Kia continues to offer a reliable, affordable vehicle lineup that provides import specialist techs and shop owners with plenty of opportunities for maintenance and repair. In the spirit of servicing vehicles that continue to rack up miles through customer satisfaction with the brand, we’re going to focus on common problems and maintenance items that will have Kias finding their way to our bays.
We’ve talked before about how important it is that we educate and encourage our customers to perform preventive maintenance to keep their cars safe and reliable and to ensure trouble-free miles. The mass merchandisers are spending plenty of dollars on advertising the benefits of maintenance, and we should be taking advantage of this awareness.
The first step is to get the work. Your service writer should be in the habit of checking if the car is due for any routine service when an appointment is made or the vehicle is dropped off. If your customer isn’t sure when the last maintenance service was done, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s due for something, and you shouldn’t hesitate to let him/her know. Most drivers put about 15,000 miles a year on their car, and if it hasn’t been in the shop in last six months, it’s probably overdue for at least the all-important LOF service. The most convenient time to have this done is while the car is already in your shop.
Speaking of good habits, always take advantage of the inspection opportunity presented whenever you have a car in the shop. If it’s on the lift, perform an inspection with an eye toward any safety-related services that are due now or will be in the near future. Also, shake and roll the wheels looking for steering issues. By taking this step, you’re performing a valuable service for your customers. Keep in mind that you’re looking at the car as a professional technician with the best interest of your customers in mind.
In our shop, we usually work with the young techs to help them develop a “vehicle inspection process” to incorporate while they’re performing an oil change service. We’ve found a tech is more likely to use a process that he created, rather than try to learn what works well for someone else and follow a list. We concentrate more on the items that should be looked at and what an oil change service includes, rather than the order in which it’s done.
It only takes a few minutes during an inspection process to get a look at the brake friction material and condition of the rotors, as well as to identify any fluid leakage. Don’t overlook the steel lines for traces of rust, and pay particular attention where the lines are secured. Here in the Northeast, steel line failures due to rust are a common problem on Kias as well other makes. Take a look at the exhaust system and hangers; induce some vibration that may pick up a loose exhaust shield that wasn’t evident when the car was pulled in.
Inspect the anti-sway bar end links and bushings that mount the bars to the chassis. Any play in these components will result in a substantial knocking noise that many drivers, and even some techs, have confused as bad struts or mounting hardware.
Look for any signs of oil leakage; hopefully, the fluid levels were checked before the car was raised, giving you a heads-up on where to concentrate. With motor oil leaks, the most common problem you’ll see is with the oil pressure-sending unit, or on a high-mileage vehicle you’ll notice a rusted oil pan where the oil is seeping through the rusted area. We’ve seen a couple of axle seals leaking, but that’s certainly not a common problem. The same goes for engine seals.
Lower the car to chest level to check the tire pressure and get another look at the brakes. While you’re there, spin the wheels looking for drag and listen for any unusual noises. Grab the wheel at the nine o’ clock and three o’ clock position, checking for play, and give it a good push. While a loose tie rod end will move easily, it takes some solid effort to pick up a loose ball joint.
We encourage our techs to take care of simple problems like loose air intake clamps or filter boxes, and point out other service items to the customer. Many times, a call to the customer leads to the recommendation that a more extensive service is required, followed by authorization to do the job.
There have been some recurring problems with crank and camshaft sensors. So, if you’re faced with an intermittent problem and have a cam or crank sensor code, I would replace the sensor with an original part. Misfires will often be tracked down to coil and/or ignition wire failures, often related to the customer exceeding the spark plug change interval. Be sure to check and replace the plugs along with the coils and wires. On the V6 engines that require manifold removal to gain access, we recommend replacing all the coils along with the plugs while you’re in there.
Another relatively common code is a P0171 system lean code. A look at the freeze-frame data will help you diagnose it. Be sure to look at the fuel trims, which are particularly important on the V6 engines where you may get the code for one bank, but the data shows that the trim on both banks is similar. If this is the case, look at the problem as an overall lean condition and diagnose it accordingly. On both the four- and six-cylinder engine, check for vacuum leaks as well as dirty air mass sensors. Don’t overlook the air intake ducting and hoses, as a cracked hose or loose clamps could be the cause of the code. If these issues are present, they will definitely lead to a dirty air mass sensor. It doesn’t make sense to replace the sensor without doing what we can to keep the new one clean.
