Theta II GDI Engine Stalls and Siezes

Key Points

  • The Theta II engine has a long list of problems ranging from bearing failure, engine knocks, and excessing oil consumption.
  • The GDI engines were also prone to catching on fire, leading to a large recall in 2015.
  • After the fires, Kia agreed to increase the warranty for the certain vehicles to 10 years / 120,000 miles.
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The Theta II is a gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine that is well known for a lot of things and none of them are good. Bearing failure, metal debris riding on contaminated oil, piston ring defects, siezing, knocking, crying.

Manufacturing Problems

It took a long time, but Hyundai and Kia eventually admitted that metallic debris might have been left around the engine crankshaft during manufacturing. That can cause hell on your engine when it comes to oil flow.

In June 2016, a Kia Theta engine lawsuit was filed for owners of the 2011-2014 Optima, Sportage, and the 2012-2014 Kia Sorento.

A Former Engineer Spills the Theta II Beans

A former Hyundai engineer told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that Hyundai was well aware of the Theta II problems, even as they denied it publicly and pushed against a recall.

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Kia generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 1st Generation Forte

    Years
    2010–2014
    Reliability
    38th of 42
    PainRank
    11.61
    Complaints
    131
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Forte
  2. 3rd Generation Optima

    Years
    2011–2015
    Reliability
    41st of 42
    PainRank
    34.37
    Complaints
    415
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Optima
  3. 4th Generation Optima

    Years
    2016–2020
    Reliability
    14th of 42
    PainRank
    2.25
    Complaints
    36
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Optima
  4. 2nd Generation Sorento

    Years
    2011–2014
    Reliability
    42nd of 42
    PainRank
    35.31
    Complaints
    499
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Sorento
  5. 1st Generation Soul

    Years
    2010–2013
    Reliability
    39th of 42
    PainRank
    12.63
    Complaints
    122
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Soul
  6. 2nd Generation Soul

    Years
    2014–2019
    Reliability
    36th of 42
    PainRank
    8.6
    Complaints
    141
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Soul
  7. 3rd Generation Sportage

    Years
    2011–2015
    Reliability
    37th of 42
    PainRank
    9.64
    Complaints
    95
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Sportage
  8. 4th Generation Sportage

    Years
    2016–2020
    Reliability
    23rd of 42
    PainRank
    3.11
    Complaints
    26
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Sportage

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.

  1. Another owner has sued Hyundai and Kia for knowingly equipping vehicles with defective Theta II engines.

    Proving once again that when it comes to engines that catch on fire, people generally aren't fans. The automakers have settled similar lawsuits and issued recalls for these clunkers, but the plaintiff suggests not all affected vehicles were included.…

    keep reading
  2. More than 1,800 Kia vehicles have burst into flames, now the government wants to know why.

    It’s about time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was petitioned to look into these non-collision fires last June. They are responsible for 77 injuries and 1 death. The investigation will focus on the Theta II engine, but the NHTSA plans on looking into tail lights and other potential combustion sources as well .…

    keep reading
  3. Kia is facing another lawsuit for metal shavings causing catastrophic failure in its Theta II engine.

    The engines can allegedly fail at any time while driving any speed, leaving owners in dangerous driving conditions once the engines stall. According to the plaintiffs, damage to the connecting rod bearings causes metal shavings to appear in the oil.

    A few months ago, Kia recalled 618,000 vehicles with Theta II engines that shipped with metal shavings due to a faulty manufacturing process. The recall only covered certain vehicles up to the 2014 model year.…

    keep reading
  4. Safety regulators are looking into how Kia and Hyundai handled their Theta II engine recalls, specifically if the companies acted fast enough.

    They want to know if Hyundai and Kia did enough and fast enough concerning the recalls of nearly 1.7 million vehicles with Theta engines prone to a lot of noise and finally locking up.

    At this point, we know the widespread engine problems are caused by metallic debris left behind during mechanical deburring on the assembly line. Those tiny bits of metal are carried through the engine by oil, wreaking havoc on the way.…

    keep reading
  5. The Theta II recall that so many Kia owners have been waiting for is finally here.

    Kia is recalling more than 618,000 model year 2011-2014 Kia Optima, 2012-2014 Sorento and 2011-2013 Sportage vehicles because the engine bearings can wear out too early and cause the engines to seize. The automaker says machining problems occurred during manufacturing, something dealers will need to fix by replacing the engine assemblies.

    We’ve been tracking Theta II engine problems for a while and let’s just say … they’re not good.…

    keep reading
  6. The Theta II Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine is earning a reputation for stalling and eventually seizing, leading to a class-action lawsuit.

    The [lawsuit] targets the Theta 2-liter and 2.4-liter gasoline direct injection engines, also known as GDI engines. According to the plaintiffs, the engines contain defects that cause a restriction of oil flow through the connecting rod bearings and other parts of the engines.

    Hyundai is facing a similar lawsuit that is currently awaiting final class-action approval.

    keep reading
  7. Kia's Theta 2-liter and 2.4-liter gasoline direct injection engines, also known as GDI engines, are giving owners a ton of headaches by stalling or failing at just about any time.

    According to a new lawsuit, these engines contain defects that cause a restriction of oil flow through the connecting rod bearings and other parts of the engines. In turn, the engines can stall without warning.

    The plaintiffs say Kia knows about the Theta engine problems, but refuses to freely repair the engines or order a recall. Another Theta II engine case with Sonata owners is awaiting final settlement approval.

    keep reading

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA