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Kia Spectra/Spectra5 Transmission Questions

spectramanspectraman Posts: 255

If anyone with a 2004.5/2005 Spectra experiences any shifting issues
with their transmission (esp, from 2nd to 3rd under heavy throttle) there
appears to be a known problem with the transmission's computer/brain.
It has been reported on another KIA Spectra forum that KIA has replaced
the transmission logic module on some poster's cars.

It appears that this problem is fairly rare, but it has been reported
by more than just one person. One person's experience was for the dealer
to reset the transmission's program by unhooking the battery, and then
having the owner run through a slow/medium/fast driving regimen This
helped the person for a short time, but then the problem reoccured. KIA
replaced the transmission's computer and the poster reported that their
car acts completely different... for the better!

My 2004.5 car's AT appears completely fine, so it must be an isolated
issue OR a problem that began after a later programming tweak in later
2005 production (perhaps after some programming adjustments to help
improve the Spectra's gas mileage???)

The 2006 model supposedly is getting a whole new transmission design,
so time will tell how well it works out.

So, if any of you experience any problems with your AT be sure to tell
your dealership that KIA's aware of the problem. There may even be a
TSB for this in KIA's warranty/repair computer system.


  • po4upo4u Posts: 1
    I have similar problem while press throttle hard,
    I seems that car is locked. I need to release throttle and then press gentlely.
  • natta1natta1 Posts: 11
    I was shocked to see your posting about the problem I have been having with my 2004.5 automatic transmission. It's exactly as you describe except it has happened once going from third to fourth gear as I was trying to merge onto an interstate. When I figured out that I would have to wait on another vehicle and reduced the throttle (just before it was going to up-shift) the RPM surged then reduced. It shocked me at the time and the more I think about it, if the roads would have been slick I could have had trouble maintaining control. I took the car to a dealer and they test drove it around the block and could not duplicate the problem. The mechanic told me that I was the second person in a week to come in with the same complaint. He told me that Kia is aware of the issue but they are trying to create a fix and figure out how many cars are effected before they distribute a TSB. When asked if they could re-program the tranmission logic or replace the module he said that they were not allowed to do anything prior to Kia identifying what was going on. I can understand this but created a complaint via Kia's website on the issue just in case this somehow falls through the cracks.

    I would have to say that, aside from this issue, the car is absolutely fantastic. I have had no other issues and I have 19,000 miles on it.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,910
    Well, your dealer would have no way to re-program the transmission unless Kia provides them with the new program. At least the dealer admits there is a problem and that Kia is working on it.
  • Natta:

    I've experienced some "gear hunting" (As Car and Driver calls it when they review cars) between 3rd and 4th under full-throttle... esp. if I'm starting to leave up a bit on the gas because I'm coming up on some unexpected slower traffic. The car sort of surges or bucks between the gears for a split second, and ONLY under heavy accleration. After a couple of "hunts" or switch backs, 4th gear then engages and you keep going. This doesn't happen every time either, FYI.

    But I've never had it act so weird that it freaked me out or made me think that something was truly amiss.

    Was this the first time your car did what you described? Did you have any of the "gear hunting" symptoms earlier?

    Can you describe in a bit more detail exactly what happened? When the RPM surged on you, was it still in 3rd? Did the surge cause you to acclerate even though you had lifted your foot off of the throttle?

    My car has 18k miles on it, so it's in the same mileage neighborhood as yours. That's why I'm curious as to whether this is a recent phenomenon in your car or not.

    Can you experiment and see if you can recreate it, and report back here? Yours is the first 2004.5 that I've read is having the problem.


  • natta1natta1 Posts: 11

    I noticed something completely different with the transmission when I first purchased the car. If I did a rolling type stop (yes, I'm guilty) or had to yield and almost came to a stop, the transmission would not down shift and it would sluggishly accelerate unless I really stomped on the gas. I just sort of accepted it as "the way the transmission was designed" and I now anticipate it so it's not that big of a deal. The other problem that I posted has also been going on since the very early days of ownership. I kind of blew it off because it was so intermittent. It's been happening much more frequently now--and it's more exaggerated than it used to be. That's why I was concerned enough to post it. If your transmission has not been doing this by now I would say that you are safe.

