Kia Forte Problems: 8 Common Issues (Explained)

The Kia Forte is a popular compact sedan with a ton of great features for an affordable price. It’s the kind of car that proves you don’t need to compromise in this price range – you can get what you want.

There are some known issues with the Kia Forte that you should know about if you are shopping for one.

We’ve already looked at How long a Kia Forte lasts and now it’s time to dive into what problems people experience with these models. 

Engine issues, wiring issues, and software problems have all been reported by Kia Forte owners.

Here are some of the most common issues with the Kia Forte, and how to fix them:

Also, we have a list of the best and worst years for Kia Forte here.

No Sound Coming From Speakers

The Kia Forte audio system is known to malfunction and go silent, sometimes in the middle of a track.

This includes radio, satellite radio, navigation, CD audio, telephone calls, and the infotainment system. In some cases, the sound comes back intermittently or for one channel, but usually, it stops working entirely.

This is a problem that is irritating but not dangerous, and thankfully, it is one of the cheapest to solve.

There are no new parts required to fix the speaker problem in a Kia Forte, and you don’t need to take it to a dealership.

All you need to do is perform a hard reset.

To perform a hard reset, disconnect your vehicle’s negative battery terminal and wait 15 minutes. Reconnect the negative battery terminal and the audio should be working fine.

Needs PCM Software Update

If you have a check engine light that is illuminated even though you can’t see any sign of a problem and neither can your mechanic, you might need a PCM software update for your Kia Forte.

PCM stands for “powertrain control module”.

It is a computer that helps the Kia Forte make quick calculations so that it can optimize driving performance.

A malfunctioning PCM can result in drivability concerns and can put a heavy strain on the engine.

You can bring your Forte into a Kia Dealership to get the PCM software updated. It’s a quick fix that can improve the drivability and longevity of your car.

However, remember that if your check engine light is illuminated it’s also important to make sure that there aren’t any other issues before updating the software.

Fluid May Leak from Front Axle Seal

This issue only really affects 6sp manual transaxle models. The axle seals can become damaged due to an interference fit of the axles.

This can cause fluid leakage and eventually axle failure.

The best way to fix this issue is to replace the original part (the inner axle tripod housing) with a revised part, as well as the affected axle seal.

Even if you only have a fluid leak on one side, you should replace both left and right axle seals if you notice a problem.

Bad Ignition Coils and Engine Issues

The Kia Forte has had its share of engine issues over the years.

Owners have reported everything from their Kia Forte not starting in the driveway to engines dying on the highway and causing dangerous driving situations.

In many other cases, Kia Forte engines have inexplicably started making a loud and persistent knocking sound even though performance isn’t affected.

It’s hard to diagnose engine issues, and there are many reasons that an engine could start knocking, fail to start, or stall unexpectedly.

However, for the Kia Forte, several owners have found a solution by replacing the ignition coils.

We don’t exactly understand why ignition coils in the Kia Forte burn out earlier in some models and not in others.

There does however not seem to be significant data coming from Kia Forte owners that bad ignition coils, and ignition coil failures, are responsible for many of the engine issues that Kia Forte owners encounter.

Malfunctioning Transmission

Some Kia Fortes have run into transmission problems once they reach about 60,000 miles.

The symptoms are rough idling, scraping sounds, rough shifting, and debris in the transmission fluid, accompanied by an illuminated check engine light.

If these problems aren’t addressed, some Kia owners have reported complete transmission failures that required their cars to be towed.

We don’t know why the transmission fails in the Kia Forte, but most owners who had significant transmission problems have had to replace the entire transmission.

Exterior Lighting Problems

The wiring in the Kia Forte has led to some issues with headlights, taillights, and signal lights malfunctioning or ceasing to work entirely.

In some cases, the lights flickered momentarily and in others, they overheated and melted internally.

Not only are external lighting failures unsafe, but they are also likely to get you pulled over and ticketed, so it is worth fixing as soon as possible.

Mechanics have solved this problem by replacing the lights and repairing select parts of the wiring.

Leaky Interior

The Kia Forte has an infamously leaky interior, and in rainy or wet conditions car doors and windows may leak into the car, creating the conditions for mold and mildew. This primarily affects the seats, which are made of fabric.

Water can also cause rust and damage to the metal tracks that the seats rest on.

If this happens, they can become jerky and uneven in movements and even cause the seats to come loose.

