Someone Else's Problem: You May Not Like It, But This Is What Peak Performance Looks Like - 2012 Kia Forte EX

Update Time: Given the market conditions and the realization that "dude you work at a startup, what if it goes tits up?" I've decided to keep the Kia for a while, at least until this time next year, if not longer. In the mean time I'll be setting aside money i'd be putting into a theoretical car payment for a down payment on whatever I'd get next.

I thought about ordering a Maverick when order banks open again but I'm gonna hold off on that because I think I wanna get into something like the ID.Buzz in 2024/25. I think I can keep the Kia until that point for sure.

To that end, since I have the cash, I'm putting money into it that I wouldn't have otherwise. It's in the shop right now getting:
*New right front axle
*AC Service/Condenser replacement
*Serp belt replacement
*Sway bar end link replacement

Should make for a nice drive, perfect for summer and beyond especially since I'm not really putting mileage on it anymore due to working from home.
It's been....way too long but a lot has happened both car wise and life wise since my previous post - let's get everyone up to speed:

tl;dr: car drives better with the work done, did well on a road trip after I lost my job, has developed a very random stalling problem and transmission misbehavior

I got the car back from the shop a day or so later with all the work done and the new sway bar end links are transformative: This may sound weird but when I hit bumps there's no longer a cheap sounding metallic/loose sounding clunk - it both sounds and feels "expensive," well damped, isolated.

It's also had a positive impact on handling, it's not a corner carver but the difference is noticeable: wallow is gone and the steering is way more confident feeling. That combined with the fixed AC had me feeling great about my decision to fix it up - it reminded me of the feelings I had when I first bought the car - sure i knew going in it wouldn't be a fun car but I felt confident that it'd last the long haul. I used it to start pre-moving a bunch of my shit to a storage unit close to the new apartment that I signed a lease on and was scheduled to move into!

It's a good thing i fixed the car too because I ended up getting laid off through a Reduction In Force at my job in early May. Little did i know that the startup I worked for would be the canary in the coalmine that is the current tech sector implosion as the economy slows and VC money dries up. It's been a difficult few months and I'm thankful that I have no car payments to worry about right now. Needless to say, moving didn't happen either.

A few days after my birthday, I drove about 3 hours and 20 min (each way) to the "PA Grand Canyon" to go on a hike, see the sights, and leave the doom scrolling gloom that is the LinkedIn news feed these days. The car took it on with aplomb, getting great mileage and just being a overall comfortable road trip companion. However, a few days after I got back home, things took a turn. I was coming down a hill when the engine stalled while in drive without me noticing. I only realized it when the light turned green and the go pedal was non responsive. I looked down to see the check engine light on and I shoved it in neutral and restarted the engine. Odd but shit happens and afterward the car drove fine.

Until it didn't - I was on a trip to Target a few days later when, about 10 min into the journey, I caught the car nearly stall as I approached a stop sign - It was as if the car wasn't properly downshifting in time to avoid the engine stalling but this time it "caught itself" and avoided a complete stall. After that, I noticed it was shifting oddly, and the car was also struggling to pull away from a stop. I ended up switching it to manual mode to make it to a lot where I could pull over and assess things. When i pulled into the lot and shifted into reverse to better align my car for a potential tow, the car juddered as it was reversing - not good. I then shut the car off to just assess the situation. I figured target wasn't happening and I just needed to get the car back home so I restarted the car drove like 95% fine back home. :confused:

No stalling, shifts were mostly fine. it was weird. But it destroyed my trust in the car.....I didn't notice any leaks or anything under the car from the transmission and unfortunately the car doesn't have a transmission fill dipstick + my ramps are in the storage unit as I was maximizing my room in the car for my stuff i was moving. I ordered a bluetooth OBD 2 tool and scanned for codes - there was no check engine light and nothing stored. Could there be transmission codes that only a higher end 3rd party (or a dealer) scan tool can pick up? Possibly. I've been restricting the car to around town duty right now for the most part despite it driving pretty much like normal...if anything the shifts are smoother than i'd expect, it's weird. I did drive it to a job interview and it did fine but the idea of the transmission failing was in the back of my mind the whole drive. It hasn't stalled either.

Current game plan is to get a new job then see what I can get for it esp since it's driving fine now - if I take it to carmax it'll never hit the lot due to the mileage so it's not like i'd be passing it off to someone else directly who'd be fucked over. The car has 188k at the moment - I don't know if i wanna possibly put a new transmission in a car with this much mileage, the start of some rust (PA winters man) and a slowly failing engine.


Entering the PA grand canyon:

Pic i took in May:
You don't have an easy life at the moment, hope you will find a job again soon.

Thank ya! I had a promising phone screen today and a interview with the hiring manager tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
tl;dr: It lives!

It's been a while. Let's catch up. :)

I continued to drive the car very sparingly - about 10 min away to Target. Honestly, while I felt like the car was shifting differently in terms of shift timing on occasion, the car had not stalled again.

In October, after a super lengthy process due to the economy, I got the job I wanted that I applied for in June. Felt so good to get back to work and I'm making way more than even my previous role. So, naturally, after building my savings, my thoughts went toward my car replacement options.

I narrowed things down to a Golf Alltrack but used prices are absolutely insane for these cars. Like 30k for a example from Carmax, Carvana, etc. I wanted one with the pano roof so I wanted a no hassle extended warranty - if i'm spending this much money on a car, I refuse to settle on features.

