Perplexing Issue Locking Toyota Highlander


I have a 2012 Toyota Highlander with keyless entry and start. In August, 2017, the electronic locking stopped working. I could unlock it fine, just not lock it. The buttons on the doors and the buttons on both remotes gave the same results. I could unlock the doors, but could not lock them. Nothing happened that I could see or hear when the lock buttons were pushed. The only way to lock the car was to manually lock all 4 doors. At that point, pressing the lock button would in fact lock the rear tailgate (which does not have a manual lock) and the car would beep and flash to show that it had locked. I brought the car initially to my neighborhood mechanic and he says I need a new body control module and it would cost >$750, but that I needed that done at the dealer. I’m a cheapskate, so I waited 4 months before my wife yelled at me to finally getting it fixed as she was tired of manually locking all 4 doors every time she go out of the car.

This is where things get weird…I dropped the car off at the local dealer the night before as I could not make it in the morning the next day. Later that next day I get a call from the dealer and they could not reproduce the problem. Some how, after 4 months, it just started working again. I was happy, because they did not charge me anything. Of course, everyone there just thought I was an idiot and didn’t know how to lock my car.

The locks worked fine for the next 10 months until October of this year. While I’m on a family trip to the NC mountains the locks stop working again in the exact same manner…will unlock but not lock via the buttons. This time I make an appointment the next Friday (one week from the onset of the issue again). I drop off the car and show the service manager exactly what is wrong, so at least now he believes me. I then get a call later that day and the technician says he cannot reproduce the issue - it had suddenly started working again as soon as the tech had brought it back into the shop. I think that there is no way that is the coincidence considering the timing of waiting 4 months the first time and 1 week the second time these symptoms arose. I drive away, again without paying anything, hoping to get another 10 months of correctly working locks.

One week after I left the shop, the locks stopped working again - in the same manner. I make an appointment with the same service manager. I bring the car in (today), the service manager gets the experienced technician, and we show him how the locks are not working. He says its weird, but he would look into it. I get a call this afternoon and as soon as the technician drove the car into the shop, the door locks started working properly again!!!

The dealership and I are completely perplexed and have no idea what could be going on, so I’m desperately looking for help/suggestions other than getting an exorcism…


I’m looking forward to someone having an answer, but it sure ain’t me.


Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Intermittent problems are the worst.


Guess I was thinking about the movie. Lol.

Yes intermittent problems are bad but ones that automatically fix themselves by driving into the Toyota dealership bay??

The only thing I could think of tonight was what do techs do differently in starting or driving a car into the bay than an owner does. Most of the time I take it to the dealer, they turn off the radio but I have a hard time believing that has anything to do with it as the whole car if off with no power to the radio.


Are you leaving one of the fobs in the car but removing it when you take it in for service? Many new cars will not lock if a fob is inside…


Perhaps a broken wire in the driver door harness where it flexes making intermittent contact?


Something is happening when the dealer gets it. The 2 most probable things would be moving the seat and changing the tilt on the steering wheel. Play around with those just for kicks.


I like that thought. moving one of those could be hitting a wire.


Sometimes a repair shop will keep the driver’s window down to avoid an accidental lockout. Does it make any difference if you try that?


Maybe even slamming the hood!


Many cars won’t lock remotely if all the doors don’t report as closed. Perhaps this is as simple as a faulty door closed switch. It might be hard to tell since these switches can have a bad spots along the travel where it seems like it should be in the closed position.


I actually think it is slamming the door. Something is not tight in the driver door and the dealer tech slamming it (it is not his car!) fixes it.
Next time this happens, just slam the door.


All good ideas. I’ll try them all and see if I can reproduce the issue. Right now the locks are working fine but just a matter of time until they stop again.