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Random Electrical Issues on the Steering Wheel and the Air Conditioner

1677 Views 9 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Maureen C
I have a 2011 Kia Sorento with 210,000 miles and I love it. I've had no major problems through the years. Lately I am having a variety of electrical issues all intermittent though the phase of each issue can last for a few days, or sometimes just a few hours. The failures in no particular order, the radio and mode buttons on the left side of the steering wheel won't work, the channel changer will raise and lower the volume, the volume changer will alter the mode, and the mode does nothing, sometimes the AC blows warm, sometimes on both sides, sometimes on one side, but then within the hour it's fine, the cruise control will sometimes not turn on, but other times it will turn on. Sometimes they happen in unison, i.e. the radio channel changer is out and the AC is out, sometimes it's one at a time. Everything is intermittent and nothing so far has been permanent. I wonder about this yellow memory fuse. Is it safe to pull out without disconnecting the main battery?

I do mostly long highway drives so the AC and the Cruise Control issues are a huge bummer when they occur.

Any suggestions?
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Also during this time the engine roars to life when I start it, very loud vroooooom and then it settles down with come clacking. The car reminds me of a cranky old person, high mileage.
At 210,000 miles, I think you have multiple issues going on and not just one thing causing all the problems.
I took the car into a reputable repair shop, 5 stars on Yelp. This was the diagnosis. It does make sense since the steering column does appear to be the source. I know it's high mileage but the Kia is great, going strong with very few repairs still. I'm a big fan and will buy another Kia when this one finally goes, maybe around 300,000 miles ;)

The customer states that the cruise control is not active.
There is no response when the button is pressed. The
customer also states that the audio buttons on the
steering wheel are malfunctioning as well. Inspect and
recommend repairs.

$95.00 Diagnostic / Inspections Fee
1. Clocksprings and steering switch: Connected a scan
tool and found code B1481 - Driver-Side Air Bag
Resistance Too High (2nd Stage). Visually inspected the
left front air bag wiring harness and connector, but found
no obvious signs of damage. Used the scan tool to clear
the air bag clear code. Disconnected the battery and
waited 1 minute for the air bag module to depower.
Installed a 0.9 to 6.6 Ohm air big simulator in place of the
left front air bag. Connected the battery, turned the key on
and waited 30 seconds for the air bag module to run
diagnostics. Used the scan tool to check air bag codes
and observed the B1481 code returned. Depowered the air
bag system, disconnected the steering wheel clockspring
connector, placed multi-meter leads across the steering
wheel clockspring terminals and measured resistance.
Upon measuring the resistance of the steering wheel
clockspring, discovered there was no continuity, which
indicated the steering wheel clockspring was faulty.
Replace clockspring and steering switch as a whole
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That would fix the issues related to the steering wheel but would not address the engine noise or the A/C issues.

The clock spring may be covered by KIA warranty. You would have to stop by a KIA dealership and have them check the VIN# if yours is covered or not. KIA extended the warranty on the clock spring on some models like my 2012 Sorento.
Thanks for the tip, I will check on that with Kia. The AC has been great for a while, several months, but then yesterday the left side started blowing warm, that continued into today. The right side still blows cold. I think that is also electric as someone on another thread pointed out the dual issue. The right side knob displays the word "dual" above it but the left side knob does not. I asked the repair guy about the issues and he says he is 90% certain this will fix the electric issues but he has to fix this first to see what comes next.
The word "dual" above the right side knob indicates that it is in dual mode where the temperature for the driver and passenger side can be controlled independently. This is for when one person likes it cooler than the other person, for example. Dual mode is activated by pressing the middle of the right/passenger side button/knob.

To turn off dual mode, press the middle of the left/driver side button/knob. This will put it into Auto mode. In this mode, the temperature is the same for both driver and passenger and is controlled by the left knob.

To turn off Auto mode, you need to manually take over each item that the climate control automates:
  • A/C
  • Fan
  • Mode
  • Recirculation mode
So, I press each of these buttons to turn them on and then press each of them again to turn them off. I think you can also turn OFF the climate control and then just hit the fan button to turn it back on...not sure about this method. For each button that you do not press, the climate control still controls it. So, if you don't hit the Fan up or down button, the Fan speed can change depending on the temperature program of the system.

When it's not hot outside, I don't use Auto mode and just let the air come in from outside. When it gets hot, I usually use Auto and find the right temperature by adjusting the left knob. In Auto mode, a lot of times I'll adjust the Mode and sometimes the Fan. I'll adjust the mode as a lot of times the climate control doesn't direct air to the footwell unless there is a big temperature difference. I find it usually adjusts the fan well except when I want it at max fan speed without setting extreme temperatures on the climate control.

Hopefully, this is the reason for your AC issues.
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Thanks V, I agree with all that. I press the A/C button off and the dual word turns to auto. Then I usually select recirculation. When the A/C is working correctly the word "dual" appears above both knobs. When the left side is blowing warm and the right side is blowing cold the word "dual" only appears above the right knob. It's like the electrical signal is messed up. Also the Cruise Control worked this morning, even the Speed up/ Slow Down worked. But just once. Later in the day cruise control was back to not working.

It all makes me think that the issues are only related to the electrical as when the items work they work fine. It really does remind of of a ghost in the machine, which one will work any given day?
When my 2012 Sorento started blowing hot on one side a freon refill fixed it.
I wanted to give the resolution for anyone else that experiences these problems. When the mechanic replaced the clockspring and steering switch all of the problems resolved. The AC works, the air bag light went off, the cruise control works, the radio channel change on the steering wheel works and everything works all the time now. It's been 2 weeks since the repair and everything works. The total cost for labor and parts was $575.

I am happy that I had a reliable and smart technician that knew how to diagnose the issue.
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