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Toyota Highlander Won’t Start [But Lights Flashing]

You climb into the driver’s seat of your Toyota Highlander, and you’re about to drive the SUV to your destination. But it doesn’t start after activating the ignition. Yet, the lights are flashing. What does this issue mean? Also, how can you fix it? We researched these concerns for you, and here’s what we found.

A Toyota Highlander that doesn’t turn on but the lights are flashing may have underlying issues. These root concerns may include a discharged battery, faulty alternator, or bad ignition switch.

Solving this problem generally requires users to follow the correct repair procedures. Continue reading as we tackle these possible solutions. We’ll also talk about these underlying issues in greater detail.

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Toyota Highlander parked at a wind farm, Toyota Highlander Won't Start [But Lights Flashing]

What Does It Mean When My Toyota Highlander Won’t Start But Lights Are Flashing?

If a Toyota Highlander doesn’t start, but the vehicle’s lights are flashing, this problem can originate from different underlying causes. Some of these reasons are:

A Toyota Highlander parked on the side of the road

Discharged Battery

Like other cars, a Toyota Highlander’s battery is responsible for providing sufficient power to the vehicle’s different systems. A discharged battery may still have enough energy to provide to the SUV’s lights. However, that amount of power may not be adequate to make the car run.

Faulty Alternator

While the battery is responsible for supplying the recommended power to a Highlander’s systems, the alternator works by distributing that energy. So if this assembly isn’t functioning properly, the power may not reach certain parts of the engine, causing the SUV to fail to start even though its lights might turn on or flash.

Bad Ignition Switch

Keep in mind that ignition switches can go bad over time. If this assembly becomes damaged or expired, it might not communicate with some of the Highlander’s electronics, causing a failure to start.

What Do I Do If My Toyota Highlander Won’t Start?

A modified Toyota Highlander at a car show

Fixing a Toyota Highlander that doesn’t start (but the lights are on) often demands the correct repair procedures. Failure to follow the appropriate steps might lead to further harm to the vehicle.

Continue reading through this section to learn some possible solutions on how to make your Highlander run again:

Replace The Battery

Mechanic removing a car battery

Toyota Highlander users may not find significant changes to the steps in replacing this vehicle’s battery across its different models and versions. You also need only to open the hood to expose the damaged and/or discharged battery and replace it.

But make sure to consult your car owner’s manual for your specific Toyota Highlander model if you need special tools for this job. Also, wear goggles and safety glasses to reduce the risks of accidents that may happen during this replacement procedure.

After completing the necessary preparations, you may continue by following these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Socket wrench
  • Replacement battery

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Use the socket wrench to loosen and remove the fastener on the battery cable’s negative terminal.
  2. Repeat the previous step for the positive battery cable terminal.
  3. Remove the battery hold-down bracket with the socket wrench.
  4. Take out the J-bolt.
  5. Remove the old battery and set it aside or dispose of it properly.
  6. Install the replacement battery and secure it to the Highlander's battery hold-down bracket.
  7. Reinstall the cables to the correct terminals.
  8. Test the Highlander’s new battery by igniting its engine.

Remember, pay attention to the colors of the battery cables and their terminals to avoid crossing them. If so, it may cause a spark, which may lead to a battery explosion.

Also, ensure that the car battery you purchase and install into your Toyota Highlander is compatible with the vehicle. Installing a smaller-than-recommended battery may not allow the SUV to start reliably. On the other hand, a large battery may not fit in the car's hold-down bracket.

Check out this replacement battery for SUVs on Amazon.

Watch the video below if you need a visual guide on how to complete the steps mentioned above:

Jump Start The Battery

Alligator clips clipped to a car battery

Jump starting the battery of your Toyota Highlander can be a temporary solution to make the vehicle start and run if you can’t wait for the new battery to arrive. However, make sure to follow safety procedures like:

  • Don’t let the jump start cable ends touch.
  • Don’t cross or install the cables into the wrong terminals.
  • Stay away from the hood while the battery is charging.
  • Turn off the engine before opening the hood and only start the car when needed.
  • Let the Highlander’s engine run for about 15 to 20 minutes to help charge its battery.

After taking note of those precautions, continue this operation by following this guide:

What You’ll Need

  • Car jump start kit

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open the hood to expose the Highlander’s battery.
  2. Attach the jump start cables to the correct battery terminals.
  3. Turn on the jump starter and ignite the engine.
  4. Carefully disconnect the jumper cables after the recommended period.

Check out this car battery jump start kit on Amazon.

You can also watch the video below to gain additional insight into this procedure:

How Long Should A Battery Last In A Toyota Highlander?

Generally, a car battery lasts about 3 to 4 years. But Toyota suggests replacing a Highlander's battery at least once every 3 to 5 years. If the included battery in your newly purchased Highlander fails, it might still be in warranty. If so, you may take advantage of the carmaker’s warranty to replace the faulty unit.

Check out this replacement car battery on Amazon.

How Long Is Toyota Battery Warranty?

Toyota typically covers batteries for new vehicles within a period of 1 to 24 months. This coverage usually includes the repairs and replacements of damage and/or broken parts. This carmaker may also waive the fees for professional labor.

After the 24-month initial warranty period is over, Toyota may extend the coverage for another 1 to 12 months. But this coverage period may only include financial security for approximately 50% of the repairs and replacements for certain parts.

How Much Does Toyota Charge To Change A Battery?

The costs to change a battery for a Toyota vehicle, particularly a Highlander, may depend on the branch location. But Highlander owners should expect the costs to fall between $45 and $250.

Are Toyota Highlanders Expensive To Repair?

A dark gray colored Toyota highlander

Toyota Highlanders are typically more expensive to repair than other SUVs. These vehicles often require about $5,771 in maintenance and repair fees throughout their serviceable lives. On the other hand, other similar vehicles may only demand approximately $3,109 in care and overhaul fees from their owners.

What Would Cause A Car Battery To Drain Overnight?

A Toyota Highlander, along with other cars, can have its batteries drained faster than usual if certain issues occur. Some of these possible events are:

Leaving The Headlights On

Keep in mind that using relatively any electronic device in your vehicle consumes battery life, which includes turning on the headlights. So it’s possible to drain your car battery’s reserves overnight if you leave its lights on during that period.

Many cars, including Highlanders, will warn their users if they leave their cars without turning off the headlights. It’s possible to install a headlight warning chime on vehicles that don’t have this assembly. Although, you may need to search for this product from reliable third-party sources.

Check out this headlight warning module on Amazon.

Loose Connections

The frequent vibrations under a car’s hood can loosen the battery’s connections over time. Leaving the attachments unsecured may cause the battery to eke out more power than usual. It’s because the vehicle might be trying to compensate for the loss of power because of the loose connections.

Troubleshoot this problem by opening the hood. Then, check if the cables are staying put on their terminals. If not, use a socket wrench to secure the connections.

Bad Weather

Extreme hot or cold weather can also affect a car battery’s life. Many newer batteries often have better temperature resistances than their older counterparts. If you notice that your vehicle’s battery is discharging at a faster rate than usual because of the unsavory weather, it might be time to replace that unit with a new model.

Final Words

Toyota Highlander parked at a wind farm

Check your Toyota Highlander if it has a discharged battery, a damaged alternator, or a faulty ignition switch. These issues might be underlying causes of the vehicle not starting despite its lights turning on or flashing upon turning the key or pressing the ignition button. But don’t hesitate to consult professional automotive repair services if you need expert help.

If you like this post, don’t forget to check out our other posts relating to this vehicle:

Does Toyota Highlander Have Heated Steering Wheel?

How Far Can A Toyota Highlander Go On Empty?