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Kia Sorento Problems | Common Issues & Which Years Are Worst

The Kia Sorento debuted in the mid-size crossover SUV market in 2003. Over the years, the Sorento has gone through many changes, from different styling to new features. As with most vehicles in production for many years, the Sorento has had a few problems. Some model years of the Sorento had quite a few problems, while the newer models tend to have fewer issues. We’ll discuss some of the most common problems with the Sorento and tell you which years to avoid. If you are considering purchasing a Kia Sorento, you will definitely want to read this first. Let’s dive in!

Most Common Kia Sorento Problems

Car problems are never fun, but some are much worse than others. Unfortunately for many Kia Sorento owners, the problems they have experienced are sometimes major. Some of the problems have led to recalls to address the issue. Here are the most common problems reported with the Sorento.

— Engine Problems

One of the most common complaints from Kia Sorento owners is a problem with their engine. And we’re not just talking about a minor problem either. Many owners have experienced total engine failure — some with as few as 50,000 miles on their vehicles. Model years 2011 through 2017 are the ones most affected by this issue. Owners of the 2011 model have reported strange noises coming from the engine as well as sudden stalling or failure of the engine. The strange noises reported from the engine were often the result of a bad timing chain tensioner. Owners may also see their check engine light illuminate.

The problem only got worse in 2012, and Kia issued a recall for a bearing problem inside the engine that could cause catastrophic failure. Kia Sorento engine problems seem to get a little better in the 2013 Sorento models, but they did not go away. In fact, you need to go all the way to 2018 before you see a significant decrease in complaints about engine failure and engine problems.

— Faulty Head Gasket

The head gasket on your vehicle plays a vital role in keeping the cylinder heads sealed to the engine block. It also keeps your engine oil and coolant from mixing together. When these two fluids mix, you can suffer serious damage to your engine. Some year models of the Sorento experience head gasket failures that allow the engine oil and coolant to mix. Once you have a blown head gasket and this mixture happens, you will have major engine issues. The oil can no longer lubricate the crankshaft and other moving parts, and your engine will likely fail quickly.

— Door Handles That Don’t Work

Imagine pulling your door handle but being unable to open the door. That’s exactly what the owners of some Kia Sorento models have experienced. This door handle issue is one of the most common problems reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Sorento models. The 2011 model and others have problems with the door handles that prevent the doors from being opened from the outside. In some cases, drivers reported that they had to open the passenger door and crawl across to the driver’s side of the car to get inside. Owners who use child-safety locks have even bigger problems when they cannot open the doors from the outside. If your vehicle is no longer under warranty, you can expect to pay about $500 for the repair of the handle.

— Transmission Shifting Problems

Not only do 2011 through 2017 Sorento models have engine problems, but there are also numerous transmission problems reported in those vehicles. Owners often report an extreme jerking of the vehicle when the transmission attempts to shift gears. Some report that the vehicle will not start because of the transmission problem. This problem will need to be corrected, but transmission repair costs aren’t cheap. Some owners have received repair bills from their Kia Motors dealership for over $10,000 to repair the transmission.

— Electrical System Issues

Electrical issues are another problem reported by some Kia Sorento owners. These problems seem to vary, and there is no singular cause for these problems. Some of the issues are related to the car’s battery, with some owners reporting that the battery would die if the car sat unused for several days. In other situations, a faulty crankshaft pulley bolt could cause problems with the alternator and prevent the battery from charging. The problem with the crankshaft pulley was so bad that a class-action lawsuit was filed against Kia. Owners could get nearly $5,000 from the company for repairs as a result of the lawsuit if they filed their claim within the proper time frame.

In addition to battery or charging issues, some owners experience random problems with electrical components. Many owners report that the power door locks will not function properly. These electrical problems seem to span a wide range of year models, occurring in nearly every model from 2004 to 2016.

— A/C Compressor Not Working

Not having an air conditioner in the summertime can be a huge problem, especially in some areas of the country. Faulty A/C compressor clutches were a common issue on nearly all Sorento models through 2009. When the clutch fails, the owner usually hears a high-pitched whining noise or a loud rumble. The telltale sign is when the A/C will no longer blow cold air. Unfortunately, the fix for the problem requires the replacement of the A/C compressor. This can cost you several hundred dollars. If you plan to buy a used Kia Sorento, make sure that the A/C is working properly before you make a deal.

