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You are in the Toyota Highlander
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Toyota Highlander, SUV
#5098 of 5330 Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002
Jul 13, 2011 (3:08 pm)
I have a 2002 AWD 6 Cyl Highlander with only 88,000 miles. It has been babied and looks and runs like new. At my recent service they tell me that my front drive shaft universal joints are going. Even though the drive shaft comes in 3 pieces they say you can only get the whole thing for a $1,500 repair cost. You can't just buy the front shaft (crazy!!!!)
I have never had a drive shaft failure in any vehicle, especially at less than 90,000 miles.
Is this a common problem? This is important to me where typically if there is a systemic problem you replace a design-defective $1,500 part with another design-defective $1,500 part.
Has anyone just replaced just the front shaft? It looks like 4 or 5 bolts and looks like you remove these bolts and it would drop down and you could pull the spline out of the transmission. This is the way that it worked for the first of my 5 Toyota's, a '72 Corolla. I was thinking of looking for a junk yard replacement. I have seen references where the same parts are used for 2001-2007 so I would look for the newest possible. Any feedback on this?
The repair manager was surprised that the whole drive shaft need to be replaced but also did a "dudge-nudge, wink-wink" suggestion that I might check out some performance company that might be able to replace the universal joint parts of the front only drive shaft. Has anyone gone this route?
This has prompted me to think about dumping the car as a trade-in, not for a Toyota. I have had 5 Toyota's that have been good but this one (and the sludge issue) has pushed me to try a CR-V.
This is because my other issue is high oil consumption which I have also seen on this discussion group. I have been religious with oil changes and have used synthetic oil after break-in. I had never used oil between changes (5000 miles with synthetic) but the dealer recently switched to Toyota 0W20 from Valvoline 45W30 ( but 5W30 is in the manual). Since then I have been using 1 quart per 1,0000 miles. I must admit that I typically don't check the oil between changes because I never had to for 40 years with the cars I've had but the oil light has never come on. with my Highlander. If the car was sitting for a while I was getting a blue oil smoke poof at start-up (typical for valve guide leakage???). I just changes the PCV valve and switched to Mobile One High Mileages 5W30. If this doesn't help, I'm definitely dumping this piece of sh*t car. I'm also due for the $600+ timing belt change so this accelerates my decision.
#5099 of 5330 Re: Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002 [eenglish99]
Jul 13, 2011 (6:39 pm)
This worries me...I have the same vehicle with 105,000 miles on it...had the timing belt replaced a few months back..but those U joints worry me. At 54,000 miles, I started using all kinds of oil...engine needed to be replaced. So I only have 51,000 miles on the engine. Keep us posted in this forum...thanks.
#5100 of 5330 Re: Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002 [eenglish99]
Jul 14, 2011 (4:39 am)
I'm a little confused by your message. It says "Even though the drive shaft comes in 3 pieces they say you can only get the whole thing ." Each driveshaft is more than three pieces, but basically its the center shaft, two CV joints, and two ends. It is unusual to try to replace parts of a driveshaft.
Then your post says "You can't just buy the front shaft." I think there may be some misunderstanding there - you can buy either front shaft separately. Rockauto has them for from $45 - $99.
Go somewhere else - no need to have it serviced at a dealer. Driveshaft replacement is a common repair and can be done by any competent shop.
Also, driveshaft failure often occurs if any boot is torn by some road debris, then water and abrasive mud, etc, enters the CV joint. I doubt it's a design defect, I don't recall anything about them on this forum.
Re your oil consumption, it'll be interesting to see if the return to 5W-30 solves the problem. Some mfgs say that a quart per 1000 is normal, but I don't buy it. Since you've been using synthetic, your engine should be pristine at 88K.
#5101 of 5330 Re: Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002 [jrfiero]
Jul 14, 2011 (6:39 am)
Perhaps I need some clarification, jrfiero.
Thanks for the post.
I am referring to the drive shaft that connects the front transmission assembly to the rear differential, not the CV joints that drive the front wheels.
