Check engine light fiasco

I have a 2006 Toyota Highlander hybrid with 152.000 miles. Love the car, but this spring what a jolt! While driving to Denver (100 miles) the check engine oil light came on. I stopped, checked the oil. Oil level fine and clean, the light was off when I started the car again. A few more miles down the road it came on again. I pulled over and checked the oil again. At this point I called the dealership where I bought the car to ask if I should drive the car any further. They said to drive it on in and they would hook it up to the computer. Of course when I turned the car off the light went off again. The guys hooked the car up to the monitor and told me that everything was fine and that it did not register that the light ever came on. I swear they were thinking, “Ditzy broad doesn’t know what she is talking about.”

They told me that I did need a brake job so I made an appointment to come back in two weeks. I asked what should I do if the check engine oil light came on again and they told me to ignore it, it was probably a bad sensor. Driving back home alone, late at night in the mountains with a car full of groceries and supplies, the light came on again. Then the car lost almost all power and started making horrible noises. Barely limped along the side of the road into a little town, spent the night in a hotel, and had to have the car towed 50 miles back to Denver where the dealership told me that the engine was shot. Add replace engine to the brake job and it cost me over $6,000.

The guys at the shop were all very friendly, helpful, and nice but I still think they should have taken at least partial responsibility for telling me everything was fine and that I should ignore the check engine oil light. I did email the head of the shop explaining this but he said since the computer monitor did not pick up any problem that they were not at fault. This was in April and I paid the bill right away but it is still bugging me. Should I go back and bug the shop again and see if they would at least reimburse me for labor or are they correct in saying since the computer monitor didn’t give them any indication of trouble then they are not responsible?

The vehicle is out of the warranty period. So there’s no reason to bring it to the dealer.

Bring to an independent shop, let them hook the code reader/scanner up and tell you the problem.

You never ignore a light on the dash that come on. What’s next? If the brake light comes on, ignore it?


As far as I know there is no code for pi; pressure but dealerships love their code scanners because they get to charge money even when a scan is useless. In your case, they should have removed the sensor and hooked up a mechanical gauge to see what the pressure was. Lots of luck getting them to refund anything.

I always take my car to our local, independent shop. I only took it to the dealer this one time because I was on the road and miles away from my trusty mechanic. I do know you should never ignore those lights which is why I asked more than once if they were sure I could keep driving the car.

I know I won’t get anything from the dealership, guess I just wanted to know if they were as culpable as i think they were.

Just curious, but could you clarify which light you’re talking about?
The yellow Check Engine Light?
Low oil level light?
Red zero oil pressure light?

I might also ask how often the oil is changed both as to miles and time. I’m wondering if the engine is sludged up due to extended oil change intervals and if there was an intermittent oil light problem due to any potential oil sludging. There would be no computer code for this.

There were actually two symbols. The icon which is supposed to represent the engine turned on plus a rectangular box which said, “Engine oil pressure low” also came on. I keep the owners manual in the car so when I stopped I looked them up.

I really want this car to last so I have always taken it in for an oil change as soon as the “maintenance required” symbol pops up. When I checked the oil it was very clean. When the dealership replaced the engine they said the oil and everything was clean and looked OK except for a few filings in the oil pan.

Was There Ever Any Evidence Of An Oil Leak Where The Vehicle Parked ?

I see that some 2006 - 2009 Toyota Highlander HV (Hybrid) vehicles were found to develop oil leaks at an oil galley plug located inside the engine bell housing.

The company put out a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin T-SB-0062-09) alerting their Toyota technicians of this possibility of customers concerned over a small oil leak located at the bell housing.

Toyota replaced leaking plugs on vehicles covered by original warranty.

I doubt a leak from the plug caused the problem, but it makes one wonder.


I park on a concrete driveway - no stains on it, no evidence of any leaks.

I haven’t heard of that TSB. The dealership did send me a letter about a couple of other TSB’s that they did work on.

There’s just not enough info known for me to be able to determine what happened without vehicle in hand.

