Blown Head Gasket? 2004 Optima EX 2.4 - Kia Forum
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#1 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 01:35 AM
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Default Blown Head Gasket? 2004 Optima EX 2.4

I am about to lose my mind with this car! Its a 2004 Kia Optima EX 2.4

I just installed a 2005 motor and trans in this car, after learning the original motor was bad - we bought the car in 2006 with 15k miles on it, and it NEVER ran right at all. At 58k I found out it had a blown head gasket between 2 cylinders, after taking it to a shop that did a chemical test on the oil. Kia, along with several shops could not find this problem, and it did not display the typical signs of a blown HG or even overheat. The heater NEVER worked. This motor ran from 15k to 58k with a head gasket that was so blown, it essentially was running on 2.5 cylinders!

Fast forward to last year, I got a replacement motor with coincidentally the same mileage as the old motor. I played around with the newer motor a bit, and ported and polished the intake manifold and throttle body. I installed a new timing on the new motor (even though it looked like one was installed a few thousand miles before) since I wanted to play it safe. Installed the 2005 motor and transmission, and despite the little oddities left, the car runs great, although the heater still never worked all that good. The power difference between the new and old motor was HUGE! It actually isnt too bad with power as long as the motor is running right!

On a side note - The temp gauge never worked in this car, and I am totally disgusted with the way Kia handled this problem, and I will probably never buy another one again despite really liking the new turbo model. I know that the temp gauge is a defect, and despite installing a new ground wire I still dont trust the gauge, so I am about to install one left over from my Tbird.



AND for now - A month ago, I was driving the car and I noticed a coolant smell. I pulled over and saw coolant coming out of the overflow container after popping the hood. The car was not even running hot, but the radiator hoses were rock hard. I let pressure off the radiator and let it cool, and topped it with water and took it home.

The heater still would not work. I have a radiator cap that has a valve that allows you to release a little pressure on the radiator if needed - I flushed the motor I changed out the thermostat for a new one, since the old one was trashed. I disabled the heater core with a bypass hose since the heater core is original and I as worried it was plugged and may have screwed the new motor up - I flushed the heater core and got a LOT of crap out of it, but its still disabled for now until I get this completely figured out...

I just replaced a coil pack because it was weak on take off and that is normal again, but I noticed that the radiator hoses are rock hard at times; intermittently. The new thermostat is not plugged (the flow of coolant is not as strong as it should be when I squeeze the hoses), but I hear a "shizzling" sound coming from the area where the thermostat is, or somewhere in the head near that area. When the hoses are rock hard, the starter motor has trouble turning over the motor - when I let pressure off the radiator, it spins easily and starts like it should without struggling. The motor does not run hot when it does this, as I cant get it over 195 with my infrared temp gauge (just under 190 with the AC on). When I turn the motor off and check it a few minutes later, the motor is actually a few degrees hotter!

This is where it gets even more weird... It almost seems as if combustion gases are leaking from the head gasket possibly into the coolant system. When driving around town, and stopping the motor and starting it again numerous times it seems to do this more versus taking the car on a longer drive with less stops. I turn the car off, and let pressure out of the radiator, and then tighten the cap down well AFTER the car cooled off - I opened the cap 20 minutes later, and pressure came out of the cap, but not violently - just air, or gasses of some kind with no coolant pissing out.

In a nutshell...

-- There is no coolant and oil mixing together

-- The car is occasionally idling in the same way that the old motor did before I replaced it, then it goes back to normal.

-- The car does not overheat, nor has it overheated on the new motor

-- The car has under 64,000 miles on it now so not much time has been put on the new motor. When I installed the new motor, I swapped transmission from the donor car as well because the old trans casing was cracked where the front trans mount (in front of the radiator) and the mount was attached to the trans with only 1 bolt.

-- What else would cause the heater to completely fail like that?

After the crap that the Kia dealer tried to feed me, I am just flat out disappointed even though I can tell this is a good car.. How many cars out there can drive over 40k miles with a blown HG? I was going to rebuild the old motor with bigger pistons, but when I saw one of the cylinders scuffed really badly, I decided to just do a swap to make it go faster.

Do you guys have any input by any chance? I am thinking of testing the coolant tomorrow for the presence of combustion gases to be certain.. but before I get to that point. What else could be causing this? Its starting to get hot here in LA again, and my girlfriend is going to want to start using the AC again, and wants to be able to depend on the car and go places this summer. She is having trouble accepting the fact (and so am I) that this new motor could possibly have a blown head gasket, and just the thought of it really pisses me off and could not have happened at a worse time. I really thought that it would be a matter of installing the new motor, and there would be no other issues, other than maintaining it properly.

-- Is this car known for eating head gaskets, or cracking heads?

