Kia Sedona Problems: 9 Common Issues (Explained)

If you’re looking for a minivan with a roomy interior, the Kia Sedona is a great option.

It’s a reliable vehicle that isn’t overly expensive to maintain in comparison with other vehicles in the same category.

Also, the Kia Sedona has a good resale market price.

Note: The Sedona has been replaced by the Kia Carnival – check the issues with that one here.

Is The Kia Sedona Reliable?

The first question any prospective buyer should ask is; is the Kia Sedona good value for money?

We have an article here on how long Kia Sedonas last.

If looking in the used car market, that question can be answered with a firm yes. A well-maintained Sedona with a history of regular service provides good value for money.

However, the Kia Sedona model has had a number of issues. Some are serious; some are simply annoying and some issues are similar to most other makes, models, and price ranges.

The following are the 10 most common in no particular order of importance.

1. Fire Hazards To Be Aware Of In Some Models

The Sedona models afflicted with this onerous issue are the 2011 and 2012 versions. Then in 2020, Kia recalled 5385 Sedonas’ to repair a nut on the vehicle’s alternator.

Possible Causes and Solutions

The fuel line would sometimes crack due to heat in the 2011 and 2012 versions. This would cause an odor in the vehicle’s interior and if left untreated, could cause a fire.

The alternator charges the vehicle’s battery and powers the electrical system. This problem nut maintains the electrical connection between the alternator terminal and the battery.

A loose nut results in an electrical arc that was determined to possibly cause an electrical fire.

  • A recall of the affected vehicles resolved the problem in which the fuel line was replaced.
  • The faulty nut was secured with an anti-vibration washer.

2. A Failing Crankshaft Position Sensor Can Be An Issue

Crankshaft position sensor problems are not uncommon on the 2005 model Kia Sedona.

Excessive jerking under acceleration could increase the risk of collisions due to a lack of control.

Possible Causes and Solutions

This jerking issue seems to happen to mainly high mileage Sedonas, often in excess of 150,000 miles on the odometer.

However, even if the vehicle has low mileage, it’s better to be safe than sorry and have your dealership check it out.

  • Owners suffering this jerking issue with their Sedona have taken their vehicle to a dealer for inspection. Most of the time, the issue has been resolved by the replacement of the crankshaft sensor.
  • Sometimes a jerking problem can be caused by a partially blocked catalytic converter. Beware; replacement costs run between $1506 and $1532 on average.

3. Starting Issues And Some Simple Solutions

Few things are more annoying to a new car owner than having a vehicle that fails to start, particularly at inopportune times. 

The Kia Sedona is not immune from this issue.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Owners of the Kia Sedona between the years 2002 and 2016 who had difficulty starting their vehicle the first time on an ongoing basis had to have the vehicle immobilizer control module checked.

The issue lay with the push-to-start Kia Smart Key not being recognized.

The onboard system misinterprets this as an attempt to steal the vehicle.

  • Buying an upgraded key from the local Kia dealer often solves this issue. Kia owners and prospective owners should take note that key issues and wiring issues sometimes go hand in hand. If, after purchasing a new key and non-starting is still an issue, then a checkup by a mechanic familiar with the Kia Sedona should be carried out.
  • Most often, these non-starting issues seem to develop once the vehicle has reached the 100,000-mile mark on the odometer, so wear and tear is definitely a cause.

4. Premature Alternator Failure Can Be More Than A Battery Issue

A Kia Sedona with an ongoing flat battery issue suggests it may be time to have the alternator and drive belt checked.

Possible Causes and Solutions

A drained battery is usually caused by a faulty alternator not providing sufficient charge to the battery.

The issue of whether it is a faulty battery or a faulty alternator can be easily and quickly checked by a mechanic. If the alternator, this issue appears to be most common on the models issued in the years 2001, 2002, and 2003.

  • Replace the alternator and the drive belt.
  • A draining battery can either be caused by a faulty alternator or battery.

5. Exterior Lighting Problems That Are More Than Faulty Bulbs

Kia Sedona owners have reported 36 problems related to running lights, many of them of minor concern, some major. As an example, the owner of a 2016 Kia Sedona reported the vehicle’s headlights would turn off without warning.

The owner was able to restart the vehicle and the headlights turned back on.

This was an intermittent issue also reported by many other Sedona owners. Another owner reported that when using the indicator to signal left, the signal would occasionally not respond or would signal a right turn.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Some Sedona owners have reported malfunctioning brake light and headlight switches. However, the Kia Sedona was not included as part of the 2013 recall for this same issue in other Kia models.

Owners have also reported jiggling the turn signal stalk to restore functionality but this was a short-term solution.

  • Faulty light switches can be replaced at a Kia dealership. If you are looking at a used Kia Sedona, it might be an idea to check the repair history and also ask the owner if the vehicle in question has experienced any exterior lighting issues and if so, how they were resolved.
  • Replacing the complete stalk assembly resolved the turn signal problem.

6. Abnormal Start-Up Noises

There are a number of reasons why the Kia Sedona experiences odd noises when starting up. 

