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Discussion Starter #1
Wife took her spectra5 (2005, 76k) in for an inspection and apparently there was a crack in the flex pipe. No big deal, they put a new one on and off she goes.

Next day the check engine light comes on so she takes it back in, bad downstream o2 sensor. Put a new one on and back out the door.

Next day the check engine light is back on. Guy says that it might have gotten a bad sensor so he'll put a new one on it tomorrow, but if it's not the sensor then it will mean the catalytic converter is bad.

Does it make sense that the crack in the flex pipe could have been causing the o2 sensor to mix the fuel too rich and that then caused the catalytic converter to go bad? I've never heard of one going bad below 100k miles so i'm trying to figure out what could cause it to go bad.

If it is indeed bad, how difficult (on a scale of 1-10) is it to replace the catalytic converter on a spectra5? It looks like it's just a bolt on part. If it does need replaced, I'm considering doing it myself to save the money.

Thanks.
 

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The downstream cat can be replaced fairly easily, but the first cat is part of the exhaust manifold. I am not sure if you have to replace the whole unit or if the cat can be cut off and replaced. Maybe one of the techs on here can answer that for you.
 

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The upstream (front) cat is part of the exhaust manifold and if you can break away the bolts going into the head and the two on the bottom to the flex pipe it won't be too hard to replace... BE CAREFUL ..There are TWO types of this type of exhaust/cat... One has a lower fitting that is attached to a bent pipe and the other attached to a straight pipe. I believe it has to do with the car having either an automatic or manual tranny..
What are the OBDII codes the ECM posted? This will help us with diagnosing your problem(s)...Also check the wiring going to the O2 sensor(s) for cracked insulation or bad connections.. 76k is awful low mileage for Spectra Cats to go bad. If the car was driven any period of time with a rich mixture (CEL on) it could be bad... I found the front cat at a reasonable price here...
2005 Kia Spectra Catalytic Converter - Partstrain.com
Check yours to make sure the lower fitting is correct.
Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the responses. I'm not sure what the exact code was, just that it was for the downstream o2 sensor.

He told me that he had assumed that the o2 sensor was bad because he wasn't getting any movement in the signal analysis. It was just holding at ~450mV. When he put the new one in he was getting slight peaks at ~500-550.

I haven't heard back from him yet with the results of the new o2 sensor.
 

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The downstream O2 sensor should read "slight" changes in voltage (like the replacement is doing). The original was not changing at all from ~450 indicating that the sensor was bad... The slight changes indicate the Primary Cat is working properly.. If you graph the two O2 sensors the upstream one will show many changes and quickly and the down stream O2 will show very little changes (slight) indicating the Cat is doing it's job... The OBDII codes would really help in solving your problems.
Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #6
So it turns out that the first replacement o2 sensor was indeed bad. A new one solved the problem.

But while I have this thread at the top, I might as well ask what maintenance is recommended to keep these cars running well. I saw that the timing belt is a pretty crucial replacement ~60k. The car has 76k miles on it and that belt has never been replaced. I took a look at it and it is in good shape but i'll be getting a new one for it in the next couple months.

Are there any other key maintenance items other than the standard stuff that I need to take care of for her?
 

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A VERY GOOD move... The belt on my wife's 07 Spec at 59k miles looked good also when I replaced it last fall (also beyond the 5yr period)..
They say 5yrs OR 60k miles on the TB.... From watching the ones that failed (and posted here) I have seen that they usually fail around 84~85k miles but HAVE failed around your mileage (76k) also.
I'd suggest draining and refilling the tranny fluid (if automatic) also as it is suggested it be done every 30k miles.. The majority of the KIA owners will side with me on saying that you should use KIA/Hyundai/Mitsubishi (Diamond) type III fluid ONLY!!! although Valvoline Maxlife has been used with OK results and meets "Diamond III" specs. Aprox 5~6 qts
The Spark plugs are also a "cheap" item to replace to improve the engine operation...My wife's had "Champions" in hers and one did fail very shortly after 60k miles.... Use NGK platinums (about $4 each)..

Antifreeze also as it has gone well beyond it's life and corrosion from dis-similar metals (steel/aluminum/brass/and head gasket) will cause you problems in the future..

Get the TB (GATES $18.00) , Plugs (NGKs) at rockauto.com for the best prices.

The water pump and TB tensioner should be replaced every other TB (yours at 137k miles)..

I have posted a "sticky" in the Spectra area of these forums on TB replacement info and it can be done reasonably easy by a driveway mechanic in 3~4 hrs taking your time.
These are unusually GOOD cars and there have been posts of them going 300k miles and still running "if" they are maintained properly...

KIA did their homework on both the upgrades of the engines (old Mazda design..) and the auto transmissions (Mazda/Ford/Mits design)... The engine is in it's forth improvement and in the Forte/Soul cars (with a timing chain)... Watch out...you'll find yourself buying one for your self :)

My family has 2 Spectras, (06SX mine 40k miles, 07EX wifes 63k miles..)...An 04 Hyundai Sonata 2.7L V6 (125k miles..my daughters)...An 08 Hyundai Accent Hatchback 40k miles..my son's). Hyundai owns 51% of KIA and their drive trains are shared between both companies... We're sold...
Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #8
So unfortunately I have to bump this thread.

They have put multiple O2 sensors in, and the light just came back on.

So to recap: When the car was inspected the flex pipe needed replaced. Next day the check engine light comes on and they say it's a bad O2 sensor. Replace the O2 sensor but three days later the light is back on. My wife asks me to reset the engine light and see what it does. Stays off for 4 days and then comes back on. So they put a new O2 sensor in of a different brand. This time it lasts 9 days before it comes back on.

I haven't taken it in yet, but I'm expecting them to come back with a bad O2 sensor code. They haven't charged me anything other than the first O2 sensor, so they are losing money on continuously replacing these things.

Any idea of what could be going on?
 

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The downstream (O2 sensor2) is looking just to "see" that the Cat is working properly... The first O2 sensor (just off the front of the engine) will have a lot of voltage changes as it is reading the raw exhaust emissions just off the engine. and adjusting the Air/Fuel mixture. The Cat then works these emissions and the output of the Cat "should" reflect on the changes. This output is then read by the downstream O2 sensor just to confirm the Cat is working properly...The readings on this sensor will NOT change very much and this is normal in a properly operating system (and O2 sensor)...If they DO vary too much that is telling the ECM that the Cat has problems or has reached it's "end of life"... I'm wondering "if" the replacement flexible linkage is allowing "illegal" air into the exhaust (say by flexing one way or another) and sometimes throwing off the secondary O2 reading.
It looks like the Cat is doing it's job as they don't become intermittent and the car has times where the readings are normal and no code is set.
I'd suggest re-checking the flexible pipe installation and also the wiring to the second O2 sensor for bad/oxidized connections..
Can you get the "real time" secondary O2 sensor readings and post them here?
Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Just to update this thread and add some closure:

The last time the car was taken in they replaced the "plug" (I'm assuming he meant the receiving end of the o2 sensor connection) at no cost.

Said he's never seen anything like this happen before and said he doesn't know what else to try and that if it came back on again I'd have to take it to a KIA dealer and if the problem was with any of the work he did, he'd reimburse me for it.

Well whether it was the plug or if they tightened up the fittings on the replacement flex linkage, it seems to be working fine. She's had the car back for about a month and has yet to see the light.

Thanks again for all your help Dave, it's very appreciated.
 
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