Fun with the Project Kia

So, I had to change the timing belt on my car, a 2009 Kia Spectra. As the video above shows, there are a lot of steps involved because of the other things you have to remove to get access to the belt. I was also somewhat intimidated by the task because the last time I replaced the timing belt on an engine, in my old Mitsubishi Eclipse, I was on a very tight budget and didn’t replace the tensioner (the manual said doing so was optional). Result was the belt slipped and destroyed the engine. (Interference engine) The Kia also has an interference engine so it was with great trepidation that I began the task.

The video above is very good and I followed it almost exactly. There were just a couple of glitches along the way.

First, before starting I removed the spark plugs. This makes it much easier to rotate the crankshaft to align timing marks. It also helps at the end of the process to turn the engine over and make sure everything is working smoothly.

In my car the crankshaft pully/harmonic balancer was frozen fast. I had to get and use a harmonic balancer puller to remove it.

I did not remove the bracket between the engine block and the AC compressor. I was able to finesse the lower timing belt cover off without doing so.

At the end of the process, mindful of the problems I’d had in the past, once I got the new belt, tensioner, and idler pully on, I carefully turned the crankshaft through two full revolutions, checking to make sure there was no interference.

I took the opportunity, while I was elbow deep in engine, to replace the accessory drive belts and go ahead and do an oil and filter change.

There were a couple of “gotchas” along the way. I already mentioned that crankshaft pully did not come off easily requiring a puller. When using a jack under the engine, remember that the oil pan is made of aluminum. Use a piece of wood to spread out the force so you don’t crimp and potentially damage it. When you reinstall the passenger side motor mount bracket you may find that the holes in the mount don’t line up with the bolts. The trick there is finding just how high to jack up the motor so you can get them at least somewhat lined up, the lower the motor so the mount bracket slides into place.

Once the work was done, I test drove the car and there were…problems. The timing belt appeared to be fine (sigh of relief, given past history). However, when I was driving the car taking my daughter to work, I heard an unusual clatter from the engine compartment. The sound was a kind of metallic gurgling. At first I thought it was just air in the cooling passages (from replacing the water pump, relatively standard to do along with the timing belt on this engine) and that it would settle as the coolant worked its way through the passages and the air got pushed out. Indeed, that seemed to be the case as the sound soon faded.

On the way back home from taking my daughter to work the sound comes back along with an electrical system warning. At the same time, the steering got heavy. I was able to baby it home and pop the hood to find that the alternator belt had jumped its track. It was a mess, half its width stripped away and, of course, not turning alternator and water pump (which meant power steering wasn’t being driven either). In this engine, one belt off the harmonic balancer turns the alternator and water pump. A belt off the water pump turns the power steering pump, so losing the alternator belt meant losing all three of those things.

I replaced the alternator pump with the one I’d pulled off it when changing the timing belt. It still looked in good shape. While doing so, I noticed that the AC belt (also run off the harmonic balancer) was missing. So, alternator hooked up, I headed out to the parts store to get replacement belts. I figured I either didn’t have one or both of the two properly set on their pullies or I didn’t have them properly tensioned causing one to jump, taking out the other. The power steering belt (run off the water pump) looked fine–just hadn’t been running once the alternator belt went. I got the new belts, got home, and looked at installing them and…

The tensioner idler pully for the AC was gone. Not there. Completely missing. The bracket was empty.

Now, I had torqued that thing to spec when I buttoned things up after the timing belt installation. I have two torque wrenches–a bigger one for foot-lbs and a smaller one for in-lbs–and I use them.

My best guess, is that the idler, like many things on this car, was old and was on its last legs. Even though torqued to spec, it failed causing the AC belt to go. And the AC belt, being adjacent to the alternator and water pump belt, took that out with the results described above.

So for the time being I’m stuck with running without an AC belt in place. I’ve ordered a new idler/tensioner pully for the AC belt from Amazon. For the part I’ve ordered, someone, not the vendor, in a ‘”question” about the thing said that it wouldn’t fit this generation Spectra but the description specifically says it will fit that generation Hundai Elantra. Since the Spectra is basically a rebadged and re-trimmed Elantra, built on the same Hyundai-Kia J3 platform, with the exact same engine, I’m guessing the answerer is wrong on that matter.

In any case, fingers crossed. If it’s wrong, I’m not out a lot.

So, in the meantime, no AC, but otherwise things are running fine. Engine runs smoothly with no indications of any problems. I know that nothing here should actually alter the performance of the car but for some reason the car always seems…happier after maintenance work is done.

Yes, I know, “pathetic fallacy.” Deal. 😉

3 thoughts on “Fun with the Project Kia”

  1. Aside from the “fun” you had doing it yourself, how would the economics have compared if you had had a professional do it?


    1. I’ve seen it listed as an $800-1000 job with all the stuff that has to be removed to get access. Took me about 6 hours. Timing belt kit (with water pump, tensioner, and idler pulley) cost $89.30 (Amazon Prime). Accessory drive belt set cost $30.95 (not prime but free shipping). Puller cost $37.07 (also Amazon Prime). The replacement AC tension pulley was $21.99 (I do love me some Amazon Prime). And the replacements for the belts that were eaten with the tension pulley went, $38.48 with tax at the local Autozone (spent more because wanted to install same day; this was before I knew the pulley had disappeared).

      The pulley is supposed to be delivered today so I’ll get it on either today or tomorrow.


      1. Congratulations, then; aside from the fun, you saved quite a bit of money . . . assuming, of course, that it all works and keeps working after all re-assembled. I salute your DIY attitude and skills.


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