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2007 Toyota Highlander - Owned by slobs

I bought a used 2007 Toyota Highlander from a slob who apparently had a bunch of rug-rats who were also slobs. The interior is a mess, from stained carpet mats, stained cloth seats to sticky residue in every crevice included inside of seat belt latches. Any advice on cleaning all this myself? Any ‘helpful’ (!!) advice will be appreciated. Thank you!


Just put ’ car detailing 'in your search engine and you will find all kinds of you tube videos showing how to clean vehicles.

Thanks, and I’ve done that and will try some of their methods. Just asking for ‘first hand experiences’ to see if others had better results with certain cleaners than others.

But thank you for responding anyway! I just found this site today and wanted to see what kind of responses were out there.

I bought a smoker’s car… and I don’t smoke! I removed both front seats. Vacuumed thoroughly carpet and seats. Used a home carpet and upholstery cleaning machine to scrub and suck out the water from seats and carpet. With the front’s out, the rears were easily accessible. You could rent a machine, too. Let dry and re-assemble. It can be done with the seats in, but it is not as thorough nor as easy to reach all the scuzzy spots. Any good upholstery and carpet cleaning products should work.

Thanks for replying! I bought a smokers car once many years ago that I hardly ever drove because of the smell. Great car with real low mileage, but NOTHING on market then could totally eliminate the smell. I’m one of those that is VERY sensitive to smells. But an uncle helped me get it at such a good deal and I figured the smell would eventually go away. Wrong! The windows had a thick layer of smoke (nicotine) all the way to the top. I believed the one previous owner must have chain smoked and never cracked the windows. Glad you were able to get the smell out of yours. This one doesn’t smell but looks like a lot of soft drinks and food were spilled. Going to try a foam cleaner as that seems to be the most popular product for seats and carpet.

Thanks again for your response!

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A Bissell Green machine and a bottle or two of “Awesome” cleaner from from the dollar will work wonders.

Ed B.

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Worse comes to worse, if you like the car it may be worth it to buy new carpet and headliner and seats - or try an auto recycler for some or all of the above. You can go and sit in the car and see it and smell it before taking parts from it.

I surmise you are on a tight budget, or you would not have bought the car. Auto recyclers (junkyards) are great places to utilize if budget is tight, or even if you just like a bit of adventure and have time to indulge in it. If one doesn’t have what you need, they may be able to print out inventories from others in the region who do. Just because they look messy, don’t write them off!

I own a 2007 Highlander and I am a neat freak. I bought the beige “Chocolate chip cookie” interior on purpose knowing my boys would make it that color anyway. Having seen the amazing results possible from local detailer shops that have a “carpet-cleaner” style machine that squirts water and detergent onto the upholstery and then immediately sucks it up, I would strongly suggest you pay for that. You can’t replicate the results solo without that machine. I’m assuming you have a Sport or Base, not a Limited. If you have a Limited with leather try these products. If the seats are badly stained I suggest you buy seat covers. I did and they looked so close to stock it was amazing. I won’t advocate any certain brand but get the “fitted” type. Be sure they have tear-away sides for the front seat airbags. Don’t clean the carpets very much. Just vac unless they smell. Instead of killing yourself got to and buy all-season floor mats front and rear. If your Highlander has the same Toyota trunk liner mine does, turn it over. It is black and water resistant on the bottom. If there is no liner, Weathertech has those too. I have never received anything of value from any of the brands I mention in my posts (unless I point out otherwise). Congrats on your purchase. You will need rear wheel bearings soon if they were not already replaced and complete brakes including calipers every 15K. And whatever you do, be sure it has had the timing belt replaced. Here is some info on that.

Hey Rita,
If you have a Base or Sport, be aware that the factory audio is what is called “double DIN.” That refers to the size of the rectangle. A local car audio shop can easily replace it with a system that has Nav, Bluetooth audio for handshighlander%20infotainment-free calling, and Apple CarPlay Android Auto. It is easy to update.

For real? On a Toyota? What’s the underlying problem?

Scrubbing bubbles has always been my go to cleaner for everything. Qtips paper towels real towels it does a great job on everything, carpets, plastics, dog grime on painted walls, everything!

Hard to say. I am pretty much fanatical about maintenance and I have had the Highlander brakes degrade to the point of needing replacement in back 3 times. Over 100K. Not just pads. Calipers and rotors. Then the parking brake froze most recently and burned itself to bits. The more important parts have been bullet-proof.

Is there a device that regulates brake pressure to the rear wheels depending upon the weight in the back of the vehicle? My 1979 Toyota pickup had one. Maybe you have one, and it’s not sending any brake fluid pressure to the rear wheels - therefore no brake action - therefore frozen calipers. Just a hunch.

Thank YOU! I have a great mechanic and I will ask him if he has thought of that. The vehicle does stop very well, but that is so subjective it is hard to quantify. I will ask him about that. I will add this; In my family we have had a Celica, a Supra, and a Lexus IS 350C. All of them had frozen calipers before they were traded in . And I meant really stuck. Brake dust all over one wheel, super hot rim to the touch, and a pad that is gone. I think it may be a Toyota thing or that we are cursed. I loved your suggestion and I am going to look into that.

Good luck. I know you can be counted on to keep us informed.

I think cautious, look-ahead, drive smoothly drivers (I am one) don’t use their brakes firmly often enough to “exercise” them. That plus design deficiencies equal brake system problems. Again - just a hunch.

I do replace brake fluid every 3-5 years. Has that been done routinely in the cars you cite?

OMG, my mechanic has to talk me down from replacing it every time I have work done. I really have a bit of a condition. I also have a tire buying habit akin to Imelda Marcos’ shoe thing. I’m making progress, taking it a day at a time :wink:

So does that mean you have hundreds of pairs of tires i your closet?


Hah. Not that bad, but I presently have 9 tires for my Highlander including the full-sized spare. I have 8 tires for my Suby plus the compact spare. So I have 18 tires for two cars.

Have you started doing some of your own DIY brake inspections? At least removing the wheels and inspecting the pads and noting how much wear on them, and the condition of rotors (both surfaces) and drums? (OK, I admit I date myself with reference to drums.) It’s not that hard and somewhat empowering!

That’s because the headliner often soaks up the smoke and odors