Kia Preventive Maintenance: Chassis, Engine & Brake Repairs

Kia Preventive Maintenance: Chassis, Engine & Brake Repairs

More Kias on the road means more repair and maintenance opportunities for the import car specialist, so don't let them pass you by. In this article, Bob Dowie focuses on the most common problems and maintenance items that have them finding their way into your bays - like check engine light, brake and chassis repairs.

This month we’re going to look at the Kia line of ­vehicles, focusing on the most common problems and maintenance items that have them finding their way to our bays. Kia offers good, reliable, affordable vehicles, and continues to expand its product line to accommodate any drivers’ taste. And more Kias on the road, means more repair and maintenance opportunities for the import car specialist, so don’t let them pass you by.

We’ve talked before about how important it is that we educate and encourage our clients to perform preventive maintenance to keep their cars safe and reliable, and to ensure trouble-free miles. The mass merchandisers are spending plenty on advertising the benefits of vehicle maintenance and we should be taking advantage of this awareness.

The first step is to get the work. Your service writer or whomever handles the front counter should be in the habit of asking if the car is due for any routine service when an appointment is made or the vehicle is dropped off. If the client isn’t sure when the last oil change was done, it’s a pretty good bet the vehicle is due for one and don’t hesitate to tell them that. Most drivers put about 15,000 miles a year on their car, so if it hasn’t been in the shop in the last six months it’s probably overdue; and the most convenient time to have it done is while you have the car in to diagnose the check engine light.

Speaking of good habits, always take advantage of the opportunity to perform a safety inspection whenever you have a car on the lift, with an eye toward any service that is due now or will be necessary in the future. We’re not doing this to sell something; we’re performing a valuable and expected service for the client. Keep in mind you’re looking at the car as a professional technician with the best interest of the customer in mind.

Kia vehicles will present no special challenge with this process. In our shop we usually work with the young techs to help them develop a system to inspect the car while they’re performing an oil change service. We’ve found the tech is more likely to use a process that he put together rather than “learn” what works well for someone else. We concentrate more on what parts of the vehicle should be inspected, and what an oil change service includes, more so than the order in which it’s done.

It takes only the few minutes required to drain the oil to get a good look at the brake friction material and condition of the rotors, as well as an opportunity to inspect for any signs of fluid leakage. Don’t overlook the steel lines for signs of rust and pay particular ­attention where the lines are secured. Here in the Northeast, steel line failures due to rust is 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.  

Also take a good look at the anti-sway bar end links and bushings that mount the bars to the chassis. Any play in these components result in a substantial knocking noise that many drivers and even some techs have confused with bad struts or mounting hardware.  

Again, look for any signs of fluid leakage, now that the oil has been drained and a fresh filter has been installed. Kias won’t present any special challenges here, but look for evidence of leakage that will lead you to the usual suspects. With motor oil leaks, the most common problem you’ll see is the oil pressure sending unit or, on a high-mileage vehicle, a rusted oil pan where the oil is seeping through the rust.

Otherwise, Kia engines haven’t had a lot of leakage issues, but there have been some instances of seal leakage on high-mileage ­vehicles that couldn’t be considered common.

Lowering the car to chest level to check the tire pressure, get another look at the brakes and, while you’re there, spin the wheels looking for drag and listening for any unusual noises. Grab the wheel at the 9 and
3 o’clock positions checking for play. 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’re back on the ground putting the oil in and still looking around for problems that could cause the customer a problem. You’re going to be checking levels anyway, so it doesn’t take any time to make note of any issues. We encourage our techs to take care of simple problems such as loose air intake clamps or filter boxes; service items that are pointed out to the customer. Many times, a call to the customer leads to the decision that a more extensive service is required.

On safety items, we feel obligated to make it perfectly clear what risk the driver is taking driving the car. It’s my experience the customer is pleased that we were looking that closely.

Kia scheduled services are on the familiar 15,000-mile intervals. These factory-recommended services are readily available on the Kia service website This is a free website and there’s no reason you shouldn’t register and take a look around at what’s offered. All the service information is there, as well as a good community section with searchable periodicals that can be a big help when facing a tough problem on a Kia.

Since no two shops are alike, we’ve adopted the same type of 15,000-mile service intervals that Kia recommends, but we add some additional services. It’s during these services that items like battery ­cables are serviced, throttles are cleaned, transmission and differential oils are replaced and, depending on mileage, spark plugs and timing and drive belts are also replaced. That’s why we work so hard to get our customers to follow this type of schedule; one of our big selling points is “if you follow this simple system, your Kia will give you many miles of trouble-free driving.”

These services will be no problem for the ­experienced tech, but there are a couple of tips that might save you some time or trouble. As is so common today, it will be necessary to remove the intake plenum on some models to access the spark plugs; be aware 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. 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 out all of the hardware.

And try as we might to convince the masses that preventive maintenance makes sense, we’ll always have the customer who puts off routine service and drives his/her car until a problem is evident and service is way overdue. Some of the things 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. And, you can throw in a check engine light complaint, if the vehicle is due for a state emissions inspection.

When I write these articles, I find it valuable to also look at the iATN website ( for some of the FAQs. If you have one of the popular Sportages with the DOHC 2.0L engine towed in with a broken timing belt, don’t assume the valves are bent. The service information pegs them as valve benders, but there is enough evidence otherwise that it’s well worth installing a belt for test purposes before removing the cylinder head; make sure you run the engine long enough to be sure there is no evidence of a misfire.

Another timing belt-related issue involves TSBs about the availability and requirement that upgraded crankshaft pulley bolts be used when performing a timing belt job.

If you’re faced with driveability or check engine light problems, again you’ll feel like you’re on familiar ground. Kia vehicles share the same kind of problems you’re used to seeing on other makes with no particular serial issues. Misfires will often be tracked down to coil and/or ignition wire failures often related to stretching out the spark plug change interval, so 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 here. It’s particularly important to look at the fuel trims on the V6 engines, where you may get the code for one bank but the data shows that the trim on both banks are 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 engines, check for vacuum leaks as well as a dirty air mass sensor. Don’t overlook the air intake ducting and hoses; a cracked hose or loose clamps could be the cause of the code but 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.

Another problem that seems to be a bit more common on Kias are issues with bad ground circuits. Should you encounter a vehicle that has a group of codes yet the components and circuits seem good, or a car where the temp gauge is reporting a false high reading, suspect a bad ground circuit. The grounds are easily located with access to the factory service ­information. 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.

We have recently covered both Kia brake and timing belt service in past issues of ImportCar, and since those articles are available at, I won’t go into those services here, other than to continue on with the same theme that you will find these services to be a profitable and satisfying experience for both the shop and customer.

Like many of my articles, this one breaks no new ground or technology, but I do hope it encourages you to welcome Kias into your bays. It’s also about how important it is to encourage our customers to practice preventive maintenance, while embracing the good work habits and having the necessary information on hand to enable us to hold up our end of the deal.  

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