    By the way, the surge comes right before it shifts from second to third. Sometimes, if I have to let up on the gas right before it shifts, there will be an uncommanded surge in RPM as it prepares to shift then "relaxes."

    I'm sure that some of what I've described is typical of any automatic transmission (to a certain degree anyway) but this is beyond anything I have ever experience.
  • Natta:

    I know what you mean about the Spectra not downshifting all the way back down to 1st when doing rolling (or complete but brief) stops. It really makes the Spectra seem doggy.

    But... use the manual shift method of pulling the gearshift down to 1 and then shift through the gears manually, and the car scoots right along.

    I suspect that KIA doesn't want the car to always shift down to 1st for some particular reason. Perhaps fuel mileage, emissions, etc.? The Sentra rental I'm driving right now seems to always be in 1st when I stop and take off again. I'm driving the same route, so it's easy to compare the two cars performance-wise.

    I will say this... the Spectra 2.0 in my car is a much quieter and smoother running engine than the 1.8 in the Sentra. The Sentra has a timing chain instead of a belt, so that adds a bit to the noise factor.

  • Thank you for your post. I have also had this 3-4 gear erratic up- and down-shift with RPM surge happen to me often with my 2005 EX automatic. Mine happens mostly under the conditions as you said, going from congested roads on to the highway. I am not a "lead-foot" driver either. I had a similar problem with a VW Eurovan except the opposite where it would act-up on local roads after driving on the highway--brought it back so many times to various VW dealers only to have them tell me they couldn't duplicate it, so therefore it was in my head.

    My Kia transmission also does not like to down-shift when ascending hills, worry to press the gas to get it to downshift. Other than a bad O2 sensor, I have not had any other problems. I really like this car!
  • natta1natta1 Posts: 11

    If you think the issue is worth reporting visit the Kia website and submit a complaint. I believe you can also just call them directly at 1-800-333-4542 and select option number 3 to speak to a representative. They need to get feedback on this issue and they don't always get it from service departments.
  • I also have the shifting problem,when letting up on the throttle,then when i start to give it the gas again,i get like a false neutral(revs up)then engages harshly.
    I was thinking of taking it to the dealer,but wasn't sure if it was a warranty item,being that i'am the second owner of the car. mine is a 2004.5 with 9000 miles.
  • natta1natta1 Posts: 11
    I'm starting to see a pattern here. If you take it to the dealer and they don't experience the problem during a test drive they will do nothing. Post the problem with Kia. Whether you're the first or fifth owner of the car, the warranty should still apply. The more people who report the issue directly with Kia the greater chance we have of them actually doing something about theory anyway.
  • geogeo Posts: 23
    Look at KT2006031404 Kia message from "Technition Times" entitled "resetting transaxle adaptive values". For problems listed as:
    TR4000 - impossible shift
    TR5000 - shift delay
    TR6000 - shift shock
    TR7000 - abnormal shift
    TR8000 - slip when shifting
    TRN001 - Noise
    TRN002 - Vibration
    TRN003 - Others
    There was another reflash listed as a tsb but was for a light on with no real fault.

    To see tsbs and info go to and then to Kia Owners and then to to Service Information. You need an email and password. I established these back when owned 2003 Rio. If you cannot get in write to me. George.
  • natta1natta1 Posts: 11

    Thanks a bunch. I checked out the site and signed up so I could view what you described. I'm just glad to see that a TSB is potentially on the way for this issue.
  • jmnappjmnapp Posts: 13
    I had a 2006 Kia Spectra with an automatic transmission. Anytime the temperature was below freezing, the transmission would race for several seconds when changing between 2nd and 3rd gears. AT 1,400 MILES THE TRANSMISSION HAD TO BE REPLACED! I was extremely disappointed as I had not even made the first payment on the car! Both Kia and the dealer would not replace the vehicle (my thought was that if the transmission was already having to be replaced on a brand new car, then what the heck else is going to go wrong?!!). The dealer and Kia were absolutely useless.