-- Money is a little tight right now to be going out and getting another car.. I know I wont get much for this car for a trade in either...

I almost want to go into the "I hate my Kia Optima" thread and start ranting at this point, but that is not going to fix it.

Last edited by Buttplant; 04-20-2012 at 01:38 AM.
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#2 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 02:02 AM
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Have you checked the condition of the radiator? Sounds a bit like an internal blockage, although I would expect that to cause severe overheating.
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#3 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 03:00 AM
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The car has a relatively new radiator which flows perfectly. I flushed it out, and back-flushed the motor (with the thermostat removed) just to make sure.

I tried flushing the heater core and could not get much water through it at first. In fact when I hooked up the hose to one end, the other end hissed for a good 15 seconds, and then shot out water with a bunch of dirt. I could have gotten a lot dirt more out, but I risk blowing the heater core if I use much more water pressure than I did. Either way Ill change out the heater core (it was pretty clear that unit was clogged) once I get this motor issue figured out completely.

I have been keeping a close eye on the cars temp during this time, and its been right where it should be.

I am hoping for the best, while preparing for the worse... I will be digging into this Friday afternoon. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping its not a head gasket!
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#4 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 08:52 AM
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Does the electric cooling fan work ?

The 2.4 is known as a rather stout engine, realtively free of head gasket problems. The same issue with 2 different engines on the same car point to something wrong with the cooling system rather than the engine IMHO.

When combustion gases build up behind the thermostat, the temp guage will rarely show overheating...because a gas doesn't conduct heat as well as a liquid.
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#5 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 09:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by p_mori7 View Post
Does the electric cooling fan work ?

The 2.4 is known as a rather stout engine, realtively free of head gasket problems. The same issue with 2 different engines on the same car point to something wrong with the cooling system rather than the engine IMHO.


On a side note - The temp gauge never worked in this car, and I am totally disgusted with the way Kia handled this problem, and I will probably never buy another one again despite really liking the new turbo model. I know that the temp gauge is a defect, and despite installing a new ground wire I still dont trust the gauge, so I am about to install one left over from my Tbird.


I would start with the fan assy, as well as the sensor, relay, fuse being your problem exists with both engines as well as you stating that the guage doesn't work as well. My '04 2.4 has 120,000 on her with no problems. These engines are not known for head gasket issues.
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#6 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 10:19 AM
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What bothers me is that the heater core was/is plugged and no heat comes from it.
The radiator circulates the same coolant and is subject to the same garbage the heater core gets.
If you think about the two... The heater can't release heat and the radiator probably can't either...hmmm... what happens? Overheating.
The coolant can flow through the top and bottom of the radiator fine but it may not flow through the core where it releases the heat. An infrared camera pointed at the radiator would show an inconsistent temperature (hot top and bottom ..and...cooler core (no water flow).
Just some thoughts...
Dave
Sounds like the original owner/dealer may have used one of the over the counter "in a bottle junk radiator (and head gasket) leak fixes" and plugged the heater core and the radiator.
You were lucky enough to buy the car AFTER the damage was done.
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#7 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 02:13 PM
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The radiator fans work perfectly, and turn on and off when they should - relays checked out perfectly

Im going to be pulling the radiator this afternoon so I will be able to tell for sure if there is an issue with it, that may be evading me. The motor never got to the point, where it steamed and sizzled, and the top of the motor (along with other spots) never showed excessive temps when I gauged it.

Ive been keeping track of the temp on the motor with my infrared temp gauge, and the motor has never overheated so far. Ive been taking measurements from several different spots - the thermo housing (sensor), upper outlet to the radiator, upper and lower radiator hoses, different spots on the radiator, etc.

The radiator is a little hotter on the passenger side, until that cooling fan kicks on and then it evens out to the same temp as the drivers side. Otherwise the radiator is the same temp throughout the unit.

This car has a long history, but in a nutshell it was in an accident. I bought it from a friend who has a car lot, and car rental business.. The subframe and core support was bent, (which is why the trans casing got cracked and I had to change that too). The motor shifted over to the passenger side against the engine bay. The car was driven like that, and I had the idea that may have broken the head gasket on it. They fixed the car just enough so the motor was moved a little more to the right spot, and they did cheap body work to hide the damage, but it was still too far to the passenger side so I went through absolute hell trying to work on the motor and take it out. The front trans mount (in front of the radiator) was bent because the subframe got bent. When I took the motor out and apart, I could see the plastic cover (under the pulleys) had indentations from the pulleys - like as if the motor was pressed so hard against the side of the engine bay that it pressed the pulleys against the cover, and it was run like that. Needless to say, I got very angry with my friends family for not being up-front with me about the damage. I was told that there was just a little body damage, with no frame damage so I figured I couldnt go wrong buying a 2004 model (during summer of 2006) with only 15k miles for just over $5k (after he discounted it from $7500) - boy was I wrong! If I knew of this damage, I would have offered maybe around $2500 to $3k at the most.

Another thing that pissed me off - the original radiator had paint in it! The top (where you fill it) had silver paint (the color of the car) on it, and the inside of the radiator smelled like thinner.. It was obvious they re-sprayed the front of the car, with the hood up and the forgot to put the rad cap on before doing so! The condenser sprayed a little, along with the hood latch, and other stuff in the same area. My friends family vehemently denied this, but I know better. They claimed it was radiator cleaner or something of the sort. Anyway, I flushed that crap out immediately until clear liquid was coming out of the motor (it took a long time), and the radiator was plugged by 40k miles so badly that I could even drain it from the drain plug - it had to be drained from the lower radiator hose. I flushed the hell out of the old motor, but the damage was done to that already. The only thing left from the old motor is the heater core, which bothers me as well and I wish I had changed it already. The radiator is hotter at the top (182 degrees), a little cooler in the center (164 degrees), and a lot cooler at the bottom (under 150 degrees) which seemed normal to me.

I ended up fixing most of the accident damage when I installed the new motor, and the motor now sits pretty much where it should. The front trans mount is a touch crooked still, but nothing bad like it was before. Of course the car drives a lot more straight now after fixing some of the frame/body.

-- On the new motor - My initial thought was that something came loose from the heater core and is causing a blockage in the new motor. I power flushed the new motor out and nothing but clear water was coming out, and very free-flowing.

-- I am not sure what else it could be at this point - I know the replacement motor was good. There is nothing left of the cooling system from the old motor except for the heater core and that is bypassed now. If something got lodged in new motors block or in the coolant passages in the head, I would think that by now it would have come loose (or at least I hope it would). The head shows the same temp pretty much when I take temp readings from locations all over it (while running the motor). I am pretty familiar with that block and head gasket sealer stuff - it looks like metal shavings, but when its in your radiator circulating it looks like hamster turd floating around in there.

-- The part that bothers me is that the pressure still builds slowly in the radiator even after the car is turned off, and my infrared temp gauge (when pointed at the thermo housing sensor), shows it heating up just a little more.
I release pressure from the radiator, and let it cool more.. 30 minutes later after its cooled off a lot, a little more pressure (not much, but still not normal) gets let out from the radiator when I open the cap. That has me worried about the head gasket because combustion gases could be causing it.

-- The car is loosing coolant only from my letting pressure off the radiator. Its not showing up in the oil, and there isnt an excessive amount shooting into the reservoir tank.


I am about to head back outside to yank the radiator now. I am beginning to think this car is jinxed. Even though the heater core may have had crap floating around in there, I have never seen a cooling system and engine block get completely clogged (to the point where it would cause this) like I am observing with this car.

I am thinking of pulling the thermostat and running the motor to see if it is still having the issue with the radiator hoses getting rock hard. Other than a head gasket or cracked head or block (assuming worst case) is there anything else physical that could be blocked up that can cause this?
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#8 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 02:15 PM
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I also just remembered - I bypassed the coolant flow that runs to the throttle body as well. I couldnt figure out the need for it to be hooked up - it just seemed like it would heat up the air a bit more before getting sucked in the engine, and Im not sure what good that would do?

Would bypassing that cause screwy things to happen with the motor?

Thanks!
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#9 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 04:37 PM
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Do you have, or know someone that has a scanner that you can hook up and see what kind of readings your computer is reading??? Such as coolant temp, tps, O2 readings, etc.
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#10 (permalink) Old 04-20-2012, 05:43 PM
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Looks like the radiator is completely clean and flows perfectly through the core as well - The temp readings I get from the radiator are consistent which to me does not suggest that its even partially clogged.

Unfortunately I dont have an OBD2 scanner handy - Autozone no longer lets you "borrow" them in California; which figures since we have more cars that any other state in the country by FAR (I guess they have to make their buck).

So far nothing else looks bad, and the thermostat is clean. I am going to continue with another flushing and Ill keep you posted. We are having earthquake weather as they call it (with little quakes the past few days) so it is very warm out today (over 90 degrees) and I expect it to be warm this evening so I know I will be out here late tonight.

I appreciate the suggestions, and I will keep checking back throughout the rest of the day. I am going to continue checking for places that may possibly let me rent a scanner. I would buy one, but I dont have the money for one of those right now.

I wish this car worked like the OBD2 in my Maxima - you access the computer directly and turn a knob to access diagnostics. There is a little light that blinks to represent codes stored in memory.
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