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How can I heat up my Toyota Highlander Hybrid during winter?

The interior of my 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid won't warm up enough in winter. The dealer says there is not enough heat off the engine. Can this be correct? – J.B.

Your Toyota couples an internal combustion engine (ICE) with a battery and electric motor system known as the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSE). Depending on ambient temperatures and vehicle load conditions, the two systems will work independently and in conjunction with each other to power the vehicle.

The elaborate cabin heater system uses heated engine coolant, as does a conventional car, and waste heat from the electric motors to warm the cabin. The on-board management system will typically run the ICE for a longer period at first start-up to warm the cabin and then the HSE once desired internal cabin temperature is reached.

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I assume that the problem becomes evident on extreme cold days when the ICE shuts down for an extended period. The engine coolant cools quickly and can no longer adequately heat the larger cabin which leads to an uncomfortable drive. Regrettably, the HSE system is designed to be ultraefficient and therefore produces little waste heat.

Your dealer would have checked all available resources for issues and product updates. This is likely a software issue. Give Toyota Canada customer helpline a call, and also insist that your dealer escalates this issue to its technical service department.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga.

Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing "Lou's Garage" in the subject area.

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