Axle spline failure on new toyota highlander hybrid

My 2012 Toyota highlander hybrid with 7000 miles experienced a broken axle this week. The splines are basically gone. This occurred on the driver’s side, fortunately when I was driving slowly so no one was hurt.

Has anyone heard of this failure? Would anyone trust the passenger side axle without opening and checking the splines?

The radiator also needed to be replaced as it is leaking already.

Can this car ever be safe to drive?
Please help!

The axle boot appears to be torn due to some thing hitting it rather than age and dry rot so you need to think back to whether or not you remember hitting any road debris, etc.

It’s also possible that the radiator leak was also caused by whatever damaged the axle shaft.

Just curious, but did the dealer warranty this for you?
A few other questions might be how many miles were on this vehicle when you bought it and who has been doing any servicing of the vehicle up til now?

Stuff fails. Even so most of failures only effect about 10-30% of vehicles and typically in latter years.

You were in the small margin of failure area. Looks like warranty work and you can drive on confident.

From the picture it appears the axle was not completely seated, it looks like about 50% of the spine was not inserted into the wheel bearing assembly. The boot is certainly split, did that happen before the axle failure, or as a result of the axle failure?

Once it is fixed it should be safe to drive. Problems like this are the reason cars come with warranties. As for checking the other side, not a bad idea but likely not necessary. Since this is AWD you really would be best checking the other 3 axle assemblies. Just because one wasn’t installed properly or was defective doesn’t mean the other 3 aren’t fine.

It’s difficult to tell from your picture, but are the splines on the end of the shaft rounded and/or stripped? If so, then I’d be worried about metal filings inside the transaxle.

Can you confirm the condition of the end splines on the shaft? Or provide a close-up pic?

The first picture is of a rear drive axle connected to the rear drive motor. In the second picture the inner joint had moved to the end of the shaft then rounded off the splines. The snap ring may have come off the end of the shaft, however it appears as though a snap ring grove was never cut into the shaft.

I wouldn’t worry about the other axles having the same defect as they likely came from different assembly lines and different factories (front vs rear axles).

Yeah as others have said, looks to me like the axle came out due to either not ever being inserted all the way, clip failure etc. I had a CV joint come apart once and the boot wash all chewed up like that one. Or the joint itself failed and pulled the axle out when it couldn’t extend and contract.

With great respect to others her who’s great knowledge I envy, I’n not sure there is a snap rng. I suspect the assembly lookslike the one in the attached article.

Having said that, this is clearly a warranty problem unless evidnce exists of abuse. And that radiator leak occurring simultaneously does make me wonder. Have you been “rock crawling”?

Did you do the repair yourself, or are the photos from the dealer’s shop?

The OP’s photos are of the rear axle inner CV joint. The inner joint assembly is inside the box next to the axle. This application uses an outboard style joint instead of the typical three roller joint. There must be a snap ring.

I see it now.
Which still leaves my questions unanswered. OP?

I manage a fleet of 18 2012 Highlanders. So far we have had three failures of the rear axel with the same conditions you describe. They have all been fixed under warranty.

Unless some serious off-road activity is taking place with this vehicle which damaged the drive axel, this looks more like a sample defect on this particular unit; i.e. seems to me something about the axel wasn’t manufactured and/or installed the way it was supposed to be when the car was built. I don’t think there is a need to check the other ones. You just got unlucky is all. Likewise with the radiator. If your curisioty beckons further, you could check Consumers Reports for their reliability rating on this vehicle. See what they say.

I looked at the CR new car issue and they rate this car overall excellent for reliability. The drive train is rated “above average” reliablity. The only weak points were the price to own and the fuel economy, which were “average”. So the problems – leaking radiator and drive shaft splines to fully engaged – are almost certainly sample defects and not common to the vehicle.

If I were the owner of one of these this issue would be a real concern. The poster BchrisL refers to 3 out of 18 Highlanders in their fleet suffering the same problem and that’s excessive for a sample of one fleet.
This would be even more of a concern if the VINs on that 18 vehicles are scattered all over as that could denote a problem over a wide range of cars instead of a narrow production flaw.

Consumer Reports should not be used as a fact sheet for whether a car is reliable or not. It’s an aid at best.
CR is also the publication that rated the Gremlin above the Mustang and highly recommended the AMC Pacer to anyone looking for a smaller car… :slight_smile:

You do realize that you’re responding to a question the OP posted 5 months ago, and the OP has not yet responded since that time?


My comment was actually directed at George who made the comment that this problem was likely a fluke. It may or may not be a fluke.

If it were a one time deal then maybe a fluke, but the poster on 2/12/13 stated they have 18 of these cars with 3 identical failures and a 16% failure rate for the same warrantable problem might point to a production flaw.
If I owned 18 identical anythings under warranty and had 3 failures of the same part I would be getting pretty antsy over it.

No idea what’s causing it unless it’s a vendor problem due to metallurgy or machining problem which led to a tiny bit of slop on the splines.

@ok4450 … yes, I didn’t read that post carefully. But I think from what that post says, there may be a systematic problem. It could be just bad luck, but it is definitely suspicious. Good call.

Wee number four of the fleet just failed. So that is 4 out or 18

I own a 2012 Highlander Hybrid with less than 25k miles. We had an unfortunate, yet lucky incident last Friday. My wife was driving home from taking our daughter to the doctor’s when a horrific noise came from the rear of the vehicle. Luckily, she was traveling slow as she had just gotten off the interstate. Immediately, she pulled over. Apparently, the generator (per the Toyota service rep) locked up, causing the rear end to seize, busting the axle and causing other damage. Also, we are lucky that this did not occur on the interstate at 55 or 65 mph as the rear end no longer functioned and control/stability would likely have been jeopardized.