Is it possible for a mechanic, while installing a new tire, to disable the calipers on a disc break to cause the pad to be stuck, constantly rubbing and burning up the pad?
Possible? Yes, Likely, no.
Hi Peter. I have a 2007 Highlander the same generation as yours. That vehicle is outstanding and has many positives. One of its few flaws is the brake calipers are known to freeze. All four of mine have frozen and the symptom you have observed is a dead giveaway. The good news is the brakes on the Highlander are very simple. The calipers themselves are only about $140. I have attached a receipt of the work I had done in case you find it helpful.
They lasted 19 years on my Corolla before they started to seized.
The difference is about 1500 lbs and probably different environment. If the caliper slide pins are cleaned and lubricated regularly, calipers should last a very long time.