If you are in the market for an American-made Kia Sportage, you are surely wondering what some of its problems are. In this blog, we are diving deep and outlining the most common issues of the Kia Sportage. If you don’t have the time to read all the details, here is a quick recap.
Problems of the Kia Sportage include recalls for oil leaks coming from the oil pan, premature rod bearing failures, and fuel leaks after engine replacements. Other issues include a failing stop lamp switch that prevents the car from starting, shifting in or out of Park, and the driver’s inability to disengage the cruise control by pressing the brake pedal.
We could not be more thorough with a short format answer, but if you are anything like us, you want all the details. Continue reading to learn how Kia dealt with certain issues and if they managed to resolve them. Stay with us!
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1. Engine Problems Are The Achilles Heel Of The Kia Sportage
As we started researching all the owner’s complaints and reports for the Kia Sportage, we quickly realized that most complaints were about engine problems. And while we were not shocked at first, it was a surprise to see just how many of the engine problems are catastrophic. There were only two recalls regarding the engine, but we identified at least four significant issues during our research.
Engines Seizing And Failing Completely
Having an engine seize up while driving is not only a significant safety hazard, which is bad enough, but also a significant financial burden for the vehicle owner.
Due to machining errors during the production process of the Theta II engine, specific Kia Sportage models made between 2011 and 2013 were prone to premature wear of the engine’s rod bearings. Kia’s recall SC147, or NHTSA Campaign Number 17V224000, addressed this issue and promised the owners of the affected vehicles a free engine inspection or a complete engine replacement if needed.
However, we have found several NHTSA reports (NHTSA ID Number: 11413201, 11354247, 11081052) stating that despite having a seized engine, KIA did not include their vehicle in the recall campaign. These owners report having the same problems as the owners of the supposedly affected vehicles.
Additionally, in one of the reports, the owner states that KIA only recognized the rod bearing failure issue in engines with GDI fuel injection, not MPI fuel-injected engines. How the fuel injection system is connected to premature rod bearing wear remains unclear.
A new engine is quoted anywhere from 4500$ to 7000$, which is more than many can afford to spend on their vehicle. Aside from that, one example of how this can be a safety hazard is found in NHTSA report ID 10990656, where a terrified owner describes his experience with his engine seizing while driving at the speed of 60 miles per hour.
Post-Engine Replacement Recall (High-Pressure Fuel Pipe Leak)
Owners who replaced their engines due to the premature rod bearing failure we just described were soon met with another engine recall. Kia Motors America recalled the 2011-2018 year Sportage due to the possibility of fuel leaks on the high-pressure fuel pipe connection at the fuel pump.
These fuel leaks resulted from damage, improper torque, or misalignment, which occurred as the vehicle went through an engine replacement. The possibility of a fuel leak highly increases the risk of fire. The recall was filed under the NHTSA Campaign Number: 18V907000 and Kia recall number SC172.
Also read: Types Of Gas A Kia Sportage Takes (All Generations)
Oil Pan Leaks And Recall
Unfortunately, that was not the last of the engine-related recalls. NHTSA Campaign Number 19V101000, or Kia recall number SC174, addressed the issue of a potential loss of engine oil that could result in engine damage. More specifically, this recall addressed the faulty oil pan and oil pan gasket that was prone to leaking engine oil due to a defective design. This issue affected the 2011 and 2012 model years of the Kia Sportage.
As with the SC147 recall, more vehicles were affected than Kia would like to admit. In an NHTSA complaint (ID number 11246420), the owner of the car stated: “Kia currently has a recall (SC147) on 2011 Kia Sportages where the oil pan gasket leaks and can cause an engine fire. My vehicle was diagnosed with the same issue as the recall; however, my VIN doesn’t appear on the recall list”.
Knocking Sound Of The Engine
We have already mentioned the numerous reports of Kia Sportage that were affected by the engine failure issue. We have also found many NHTSA complaints saying knocking sounds from the engine.
Based on our research, the knocking sound is a precursor for future engine failure (not in all cases). However, if the knocking comes from prematurely worn-out rod bearings or slack of the timing chain, it is essential to act immediately, as both of these issues can lead to complete engine failure.
Engine Fire Occurrences
Seeing how two previous recalls posed a potential fire hazard, it is unsurprising to see reports of engine fire instances. In an NHTSE complaint (ID number 11098876), the owner of a supposedly well-maintained Kia Sportage with 87,942 miles faced a sudden engine failure and fire.
If you are in the market for a Kia Sportage, do a VIN checkup to see if all the recalls have been taken care of on the vehicle of your choice.
2. Stop Lamp Switch Failures Prevent The Car From Starting And Switching From Park
While it may not seem like an essential component of a car, a stop lamp switch (or a stop light switch) is crucial to any modern vehicle. As the stop lamp switch malfunctions, the Kia Sportage experienced several problems.
The first was the improper functioning of the rear brake light, which did not indicate that the driver was breaking. As we continue down the list of problems, the second item is the inability to disengage the cruise control as you interact with the brake pedal.
