Kia Sportage won’t start – causes and how to troubleshoot

There are numerous reasons for startup problems that are not always easy to find. Not all of us are seasoned auto mechanics who can make an in-depth diagnosis. But even small routine checks can often determine the reason that is preventing the engine from starting. So, the tow truck doesn’t always have to be called.

Kia Sportage, fourth generation

Battery too weak

Most of the time, battery problems prevent the car from starting. Cold in particular can have a significant impact on battery performance. The battery is then less efficient, but at the same time it is used more (headlights, heating, windscreen wipers, etc.).

The following signs indicate a problem with the battery: Clicking noise when attempting to start, the starter rotates with difficulty and the car no longer or barely starts, the light of the signal lamps flickers or stays off completely.

It is easy to find out whether the problem is with the battery: If the headlights cannot be switched on or if they only glow weakly, the battery is empty. Alternatively, you can measure the voltage on the battery terminals with a multimeter. If the voltage is below 12 volts, the battery must be recharged. The standard range for a healthy battery is between 12.4 and 12.7 volts.

On the fourth generation of Kia Sportage (2015-2021), the 12v battery is located under the air intake box, remove it to gain access to the battery.

There are two ways to start the car when the battery is low:

Use a battery booster. Note: Pay attention to the correct cable cross-section! Gasoline engines normally need 16 mm², but larger engines can also need 25 mm². So for Kia Sportage, 16 mm² booster cable is sufficient.

Jump start with another car. When connecting, pay attention to the plus and minus poles (red cable and black cable). When the donor car starts, the red cable is connected to the positive terminal of the battery, the black to the negative terminal. In the case of a breakdown car, the red cable is connected to the positive pole. The black cable is not connected to the breakdown vehicle’s battery, otherwise there is a risk of flying sparks! Instead, you connect the cable to any bare metal on or around the engine.

Corrosion on battery terminals

If the battery is sufficiently charged and still cannot deliver the power it needs to start the engine, the metal clips on the battery case may be over-oxidized. You can clean the corrosion in four simple steps.

  1. Loosen the terminals (first minus and then plus).
  2. Clean the connections with a wire brush or sandpaper.
  3. Grease the poles with battery pole grease to prevent further oxidation.
  4. Reconnect the terminals (first plus and then minus) and try a restart.
Corrosion on 12v battery positive pole, this is what it looks like.

If that doesn’t help either, the battery must be replaced, but only if it is really defective and not just empty.

Defective alternator

If you have frequent problems starting, the fault may be with the alternator. If only the drive belt of the alternator is defective, the damage is limited. If the alternator itself is defective, it cannot properly charge the battery while driving. The permanently lit battery symbol is an indication of this. A defective alternator must be replaced in the workshop. The starter battery should also be checked at the same time.


Tip: It is best to replace the ribbed V-belts at the same time, as you have to remove them anyway.

Starter malfunction

If the alternator and battery are not the causes of the car not starting, the problem with older vehicles may be the starter, a very sensitive wear part. If the starter turns, it still makes noises, but no longer has enough power to start the engine. If the starter only makes a clicking noise when the key is turned, it can no longer start the engine either. In both cases the starter is defective. If pushing doesn’t help, the hammer method is recommended. The starter receives a few careful blows with the hammer on its housing so that the “hanging” magnetic switch can be released and the engine can start again. However, this solution is only temporary; In the long run, only removing the starter or visiting a workshop will help.


Contact resistances (verdigris on the contacts, loose screw connections on the cables) can also be the reason that the starter does not work due to insufficient current flow through the relay. In this case the relay would click, but the starter would still not work. If the relay is defective or if the cable between the start button and the relay or between the relay and the battery is interrupted, the relay won’t even click any more.

Loose cables and rodent bites

If spark plug cables are loose or defective, the spark plugs cannot provide the required spark and the engine cannot start. The simplest solution is to reattach any loose cables and connectors. If the cables are tight but sparking, the insulation is damaged. This can be caused by rodent bites.

In the event of a rodent bite, urgent action is required. Spark plug cables can be covered with insulating tape for the transition, but they should be replaced at the next opportunity. When the car starts again, it is essential to look for more rodent bites in the engine compartment. A damaged cooling water line can cause serious engine damage.

Key fob battery empty

Most modern cars have an electronic ignition switch that is activated by a remote control key. This key has an electronic chip that communicates with the car’s central locking control unit (immobilizer). If the vehicle can be started with the spare key, it is possible that only the battery in the remote control key is empty. If the control unit loses synchronization with the radio remote control, e.g. by changing the battery, the control unit can no longer identify the remote control key and the car does not start. In this case, the key must be relearned in the specialist workshop.

Starting Kia Sportage with dead key fob battery

In case you want to start your Sportage with a key fob that has dead battery, you simply place the key fob on the push start button and then start the car. This method will work on fourth generation and onward models of Sportage (2015+). There is a sensor under the push start button that recognizes the key when its in close proximity.

Place your key fob with dead battery over START/STOP button to start vehicle – (Kia Sportage 2020 shown, fourth generation)

Empty tank or bad fuel

If the starter cranks but the vehicle does not start, it is necessary to check whether there is still fuel in the tank. Sometimes the measuring needle gets stuck and you don’t even notice that the tank is actually empty. In this case, lean the car back and forth a little to see if there is any liquid in the tank.

Sometimes the problem can also come from the quality of the fuel: from impurities (tank bottom) or an inferior additive.

Fuel pump failure or fuel filter clogged

If the fuel pump fails, the fuel may no longer reach the injectors. A clogged fuel filter can also prevent the car from starting. This can happen to diesel vehicles especially in the transition period from autumn to winter when it suddenly gets cold at night and there is still summer diesel in the tank. The summer diesel begins to flocculate, paraffin crystals clog the fuel filter and prevent the fuel from flowing through to the engine.


If the car does not start or is difficult to start, it is advisable to use the exclusion principle, starting with the most likely and / or easiest to test candidates:

  • Key (start with a second key)
  • battery
  • starter
  • Spark plugs
  • Ignition coils
  • cabling
  • alternator
  • Immobilizer
  • Fuel supply

Tip: A regular check of the car in spring and autumn is the best protection against unpleasant breakdowns!


What can be the cause of a defect in the alternator?

Worn generator belt or regulator, worn carbon brushes, defective regulator or defective freewheel, corrosion of the cable connections, insufficient tension on the V-belt (ribbed).

What can be defective on the starter?

Wear of the starter carbon brush, defective magnetic switch, pinion is worn out, defective electric motor of the starter, freewheel without function. In this case the starter should be changed.

What can be broken on the ignition coil?

A defect in the ignition coil can have different causes, e.g. damage caused by rodent bites, contact faults due to moisture in the plug, age-related short circuit in the ignition coil.

Disclaimer: WheelsJoint is not liable for losses, injuries or damage to property that occur during the repair or replacement process as a result of incorrect use or misinterpretation of the information provided. The information is provided for information only and cannot replace a specialist. WheelsJoint is not liable for the wrong or dangerous use of devices, tools and spare parts. WheelsJoint recommends always working carefully with all repairs and observing all safety rules.

Author: Nabeel K

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