Did you buy the vehicle brand new or used? (Even a very low miles lease return or dealer demonstrator is considered a used vehicle)
Just wondering if there was a problem inflicted by a previous owner if used is the case.

(Metal debris, the filings referred to, could be fragments of rod and/or main bearing material as failure in that area can lead to loss of power and horrible noises.)

I bought the car brand spanking new in 2006. I wish I could give you more info but I really don’t know what went wrong and evidently the guys at the shop didn’t either because I did ask why this could have happened. I like to know why things happen and especially how to prevent the same problem in the future. I believe the horrible noises were an engine trying to run with no oil.

I do live high in the mountains (above 10,000 feet elevation) and I drive on fairly rough roads frequently. I tend to drive a bit too fast (drifting is fun) but slow down for the overly rough spots with big rocks. Since I have years of experience on 4 wheel drive roads I have never scraped the bottom of the car. The mechanics did note that the car was in good shape but wondered how I managed to get mud and dust up in some places. My mechanic just informed me that I need to replace the front struts. Don’t know if the regular jolting of the car has something to do with that.

I did have the oil changed regularly and almost always with my trusty mechanic, but there were three times when I was on a road trip when I had to get the oil changed. I took the car to what seemed like a reputable garage but never checked the oil to make sure they did a proper job. I know that my mechanic would have mentioned something to me if the oil was noticeably dirty or low though.

The car has been good overall but believe it or not, the battery for the electric motor failed and I had to have it replaced. Normally this would be a really bad thing since they are so darn expensive but it happened at 98,000 miles which meant it was still covered by the warranty. Lucked out that time. So now I have a 2006 car with 152,000 miles but with an engine with 12,000 miles on it and battery that is about 3 years old.

If the oil level was normal in the engine I can only guess that something happened with the oil pump or an oil passage got clogged up somehow and prevented the pressure from the pump to get to the rest of the engine.

I have them same year car and when my check engine light came on took it to an independent mechanic and they did a diagnostic based on the code and said it was a leak in the emission system cabin and the part would cost $1400.00! I haven’t gotten it fixed yet and car is driving fine so far??? Do I need to be concerned??

When the low oil pressure/CEL dashboard light combo turned on, it’s best to have the car towed , rather than to continue to drive it. In my opinion, provided the dashboard light condition was made clear to the shop during the initial phone call, they should have told the OP it is best to have it towed. And as mentioned above, with the customer reporting a low oil pressure light, the proper shop response (again, this is my opinion only) is to measure the oil pressure by temporarily removing the sender unit and installing a known good shop guage.

Even so, if everything had gone according to Doyle, the result may well have ended the same, with a ruined engine. The oil pressure may have been fine at the shop, and the problem was something intermittant that showed up again later. Unless there is a recall or TSB or something, I doubt there is much that can be done, other than bucking up and replacing the engine. Engine replacements these days are not that unusual, and they are a pretty economical and reliable way to prolong the life of a car in otherwise good condition.

As noted above, it’s probably best to have an inde shop do the work from here on, rather than a dealership.

@Jentien, you might want to post this in a new thread, you’ll get more comments. I’m not exactly sure what they meant by “a leak in the emission system cabin”. You may have misunderstood. They probably meant it was an emissions system leak, probably a leak in the evap system. This is a very common issue reported here, and $750-$1500 is often the quoted price to fix it.

If so, it may or may not be an immediate problem. Hard to tell. The evap system is supposed to trap any gasoline fumes coming from the gas tank and reburn them in the engine, so they don’t pollute the air. It is also supposed to prevent a vacuum from forming in the gas tank as the fuel level drops, which can cause the engine to sputter and stall. The car’s computer does an experiment every once in a while to verify the evap system is working properly. It can fail in ways that don’t affect engine performance, and ones that do. But your car may be leaking gasoline vapors into the atmosphere causing pollution and hiking your gasoline expenses. If your state requires emissions inspections, you probably won’t be able to re-register the car until the problem is fixed.