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  Tech to Tech

Serviceability Report: Kia Sedona Minivan

Posted 6/15/2006
By Craig Van Batenburg, AAM

Can Hyundai reinvent Kia's image?

As I travel, I meet some seasoned technicians. While in Plymouth, Mass., recently, teaching a state OBD-II class, I met Robert Newman - an eight-year veteran from Hyundai who was sent over to the Kia store almost two years ago. The class he attended was 20 hours long so we had many conversations about Kia and Hyundai. (Most of you know that Hyundai bought Kia a few years back and is trying to get the quality level on a par with Hyundai.) My thanks to Robert for helping with this report.

If you have been reading this series of articles, you know that what we are engaged in is to see if the car designers have helped or hurt us as we go about fixing a new breed of cars, vans, trucks and SUVs. In the September 2004 issue of AutoInc., I wrote about the Hyundai Elantra. It is Kia's turn to go under the technician's microscope. Let's see what the new Sedona, its award-winning minivan, has to offer. Never underestimate Korean engineering and build quality as Hyundai has done an amazing job improving its product line over the last 20 years. Can they do it again with Kia?

Len Hunt is a former Volkswagen Group staffer who is now with Kia. He is working to make better products, but is he a technician's friend? He has knowledge about how consumers in North America saw the images of Audi and Volkswagen, and he helped improve them. Now Hunt is wanting to do the same for Kia.

Van Batenburg's Garage, my former shop, worked on Asian cars - and Kia was not a respected name there. (It was perceived as more of a throwaway car sold to cheap people who didn't want to spend a dime taking care of their cars.) Hunt wants to change that poor image by winning consumer confidence. "Confidence will lend the product integrity, fueling pride of ownership, customer loyalty and ultimately passion for the brand," he said. He has some work to do.

Kia offers a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile power train warranty and five years of roadside assistance to instill confidence in the durability of its cars and trucks. In redesigning each model, Kia is trying to offer better styling and more comfortable and appealing interiors. That is being done, but beauty is often only skin deep.

Completely redesigned, the 2006 Kia Sedona minivan is the first of several new products in the pipeline that Kia hopes will improve the company's image in North America. The original Sedona that came out in 2002 was a big move for Kia as it entered into the minivan segment.

Electrical problems, faulty mass air flow sensors, recalls on seat belt anchors and battery-charging problems all led to its early malaise. In addition, its sheet metal seemed to dent easily, and the vans looked old fast. But it earned good crash-test scores, an important piece of the buying equation to families looking for daily transportation. Plus, it was priced low enough to make the minivan one of Kia's top-selling models. It was old-fashioned in styling, had an underpowered V6 and was on the heavy side.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a recall in 2005, No. 05V329000, that said: "On certain minivans, freezing conditions can cause water on the throttle cable to freeze during normal operation. Resistance to movement of the throttle cable can occur when the driver lifts his or her foot off of the gas pedal."

This was a recall on a minivan that had been in production for more than four years. It is safety related and makes one wonder how this could happen. Kia needs to get it right the first time on such simple items as throttle cables. This makes a case for throttle-by-wire that was added in 2006.

The all-new 2006 Sedona is a great value and has received top crash-test scores that make it one of the safest minivans on the market. The all-new Sedona minivan has earned the highest possible safety rating - five stars - for all seating positions in the latest frontal and side impact crash tests by the U.S. Department of Transportation's NHTSA. It is larger, more powerful, lighter and more fuel efficient.

I drove a new Sedona after getting out of a 2005 model. It deserves the praise, but like many new vans, some things are just hard to get at. Spark plug removal requires removal of the plenum, the fuel filter is in the tank, and the oil filter is an accident waiting to happen. The new Sedona has an oil filter cartridge system that requires draining before the oil change starts. This oil filter mounts vertically from the top of the engine bay. Now we get to deal with O rings, small plastic pieces and oil dripping on the engine. Spin-on filters were a step forward, but this new filter is a giant step in reverse. A canister filter opens itself up to oil leaks, improper filtering and "no parts in stock" issues. This is a giant step backward.

Kia did improve servicing the automatic transmission by moving the drain bolt away from a support beam. In the older version, you could loosen the transmission drain bolt but not remove it, so the Kia techs just let the transmission fluid run down the frame or used a piece of cardboard to help the old fluid find a drain bucket. Who are the engineers talking to? Not us, for sure. The new Sedona is better in this regard.

For the powertrain control module (PCM) location, the newer van found a spot under the hood. It's easier to get to but connector corrosion may be a problem. Time will tell. Chains have taken over for belts, not uncommon today. The older Sedona V6 had hydraulic lifters and a timing belt; now it is solid lifters, shims and three chains. To replace the shims if the valve clearance is off, you must remove the cams. To remove the cams you must remove the chains. Yikes! I don't like this.

Overall the 2006 Sedona will not be a big problem to service. It is a typical V6 in a minivan body. After getting use to the weird stuff, like the oil filter setup, it will be just another van, not much better than most. But what if everything a tech had to do was considered first? What if I was screaming about how great this was? Only I'm not.

At least the generator (alternator) is much better located than it was on the old Sedona. Before 2006, you had to unbolt the generator, and then try to pry it out. That didn't work, so you had to discharge the A/C system, remove the condenser, drain the coolant, remove the radiator and then remove the generator. And generators were a problem! So, 2006 is better than that. Shall we cheer or shake our heads?

2006 Sedonas Ups - Better placement of generator, drain bolt on transmission is in the open, lots of room under the hood.

2006 Sedonas Downs - Valve clearance adjustments are disappointing.

Overall rating: The quality is getting better on mechanicals. It is modern, and it looks like most service and repairs will be OK. As with any brand-new design, time will let us know how much trouble we are in for. A factory scan tool is required for tire pressure monitor reset.

Craig Van Batenburg Craig Van Batenburg, AAM, is the owner of the Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC),, and delivers management and technical seminars nationwide. He formerly owned Van Batenburg's Garage Inc. in Worcester, Mass., for more than 25 years. Van Batenburg is ASE master and L1 certified, with advanced skills in hybrid drive systems. You can reach him by e-mail at


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