The dealer says that they only SELL the whole shaft but it appears to come in three pieces. The front piece looks like it is has a flat plate that bolts at the rear of the first section to a bearing assembly (connected to the second section) and when unbolted would drop down ( I hope) and would then just pull out from the rear of the transmission, with (I would guess) have a spline attached at the front. There are no rubber boots and the universal joints at the end of the section have no grease fittings (which I believe is typical for most modern construction).
I checked Rockauto and they sell the front drive CV joints and drive shaft bearings but not drive shaft themselves (at least I didn't see any). Thanks for the link to Rockauto. They seem to have a good selection and I missed them with my prior searches.
I did find several references to problems with the Highlander drive shafts in this board which makes me worried about replacing an old crappy part with another new crappy part. See #4953, #3533, #2546 and # 4953.
If this doesn't seem to be a universal defect then going the used part route with a low mileage part might be the best route.
I would appreciate any feedback from anyone who has replaced the front drive shaft piece or seen it replaced to confirm that it would come out as easily as I am guessing (4-5 bolts and drop and pull out the shaft.
#5102 of 5330 Re: Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002 [eenglish99]
Jul 14, 2011 (8:03 am)
Tell your dealer to go pound sand.
Since the rear wheels are RARELY driven at any significant level of torque it is EXTREMELY unlikely that you have a U-joint failure, failing due to wear. The only time any significant level of torque is routed to the rear driveline is once TC has activated and as of course you know the engine is simultaneously dethrottled along with braking of the front wheels.
So, if the rear driveline is U-joints are failing it is most likley due to a factory defect....someone forgot to lube the bearings.
U-joints have always been a relative inexpensive DIY job for me.
#5103 of 5330 2002 highlander 4cyl codes
Jul 14, 2011 (2:57 pm)
I have codes p0141 p0420 and p0430. Can you tell me the best/cheapest fix for these just to pass inspection? I don't want to dump a ton into it since it has 167k miles.
#5104 of 5330 Re: Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002 [eenglish99]
Jul 15, 2011 (4:25 am)
Oops, sorry for my misinterpretation.
Wwest makes a good point - are your u-joints really going bad? Do you notice any noise or vibration? When you grab the shaft and rotate it can you see any sloppiness in the joints?
If you're sure they're worn, I like your newer used idea. Can't help with how hard it is to replace.
#5105 of 5330 Re: 2002 highlander 4cyl codes [aoakley]
Jul 15, 2011 (11:10 am)
The easiest thing to do would be to take the vehicle to your local Auto Zone or Advanced Discount Auto shop and have them run the codes. They'll do it for free and tell you the likely cause of each code.
#5106 of 5330 Re: Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002 [jrfiero]
Jul 15, 2011 (12:06 pm)
After the initial visit I thought that they were talking about the rear of the three drive shafts and I crawled under tried twisting it and didn't feel any play. When I went back to get an inspection sticker I asked them to show me the problem when it was on the lift. Twisting the front shaft did show some play, which I assume was in the u-joints, although it wasn't terrible.
What makes me more suspicious that this is a more common problem is that the initial visit was to replace the PCV valve (which I had read here might help with the oil consumption problem) and to get an error code cleared. I wouldn't expect that checking the drive shafts would be part of the "free 20 point inspection" unless it was becoming a more common problem.
#5107 of 5330 Re: Front Drive Shaft failing on 2002 [eenglish99]
Jul 15, 2011 (8:33 pm)
There is ALWAYS a bit of play, to the level that one can easily feel/detect, but mostly due to the slop/slack in the front, PTO, ring and pinion matchup, or/and the rear diff'l ring and pinion.
Apply the e-brake, put the car in drive on a lift to "take up" the slack in the gears, and now try to detect any play.
I have seen no indication anywhere on the internet that any part of the rear driveline is subject to premature failure plus those components are almost never under any stress, simply along for the ride, marketing "AWD" "ride"
Marketing might refer to your HL as "AWD" but to me it remains a simple ONE-WHEEL drive vehicle, three fully open diff'l, front, center, and rear.