Kia Forte Engine Failure – Tick, Tock

Do you drive a 2010-2013 Kia Forte (or one of the other vehicles I list later on)? Does your engine tick and click? Sound like it’s failing or out of oil? Maybe you’ve even been outright told by a mechanic that you need a new engine?

You aren’t alone, you don’t have a “dud”, or bad luck, but are part of a problem that Kia and Hyundai have with this engine, but are not choosing to acknowledge in the Forte!

My Story:

For about a month, my 2012 Kia Forte had a casual engine tick. We were also having -20C and below temperatures where I live, so I wrote it off as just needing more time to warm up. But it didn’t go away – it got worse. I took it into the dealer right away (for some background: the car has had zero mechanical problems, is mere months off warranty, and has always been dealer serviced, on time.).

I sat in the waiting room at the dealer while they did their diagnosis, and had a sinking feeling when the maintenance manager, not the front desk staff, called me into his office to talk. “You need a new engine“, he said. I was in shock. It was suspected wrist pin failure in the bottom end of the engine. He could source me a “similar mileage” engine and install it for $5-6k (Canadian). That was the “we’ll help you out as a loyal customer” price, too.

Never being faced with such a fast, large financial decision, I needed an evening for this to sink in and to talk to others with more vehicle experience than myself. My next step was asking the maintenance manager something I realized on my drive home: why didn’t he offer to stand behind me and get Kia to help here? I’m months off warranty, his dealer has been the only ones to touch it, and somehow they think it’s appropriate that the first service I ever need to do out of pocket on it is a new engine? Everyone I talked to agreed: Kia should step in here. Off warranty or not, this isn’t a “little” problem.

Some Light Reading:

I like reading and researching, and the questions were starting. Was this a common problem? Was it something I did? (for reference, I drive and treat the car like an old lady). Has Kia stood behind people out of warranty before with failing engines?

I was in for an eye opener.

The 2012 Forte uses Hyundai and Kia’s “Theta II” engine. The Theta II has history.

Hyundai and Kia have recalled this engine in most of the premium priced vehicles (1.2 million vehicles, to be exact) that it was used in. Why was it recalled? The engines could have catastrophic failure due to a manufacturing process issue.

Why wasn’t it recalled in ALL the vehicles that used it? Kia and Hyundai have their excuses, but my own guess is that they simply didn’t care about the people who bought the “cheaper priced” vehicles and wanted to focus only on the premium models (most of which were high 25k++ price tags). Even then, for me at the time, I had just started my career, had a perfectly good (but old) “first car” and wanted to treat myself to something new and shiny, a reward for all my hard work, so I spend over $22,000CDN on this car with a huge down payment too. This may be a cheap car in comparison to more expensive cars, but by no means is that kind of money cheap to me. I’m now a home owner, just got married, and a major investment or entirely new vehicle should not have to be on my plate – I bought this Kia with plans to drive it for 10-15 years before I wanted to see car payments again (this would give us time to focus on house renos and starting a family, without the burden of more payments in life).

Excuses aside: this IS NOT an issue that the Forte isn’t prone to. Some google searching shows endless amounts of Forte drivers who are on their second engine. Some their third. One even his FOURTH!

Check this out:

This is a group for the issue based mostly out of Quebec, Canada (sorry for the language barrier – you can use the translate feature on Facebook to read). This group has nearly 3000 people, most of which are in one province alone, all have the issue. Many have had catastrophic failure already, and the rest of us still drive our car every day wondering what will happen first: engine failure and a possible crash, or Kia stepping up to the plate?

I now had negotiating power. Kia was replacing lots of these Forte engines out of warranty, and some of those drivers have over 150,000km on them. My car, by comparison, has only 87,000km. I demand equal treatment at this point.

I also had a leaked dealer memo, specific to the Forte, about engine damage and scratching that needs engine replacement to fix (aka – the same problem as all the recall in all the other cars for this engine!).

The Danger:

Kia is well aware of this problem. Dealer memos, pro-Bono replacements, and in some cases even signed documents with customers agreeing to “split the cost” with them if they hush up about it (I found this out from their “friend”, of course). Sometimes you’ll have advance warning that the engine is on it’s way out, like the engine knock/rattle noise that’s common with this failure, and other times it will just go. You’ll be driving along the highway, car has been running great, and next thing you know your engine is ceased up. Do you feel safe driving your Forte now? What about having your family in your Forte?

The Call To Action:

Kia needs to step up the plate here. There’s no lack of evidence that the Theta II engine failure problem is limited to just the models recalled. Kia and Hyundai likely didn’t want to deal with the fallout of recalling even more than 1.2 million vehicles and started with only the higher value ones. Forte owners are potentially driving time bombs, and this causes a safety issue not only to them and their families, but to anyone who may be around them on the roadway or highway when the problem strikes.

If you’ve had this happen already, or are facing the problem right now, then reach out to the government vehicle safety boards that can help pressure Kia to fix this. In Canada, you can file a vehicle safety defect report with Transport Canada, and in the USA the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will take your complaint. I urge you to do this even if you’ve already had the problem fixed – this will help gain momentum on the issue which could help others, or help a recall be put in place some day.

If you’re on Twitter, the #FixMyForte hashtag has a few Canadian users starting to get behind it who tweet at Kia about their Forte engine replacement issues.

You can also join the Facebook group I mentioned earlier (there are some English speakers there too, don’t be afraid to post!).

The Facebook group above has also started a Class Action Lawsuit that Canadians can get their name in the hat to be a part of too.

And of course, keep the pressure on Kia (call, email, write, Facebook, Twitter – anywhere you can get them to see it).

My Wait.

After a lot of pressure, and threats of bringing media and lawsuit cover into Ontario from Quebec (where it seems to have the most coverage right now), Kia Canada finally offered to replace my engine for free at the end of January. It’s now April 2nd and I’m still “in line” for my engine because the demand for Forte engines has exceeded the supply by many, many, months.

Still think there isn’t a problem, Kia?

Update June 22 2018 – Last month an update was published at this link where I detail all the problems throughout the entire engine swap process, and how Kia still showed me how little they cared right until the very end. I now drive a new Toyota.