My ABS actuator failed! Why won’t Toyota fix it?

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Christopher Elliott

The ABS actuator failed on Pamela Cox’s Highlander. Why won’t Toyota fix it as promised? Let’s find out.


The ABS actuator failed on my 2007 Toyota Highlander, and I had to have it repaired at my dealership. Later I discovered Toyota had a warranty enhancement program (ZG1) covering this if it failed before December 31.

I sent all my information to Toyota for reimbursement, but they denied it without an explanation. They only said it “didn’t qualify.”

I asked for an explanation, but they would not give me one. I asked the BBB for their help, but the response they received also had no explanation. I believe this part should have been covered by this warranty, but I cannot get any help.

I had to pay $2,200 for the repair. I would like an explanation from Toyota and a refund. Can you help? — Pamela Cox, Wildomar, Calif.


True, Toyota offered a warranty enhancement on certain 2007 Highlanders, which means the repair should have been covered. And it looks like you made the deadline. Your invoice is dated November 17.

So why won’t Toyota fix it? The warranty only applies to “certain” ABS actuator failures. Although none of the information on the warranty repair specifies which Highlanders qualify, it’s clear that Toyota doesn’t mean to cover every — or any — Highlander ABS repair.

The ABS actuator failed — wait, what does that mean?
ABS actuator fail toyota fix
A Toyota ABS actuator

What’s an ABS actuator? It’s the hydraulic unit for each brake circuit on your antilock brakes. The pump that maintains the system pressure during ABS braking is also within the unit. I will defer to the experts for a more technical explanation. Suffice it to say, you need this in order to for your ABS to work.

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Under most conditions, the ABS module should last the life of your car. So, unless you’re riding the brakes pretty hard or there’s a manufacturer defect, you shouldn’t have had to pay another $2,200.

Why won’t Toyota fix this after your ABS actuator failed?

You started your journey to a refund — or at least an explanation — at your Temecula Valley Toyota dealership. You got the same vague explanation. Then you appealed to Toyota’s corporate office. It sent you a flat denial.

You could have appealed your case to our Toyota executive contacts as a next step.

When it comes to helping customers through a third party, Toyota is an odd company. And that doesn’t just apply to the BBB. It applies to us, too. In every exchange with my advocacy team, Toyota refused to give us any information about your case. It insisted it had communicated “directly” with you.

So, will Toyota fix it? No. A representative said “multiple codes” came up when they diagnosed the car — all but the right code, which would have triggered the warranty repair.

When you pressed the Toyota representative for details, she wouldn’t offer any.

“She said many reasons could make the brake actuator fail,” you said. “But my reason — ‘internal failure’ — was not covered. She agreed that the brake actuator failed but she says it was probably due to my car having so many miles on it, and I have to expect parts breaking with wear and tear.”

Thing is, your warranty says it doesn’t matter how many miles are on the vehicle. So the repair should have been covered.

Problem solved? Well, sorta

I’m filing your “ABS actuator failed” case under “Problem Solved” because we got the explanation you wanted, even though the outcome wasn’t what you expected.

This is a disappointing ending to a frustrating case. A part that should have lasted the life of your car stopped working. Toyota is splitting hairs to avoid its customer service obligations. It is hiding behind error codes and corporate policy and ducking its responsibility to you, the customer.

Maybe your next car should be a Honda.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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