Servicing the power steering system (pump, pressure hose, return hose) on a 2002 Kia Optima V6

When I noticed fluid leaking out of the top power steering hose, I had no idea how difficult servicing the power steering system on my 2002 Kia Optima was going to be.  It seemed fairly straight forward at first glance so I decided I would save some money and do the repair myself.  But, as I am finding out, servicing a Kia Optima is not usually an easy thing to do.

The first problem was that the top "pressure hose" was leaking.  I drove around for a few months with this leaking because the Kia Dealership wanted $149.00 for this hose.  I thought I would come across a cheaper one but I never did.  It seems that Kia keeps a tight grip on its parts and who sells them.  During this time, the bottom hose sprung a leak too.  What luck I was having. Ultimately I had to buy the parts at a high price from the Kia dealership.  This inability to find parts anywhere other than the dealer was my first clue that I was in for a tough time.

So, I ordered the parts at the Kia dealership.  They screwed up and ordered the wrong parts for a 4 cylinder instead of the V6 even though I made it a point to tell them TWICE that I had a V6.  Ugggghhh! So I had to wait an extra 2 days.  Rather, my wife had to bum a ride for an extra two days because of their stupidity at Kia.

Then, when the parts came in, the dealership told me I needed PSF 4 fluid for the power steering system even though I later found that PSF III is recommended for the 2002 Kia Optima.  Not a big deal right?  Wrong.  The PSF 4 is ONLY available at Kia and it cost $19.00 per quart!  I needed two quarts.  Later, I went back to get a third quart of PSF 4 fluid from the dealership and they told me they were out of it until the following week.  The guy behind the counter could tell I was visibly frustrated and he suggested to me that I could use PSF III.  Evidently, Valvoline makes a good PSF III fluid and it is only $5.00 per quart at Advance Auto.  Again, the Valvoline PSF was recommended directly by the Kia dealership.  So, I picked up a few quarts and decided to flush the old PSF 4 out of the system and use the Valvoline.

I purchased a used pump and installed it in place of the original pump.  The original pump was probably fine, but it was noisy.  I didn't realize at the time that air in the PS lines caused the pump to make a lot of noise.  If I had used the original pump, I believe it would have been fine once I got the air out of the system.  But, alas, I did install the new pump.  It was not difficult to do.  Only 2 bolts hold the pump to the engine.  You have to remove two 12mm bolts which hold the intake line to the pump.  There is also a matter of removing the pulley.  I kept it on, but others might want to remove it before removing the pump.  It is fairly easy to remove the pulley.

So, with the new pump in place, I replaced the upper "Pressure" hose and the lower "Return" hose on the Kia Optima.  I do not exaggerate when I say it was a royal pain in the rear-end.  I had so much trouble getting my tools on the various hold-down screws.  But, the worst part were the flare-end connections where the hoses connect to the steering rack.  I used a flare end wrench, but there was so little room, I could only turn the wrench about 20 degrees before I had to readjust the position of the wrench.  It took forever.

Getting the hoses off seemed difficult enough, but putting the new ones on proved to be an exercise in patience.  Again, there is so little room where these hoses go that it is nearly impossible to get the hoses exactly where they need to be.  I strongly recommend you get a second person to help you put the hoses back on.  Working by myself, it took me about 3 hours to get the hoses in position.  Later, I would need to remove them and reinstall them and I had to go through the entire difficult process again.  I was not a happy camper.

Once I had the hoses hooked up, it was time to bleed the power steering system to get the air out of the lines.  Anytime you crack open any portion of a PS system, whether it is a hose, the pump or the steering rack itself, the system must be bled of air.  Bleeding the system was a very difficult thing to do on the Kia Optima.  Though it takes only an hour or so on most cars, it took me several days to get it done right.  No matter how much I bled the system, I kept finding air in bubbles in the reservoir. I eventually had to remove the hoses and reinstall them because I suspected I was leaking air into the system.  It was a nightmare.

Anyway, the Kia manual says the proper way to bleed a system is to jack both sides of the front end and put the car on jackstands so the tires are off the ground.  This will make it easier to turn the wheels from side to side.  And that is just what you do.  With the reservoir filled with PS fluid to the minimum to full lines, and with the car off, turn the wheels side to side a total of 40 times.  A turn to the left is 1 time.  A turn to the right is 1 time, etc.  AGAIN, DO NOT CRANK THE CAR DURING THE BLEEDING PROCESS.  YOU DON'T WANT TO CRANK THE CAR UNTIL ALL THE AIR IS OUT OF THE SYSTEM.  AIR CAUSES FRICTION IN THE RACK AND PUMP AND CAN CAUSE DAMAGE IF YOU CRANK THE CAR WITH AIR STILL IN THE SYSTEM.

Stop every 10 times or so and check the fluid level in the reservoir.  The fluid level may drop, just make sure it does not drop too low.  If it gets too low, air will get sucked into the system and you will need to repeat the procedure.

So, 40 turns, left AND right, all the way to the locks.  Checking every 10 times or so to make sure the fluid level is not too low.  After 40 times, check the reservoir for fluid bubbles.  Actually, it is best to have a friend turn the wheel while you watch the reservoir.  If you see medium to large air bubbles coming in from the return line (front of reservoir) then there is air in the system.  If you continue to see bubbles, let the car rest for about 20-30 minutes and then repeat the 40 turns again.  Do this procedure until no bubbles are present.  If you can't seem to get the bubbles out, check your connections on your hoses and make sure they are tight.  Torque down the pump bolts to their proper ft lbs.  Then continue on with the bleeding process.  Sometimes, the bleeding process will take several hours of this procedure.  In my case, I could not get the air out of the system for days.  I bought a hand vacuum pump to assist me.  I place the pump over the top of the reservoir and kept 20 hg of vacuum.  I did this for about 5-10 minutes at a time and then I would wait 10 minutes. I could see the bubbles leaving the system through the clear vacuum tubing. I did this for about 2-3 hours in addition to the right to left turns of the wheel which I had done earlier.  After I was satisfied the bubbles had diminished greatly (the vacuum pump will suck in some air into the reservoir and cause you to think there is still air in the system), I then cranked the car and checked the operation of the PS system.  The pump sounded quiet.  A noisy pump indicates air.  I had succeeded because no noise indicates no air.  It took me several days and a lot of patience, but finally, the nightmare was over.

To summarize, I suggest you consider your skills and patience before undertaking work on the Kia Optima power steering system.  Though I consider myself a slightly above average backyard mechanic, this job was very difficult for me.  Good luck.

1 Response to "Servicing the power steering system (pump, pressure hose, return hose) on a 2002 Kia Optima V6"

  1. Mark August 25, 2010 at 12:13 PM
    Thanks for the great blog. After months of topping off my PS reservoir because of a pin-hole in the upper hose, it finally enlarged and took the drive belt with it forcing me to get dirty now. Thanks for the heads up for the challenge ahead. I have the parts on order and will begin removing the old pieces while waiting. Any special tools, socket extensions, universals, access panels etc that need to be addressed? Looks like access is from driver-side wheel well or can you get it from the top?

    Thanks,
    Mark
    http://tinyurl.com/got-dreams

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