When Does my 2000 Kia Sportage Need a New Clutch?

Reader Question I have an unusual problem that has NOT been discussed with the dealer. I thought you might have some insight. I do not believe the dealer will. I have discussed with several friends who are pro mechanics and they have no answer.

Just for the heck of it I replaced my master cylinder and clutch slave cylinder to no avail. Oh, did I hear you ask what car?

2000 Kia Sportage 4dr, 5spd manual, 4 wheel drive. 187,000 almost totally trouble free miles – well not quite. Replaced entire front end 2nd winter on warranty due to faulty design of hub seal (only 1 lip) allowed water in and they rusted out. At about 100k replaced a front hub leaking vacuum. At about 160k replaced altenator, battery and front drive shaft u joint. Thats it. Oh, just put on a tail pipe, rest of exhaust system is still original.

The problem first became evident 4 summers ago. It has become gradually worse. It happens ONLY when the engine idles for 5 – 15 minutes (varies) and happens more quickly when it is hot outside, i.e. summer and when the ac is running which obviously puts more heat into the engine compartment.

I want to repeat the problem happens ONLY when the engine idles for awhile. It always goes away after driving for abit. (Just increasing rpm does not seem to fix it although does seem to delay the onset when stopped!)

The problem??: the clutch looses its power boost which I assume comes from the brake hydraulic system since the clutch slave cylinder comes off the brake master cylinder. The slight springiness of the pedal travel from rest to engage totally dissappears, engagement point drops, and the clutch action becomes hard in comparision to normal.

This summer, the longer it idles the worse it gets, including getting to the point that one would normally suspect a bad clutch, ie difficulty getting into gear actually clutch seemed to be barely engaging. This has happened once at Marylands environmental inspection, on a hot day early June, where the engine idled for approximately 20 mintutes with ac on from the time I arrived till I left.

Five minutes driving everything was fine. I continue to drive the vehicle doing my best to avoid long trafic lights or other idling situations and as long as I am successfull at that there is no apparent problem. Clutch action and shifting is the same as when I drove away from the dealer 7 years ago in the fall of 99.

Any ideas??

Hey there my friend

You have a strange complaint that is for sure. One thing, you are past due for a clutch replacement, so I would suspect that the internal workings of the clutch…i.e. clutch disc, pressure plate, and release bearings are probably worn out.

Without me personally test driving this vehicle I would suspect the transmission/clutch will have to come out of the vehicle for inspection, but with that mileage, clutch replacement is inevitable I am afraid.

Austin C. Davis

4 Comments on "When Does my 2000 Kia Sportage Need a New Clutch?"

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  1. Stephen OConnor says:

    I have owned a 1998 Sportage Kia since 2002. The clutch felt rather “iffy” from day one, but it always did what it was supposed to do. Then gradually it began to display problems much as you described. During the winter months the clutch would run fine. As soon as warmer weather arrived, the clutch would become problematic, sometimes slightly, sometimes to the point of undriveable. The severity seemed to go hand in hand with the ambient temperature in addition to whether the vehicle was in motion. After hearing the same comments over and over from well meaning mechanics, I began to question human intelligence. Finally one night at a local pub I found myself in the company of a mechanic who understood the dilemma. Rather than patronize me with stock responses, he suggested we put our heads together and piece it all together one system at a time. Eventually we deduced that we were dealing with a fluid expansion issue, or rather, air expansion. Why? Think of this; the clutch in a Kia Sportage uses the same (hydraulic) fluid as the brakes. If air were to get into the system, which is not too off track for an older vehicle, the air would expand when heated. The brake system lines are generally placed further away from close engine contact and remain relatively cool, however the clutch lines are right smack in the midst of the heat storm. Any bubbles present will create a condition known as “heat lock”. The clutch pedal will feel very firm and be barely able to disengage the gears. We both agreed that this is a Kia design flaw for which there is no legitimate repair method. It requires a creative workaround that will undo any warranty, but will keep your Kia running. So far we have not found a way to reroute the lines where they will not get heated. What we’re leaving out is the fact there should not be any air in the clutch lines in the first place. So rather than trying to fix the wrong thing, go in there and find the source of air leaking into your hydraulic systems.

  2. Samantha says:

    I’m having the exact same problem on the exact same vehicle. My 2000 Kia Sportage has 110,000 miles and I bought it used 3 years ago, so I have no idea if the clutch has ever been replaced. (I also had to replace a CV boot, but not under warranty =( The guys at the shop said to replace the clutch without having even driven it.
    I do the same as the guy mentioned–try to avoid idling and I’m not running my air conditioner any more because it makes the sticking worse. The car has no problem getting into gear, however, and I seem to have the same engine power as before.
    Looks like it’s been a few years since your post, but if you’re out there, I’m wondering what eventually happened with your problem?
    Also, I’d love to hear any suggestions? Every time I bring my Kia in anywhere, the guy shakes his head and says ‘you need to get it replaced.’ Which is silly when repairs are always cheaper than the thousands of dollars of debt a new car gets you into. …and I love my car, I named him Bert.
    How do I make sure it’s the clutch before paying all the money to replace it? What else can I try myself, or ask the guys at the shop to try first?
    Thanks for your help,

    • Austin says:

      The usual tell tale sign of a clutch that is in need of replacement is slipping. So let’s say you are driving in second gear and going about 15-20 MPH and you mash down on the gas pedal, if the engine races and the RPMS go up substantially higher than the vehicle is moving, then your clutch is slipping. If the RPM and the actual speed of the vehicle seem to be in par with each other than you probably don’t have a clutch slipping issue. it’s usually pretty obvious that the clutch and engine RPM is much higher than the actual speed of the vehicle.

      Since you did not mention that, I am not sure what the mechanic is considering when he thinks your clutch needs to be replaced. Now, just do to the mileage you MIGHT be due for a clutch replacement but I have seen them go much farther than your mileage depending on how the vehicle has been driven and cared for. Just for peace of mind, why not find a transmission shop in your area and get them to take a test drive with you for free. Just tell them you are concerned with the mileage on the clutch and wanted to know if they feel any slipping taking place.

      I never heard back from the guy with the original post.

  3. Micron says:

    There is no definite rule as a number of miles for clutch replacement… It is the function of driving habits and driving conditions. Long distance highway driving will allow for more miles per clutch life cycle. City driving and frequent stopping on the inclines will shorten the life cycle of a clutch. There are simple tests to determine the need for a clutch replacement. If the engine is racing in the response of the gas pedal and the car is not moving as it should it is the time to find out if the clutch mechanism be it mechanical or hydraulic is actually releasing the pressure on the clutch. Observe the linkage or the slave cylinder to assure that. Once that is checked the answer is obvious.
    The clutch pedal in the released position shall have some free play and it would be impossible to shift gears…

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