By Bob Dowie
Import Specialist Contributor
Kia Motors has found its place in the market by offering a good, dependable car at a reasonable price point. With a strong dealer network and model line, there’s no reason to think they won’t enjoy continued consumer support. That’s good news for import shops these are good cars that should be a welcomed sight in the bays of any shop.
Kia provides strong support for the aftermarket shop as evidenced by the no-cost access to factory service information at www.kiatechinfo.com. We’ve often talked about Internet access in the shop, but now we’re to the point that it’s as necessary as a 10mm wrench. It just doesn’t make sense not to have easy access to the information available on the Net.
In this article, we’ll be looking at brake service on a 2002 Kia Sportage. And, within the Kia site, you’ll find everything from the theory and operation of the brake system, to the specs and information needed to make an accurate diagnosis.
Let’s get to work on the Kia brakes. The first step in any job is to establish why the customer thinks the brakes need to be serviced. The most common complaint we’ll hear is a heavy metal-to-metal grinding sound when braking, indicating that one or more of the pads are worn to the backing plate. But it’s the more obscure problems that require some specific questions. For me, the most important question is, “Will the tech experience the problem on a road test?” If the answer is not “yes,” get as much detail as you can about when the problem occurs.
An occasional long pedal could be a master cylinder bleeding down, which usually happens in a stop-and-go or a downhill situation where the brakes are being used. Or, it could also be the fluid heating after a run on the interstate, making the pedal fade as a result of the brakes binding. Knowing when the problem happens will not only save you some time, but it will certainly help you avoid a misdiagnosis.
In our case, we’re looking at a grinding problem that usually leads to a routine pad and rotor replacement. While we’re always glad to have the work, if I get that call from a regular customer, my next stop is the customer history to see if we made note of the brake condition when the car was last in for service. I do this for a good reason: We sell our customers on preventive maintenance with the idea that together we can help prevent surprises by keeping an eye on wear items and anticipating services needed.
If the car was on the lift recently and there was no notation that the pads were getting close, it can only mean a couple of things: The vehicle had a failure that caused excessive brake wear, or the worn brake pads weren’t noted at the last service. If they weren’t noted and all the pads are worn, it’s time to remind the tech that our clients rely on us to keep an eye on the overall condition of their car that was the deal we made. Bring us your car and we’ll take care of it to the best of our ability. In my mind, that includes catching anticipated, necessary services.
The more likely scenario is a caliper or hardware issue that caused unexpected wear. With the 2002 Sportage on the lift, it’s obvious that we have a problem with a right front brake that is showing more wear than the others.
Now before we jump to the conclusion that we have a frozen caliper, take a couple of minutes to confirm the diagnosis and look at the rest of the system so we can give the customer an accurate estimate and get all the parts we need in one call. The nuts and bolts of brake replacement are familiar to us all, but it never hurts to review the basics.
The first step is to confirm why the right front went metal-to-metal. While our first thought might be the caliper, we have to keep in mind that there was no customer-reported odor or vibration after an extended interstate run, that we would expect with a locked-up caliper. And, we know the rotor will be showing signs of overheating as a result of that wheel dragging or being asked to do more than its share of the work.
The first step is to push the caliper pistons back but, before you do, attach your bleed bottle and open the bleeders so you’re not pushing the most contaminated fluid back up through the dirt-sensitive ABS unit.
You’re going to be bleeding and flushing the system anyway as part of the service, so you might as well get rid of that used up fluid from the calipers right away.
With the bleeders open, the pistons should return with little effort; if not, consider a pair of replacement calipers. If the problem doesn’t appear to be the calipers, check for the pads sticking in the caliper brackets, and don’t overlook the slider pins as a source of binding. We have to keep in mind how important smooth mechanical operation is to the braking system. In the case of our Sportage, we’re looking at the result of the brake not releasing well. Remember that we have more than 1,000 psi applying the brakes, and we’re relying only on caliper piston seals and mechanical condition to release them.
Don’t forget about mechanical operation when faced with some of the other common complaints we hear with brakes. Everything from a long pedal stroke, to a good pedal that just doesn’t stop well, can be traced back to the same mechanical issues we’re looking at with the Sportage.