    The steering was also making a loud clunking noise when turning the steering wheel. They replaced some part for this. When the dealer called and told me the transmisson had been replaced but the steering was still making the clunking noise and what did I want him to do I TOLD HIM TO PUT THE CAR BACK TOGETHER SO I COULD TAKE AND TRADE IT IN! Upon getting my Kia back, I drove immediately to the Mazda dealer and traded the Kia in for a Mazda3. NO MORE KIA's FOR ME.
  • darcijjdarcijj Posts: 1
    A couple weeks back my check engine light came on and I took it to my mechanic right away.. he said it was just a vapor sensor... but they noticed my transmission was slipping when they put it in reverse... it was almost out of transmission fluid.. (I had a full service oil change the week before, so I guess they never checked the transmission fluid). No warning lights on the kia for transmission?

    The mechanic could not find a leak.. and said to keep watch on it.. well I looked at the engine did not see the ATF dipstick.. where is it located on the Kia sedan? I have a 2002.. It seems to still be hesitating when I put it in reverse.. its only been 2 weeks since they filled it and with no leak how can it be low again.. should I be worried? :confuse:
  • kwinnkwinn Posts: 11
    My 05 Kia spectra has the notorious hunting for gear problem. According to Atlantic Kia of Long Island, NY. They know of no one else with such problem. Of course Atlantic kia told me to buy their 225 dollar maintanence for my 18k spectra as it includes a tune up and fuel and air filter replacement and it is needed. When i told them owners manual says no tune up needed for 60k they said thats not true you should get tune ups every 15k. What a bunch of liers. Anyways mileage on my spectra is 28 on the highway and 24 city driving. Which really sucks. I guess hyundai is not bothered with such problems for their kia brands as they are moving up mainstream.
  • Hi, I am new to this board but was hoping someone may be able to help. I bought my spectra new and have had taken it back to the dealership since week one...feels like the transmission is slipping..sometimes doesnt even want to go into the next gear....always told that it was my imagination that kia's are suppose to do that. Check engine light has been reset by tech. numerous times but he says it is never about the trans. ...they had to work on the air this week and now when I pull out it sometimes has no power at all unless I drop it manually down to a lower gear....ever since purchasing it will sometimes sound like the car is not in gear..the rpm will race but the car won't go....happened on the interstate ..had to pull of the road turn off the engine and restart. Dealership in Anniston Alabama swears that not one other customer in history has ever had these problems! Please help if you or anyone you know has....and the remedy. ...thanks Cyndi
  • jmnappjmnapp Posts: 13
    Kia dealers are a bunch of liars. I had this same problem with my transmission in my 2006 Kia Spectra. After numerous trips to the dealer, and working with Kia Corporate, they finally replaced the transmission. I turned around and traded it in the same day I picked it up from having the transmission replaced. I will never own another Kia/Hyundai product.
  • festerwifesterwi Posts: 1
    I have a fix for most 2003+ spectra transmission problems. Gear hunting and having your transmission seem to stick in gear until you stop or shift to park and then back to drive. You will need a late model TCM (transmission control module) they updated the firm ware in mid 2003 and early 2004 to one that is broken. If your dealer orders a replacement one they will have to return it and get one for the early 2003 spectra's. They may have this fixed buy now but my dealer had to do this. Order a TCM for an early 2003 spectra. This is why a whole new transmission fixes the problem since they come with a new TCM. Hope this helps someone.
  • I wrote awhile back about all the problems I have had with my 2004 spectra transmission and that the dealer could not duplicate the problem. Had the problem since day one. I finally had to get the corporate division involed. now they suddenly find that the TCM is bad. They kept the car a week and when I got it back it runs even worse than before. Does anyone know if you replace this and not the transmission after 60,000 miles ( yeah it took them this long to find the problem) if it would have damaged the transmission. Please let me know what you think.
    Also just for information sake...always get a service order on your car even if the tech. just drives it or fixes the problem without making you wait. Mine did not have any record of my being in the shop until 35k miles eventhough it had been there and I had them drive it dozens of times in the first 6 months of ownership and I bought it new. Was told each time that this was just the way a Kia drives and changes out. So Beware. :lemon: This was a crown kia in anniston alabama.
  • can i swap out out a AT to a MT and how much would i cost??
  • Hey --
    I have a 2002 Kia Spectra , automatic trans. I had it in for service (77K miles) and had them change the transmission fluid. Now the check engine light is coming on ? They reset it but it has come on again. I dont know how much experience they have had with Kia's ? Is there anything in particular that could have triggered this ? :) :)
  • Is it a recall on transmission for Kia Spectra 2002
  • I have a Kia Spectra--My engine light comes on all the time and then comes off---the suto zone machine stated that it was my coolant. My car would shack at 15 miles per hour then at 20 or 30 it would pull. It just started this past week. I had then gave it a oil change. There was transmisison fluid. The car stopped that same day. It turns on... but goes no where when I push the pedal. I am a second owner. I did not find this blog till today. If I had known I wouldnt went with another option.
  • glenn_60glenn_60 Posts: 1
    I have a 2000 Kia Spectra that started getting hard to move the shift lever from gear to gear. Also with that (if memory serves right) the engine light was coming on. Finally, I went out to drive it one day and the shift selector would not come out of park. I figured that the trans had given out as it has 94,000 miles. Just the other day, a friend mentioned that some kind of cable could be busted causing this problem. I was just wondering if anyone else has experienced this and what would be the cheapest way to fix it.

