Kia No-Start Baffles TechsPosted 11/13/2006
By Guy Dibble
Out of all the Identifix articles we have published, I don't think any have been written about a Kia. Is this because they are such reliable vehicles that we couldn't find anything to write about? Or is it because we don't like to talk about them any more than you like to work on them? I kept thinking they would just go away after a few years but it appears that with a little help from Hyundai, they are going to grace our service bays for years to come.
Kia started making bicycle parts, then bicycles, and worked their way into the American car market all in the short span of about 60 years. Pretty impressive if you think about it. I wonder if they offered the 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on their bicycles.
Now let me tell you about the Kia Sportage that had us scratching our heads. The call started out looking like a simple "cranks but won't start" but we all know how looks can be deceiving. The tech described it as cranking like it was out of time and kicking back on the starter. The ignition timing on this engine is controlled by the engine control module (ECM) and is based on the input from the crankshaft position sensor, which is mounted in the bell housing of the transmission. Initially the technician's thought was that the timing belt had jumped or that the crankshaft keyway had worn out, allowing the crank gear to spin. Teardown and inspection of the timing belt and crank gear revealed no problem.
I suggested it was time to check the actual ignition timing with a timing light. As there are no spark plug wires on this system, checking the ignition timing involved rigging up a spark plug wire between the coil and the spark plug so a timing light could be attached. The timing was way off the charts, about 60 degrees off! How could this be?
The owner was asked some questions, in hope of pointing the tech to a conclusion. Had someone replaced the engine? Had the wires to the crank sensor been hooked up backwards? Was the car involved in an accident? A flood? He answered all the questions "no." Supposedly it just died while driving and then it wouldn't restart. Kias have been known for a lot of weird wire harness problems and there was a recall for this model. But the symptoms didn't mesh with a wire harness problem. It had to be a fault with the ECM, even though ECMs on Kias are not known to fail. The technician was able to borrow an ECM from a donor car, so he gave it a shot. Just as we feared, the known good ECM had no effect on the ignition timing and left us wondering what we could be overlooking. There had to be some logical explanation.
I asked the technician to remove the crank sensor and inspect the reluctor ring on the flywheel, hoping there would be some missing teeth or something obvious to explain the problem. Once again a dead end - the crank sensor reluctor looked fine. Some of you may recall a certain talk radio icon who used the line, "And now, the rest of the story." At the end of almost every head-scratcher story we too find ourselves using this line, "So here is the rest of our story ..."
The technician decided to turn to the customer with his own line of questioning and found that the Kia didn't "die going down the road." What he really meant was it quit going down the road as in "it wouldn't move because the clutch was burned up."
The customer then pulled the Kia to his house, and a neighbor replaced the clutch in the driveway.
Now it was starting to make more sense. Armed with the latest bit of information, the tech checked out this clutch repair. If the flywheel had been installed wrong, it would cause the crank sensor reluctor to be out of time. When he removed and inspected the transmission, he found a pretty, purplish-blue-colored flywheel. The flywheel could only be installed one way, so that was not the answer. The technician also noticed that the crank sensor reluctor ring was press fit onto the flywheel and that this one looked like it had been press fit with a household claw hammer! More information from the customer revealed that this flywheel had been so hot that the crank sensor reluctor ring had come off the flywheel and had fallen out when the transmission was removed, and his neighbor had actually used ... you guessed it! ... a household claw hammer to press it back on - in the wrong position!
A new flywheel was installed and the engine fired right up. The technician said he could have pressed the reluctor ring back on in the correct position but he didn't want to take a chance. Be aware that there is an index mark on the flywheel that lines up with the top dead center gap in the teeth of the reluctor ring.
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