Overall Kia Sorento Reliability

So, is the Kia Sorento a good car? Based on the number of consumer reports of problems with their Sorento, the vehicle gets an average score for overall reliability. While the vehicle does not perform as well in reliability score as the Toyota RAV4 or Highlander, it does outperform its competitors from Hyundai.

The first and second-generation models of the Sorento were riddled with problems. Engine issues, transmission problems, door handle problems, and others plagued the early years of the Sorento. However, Kia seems to have addressed most of the major issues in the later models. If you are in the market for a new car, a new Sorento might be the way to go. Very few problems have been reported about the Sorento in recent years. If you plan to buy one of these vehicles, you should look for one produced in the last five years. You are much less likely to experience major problems from a newer Sorento.

Kia Sorento Model Years With The Most Issues

Some ask, “What are the Kia Sorento years to avoid?” Many agree that the 2012 Sorento model was the worst one ever produced. The 2012 model had the worst engine problems of any Sorento. Complete engine failure was common, and total engine replacement was often the only solution. The 2011 and 2013 models had almost as many engine problems as 2012. All three of these year models should be avoided, and you are bound to experience problems if you purchase a Sorento made in one of these years.

Unfortunately, the engine issues did not really go away until 2018. The 2016 and 2017 models saw head gasket problems that allowed the coolant and engine oil to mix. In addition, the 2016 and 2017 models saw new problems arise, such as seatbelt issues in the rear seats. Overall, potential buyers should avoid the early generations of the Sorento. If you plan to purchase a Sorento model, you should look for a 2018 or newer vehicle.

Cost To Repair Common Problems On Your Kia Sorento

If you are the unlucky owner of a Sorento model that has some of these problems, you might be wondering how much it will cost you for the repair. The answer depends on which problem you experience. Here is how much it will cost you for some of the most common fixes.

Door handle problems were a common issue in many Sorento models, and the cost to fix that problem usually runs about $500. Likewise, the replacement of the A/C compressor typically costs about $500 to fix. If you have engine or transmission problems, the cost is likely to be much higher.

Engine replacement in your Sorento is likely to cost over $5,000 in most cases. In some situations, an engine rebuild could be more cost-effective. Engine rebuild costs usually run at least $3,000 on these vehicles. If your head gasket fails without doing any major damage, your bill will be cheaper. Head gasket repair costs are usually only about $1,500. Replacement of the transmission will cost at least $4,000. The cost will be even more for AWD models. Some customers have stated that their bill for the transmission repair was over $10,000.

The Bottom Line

The Kia Sorento crossover SUV has average reliability scores, although some models of the Sorento experience catastrophic engine and transmission failures. The Sorento scores higher in reliability than competitors from Nissan, although they do not score as high as the Honda Pilot. The early years of the Sorento had many more problems than in recent years. You should avoid any year models prior to 2018, but you are likely to have a good experience if you purchase a newer Sorento.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Kia Sorentos have transmission problems?

Some Kia Sorento models do have transmission problems. The most common transmission issue reported by owners is a jerking of the vehicle when the transmission shifts. This problem was present in many 2011 and 2012 models, and the problem often got so bad that the vehicle would not start. The most likely fix for the issue is a total replacement of the transmission. Unfortunately, this repair is likely to cost you over $4,000.

How long do Kia Sorentos last?

Kia Sorentos can last for many years, but their reliability is highly dependent upon the year model and how well you perform maintenance. Newer Sorento models that are properly maintained can last well over 100,000 miles. Early models of the Sorento often experience engine failure — some as early as 50,000 miles. However, those engine problems seem to be completely fixed in the newer models.

What should I do if my Kia Sorento has problems?

If your Sorento has problems, you can first check with your dealership to determine whether there are any open recalls for the vehicle. A recall might allow you to have the car repaired at no cost. If there are no recalls, you will need to decide whether the cost to fix the issue is worth it. You might choose to get a new car instead of spending thousands of dollars to repair an older car. Your dealership or local repair shop can give you a repair estimate so that you can make an informed decision on how to proceed.

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