Problems with a KIA Rio Car

by Dennis Hartman
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Hamish Blair/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The Rio is a subcompact car produced since 2000 by South Korean automaker Kia. The Rio was redesigned for the 2005 model year and in 2009 it is offered as a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback. Kia specializes in low-priced automobiles, and the Rio is an entry-level model. It has been known to experience certain common problems owners and potential buyers should be aware of.

Engine Problems

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Some of the most common problems with the Kia Rio involve the vehicle's four-cylinder engine. Many different engine problems have been noted, including engines that are difficult to start or stall intermittently, broken timing belts and rough idling. Some drivers have also had to replace the spark plugs and spark plug wiring after a short time to deal with these (or similar) engine problems. In most cases, engine problems are covered under a new vehicle's powertrain warranty, but on an older, used Rios, they can be costly repairs.

Electrical Problems

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Another common type of problem with the Rio involves the electrical system or power accessories. Faulty wiring has been known to lead to brake lights that fail to illuminate, as well as headlights that stay on even when the car has been turned off. Other problems--including malfunctioning dashboard gauges and power accessories like windows and door locks that fail to operate properly--can be difficult to diagnose. This is because they may be a symptom of several different problems, including a blown fuse, a faulty battery, a broken motor or bad wiring.


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The Rio has been the subject of several recalls by Kia to deal with known issues affecting various vehicle systems. In 2005, Kia recalled 24,000 vehicles to replace wheels that had been improperly manufactured and were subject to cracking after being driven long distances. In 2004, the Rio was involved in a recall of more than 187,000 vehicles, which was enacted to deal with faulty fuel distributors that were susceptible to cracking and causing a fuel leak. Some 57,000 vehicles were recalled in 2003 to fix fuel distributors that were afflicted by an unrelated problem.

Safety Recalls

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The Rio has also been recalled because of specific problems affecting the vehicle's safety systems. One 2006 recall was intended to deal with a problem involving seat belt assemblies that could fail to secure a child seat in the event of a crash. This recall included more than 32,000 cars. In 2005, a separate recall of more than 90,000 vehicles resulted from a failure to meet federal safety standards for the mechanism that anchors a child seat in place.

General Problems

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Another group of problems with the Kia Rio are general shortcomings noted by drivers and automotive critics. The first generation Rio was known for its low-quality materials and the cheap appearance and feel of the interior. The suspension and ride quality were also criticized on early Rio models, but were improved when the car was redesigned. The Rio's engine has also been the subject of several complaints for its lack of power and excessive levels of noise.

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