1997 Kia Sephia NOISES/ WHEN COOLING FAN KICKS ON OR OTHER

Tiny
69_CORVETTE
  • MEMBER
  • 1997 KIA SEPHIA
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 27,000 MILES
I have a very complex problem with my 97 kia sephia. I got this car last year literally for free from a friend after it had a front end damage at 18k miles. I drove the car for one year with the damage. Car runs great but always had some issue with some squeeling noise that would start as soon as the cooling fan kicks on. Noise would last as much as the fan is running. Usually stops when the fan stops. Also if you have your foot on the gas pedal while the noise is going on, the noise will not stop until you deaccelerate and sometimes switch to neutral rev the gas a couple times, let it idle and the noise stops. One thing I realize, the noise almost never starts when driving on the highway which is suggesting that it happens only when the car is in traffic idling, which would also suggests that the noise only takes place when there is much load on the generator. I understand that much. Also if driving while the noise is going on, you can feel that the car looses power and struggles a bit. The noise usually gives me a break while driving during the day time. When driving at night with the headlights on, the noise usually start when I come to a stop or when the cooling fan kicks on. So, the solution is to turn all lights off, radio, etc. Play with the gas pedal a bit, then the noise goes away. Soon as I reach at least 1000rpm, I am free to witch everything back on.
The noise sounds exactly like that of a loose or worn out belt but I confirm it isn't because if the battery if fully charged and you disconnect the alternator plug while the belt is still on, you will drive the car till the battery dies with no noise whatsoever. First I tried a used alternator, no luck, noise got worst and worst, till alternator burnt out. I then bought a new rebuilt alternator, no luck and burnt it out in a few days. Got another rebuilt one, less noise, but the noise is still there. At this point, I am thinking that there must be something else in the car that is causing the noise. I am thinking it may be something that works in conjunction with the alternator. Not sure what it could be since this alternator has a built in regulator and it's very hard to determine where the noise is coming from.
It sounds like the noise is coming from one of the pulleys but as I said before, when you disconnect the alternator plug, all noises are gone. And when the alternator is connected, the noise does not seem like it's coming from the alternator either. Very complex! Ver annoying! I have thought of taking the car to a cliff but I am the last person to do so. I love challenges. Any experienced or inexperienced person would be quick to point out a loose belt as the source of the problem but it isn't. The fact is I do not have a shop manuel for this car. I do not have the schematic diagrams. Will be getting one soon. As soon as I get one, it may be easier to pin point the problem.
I was thinking to search for a high amperage alternator to replace the stock 70 amps that the 97 kia 1.8 L comes with but it makes no sense at all. If the car comes with an alternator, it should be able to handle the head lights and cooling fan at the very least. If not, there has to be a problem.
I don't expect anyone to have experienced such problem or even know what it could be but if by any chance anyone has a suggestion, speculation, or ideas, please be kind enough to share it. From a little research I've done, I noticed that those cars had problems that even the dealers were no able to see or fix. Lots of bad reviews, law-suits etc. However, I really like this little car, very fun to drive, very economical, overall, very good little car. Drove it for one year and all I ever did whas put gas in it. That's all. So, I am not in a good position to criticize KIA. Especially when the car was literally for free. I just need to resolve this problem before I invest any money into the car.
If anyone has any information or suggestion, please Help! :)
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Saturday, February 20th, 2010 AT 11:59 PM

7 Replies

Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
Hi 69_corvette,

When the alternator is disconnected, there would be less load on the beltings and pullies. When turning the headlghts on or cooling fans comes on etc, more load would be exerted on the alternator and drive belts.

If you feel the noise is not from the alternator, check the other pullies and belt condition. I would not rule them out. If crank pully is equipped with harmonic balancer, check its condition.
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Sunday, February 28th, 2010 AT 5:50 AM
Tiny
69_CORVETTE
  • MEMBER
Thanks guys for the quick response! Again, I don't see how it can be the belts or pulley. Whenever you disconnect the alternator electric plug, and leave everything else untouched, including the belts, noise is gonner. Alternator is there to generate electricity and charge the battery. Running the car on battery alone, it runs smoothly until the battery would die of course. Having the alternator plugged in would (logically) create more power and decrease the chances of having the noise but it's the other way around. Lol. That's very peculiar. When the alternator's electric plug is disconnected, there should be more load onto the electrical system I would imagine, which would increase the chances of having the noise.
Anyhow, I just purchased a shop manuel. I need to make some time to check out the elctrical wiring for that car. One thing I found out on the internet that may not even be in the shop manuel is the type of alternator used on that 1997 kia sephia. They call it half-monty for some reasons. Found out that the ECU help regulate alternator. That being said, anything wrong with the part of the ECU that controls the alternator or the wiring, can result in some kind of problem. The first thing that came to mind was: "Is there a way to bypass that system or to send the signal required to have the alternator output maximum wattage/power at all time. That may be the best solution. In the meantime, will look into the diagrams in the shop manual and see if there is something helpful.
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Monday, March 1st, 2010 AT 2:01 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
Sorry, I stand corrected.

