Locking and Unlocking the Doors on Your New Highlander

If your Highlander is an XLE or above, then it has the “Smart Key System.” As you’re likely aware, this not only gives you push button start/stop (when the remote is in range), but it also means that you have automatic door locks.

By now, you’ve surely figured out that you can unlock the door by simply grasping the door handle (assuming that the Smart Key is nearby). But did you know that you can also lock the doors with a quick touch?

I didn’t. At least not at first.

The secret is to touch the front part of the door handle, near the two grooves on the upper side. Since a picture is work 1,000 words, I’ve pointed out the magic “lock spot” with a red arrow in the photo below.

Driver's side door handle with the "lock spot" pointed out... (click image to enlarge)

Driver’s side door handle with the “lock spot” pointed out… (click image to enlarge)

Note that you should be able to just touch the upper portion near those grooves, but sometimes you actually have to touch the top & bottom of the handle (just a light squeeze) to make it work. I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s mentioned in the manual, so it’s apparently a known issue.

If you have any other tips for handy features you didn’t know about when you bought your Highlander, please let me know. Either leave a comment at the end of this article (below) or hit me up via the contact form.

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17 comments… add one
  • jeff Oct 7, 2014

    As set from the factory, the car only unlocks the driver’s door when you open the door, but you can change the program so all doors unlock when you open the driver’s door. Instructions are in the owner’s manual.

  • IS Jan 9, 2015

    Ability to pause the radio or the way it pauses for you when a phone call comes in and then plays again after the call is completed so that you don’t miss anything.

  • Chuck Kunellis Jul 5, 2015

    I would like all four doors to be unlocked at once using the keyless entry feature.

  • Rich Pfirman Jul 13, 2015

    We have a 2015 Highlander (limited) with about 8000 miles on it. Everything is working well. Does any one know if there is an app or view that will digitally display current speed on the center screen? My most comfortable steering wheel position blocks the 60-80 mph part of the speedometer. I thought I might find this function in the “eco” app but I haven’t been successful.

    • emily Jan 1, 2016

      I noticed the same thing about blocking the odometer in the 60-80mph range and I lowered the seat so I can see it now through the steering wheel. My husband said I can adjust the steering wheel as well so I can see it all.

  • Louis M. Pereira Jul 23, 2015

    How do I lock all doors while inside stopped at a light preventing someone from outside to unlock the car by grabbing the handle?

    • Bryon Dec 3, 2016

      Louis: Are you helpless? Honestly! Use the door lock button. It’s that simple. I was dropped on my head a time or two when I was a kid too – hang in there.

      • B Davis May 4, 2017

        That was a perfectly fair question… if you are inside the car with your key, locking your door isn’t going to keep someone from walking up and opening the door.

        • I M Aug 10, 2017

          If someone can unlock the doors by simply grabbing the handles while the car is idle, this seems like an incredibly flawed system and Toyota should be notified. I just got a highlander and I will test this feature but I am a bit skeptical that someone would be able to unlock a locked door with smartkey inside if the vehicle is enabled with keyless entry!!!

  • Mike Dec 15, 2016

    I’ve discovered this incredible feature on my 2015 highlander xle, whereby the alarm goes off on its own, generally after midnight. It’s remarkably handy and has added tremendously to my, as well as my neighbours, quality of life. As an added bonus to this hidden gem of a feature, the dealership has no idea how to fix it. I’m truly blessed.

  • Dakota Mar 17, 2017

    Just review some after market trailer hitches for my new 2017 highlander with some importance differences . As far as I could tell only Toyota OEM hitches have 10 bolted points of attachment compared to only 6 on others so be wary of what you buy.

    • Dakota Mar 18, 2017

      My mistake, it actually has. 14 x 12 mm bolts holding it to the frame!

  • Jamala Aug 22, 2017

    I have a 2014 XLE and need to know – how do I get my headlights to turn on automatically once the doors are unlocked? I hate walking up to a dark car when it’s dark out.

  • Linda Mar 23, 2018

    Will the doors lock if your smart key is inside the vehicle?

    • MIKE Aug 4, 2019

      I had my 2018 highlander doors lock with key fob in coffee holder has anyone had this happen to them

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  • M G Casey Nov 2, 2018

    I had to look under the handle of the (2015) Highlander hatch to see the buttons & experiment to open hatch, open doors, and lock the car all up.and yes, touching grooves are iffy to unlock but get it now.

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