The third problem resulting from a faulty stop lamp is the inability to shift out of Park on vehicles with automatic transmissions. The transmission of the Sportage did not receive the signal that the driver was applying force to the brake pedal, which caused the car to get stuck in Park.
And lastly, both the start/stop engine button and Kia’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system became inoperable.
At first, Kia only included the 2011 model Sportage in this recall (NHTSA Campaign Number: 13V114000, Kia recall number SC098); however, as it turned out, more models and model years were affected than anticipated. In 2013 Kia extended the recall and included other model years of the Sportage.
Unexplained Gear Lever Lock-Ups
Although, likely, the NHTSA complaints about the occasional and unexplained gear lever lock-ups are connected to an already malfunctioning stop light switch, we do find it necessary to mention the unexplained gear lever lock-ups as they are a potential safety hazard. No further investigation was done on these complaints.
3. Powertrain And Suspension Problems
The most common problem with the Kia Sportage’s powertrain is hesitation upon acceleration. As described by one of the NHTSA complaints, the delayed engagement or hesitation is mainly due to electronic transmission problems. Despite several complaints, no real solution has been revealed. The problems (and their solutions) also seem to be occasional and inconsistent.
Also read: Kia Sportage Transmissions: Overview, Problems, Fluids
Owners with AWD model Kia Sportage do not seem to experience frequent issues; however, we have found instances of problems with the AWD coupling harness failures. Two NHTSA complaints (ID numbers: 11139168 and 11181966) report problems with the AWD system.
The second complaint reports a failed viscous coupling, but judging by our research, these failures are not common. Remember that vehicles that often drive on rough terrain will experience more wear and tear on the AWD system, and we can never be sure of the details of such reports.
Suspension Rattling And Rust
Apart from some isolated reports of weird suspension rattling and a single report about suspension rust, there seem to be no significant issues with Sportage’s suspension. There are also two NHTSA complaints reporting how their car appears to be pulling to either left or right, but there were no follow-up investigations on these cases. This issue might also be related to the steering issues we discuss further on in the article.
4. Various Electrical System Issues
There are 26 NHTSA complaints about the Kia Sportage electrical system. We identified two significant problems, which occur frequently, and several more minor electric problems we consider isolated cases. Those isolated cases include radio and Bluetooth connectivity issues, cruise control problems, and problems connected to malfunctions of the Body Control Module (BCM).
Rear Exterior Lighting Malfunctions
Although we found that rear exterior lighting malfunction might mostly be connected to the faulty stop light switch we described earlier, several NHTSA complaints also mention burned contacts of the rear exterior lighting, intermittent on/off switching of the taillights, and occasional flickering of the tail lights.
Unexplained Engine Shut Down While Driving
We have read at least two reports (NHTSA ID Number: 11019458, 11451274) where owners have had their Kia Sportages spontaneously turn off the engine while driving.
One of the reports was linked to a faulty security system that shut down the engine; however, even more likely, this issue and similar issues (sudden loss of power) are connected to problems with the Engine Control Module (ECM). These issues can be easily diagnosed with official diagnostic tools.
5. Same Potential Issues With The Airbags As On The Kia Sorento
In 2016, Kia introduced an extended airbag clock spring assembly warranty for the 2011-2015 model years of the Kia Sorento. Even though the Kia Sportage was not included in this recall, three NHTSA complaints (ID numbers: 11169940, 11427038, 11082148) have pointed out the same issues on the Sportage model. One of the complaints was filed after an accident in which the driver’s airbag did not deploy when it had to.
6. The Sportage Is Hard To Keep On Track
If you search the internet for the Kia Sportage steering problems, you will quickly find multiple complaints about the steering on the 2011 Sportage. Several confirmed NHTSE complaints (ID number: 10398322, 10425567, 10430329) have shown that this vehicle needs to constantly be corrected to make it go in a straight line.
Additionally, two of the complaints mentioned also point out the fact that steering seems to be inconsistent. At times, it feels stiff and unresponsive, and on other occasions, it feels too sensitive to every slight adjustment.
7. Sun Roof Shattering
If you are just a little confused with the title of this problem, let us show you some quotes from NHTSA owner’s complaints (ID numbers: 11080855, 11035232):
“While driving 60 mph, the sunroof exploded without warning. There were no injuries.” another service center posted: “While the contact’s wife was driving 45 mph on the expressway, the sunroof fractured.”
Shockingly enough, those were not the only reported cases of such occurrences. The problem, however, was never addressed by Kia. Replacing the sunroof is neither cheap nor is it simple. We recommend examining the state of the sunroof if you are ever in the market for a Kia Sportage with a sunroof.
He is the founder and owner of LifeOnFour.co, where he focuses on transmission-related articles. Furthermore, he finished a 4-year program to be an auto mechanic at the Technical Education Centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and worked for six years as a floor manager of a transmission specialist repair shop in Nova Gorica, Slovenia.