Toyota Highlander Door Lock Problems

A month or two ago, I started having problems with our Toyota Highlander’s automatic door locks. As I’d walk away, I’d click on the “lock” button on the key fob, but it didn’t always work. Or at least that’s what it seemed like.

At first, I though it might be a faulty key fob, or maybe a weak battery. But when I replaced the battery, there was no change, and swapping out the key fobs didn’t seem to help, either. Hmmmm… Okay.

Update: Problem solved. The lock mechanism on the driver’s side rear door had failed and needed to be replaced.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the locks actually are locking when I click the button. If I’m close enough to the car, I can hear them click. But the car doesn’t beep, and the lights don’t flash. Strange stuff.

Toyota Highlander door lock buttons... (click image to enlarge)

Toyota Highlander door lock buttons… (click image to enlarge)

I’d chalk this up to a problem with the settings, except… This behavior has been intermittent. Sometimes it actually will beep (and flash) as expected. Other times, it won’t. It always beeps and flashes when I unlock the doors, but the behavior is erratic when I try to lock the doors.

To further rule out the possibility of a settings problem, I’ve played around with the automatic door lock settings (via “Setup > Apps > Vehicle” on the head unit), but… Nothing has helped. Needless to say, I’m frustrated.

For what it’s worth, I get the exact same behavior when I try to lock the doors using the door handle. I’ll hear the lock click, but no beep, and the lights won’t flash. But, here again, the problem is intermittent.

On the surface, this isn’t a huge deal. If the car is locking, then who cares about the beep? Well… If it doesn’t beep or flash, I have to be right next to the car to hear the locks click. Otherwise, I can’t be sure that it locked. And when I pay $40k for a vehicle, I expect the bells and whistles to work.

The worst part is that I can’t reliably replicate the problem. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. It will be messed up for a day or two, and then it’ll be fine for awhile. Thus, it may be hard for the service techs at the dealership to diagnose. Oh well, at least it’s still under warranty.

I’ll update if/when I know more…

As noted in the box above, I managed to identify the problem myself (a failed rear door lock) and have since had it repaired under warranty at the dealership.

Get my free Highlander quick start guide.
Twelve great tips plus more via e-mail.
100% free. Unsubscribe anytime.
Complaints & Troubleshooting, Technology & Infotainment
33 comments… add one
  • Michelle Jun 22, 2015

    Michael,

    What year was your Highlander? we are considering a 2015 Highlander, but the reviews I’ve seen/heard regarding the door lock actuator issues have me a bit leary. Need to research if this got fixed in the 2014 redesign.

    • Michael Jun 22, 2015

      We have a 2014 that we bought in February of 2014, so it was built early in the new production run after the re-design.

      • Michelle Jun 23, 2015

        Thank you!

    • Dave Apr 16, 2016

      Have a 2015 and having same problem with drivers door for several months. Have not taken it in yet but plan to next week. Will be interesting to see what the service Dept says. Also rear lift gate quit going all the way up last week. Have to push it up by hand. Pretty sad on a vehicle bought 12/2014.

  • rick Aug 4, 2015

    I have a 2011 Hybrid with 60k miles. Just dropped $500 at the dealership to have a rear actuator replaced and less than a month later, the front passenger side is doing the same thing. I’m ready to trade it in. I fussed with the first one for six months, replacing batteries and having the dealer tell me the couldn’t replicate the problem. Finally made a video of the problem to SHOW them what was happening and the service guy acted like it happened all the time.

  • Kevin Nov 11, 2015

    Michael, how did you know it was the rear door lock? I have a 2014 Highlander XLE and the same thing is happening to me. Doesn’t happen as often when i use the handle to lock the door. How was it that you knew it was the rear door lock and how did you get the dealer to change it or show them that it was the rear door lock?

