Belt Noise in a Toyota Highlander

by Editorial Team
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timing belt image by Albert Lozano from

Toyota recommends that Highlander owners change the timing belt at or around 90,000 miles. This can be a costly repair, but it is far less costly than repairing the damage that would happen to the engine if the timing belt broke. While some noise is normal from a timing belt, listening to your engine can help you avoid unnecessary damage.

Causes of Belt Noise

Your Highlander's timing belt has tiny holes in it, just like the holes in the belt that you wear. Teeth enter the grooves and exit as the belt turns, and each time a tooth enters or exits the belt, the moving air pressure creates a noise.

Over time, the noise that your Highlander's belt makes will likely change. As the belt ages, it will develop cracks because of the directional vibrations that go through it. The pulleys that turn the belt will also move due to engine vibrations. This will cause friction as the belt and the pulley come into closer contact than they had when the car was new.


Over time, your Highlander's timing belt may lose its correct tension, which can lead to squealing noises. Have a mechanic check the belt's tension: If your belt is too loose, it will wear out sooner; if your belt is too tight, the components that it runs around will get more stress than they should, also leading to excess wear and tear.


Improper alignment will usually result in a belt that squeals or chirps. Misalignment leads to additional friction between the belt and the pulleys, which will increase the wear that your belt experiences. A mechanic can align the drives for you and keep your belt from wearing out prematurely.


If your belt breaks, the engine will stop and will not start again. If your Highlander's pistons and valves do not have sufficient clearance, your engine's valves may suffer permanent damage.

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