  • voriolovoriolo Posts: 1
    I have a four day old 2008 Spectra 5 SX and it has spend more time at the dealership that i've actually driven it. I was reading a few of the post and was wondering if there is a know issue with power loss. From a cold start all power equipment, including windows, air, radio, etc doesn't work, the car runs great but nothing "power works". I took it to the dealer, they had the car in the shop for 10 mins. ran a test, came up clean, changed a fuse. fixed the hach lock that fell inside the door and gave me my car back. Two days later same thing, yet this time the radio worked, but the windows got stuck in the down postition. no defrost, no wipers??? When i pulled the car over after about ten minutes, shut it off, turn it back on... the windows worked... it wasn't until i restarted it for the second time, that everything was working. The car has been at the dealer for two days and i'm waiting for word from the dealer.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,488
    This question has been addressed in our Answers Department already.

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  • gballougballou Posts: 2
    i have a 2002 kia spectra, i was driving when it just stopped going forward, it starts fine but when i put it in reverse or drive it doesn't do anything. I was told it was the chain linkage, torque convertor and possibly the transmission, can't get a straight answer from anyone. need help with this problem please
  • cthomas5cthomas5 Posts: 1
    my son's car would not shift properly. Then the 2003 with less than 60,000 miles would not shift at all. We parked it and he drove my car as we didn't have the money to fix it at the time. Now it won't even start. The battery works but it won't start. I'm thinking even though it says it is in park it may not be thus it won't start. Anyone else have this problem?
  • gballougballou Posts: 2
    i took my car to a garage and had it hooked up to diagnostic testing, was told it was a pump in the transmission that quit working, called different garages and was quoted 1500 to 3000 to fix it, needless to say car is still sitting in my yard.
  • i started having problems with my car, hesitating going from park/reverse into drive. This caused me to go have my transmission fluid changed (it was pretty bad, apparently hadn't been done by the previous owner). the problem stopped temporarily, then it started again and got worse...was driving 55 down the road and the engine revved up to 5000 rpms for no reason. also, i notice that my car (since i've had it) does not shift when going uphill. i live in the mountains and this is a very big problem since the car doesn't seem to be able to make it up the hill very well.

    I am suspicious of the place that did my transmission fluid change, thinking they maybe used the wrong kind? anyone else have this happen before? what can i do? i think there are now several problems and most due to the wrong fluid being put in. is there a way to test the fluid to make sure it is the right kind for the vehicle? :confuse: :sick:
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