SOURCES OF UNEVEN WEAR
With the calipers off the brackets, we continue to look for issues that could be causing our uneven wear problem. If the caliper pistons moved freely and the boots are in good shape, turn your attention to the sliders and pad movement. If you find nothing dragging on the worn side, double-check the other wheels for binding that’s preventing that caliper from doing its fair share of the work. Usually pad wear patterns will indicate this kind of problem.
We can and should prevent these problems by using good work habits when we’re performing any brake service. When you’re replacing friction material, take the time to clean and protect the surfaces of the caliper bracket where the pads contact. Be sure to remove the anti-rattle hardware to get rid of any rust that may build up under these parts. Remove, clean and lubricate the sliders, ensuring a good, solid brake pedal, as well as an ABS system that will function as designed.
Our Sportage is getting rotors because of the scoring, but probably would have gotten them with a routine pad change at this point. With plenty of rust and corrosion on the non-friction area of the rotor, it just doesn’t make sense to risk a noise or vibration comeback.
Kia rotors are not captured behind the hubs, making replacement simple. But like everything else we’ve talked about, take the time to clean up the hub so you’re not risking knocking that new rotor out of true.
One thing we haven’t talked about is a hydraulic problem that could lead to excessive wear. While certainly not a common problem on Kias, it’s possible that you could encounter a situation where there is pressure in the line when the pedal isn’t depressed. This could be caused by too little clearance in the master cylinder push rod, but this problem usually shows up only after the vehicle is driven and the brake fluid heats up.
Or you could have a brake hose with an internal failure that is acting like a one-way valve holding pressure at the caliper. Any of these problems are easy to diagnose if they can be duplicated; opening the bleeder valve will release any pressure in the caliper. To confirm the hydraulic system is the problem and to help pinpoint where the problem is, firmly apply the brakes and release them to put pressure in the system and work backward from the caliper, loosening connections to find the restriction.
I’m sure you’re going to inspect the rear brakes before the estimate is written. Again, be sure everything is operating freely. Don’t overlook the rear wheel cylinders for smooth operation that’s critical, just like on the front. If the shoes are good, there’s no reason to disassemble, but push on the pistons to be sure the cylinders aren’t frozen. If the shoes are worn, don’t forget those good work habits and be sure to free up and lube the contact areas of the backing plate, as well as all the adjustment and handbrake hardware.
The Kia ABS has proven to be very reliable, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never see an ABS lamp lit. On earlier Kia models, codes can be accessed by jumping the test connector that you’ll find under the hood near the brake booster. Codes will be flashed out on the ABS light in the familiar long- and short-system with the long flashes representing tens and the short flashes calling out the ones. You’ll get a 12 code as a start code that doesn’t indicate any fault. Use your service info system or www.kiatechinfo.com to get code definitions.
As we have come to expect, a common problem we’ll see is speed sensor issues. And, like everything else, good work habits will pay dividends. When replacing a speed sensor, be sure to clean the housing well to avoid damaging the new sensor when it’s installed, and to maintain proper spacing between the sensor and the hub-mounted reluctor.
DTCs can be cleared using the brake pedal when the ABS control module is in self-diagnosis function. If the brake pedal is depressed six times in three seconds while in code flash-out mode, the codes are cleared.
On later models, you’ll need an enhanced scanner to access codes, which will also give you all the information you need to confirm your diagnosis and repair. There are plenty of options available that will handle this job and more.
If your shop is still getting by without a scanner that will give you the enhanced access needed to accurately diagnose these systems, like Internet access, you just can’t get along without it any longer. Kia, like several other carmakers, is now incorporating vehicle stability systems integrated with the ABS and engine control systems. We have to be prepared to deal with these systems as they find their way to our bays, otherwise we’ll find ourselves not able to perform the services our customers need. That’s a no-win situation for all.
So, in addition to acquiring the proper tools, equipment and high-quality parts, arm yourself with good technical information and you’ll be able to provide your Kia customers with the top-notch repair and service they’ve come to expect from your shop. Now, that’s a “win-win” situation you don’t want to pass up.