    Thanks

    • Melissa Feb 25, 2016

      I have read online, that when these motors on the door locks are going bad, you can hear a kind of humming noise coming from the car. In hindsight, I often heard a strange noise coming from my car when it was turned off in the garage, and now I’m wondering if that was the locks going bad. It was easy to diagnose in my car, because you could actually see the lock moving slower than any of the other ones, or not moving at all. It has been very annoying, to say the least, in a car that’s only 2 years old, but was less than a year when the problems started.

  • john Feb 3, 2016

    ive had numerous door lock actuators fail on my 2013 highlander starting when it had onlk 20k miles on it. the front passenger door has had 3 new actuators and now is broken again. i have three broken ones right now bringing the total to nine on a three yr old car with 80 k miles. TOYOTA KNOWS ABOUT THE PROBLEM!! they happy to charge you $450 each to fix them and act like your the only one they have had to fix….LEMON!!

  • Melissa Feb 25, 2016

    I am having the exact same problems with my 2014 Highlander. So far, I’ve had the front passenger and the rear driver’s side door locks replaced, and now the front driver’s side one has gone bad as well. Of course now, the locks are all on backorder too. I’m wondering if this problem with the locks has been resolved in the 2015 and 2016 models?

  • Yolanda Henderson Feb 27, 2016

    Joining the conversation here as a 2013 Highlander owner with the exact same problem with the door locks. At the dealership now to have actuator replaced. After having it replaced it malfunctioned again before I could leave the parking lot. Frustrating!!

  • Mike May 8, 2016

    I have a 2012 Highlander and I have the same issue. I just sent the Service manager an e-mail this evening to see what they can do to correct this. I have had a few of the lock actuators already replaced and my vehicle has 30K miles. A similar issue with No Sound or No Lights when you try to Lock the vehicle. Current issue, they all lock except the rear passenger side door…Toyota if you CARE, Recall these. It is dangerous if you think the vehicle is locked and IT IS NOT.

  • Gary Jun 27, 2016

    I have the same problem with my 2011 v6 base highlander with ~75k miles. It is just the front drivers door that won’t lock or unlock with the keyless fob. probably the actuator, not looking forward to dropping a few hundred bucks to fix it if other actuators will soon break based on what I’m reading above….

  • Dennis Kendel Jul 18, 2016

    I have a 2010 Highlander with 93000 miles on it when the rear passenger doors refused to open manually and with key fob.you couldn’t even open the doors from the inside. took the car to the dealership and after having replaced the actuator unit on the front passenger door ( the door could not be opened from the outside manually or with key fob,) $ 500 .00 later all doors seem to work . This lasted for 3 days when the same thing happened again with the doors refusing to open manually or with key fob. Afterv 3 hrs of work
    at the shop I was told that the unit I had installed had a short in the wiring and they would need to keep the car for a couple of days, supply me with a loaner car and they would fix it. Four weeks later and multiple calls to the service manager to find out when a loaner car would be available, I was finally able to schedule the return repair and pick up the loaner car. To say the least ,it has been frustrating having a car where the 3 doors cannot be depended on to work properly. Now we will see what the next phase will show. And the Dealer hope he can get me to buy another Highlander?? Fat chance

  • Clifford Campbell Aug 7, 2016

    i have a 2009 highlander and also have electric door problems dealer tells me that the junction bloc under the dash has to be replaced cost $1600.00 . Does anyhave another solution.one

  • Jc Sep 9, 2016

    Mine is 2014 xle, 2yrs after. .rear door is not working suddenly after grocery shopping then I had to unloded all via front seat later…hope that it is under warranty…tomorrow I’ll visit dealer..mechanic function life is that short??