When more power is required from the alternator, the additionl workload on the alternator would increase, that would cause more strain on the beltings.
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Monday, March 1st, 2010 AT 6:44 AM
Tiny
69_CORVETTE
  • MEMBER
[/quote:f44004055e]

Great points guys but for now, I will be concentrating on the alternator & wiring and possibly the ECU since I found out that it also regulates the alternator. One thing I am certain of is that my problem is that I have a shortage of power. When the electric fan kicks on or I turn on the headlights, or I turn on the car radio, the noise comes on. Once the squeeling noise (resembling that of a loose belt) comes on, the car loses power as well, and the only way to get rid of the noise, is to turn everything off, including headlights when driving at night time lol... and put the car on neutral and rev the gas a few times and let it settle and the noise goes away. If you keep your foot on the gas pedal after the noise started, it will never go away. You have to take all the loads of the electrical system and free the gas pedal. Once the noise goes away, if you are on the highway traveling at high RPM, it is highly unlikely that the noise will come on.
That being said, the noise will only come on when you have load on the electric system while the car is at low RPM. From what I read about the type of alternator that is on the 1997 kia sephia (half-monty alternator) which has an internal regulator in both the alternator and the ECU. The ECU regulates the output of the alternator. I am under the impression that the alternator is not putting out the appropriate power when idling. Just my speculation. Never had such problem before!! Never had a car that the alternator was regulated by the ECU. This is new to me!!! And more tehnical rather than mechanical. Beyond the scope of average mechanic I would imagine. The first thing I will hear from average mechanic is : "You need to change your belts" No! I already changed them. lol.. If I can study and understand the electrical system of this car, one of the things I would like to do, is change the alternator and replace it with an alternator that can run indepently from the ECU and hopefully replace it with a more powerful one too. The one I have now is 70amps. Would be nice to have one that is at least 100 or 120 this way I can connect whatever I want in my car. For now, I cannot even put on the radio is the car is driving in traffic. Only when driving on the highway. I am one miserable man. :(


http://www.2carpros.com/forum/automotive_pictures/486922_altern_1.jpg

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Monday, March 1st, 2010 AT 8:33 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
I have encountered alternators that emits funny noises so I wold not rule them out.

The main purpose for the ECM to control the charging is that when additional loads are required, it would be controlled to do so.

If the alternator is charging at a constant rate, any extra electrical load would affect the idling as the ECM and sensor voltage would be affected.

This system is supposed to be better for the overall operations but there seems to be a design flaw.

Some Mazda vehicles do have this problem as well.
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Monday, March 1st, 2010 AT 12:15 PM
Tiny
69_CORVETTE
  • MEMBER
Yes, you are right ! That alternator in the 97 kia sephia is shared with some mazda vehicles. And no, I do not rule out the alternator as the source of the noise. My main concern is not only the noise but the cause of it. I have replaced three alternators, including two remanufactured with lifetime warranty, and they all do exactly the same thing. No difference. Say for argument sake, the noise is comiing from the alternator, then there must be a cause. I am convinced that the noise only starts when there is too much load on the system. Too much load can mean something like the car headlights at night. I have to keep turning them off at every intersection and turn them back on as soon as I step on the gas pedal. That is very unusual that an electrical system will not handle just the headlights. I am not too surprised having read the history of kia. Most of them end up in the junkyard. But really would love to fix this car. I drove it for one year already. It cost me nothing. Car is very economical. Still under 30k miles. It should be worth it. Just a matter of time and to familiarize myself with the electrical/charging system in that car. Or if it has to be rewired with another system, I probably will be inclined to do so. Any suggestion would greatly be appreciated. Additionally, as much as I like my kia, would not recommend it to anyone else. Especially if it's used. It also seems that the ones made after 97 were even worse. They are so many out there being given away for nothing. So, maybe I can benefit from it in that I can just fix them and not having to purchase a new car. :)
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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 AT 5:35 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
I would rather think it is not because of additional load. The problem is more likely to be the ECM is not directing the alternator to provide additional output when required.

If it is not the alternator, then you would need to test the ECM and the only way is with a substitute.

If you wish to prevent the ECM from controlling the alternator, the only way is to use a different design voltage regulator, maybe from a different make and snip off the wire going to the ECM from the alternator.

This might trigger an error code.

My exact sentiments regarding not recommending Kia to others, lol
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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 AT 7:07 AM

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