If you notice any leaking or unexpected moisture in the interior of your Kia Rio, you must check and repair the weatherstrip immediately. 

Some other component failures could potentially cause wet seats also, so it is a good idea to get your mechanic to check everything out in case there is another culprit.

Malfunctioning Stop Lamp Switch

In the 2010 Kia Forte, at least, there is a known issue with the stop lamp switch that affects more than just the stoplights – it can also cause problems with the push-button starter, brake lights, and cruise control.

The faulty stop lamp switch also seems to affect the transmission shifter, causing the car to shift from park into drive spontaneously when the car is turned on.

This dangerous malfunction led to a recall of almost a million vehicles in 2013.

If you have a 2010 model, make sure it is not included in the recall.

If it is, you should be able to get the stop lamp switch replaced at your local Kia dealership free of charge.

General Pros and Cons of the Kia Forte

The Kia Forte is an excellent compact sedan with a lot of strong selling points.

It has features that other compact sedans in this price range can’t touch.

Here are some of the pros to owning a Kia Forte:

1. Great Fuel Efficiency

The Kia Forte sips fuel and takes you from point A to point B efficiently.

There is no debating that. With a rating of 34 mpg, you won’t spend much at the gas station.

In real-world driving tests performed by, the Kia Forte didn’t quite reach the mileage that the manufacturer and the EPA quoted.

But it is still comparable to the least thirsty and most efficient compact sedans out there.

If the cost of ownership is important to you, gas mileage is high on your list of priorities. The Kia Forte is generally a cheaper car to own because you will spend less at the pumps.

2. An Easy to Use Tech and Infotainment System

The effortless infotainment and technology setup is an unexpected perk of owning a Kia Forte. The system is so intuitive and easy to use that it has almost no learning curve.

It’s a positive, memorable part of the Kia Forte experience.

So many of the Forte’s competitors include audiovisual systems that are clunky, inaccessible, or unintuitive.

If you’re not immediately comfortable with the infotainment system in a new car, you’re unlikely to use it and get used to it, so this is a big plus for the Kia Forte.

3. Automatic Climate Control

This is a rare and unexpected feature, especially for an affordable compact sedan like the Kia Forte, but the luxury should not go unrecognized.

There are great temperature controls for all models, so you’ll always be comfortable behind the wheel in a Kia Forte.

4. Great Warranty

If you are concerned by some of the engine and wiring issues that have been identified in the Kia Forte, you might be comforted by an industry-best warranty.

Kia offers a 6-year or 60,000 miles of basic coverage, and a 10-year or 10,000-mile powertrain warranty.

There are also some drawbacks to the Kia Forte:

  • Stiff Ride
  • Lacks Backseat Space
  • Some Engine Issues
  • Problems with the sound speakers
  • Transmissions issues

What Do the Reviews Say?

“The Forte has some positives, including simple controls and impressive fuel economy. However, it suffers from a too-stiff ride and excess noise… the automatic climate control is an unexpected feature, and the infotainment system is simple and easy to use.”

“The Forte is a small car that you can show off because it doesn’t give the impression of being an economy bargain pick. The strength of this car is that it’s an affordable vehicle that doesn’t make you feel as if you’ve compromised.”


What’s the Resale Value of the Kia Forte?

Year Mileage (miles) Price (USD)
2010 104,114 $4,995
2011 153,168 $6,495
2012 87,000 $8,999
2013 106,655 $10,999
2014 108,149 $10,988
2015 75,620 $15,795
2016 105,031 $11,503
2017 59,380 $16,498
2018 39,014 $17,989
2019 36,962 $20,592
2020 9,528 $22,791
2021 13,424 $21,498

Final Thoughts

The Kia Forte is an affordable and reliable compact sedan with more features for the price than many of its competitors.

While safety features, automatic climate control, and a great infotainment system are features that require an upgrade in many other cars, these are standard for the Kia Forte.

There are some issues reported by Kia Forte owners, including some engine and wiring issues that might seem scary at face value.

However, with a best-in-the-industry warranty, if you are buying a newer model, you have the assurance that any issues that come up will be covered.

If you are looking for an affordable compact sedan that doesn’t feel like a Spartan compromise, the Kia Forte will give you a higher-class feel and some great additional features.

If there are any cost-saving shortcuts taken in the design, they are not visible, and they are most likely under warranty.

GO BACK: Problems for all Kia models.


RepairPal | Kia Forte

Edmunds | Kia Forte | Kia Forte

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.