Many owners have advised these noises seem to become apparent between 80,000 and 100,000 miles.

Additionally, this issue is more common in the models built between 2002 and 2017.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Sometimes, knocking noises seem to last for four to five seconds after startup. There are several reasons for these odd noises. Some owners who experienced them found them to be due to incorrect oil levels.

Some noises occurred after the engine was turned off.

These mostly occurred as the engine cooled down, a not uncommon occurrence in many vehicles.

  • Check oil levels
  • Some owners have solved the noise problem by having a new and improved timing chain tensioner installed. This updated tensioner was released by Kia after they became aware of the problem.

7. Faulty Battery Issue In The 2015 Model

If you are shopping around for a Kia Sedona and have not yet decided on a year, you might keep in mind the 2015 model developed a reputation for battery issues.

It seems the battery would die as early as 3,000 to 4,000 miles after leaving the showroom.

Possible Causes and Solutions

In addition to a faulty line of batteries, the vehicle might have had alternator issues as well. If the alternator has not been replaced, you might want to bring this point up when negotiating the final price of the vehicle.

Older batteries are very susceptible to failure in colder weather.

Some makes can get five to six years out of a battery, but if the vehicle has been used in a cold climate, three years is the usual life of a vehicle battery.

  • If you are looking at a low-mileage Sedona, ensure the battery has been replaced and the owner has documentation to this effect.
  • Check the issue of faulty alternators.

8. Faulty Air-conditioning Can Be An Expensive Repair

If keeping cool in the summer is important to you, then you should know the Kia Sedona models between the years 2002 and 2014 were known for faulty clutch assemblies on their air conditioning units.

Reports indicate issues would kick in around the 80,000 to 90,000-mile mark. If the vehicle you are looking at is under 80 K miles, keep this in mind.

If the unit has not been repaired or replaced, this can be a price negotiating point. If the vehicle is 110 K miles plus, make sure the owner has a receipt for the replacement of the unit. 

This is a costly repair.

Possible Causes and Solutions

If testing the vehicle and the AC exhibits a rattling, vibrating noise, the vehicle is definitely in need of a new AC unit.

Air conditioning is never cheap to repair.

And, keep in mind, every time the AC unit is worked on, it has to be recharged. This can cost anywhere between $150 and $300 per charge.

  • If buying a used Sedona, it is a good idea to ensure repairs have been made to the AC unit. If not, it can be a negotiating point on price.

9. Transmission Issues Can Be Caused by Outdated Software

Transmission problems are common on the Kia Sedonas built between the years 2002 and 2010. An outdated transmission control module is usually the cause.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Software updates usually resolve transmission software problems. If you are looking at a high-mileage vehicle, be aware that faulty parts may show similar symptoms, so don’t take anything for granted.

Even if the Sedona you are looking at has undergone major transmission repairs, the transmission software should have been updated.

If it wasn’t, include this cost when negotiating the price.

When test driving, look for indicators like jerking and improper shifting; listen for abnormal noises, and finally, check the transmission fluid. It should be a clear, reddish color. If brown and it smells burnt, this indicates trouble.

  • The transmission control module needs to be reprogrammed and the software updated.
  • On a high mileage vehicle, it could be in need of a new transmission.

10. Faulty Brakes Were More Of An Issue On Older Models

Both engineers and customers alike have been frustrated for many years over problem brakes on the Kia Sedona. An inherent design flaw in the early model Sedona front disc brakes caused uneven pad wear.

Possible Causes and Solutions

The old-fashioned rear drum brakes were finally replaced in the 2009 model providing all-around disc braking. When test driving a used Sedona, listen for a scraping or squealing noise when braking. It could be an issue with worn brake pads or shoes.

As well as new pads, a brake job could entail installing new discs, calipers and/or rear drums.

General Pros and Cons for the Kia Sedona has provided the Sedona with an overall rating of 4.0 out of 5.0.

It also ranked first out of 8 comparable minivans. While the Kia Sedona is not a super sophisticated vehicle, most Sedona models had fewer problems than some of their competitors.

That being said, there are some models to avoid if they do not have a full record of service and factory recalls.

Those models are: 2002, 2003, 2005, 2012, 2016.

What Do The Reviews Say?

A significantly updated Sedona arrived in 2015, with a refined V6, room for seven or eight passengers, and an upscale interior. The biggest letdown was the ride. It’s way too stiff for family transport.

However, the Sedona scores as an IIHS Top Safety Pick, in part because it aced the difficult small overlap crash test. 

While blind-spot monitoring is readily available, other advanced safety equipment like the forward-collision warning is restricted to the top-trim level only.

Freshened for 2019, the V6 engine is now paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. 2021 was the final model year.

What’s The Resale Value of the Kia Sedona

Dependent upon year and mileage, the cost of a used Kia Sedona runs from $1,938 to $48,995 with accompanying mileage running between 1,981 to 282,998 miles.

Final Thoughts

While the Sedona has faced its fair share of recalls for each model year since its introduction in 2000, many recalls don’t always make or break the vehicle.

GO BACK: Problems for all Kia models.


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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.