The remote start is a convenient feature that comes free with most Highlander.
This article explains 11 reasons why the remote start in your Highlander isn’t not working and their possible fix.
Less Than 1/4 Tank of Gas
If your Toyota Highlander is low on fuel and has less than a quarter (1/4) tank of gas, the remote start will not work.
It’s a safety feature that Toyota has implemented to prevent vehicle damage so that you don’t unintentionally start the engine and deplete the fuel tank, which may cause damage to your Highlander.
Doors are Unlocked
If your Highlander doors are unlocked, the remote start won’t work. Thus, lock the door through the keyfob or the Toyota app first. Then try to remote start the engine again.
Hoods and Trunk are Open
Please make sure the hoods and trunk are closed. The remote start will not work if these are open.
The Alarm Has Been Activated
If, for some reason, the alarm on your Highlander went off, the remote start will not work.
It’s a safety feature. The alarm will go off if a burglar or thief tries to break into your Highlander. In this scenario, Highlander will disable the remote start feature.
Your Remote Connect Trial Expired
If your Highlander remote start isn’t working, probably the “Remote Connect” feature subscription has expired.
If you purchased your Highlander after 2017, you have to pay to activate the remote start feature. It’s ridiculous, but now you have to pay money to make your Highlander key fob work.
The salesperson probably didn’t tell you about this trail when you bought your Highlander. It’s probably because they wanted to show you the feature but didn’t want to reveal that it’s a paid subscription.
Do you still have the window sticker of your Highlander? On the window sticker, if there’s a “Remote Connect” package, it proves that your remote start isn’t working because of this subscription expiration.
Unfortunately, if the remote start stops working due to your trial period being over, there’s no other way to access this feature anymore unless you subscribe to the Toyota “Remote Connect” package.
The “Remote Connect” costs $8 per month or $80 ($6.67) if paid for 12 months.
The Remote Connect trial auto started when you purchased your Highlander from a dealer. Thus, if you bought your vehicle on February 20 last year, the Remote Connect trial expired on February 19 this year.
It’s unfortunate, but nowadays, everything is a subscription. Toyota is forcing us to pay them even more for this remote engine start feature, which is disappointing.
In contrast, Tesla also offers remote connectivity services through their mobile app. But it’s entirely FREE. But in the case of Toyota, it’s a subscription.
Initially, Toyota gave a 3-year free trial of remote start, but now they provide only a 1-year trial. Thus, it’s likely that your remote connect subscription has expired.
One alternative solution is that you can install an aftermarket remote start kit in your Toyota Highlander. It will be cheaper in the long run than paying Toyota $8 per month for this feature.
However, if you are already subscribed to the “Remote Connect” and the subscription has not expired yet, then probably one of the reasons outlined below is why your Highlander’s remote start isn’t working.
The Highlander Must be in Park
Sometimes when we come to a complete stop, we turn off the engine before placing our Highlander into Park (P).
If the Highlander isn’t in “P,” the remote start will not work.
Smart Key Can’t be Inside
If you are trying to remote start your Highlander through the Toyota App, please ensure that the Smart Key isn’t inside your vehicle.
The remote start function will not work when you leave your Key inside your Highlander.
12V Battery is Low
If your Highlander’s 12V battery is low on charge or has died, you can’t use the remote start feature. The 12V runs all the electricals in your vehicle, including the starter motor. Thus, if it’s the case, you need to change the 12V battery.
However, if your 12V is new or you have recently changed it, the probability is the alternator isn’t recharging your battery correctly. Please have it checked by an experienced technician at a Toyota service center.
No Cellphone Service (For Highlander made after 2017)
Newer Highlander’s remote start works differently. In the previous generation, when you pressed your Key to start the engine, the key fob directly communicated with the vehicle to start the engine.
However, when you press the key fob on newer Highlander’s, it sends a signal to the vehicle to start the engine. Then, the Highlander sends an API call over the cellular network to the “Remote Connect” server for authentication. If the server replies with authenticated code, the Highlander engine starts.
If you are in an area with no cellular service for the Highlander cloud service, it will fail to authenticate the remote engine start command. Thus, your Highlander’s remote start won’t work.
Key Fob Issues
If you can remote start your Highlander with the Toyota App but can’t remote start with your Key Fob, there could be one of the several reasons why the remote start isn’t working.
The smart key fob uses weak radio waves. The remote start may not work through the Smart Key in the following scenario.
- The Smart Key Fob battery has depleted.
- You are near a TV tower, electronic power station, radio station, or airport.
- Other wireless keys are being used nearby.
- If you have a tinted window that has metallic particles.
Toyota Remote Connect Server Has Issues
Toyota makes great vehicles, but they are not experts in the software. The cloud server and software that they created have a lot of issues. Sometimes, the remote start will fail to work due to these cloud servers.
Whenever we use the remote start functionality, the Highlander communicates with the Toyota server to ensure we have an active subscription. If it fails to communicate with the server, the remote start will not work.
From our experience, contacting the local Toyota dealer to solve the problem is fruitless. Everyone, even Toyota customer support, is clueless in these scenarios.
Reset Your Highlander’s Electronics
Toyota’s onboard electronics have bugs. Sometimes it will fail to operate correctly. Some owners have reported that if they reset electronics, the remote start works again.
Resetting the electronics is easy. First, locate the 12V battery in your Highlander. Then remove the negative battery terminal for 10 minutes. Then reconnect it again. Hopefully, the “remote start” will work again without any issues.
However, if it doesn’t, the problem could be somewhere else.
The Toyota App Does Not Show Remote Start
Not all Toyota Highlander has a remote start feature. If, after installing the Toyota app and connecting it to your Highlander, the app doesn’t show a remote start option, the probability is your Highlander doesn’t have this feature.
Toyota Highlander with Premium audio and Audio plus has remote start features only.
However, the app may sometimes not show the remote start due to technical and server-related issues. Toyota is notorious for server glitches.
If you know that your Highlander comes with a remote start feature, we suggest you wait at least one day. If the issue is related to the Toyota cloud server, it will get fixed within a few hours.
Why is Toyota Charging for Remote Start on Highlander?
Toyota recently started charging for remote start. It’s primarily because Toyota wants to begin a recurring revenue source for the company. But it’s unacceptable that they have rolled the remote engine start feature into the Remote Connect subscription.
Understandably, Toyota wants to charge for using their app. However, it’s illogical to charge money to use the key fob.
Even a few years ago, the cord-cutting revolution was going on. But the movement now has turned into a subscription-based economy. Nowadays, everything is a subscription.
Every company is trying to create a SaaS (Software as a Service) business model. It gives a reliable revenue source than selling only hardware.
Toyota is trying to go in that direction. It’s why they started five subscription services for their vehicles. These are:
- Safety connect
- Service Connect
- Remote Connect
- Wi-Fi Connect
- Destination Assist
Each of these services costs $80 per year or $8 per month. Thus, if you want all these packages for your Highlander, it would cost $400 per year or $40 per month for monthly subscribers.