We got this little KIA for a great deal with only 102k miles on it. Probably put less than 1k miles on it before the radiator split open on top, and it quit. (We were driving on the highway with cruise control on)

We replaced the radiator, and we guessed that the head gasket would need replaced also. Took it all apart, and sure enough, there was some rust and gunk in the cylinders, so we bought a gasket kit and replaced all the gaskets. This took place over a couple of months, as we found time to work on it. By now it has been about 6 months since it last ran, and we can't get it to start! It cranks just fine, and fires once in a while, but just can't quite get enough "oomph" to actually run.

We theorized that since it's been 6 months, maybe the gas was bad, so we emptied the tank as much as we could, and added 4-5 gallons of high-octane. Checked all the plugs, and we're getting spark... Double-checked the timing belt, it's aligned. Pulled a bunch of fuses and put them back in, and all of a sudden it almost would start! (Firing somewhat rhythmically)

After cranking for a while, now it's basically back to where it was, just cranking and cranking, with a little half-hearted attempt once in a while. Any suggestions?

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    Firing order ?? Is #1 correct relative to Top Dead Center? Functional crank position sensor ? (Hall effect = easy test with a volt ohm meter and screwdriver...)
    – zipzit
    Mar 25, 2016 at 19:44
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    Lets talk about firing order. Assuming this is a four cylinder engine, the firing order is 1-3-4-2.. In that order. If you swap wires anywhere and that order gets swapped = no go. If you get the #1 wire in the wrong place, even though you have the right firing order, you may not have the correct #1 start sequence. (in effect you'd have 3-4-2-1 or 2-1-3-4) again, that means = no go. You have to have the correct firing order AND the correct start timing. Timing is based on crankshaft position (Top Dead Center) and valve timing... remember this is a four cycle engine.
    – zipzit
    Mar 25, 2016 at 21:10
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    You will definitely want to use a book to tell you where Top Dead Center (TDC) should be, where the distributor should be pointing at that point, and where each of the wires should be routed. Generally you'll find a page that shows the cylinder order, the firing order, how to read TDC AND the alignment of the distributor inside the distributor cap.
    – zipzit
    Mar 25, 2016 at 21:12
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    Er.. wait just a minute. Are you telling me you swapped a head gasket without having a service manual? How did you know where to torque the head bolts? Yeah, if you did that job without reference that's not good. You are doomed to fail. If you have the manual, then you would be reading up on your own question "Where would the crank position sensor be?" Again here's what I don't know.. Year and make --> type of distributor system, electronic with position sensors (1 or 2) or manual dist Your repair book should show that stuff. I suspect you've got a spark problem, related to mis-assembly.
    – zipzit
    Mar 25, 2016 at 21:20
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    Ugh. That's terrible pricing. That manual is the kind of thing you will use today, and then again 18 months from now. Look for an actual Haynes or Chilton's paper manual. I see AutoZone has Haynes available on their website. Oops. and the price is now just under $30, sigh. I also see manuals on Ebay < $20
    – zipzit
    Mar 25, 2016 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


Compiling from the comments, it seems that the issue could be a firing order problem, and that your alignment (TDC) could be out of place.

Check your manuals (or manuals online), or purchase a manual to gain this information and make sure everything follows the manual, we do not wish to have a blow out ;)

(Note: This is my thoughts and what i would do in the situation, none of this is saying that you should do so, always use appropriate tools and protective equipment where needed!)

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