2008 Toyota Highlander camshaft bolts sheared off

Hi, I need help. I sent my Highlander in for the 200000km service (spark plugs etc) and 30 min after picking up the $900 job the “check engine” light came on. The vehicle was returned to the shop and we were told “to drive it for a while to see if it turns off. The cold weather can be causing it”. Two days later it stalled and we had it towed in. We were given a loaner, the. Told that it was one of the camshafts 3 bolts had sheared off and a new engine was required. “Not related to the service in anyway”. They replaced the engine with a 77k km engine for $5300, but after a day of driving our fuel was ranging at 19-20L/100km (norm is 11L). They reset the computer to fix that-it didn’t. They then blamed it on the weather? We ended up taking it to another mechanic who looked it over and found the air filter was so clogged he couldn’t see though it with a light right behind it. Also the heat shield was left off, the muffler heat shield had also fallen off? My question: how is it all related? It’s obvious that they didn’t do their job properly but can they be blamed for the engine failure? If so, what do I do? I appreciate any and all help!

you need to remove the airbox to yank the motor and usually the box is bolted down so it needs to be taken apart. a filthy or old filter was in there before the motor was serviced and i wonder why the filter was not changed at the 200k service? but, its too late now in hindsight. a broken cam probably resulted in bent valves but they could have pulled the heads prior to yanking the motor. maybe the pistons were ok? yes, hindsight is nice. a refurbished head/s might have been cheaper than a used motor

Did you get a repair summary with this visit? It should note which diagnostic codes were responsible for illuminating the MIL. This will be helpful in deciding just how incompetent they are to suggest that the cold weather had anything to do with the problem and that it would magically go away.

What did the $900 job consist of? What services are noted on the original service invoice?

They seem to like using the weather to explain any anomaly that crops up…

So what kind of service was performed. It’s impossible to say whether they had anything to do with it or not.

It woujld be interesting to know if a camshaft had seized in the journals due to lack of oil or from sludge caused by not changing the motor oil often enough.

2008 Toyota Highlander Maintenance Schedule
Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 2008


  • Replace engine oil, filter
  • Remove, inspect air filter element (replace when required)
  • Lubricate locks, latches, hinges
  • Inspect lights, horn, wipers for proper function
  • Inspect coolant,brake, washer fluid levels
  • Inspect tires, adjust pressure as required, including spare. Rotate tires if needed

Specific maintenance services


  • Replace cabin air filter every 12 months/16,000 km
  • Inspect fuel lines & connections, fuel tank vapour vent system hoses, fuel tank bands and fuel tank cap gasket every 24 months/32,000 km
  • Inspect valve clearance (audible inspection only, adjustment not included) every 48 months/64,000 km (except Camry V6, Avalon, RAV4 (V6), Tacoma L4, Tundra 5.7L, Highlander, Sequoia, Sienna)
    Replace standard spark plugs every 36 months/48,000 km
    Replace iridium spark plugs every 192,000 km
    Replace timing belt every 72 months/144,000 km
    Tighten and/or lubricate propeller shaft every 12 months/16,000 km


Replace Super Long Life Coolant at 96 months/128,000 km, thereafter every 48 months/64,000 km
Replace fluid every 72 months/96,000 km
Replace fluid every 48 months/64,000 km
Replace fluid every 48 months/64,000 km
Replace fluid every 48 months/64,000 km

Additional maintenance requirements

If you primarily operate your vehicle under any of the following conditions:

  1. Short trips of less than 5 km (or less than 8 km in temperatures below 0 C).
  2. Trailer towing or frequent mountainous driving
  3. Driving on dusty or muddy roads.
  • Inspect brakes, steering and suspension components every 6 months/8,000 km
  • Inspect driveshaft boots, propeller shaft and body/chassis bolts, every 6 months/8,000 km
  • Change manual transmission, transfer case and differential fluids every 24 months/32,000 km

Off-road Maintenance Requirements

IF you are operating a four-wheel drive vehicle in off-road conditions, and you have driven through deep sand, mud or water, you must immediately have the “Additional Maintenance Requirements” performed, as well as change all fluids, and lubricate suspension parts.

Legal Text

Scheduled maintenance is required every 6 months or 8,000 km, whichever occurs first. This schedule is based on your current driving habits; should they change, please consult your Dealer. Rotate tires every 12 months/16,000 km or sooner if required. For minimum maintenance requirements and applicable Special Operating Conditions, please refer to your Owner’s Manual Supplement. Prices include parts, lubricants (Toyota Genuine Motor Oil 5W20, 5W30 or 0W20 if required) and labour, and exclude applicable taxes. Waste disposal charges may apply. Required maintenance and pricing subject to change without notice. Synthetic differential fluid, if required, may be extra.

James, the maintenance schedule from your owner’s manual is good background info, but what the posters above are asking is, what does your invoice from the mechanic say was actually done? I wouldn’t count on them doing everything by the book.


So they replaced the cabin air filter but not the engine filter.

Job #2, line #2 & 3

OK, it came in with full oil. Did it leave with full oil after the change? It’s always a good idea to check. Trust but verify…

What is the maintenance history- how often did you have oil changes?

Also, do you have a similar report for the call back visit when you reported the check engine light was on?
The codes associated with the MIL would be most helpful…

Yes I am diligently doing oil changes but no I don’t have that bill. I’ll look again

I have seen those bolts break in the VVT-i camshaft gears on the 2GR engine, on rare occasion they break, it has nothing to do with a dirty air filter.

No, those are the oil filter and gasket line items, not the engine air filter. Basically everything with the ‘***’ symbols to the right are part of the ‘lubrication kit’

With that said:

  • It looks like they charged you about $115 in labor to change your oil, oil filter, and add washer fluid. That’s at least twice what it should cost.

  • They checked the box on the inspection sheet for your engine air filter as “good condition”. If in fact it was completely clogged up, I would be suspect of everything else on that inspection sheet

I see your point, I was fixated on the oil filter as the air filter wouldn’t be the cause of camshaft snapping off bolts…

So Nevada, would those broken bolts result in completely trashed engine needing replacement? If it’s not due to lack of lubrication and camshaft seizing, what area failed on the bolts you’ve seen? Were you able to replace them and it motored on? Curious if the conclusion the engine is shot is accurate. Seen more than a few times shop was quick to say that and it wasn’t true…

my chart says the 08 is v6 only with a chain. so, a sheared cam sprocket could result in some collateral damage from the chain flopping about. anytime you are over 150k miles a shop really tries to discourage tearing down a motor to repair bits. another motor, new or used is usually the way to go.

Thank you all for all the responses! Still, how could the work they did cause the engine to have failed as it did? Is it truly coincidence that 2 days after having engine work, it breaks?

There wasn’t any “engine work” per se. But they did change the oil. That’s where I was focused because if they forgot to refill it properly, that could lead to camshaft issues. The other area of concern is if the MIL was indicating a problem existed and they told you to go on your merry way with a bogus explanation of the weather having an influence on the issue resulting in a diagnostic code. If it was a CPS related code or something similar, that could help your case…

To be honest I don’t recall checking the oil but the oil light was not on. I know changing the plugs is tough in this vehicle compared to others because removing the air intake plenum can be a problem. Can removing the plenum cause debris to fall into the engine and then down through the spark plug holes? I know I’m reaching but coincidence doesn’t make sense to me. Oh and a code did come up: VSC. But I don’t think that relates