  • Bill Sep 13, 2016

    I have a 2015 Toyota Highlander XLE. I started having the same problems almost right away. I noticed it happening the most when it was a hot summer day and the vehicle was parked outside. But when it didn’t beep it was because the rear left door wasn’t locking and sometimes the drivers door. As of last week(first full week of September 2016) the rear left door lock has completely stopped working and it sounds like mechanism in the door has come loose and flopping around. The drivers door has slowly gotten worse. A second problem I have run into is with the cruise control stick mounted on the steering wheel. I work the second shift and do lots of night driving. The cruise control works fine but the light in the cruise control stick intermittently flickers and turns off and then back on. The dealership said they called headquarters and they said it was a know problem and they where looking into a reason for the problem and a fix. The third problem I ran into last weekend was with the infotainment system(radio/Navigation system unit). I drive to Massachusetts from Connecticut every weekend to visit family and last weekend about half way thru the trip the infotainment system shut off and a few minutes later it attempted to restart. Part way thru the reboot it froze and did a second reboot and did successfully restart but had reset all setting I had put in. I highly recommend that anyone who owns or plans on buying a highlander to buy the extended warranty. I purchased the 7 year bumper to bumper warranty with a $0 deductible from Toyota. Based on the issues I am having in just a year and 4 months I have a feeling I will be using it a lot. If you have already purchased the vehicle you have up until just before the factory warranty expires to extend it.

  • John Nov 17, 2016

    Toyota Highlander 2012 20k miles same problems

  • Rebecca Nov 18, 2016

    I have a 2012 highlander and am having the same problem. Just replaced the driver side actuator. All the doors lock now but it still doesn’t always beep and lights don’t always flash when locking.

    • Ben Nov 21, 2016

      I think the beep/flash is a sign that all five doors have locked. If you don’t get the beep/flash, I would try each door (with the fob NOT on you) and see if any of them open. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least ONE of the doors, is, in fact, still open. If it is, I suspect you have an actuator problem such as described here. If true, you can see if the dealer will fix under warranty. If not, I’d go talk to a trusty mechanic and see if he can fix using a NON-TOYOTA actuator. As I mentioned in my comment, I think Toyota has a lot of BAD actuators so using theirs may not solve the problem for long.

  • Ben Nov 21, 2016

    I have a 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited. The actuator on the front passenger side quit working. The symptom is that when you press and hold the button from the outside (either side) it doesn’t beep telling you that all doors are locked. If you attempt to open the passenger door (without the fob) it will open (as it wasn’t locked). I had the dealership fix it (under warranty). But it broke again. Also the drivers side front actuator also went bad. I’m not even going to deal with the dealer on it. Paying a mechanic to replace both sides (actuators) today. Hopefully that will solve the problem. Not using Toyota actuators this time. We will see. It can be expensive to replace depending on the part/shop. I think Toyota got a bunch of bad actuators at some point.

  • P Feb 4, 2017

    I have 2012 highlander and in April, May, and June 2016 had to replace actuators due to doors not locking. I againhad to replace one in February 2017. Any updates on anyone how to get this cycle of needed fixes to stop?

  • Herman Feb 26, 2017

    If they are out of warranty you buy the actuator motor for $6 on ebay very simple to fix probably about 20 minutes.

  • Scott Feb 26, 2017

    I have a 2012 Toyota Highlander Limited, 139K miles. The only door that will unlock from the master switch is the driver’s door. I have tried several new master switches but this is not the problem. Dealer advises it may be the door actuators, but I doubt this since none of the other doors will unlock. Dealer also states the problem is not a relay, although I’m not sure I agree. When I grab the passenger door handle, I hear 10 beeps (previously when working properly, there would be 4 beeps as all doors unlock) but none of the doors unlock. Could this indicate a wiring / computer issues? Any suggestions?

  • Juan Mar 9, 2017

    I have a 2013 Toyota highlander also with door lock issues. Only 35k and out of warranty. What a nightmare is as if you drive Christine (movie). The posed Cadillac. Spooky and frustrating. Think about investing on another vehicle I don’t recommend Toyota highlander = garbage

  • Kirk Apr 11, 2017

    2017 Highlander – NEW.

    Right side Rear door actuator failed at onset (never worked).
    Really a pain as we have to manually lock and unlock door.

    Two service visits to get it fixed.

    Hope this isn’t a precursor of future issues.

  • JoeFriday Apr 18, 2017

    2014 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD – $47,000 vehicle with added options.

