure but don’t burn it or melt the plastic either!

This is the first pass. It’s not pretty but it will dry strong enough to hold the fitting in place while the second thicker coat is applied.

I then put a second layer of black gasket maker on and fanned it out to get a good grip and to securely hold the fitting. I then let this all cure overnight. I’ve learned long ago not to rush faster than what the adhesive’s manufacturer recommends or you are liable to ruin an otherwise good job.

Here is the second heavier coat this was meant to reinforce the part.

So, once it was fully cured I then needed to change the cracked vacuum lines which are what I noticed in the first place.

4mm Vacuum Lines

What got me started on all this in the first place was noticing that two 4mm vacuum lines were very cracked where they slid onto their respective hose barbs. This happens as rubber ages and gets brittle so finding them wasn’t surprising.

This is one of the ends that was badly split.

Fixing this is easy. You just need either real 4mm vacuum hose or 5/32 vacuum hose. You can either go with one formulated from rubber or more expensive silicone. The advantage to the latter is that it ought to last longer.

Because we own a number of aging Toyotas, I bought an assortment bag of metric sized silicone vacuum hose of Amazon some time ago. It comes with 4mm x 82″, and the 52″ lengths of 6mm, 8mm, and 12mm. It was expensive but now I have an assortment for when I need to repair small lines such as this case.

You can see the two pieces I replaced because the new silicone hose is shiny black and a thicker diameter.

Conclusion

Going this route saved us a ton hundreds of dollars and has held up just fine. I did this repair last fall and have not had a single problem. Yeah, the glue does make it a big of a bubba fix but it is revsersible and the fitting isn’t going to fall out. The black gasket maker has held the little barb in just fine and the hose is very supple and shows no wear at all. I hope this helps you out as well.

4/9/2021 Update: Still holding just fine. Not one problem to report.


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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.



If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Easy & Cheap Solution for 2008 Toyota Highlander 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 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 created 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.

5/23/2020 Update: This has worked great for me. Not one single problem since.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.