On models where the mass air sensor is connected to the throttle body by a hose, be careful when looking for damage to the hose; it can difficult to see the tear with the hose installed. Another issue we see that will produce lean codes and may also set an evap code is a purge valve that’s not closing completely. It’s easy to diagnose — just pinch the hose while watching the fuel trims. Check the valve for carbon pieces finding their way from the canister, and then decide if further action is required based on what you found.
Should you come across a vehicle that has a group of codes but the components and circuits seem good, or a case where the temp gauge is reporting a false high reading, suspect a bad ground circuit. With access to the factory service information, the grounds are easily located. While you can perform voltage drop tests on the circuits, we find it more efficient to simply locate and clean the connections rather than hope we can catch the problem on a meter.
Kia continues to move forward in styling and technology advancements, while still maintaining affordability. Some of the things you’ll see as you maintain these cars include direct injection that will have you looking at different parameters on the scanner and changing your thought process as you think through a driveability issue. Direct injection has been well-covered in the past, so you can search on www.Import-Car.com for more information. The same can be said for the Idle Stop and Go (ISG) system. Like direct injection, ISG will reduce emissions and improve fuel consumption. The ISG system uses brake pressure as the signal to restart for seamless acceleration.
The other change involves transaxle service. The factory recommends no service for normal use, but extreme-use vehicles should get drained and filled at 60,000 miles. There is no dipstick, and the factory info says if no leaks are evident, there is still reason to check the fluid levels.
If you decide the transaxle oil should be changed or find a leak that needs to be repaired, you will need to fill the unit through the banjo bolt and check the level at the transaxle level plug. To stay on the safe side, we always use oil specified for the application or the OEM factory fill. As always, refer to your service info before diving in to be sure you follow the correct procedure.
Like most of my articles, I do hope this one encourages you to welcome Kias into your bays. It’s also a good reminder about how important it is to encourage your customers to practice preventive maintenance. It’s also why you should embrace good work habits and have the necessary tools and information on hand to hold up your end of the deal.
We make it a practice to perform regular safety checks, and are equally obligated to make customers aware of the risk they are taking in driving the car if they balk at our recommendation for necessary repairs. And, whether they are financially limited or have a scheduling issue, we can usually find a way to get the job done. While service items can be rescheduled, no car should leave if it’s low on a vital fluid or there is another safety issue. In such cases, it’s been my experience that the customer is pleased that we were looking at his/her vehicle that closely to recognize the problem.
Everyone’s shop is different, so while we adopted the same type of 15,000-mile service interval that Kia recommends, we have added some additional service checks. These checks include: servicing battery cables, cleaning throttles, replacing transmission and differential oils and, depending on vehicle mileage, replacing spark plugs and timing and drive belts. We work very hard to get customers to follow this type of schedule, with one of our biggest selling points being: “If you follow this simple system, your Kia will give you many trouble-free and reliable miles.”
The recommended mileage-based services will be no problem for the experienced tech, but there are a couple of tips that might save you some time or trouble. A common practice today, it will be necessary to remove the intake plenum on some models to access the spark plugs. Beware of any loose hardware before lifting the plenum. While we all cover the intake ports once they’re exposed, no one can seal them as the parts are removed, so keep your eyes open and retrieve all hardware as it’s removed. It doesn’t take long for an errant lock washer to beat up the cylinder head and piston, ruining a perfectly good service. Use a magnet to lift all the hardware as it’s removed, then lift the manifold.
Despite our best efforts to extol the benefits of preventive maintenance, we’ll always have the customer who puts off routine service and drives his/her car until a problem is evident. Some of the things on a Kia that will get this customer to your door include timing belt failures, misfires, low-power complaints, as well as the usual suspension and brake ailments. If the vehicle is due for a state emissions inspection, you can also throw in a check engine light complaint.