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Your Kia may need a major engine replacement - free of charge

Drivers have been lining up at Kia dealerships to have a major component swapped out.

DALLAS — It helps to know a really good mechanic. 

A relative of mine recently needed to have her vehicle seriously repaired and went to one such mechanic, who said he wasn’t going to perform the several thousand-dollar fix that it needed because she could get it done for free. 

And you might be able to, as well, and not know it.

This specifically involves certain Kia vehicles. You’ve probably heard about a recent Kia recall because of potential engine compartment fires — this is not that. 

This voluntary campaign initially involved far more vehicles. Originally, in 2018, Kia started the product improvement campaign (PI 1803) for 624,460 Sorento, Sportage, and Optima models for certain years that needed a software update to protect their engines. 

Kia says consumers should look out for vibrations in these models, “(which can lead to engine knocking noises) can indicate the onset of excessive connecting rod bearing wear in the engine. The purpose of the campaign is for sensors to detect progressive conrod bearing wear before vibrations become noticeable to the driver."

The automaker adds that, “Kia also voluntarily provided lifetime warranty coverage to both new and used vehicle owners for engine long block assembly repairs needed due to excessive connecting rod bearing damage if they had the Product Improvement Campaign completed.”

So, this latest fix after the original fix addresses vehicles that had the prior service done, but my now need engine long block assembly repairs. 

You may have known you needed the second fix if you or your mechanic detected a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) P1326 (Knock Signal Range/Performance).

If you have to take your vehicle back in for the second fix, you may be in for a wait. 

Kia couldn’t provide wait times or estimates of how many vehicles are waiting to be assessed or repaired in this program, but acknowledged, “Challenges with employee staffing levels and parts supply is not unique to Kia or automotive dealerships in general as widely reported in the U.S. media.”

Anecdotally, many people have apparently been in search of the second fix. 

Earlier this year, the person I know contacted a Dallas-area Kia dealer to see if they could assess her vehicle and repair it. She was advised that she would need to drop the vehicle off, possibly for several weeks before they could look at it because there were about 40 others in for the same thing in front of hers. 

She was also told it is a similar situation at other Kia dealerships nearby.  

She waited several weeks for Kia to determine whether her vehicle qualified to have a re-manufactured engine put in free of charge (Kia says the replacement engines are primarily re-manufactured). 

Kia determined her vehicle was eligible, but there was a further wait for several more weeks as they ordered the engine and swapped it out. 

During this stage, though, Kia does offer rental car reimbursement. You may have to be crafty with the rental. Kia will cover up to $40 dollars per day, which may have been adequate in more normal times. 

But rental car rates have skyrocketed in the pandemic.

If you had a mechanic who didn’t tell you that you might be eligible for a free replacement or repair and you already paid out of your own pocket to fix a vehicle that was having this issue, you may be due a reimbursement from Kia.

“Consumers who have submitted valid claims for engine repair prior to August 9, 2021 have been reimbursed for their repair expenses," the company said. "For repairs after that date, Kia will review them on a case by case basis to determine whether reimbursement will be made based upon their unique circumstances.”