    Both front driver’s door and rear Passenger side door locks will not lock most of the time. I literally have to walk around my vehicle EVERY time I get out to see which door is not locking and then manually lock it. This is total BS. Toyota is like Apple….. great marketing hype which makes you believe you have the best there is…. when in actuality, this Highlander – my first Toyota – has been nothing but a lemon. I have had all kinds of things replaced on it.

    I have NEVER had a power door lock fail me in any of my previous cars throughout my life. I am 56 years old. I have had some cars for 10 years without any such issue.

    Toyota is junk. And they have the WORST customer service at dealerships and when directly contacting the company. I tried to Lemon-Law mine….. and when they submitted a claim to Toyota they never even responded. Lawyer said that Toyota is THE HARDEST auto manufacturer to exact a lemon-law compensatory action from. They don’t give a $#!t about their customers after the sale.

    Stay away! Consumers Reports has a hard-on for Toyota….. they rank the Highlander as the best SUV out there. Not by a long shot…..

  • Ike Apr 21, 2017

    My wife has a 2014 highlander XLE with 58000 miles and we are having this same problem with the accuator!!! This has to be a recall! #Bananas

  • Kevin May 8, 2017

    I have a 2014 Highlander XLE. I have had door lock issues from the beginning. Rear driver. Driver. Rear driver again. Driver again. Now it’s front passenger. When I locked the doors there was no beep and I could hear the click. I figured they were all locked until I found items missing the next morning. Then I tested the locks and of course the passenger door doesn’t lock with the handle, the fob or the power lock button. You have to manually lock it. I have also had to replace the radio as the gps would suddenly stop and the radio would shut down and reboot. As someone else mentioned this should be a recall. Does anyone know how this would end up being a recall?

  • Steven S May 18, 2017

    2014 Highlander. Driver’s door actuator went first. A month later, none of the other doors would lock by using the key fob. Based on the comments here and on many other sites, I’d say we’ve been pretty much screwed by Toyota on this one, and they won’t likely do anything about it until a class action lawsuit forces the issue. That’s a shame, because until this, I’ve been in love with the Highlander, and a Camry before it. Now I feel like I’m being lied to by the service department at the dealership. They’re probably dinging people $500 a dozen times a day to replace these. Nice work if you can get it.

  • Rosy May 18, 2017

    2014 Highlander, same problem on 3 doors, I didn’t get the extended warranty because you know it’s a Toyota Out of pocket they are changing me 1700 to fix all 3 doors minus the 129 I paid for the diagnosis! I wish they would own up and recall to fix this faulty issue!

  • Coleen Aug 15, 2017

    We have a 2016 Highlander – door issues just started. Passenger doors won’t open when I touch the handle — driver door opens just fine. I called service and they said to bring it in and see if they could fix it. If this has been going on for YEARS you’d think they’d correct it! I agree with the person that said you pay over $40K for a car you expect it to work!

  • Jessica Aug 17, 2017

    We have a 2013 Highlander Limited and are having the same issue with the drivers side door. I called yesterday to see what the dealership would charge to fix it and they said $625. No thanks, I’ll just keep manually locking & unlocking my door until we trade it in. I had no idea this was such a big issue until I looked online today. Too bad it didn’t fail while still under warranty.

  • Terry Nov 5, 2017

    Related problem yesterday with our 2004 Highlander. Stock key fobs, alarm, security, etc. But this was worse and odd problem. Exiting the car yesterday I pressed the key fob to lock the doors, thinking wife and kids had at least one other door opened. No! And to make it worse, in confusion, walked off out of range. And….. you guessed it. The car locks and you cannot open the doors from inside the vehicle. So not sure if I get the dumb award or Toyota. But it is preposterous that once locked from outside with a key fob press, there is no way to exit the vehicle if inside. Sure seems like a safety problem in our view. Worth a report to NHTSA or other. (Fortunately someone flagged me down and I ran back and unlocked the car with the fob. But some unhappy people.)

Leave a Comment

Cancel