Not just the price soured me, but also the maintenance requirements for the Haldex AWD - apparently there's a few more places with fluid that should be changed periodically but VW tends to focus on just the main Haldex unit. That and there's a filter that gets clogged but VW pretends it doesn't exist's a mess. Finally, VWoA's options packaging annoyed me - good luck finding a Alltrack with the lighting pack so you'd actually be able to see at night, for example. Ditto Fender premium sound so it didn't sound like you were listening to music coming out of a tin can connected to the radio via string. I'd be waiting a long while for the right config.

So then I took a look at the Mazda CX-5 - Looks great, by many standard's it's the benchmark for driving dynamics in the class, Bose audio is widely available on many trims and got a lot better with the infotainment update for 2021...perfect. Used prices are still nuts so I looked at new, only to be smacked in the face with the Chip Shortage - Both Bose and Power Liftgate were being deleted from nearly all trim levels for both 2022 and 2023 - some 2022's managed to have one or the other or both but by the time I was looking all the 2022's left were missing those features.

I waffled - A CX-5 Premium Plus, the lowest trim which now had Bose and PL, starts at a lofty $35,500. I could afford this, but with the tech economy continuing to implode. despite the good spot my new org was in with finances I was unsure. The interest rate hikes were a final nail in the coffin...I couldn't bring myself to do it. Not right now, and again, if I'm buying a new car, I'm not settling.

So, i made an appointment to get my trusty steed Kia looked over on Friday. I got the results back:
* They didn't find anything of note with the transmission - no stored codes, the test drive went well.... they did note the fluid was very dark and suggested a drain and fill.

* They did note that the engine was running rough and recommended a tune up, including new spark plugs and cleaning the throttle body

* They also spotted a leaking valve cover gasket after noting that the plugs were covered in oil and the holes they go in were filled.

* Coolant needed a bit of a top up, nothing of note, no apparent leaks in the system

I went ahead and approved it all, I knew the valve cover likely needed replacing just by looking at the engine, for instance. The MPG's I was getting had me wondering if it was tune up time as well. It was cheaper than a new car and I can hopefully focus my money elsewhere, namely, restarting the process of moving again. I picked up the car today and it definitely sounds a lot smoother and shifting seemed fine. I feel like things like turning around a corner from a stop light then immediately accelerating up hill is definitely better...before I'd feel like i'd be catching the car flat footed while negotiating the corner.

A proper shake down drive is in order, probably tomorrow evening - i'll get it onto the highway and see how it performs out there as I feel like this was a part of the drive that I felt it was struggling at as well.

What's next? I"ll probably try to find a cheap Spotify "Car Thing" to setup to make music tasks easier, especially since I'll be driving the car down to Florida and back in late December. If things go well after that I'll probably re-visit getting another keyless entry fob as mine died an painful death a long time ago. The last time I called about this, i got a exorbitant number, supposedly locksmiths can do it though.
Unfortunately, while the end result is still this Kia, it sounds like you made the smart move.
Unfortunately, while the end result is still this Kia, it sounds like you made the smart move.

What do you mean unfortunately, that thing seems to be doing quite well for Rick!

Just keep the old girl running and save until actually catastrophic failure my dude. It seems to still do everything you need of it. Plus the market is still on the wrong side of crazy right now.
What do you mean unfortunately

Rick's been wanting something different for a few years now, that's why. I know it works well, it doesn't give him the fizz though.
Unfortunately, while the end result is still this Kia, it sounds like you made the smart move.

Yeah, I certainly can't complain about not spending money that I don't need to but the prospect of buying something else was exciting not gonna lie! More importantly, this allows me to move before my roommates drive me nuts.
Good choice there! No reason to buy something when what you have works fine with a bit of TLC.

Yup, thanks. I have something on the way that may help modernize things. I'll update the thread when it arrives on Monday.
What do you mean unfortunately, that thing seems to be doing quite well for Rick!

Just keep the old girl running and save until actually catastrophic failure my dude. It seems to still do everything you need of it. Plus the market is still on the wrong side of crazy right now.

Yeah, right now the plan is to move, then put the equivalent of a car payment into an account to hopefully have a decent down payment for one of these bad boys in two years:


(C'mon VWoA, don't be fucking cowards - give us the SWB model...I only need 5 seats!) :shakefist:

Rick's been wanting something different for a few years now, that's why. I know it works well, it doesn't give him the fizz though.

Yup exactly. It's duller than ditchwater but it goes, stops, has heat and AC so honestly I'm ahead. 😆
I have something on the way that may help modernize things. I'll update the thread when it arrives on Monday.
Sounds like someone ordered a modern head unit with CarPlay/Android Auto.
Sounds like someone ordered a modern head unit with CarPlay/Android Auto.

Sorta right! Sorry for the delay in updating this - when I get off work, it's pretty much dark and I don't really leave my house much while working compared to my previous job.

Behold, my new "Uber Driver" ( @93Flareside :D) setup:


It's a Atoto P8 portable CarPlay/Android Auto device! Even a few years ago, I started seeing things like this pop up on Amazon - you mount them to your dashboard or windshield and it provides a way to use phone projection in older cars. When I first bought the Kia I had planned on eventually replacing the head unit but between the cost and not wanting to really "invest" in this car after a while... I held off. With a trip to Florida now planned, I had to do something to make the trip easier esp on my ancient phone.

I did a bunch of research on Black Friday and while the generic devices were cheaper, they also had weird quirks like the 3.5mm out from the device only being mono. Atoto is a pretty well respected brand of those Android based headunits and the P8's gotten great that's what I went with. I also liked how slick the cord setup is - unlike a lot of the generic devices, Atoto uses just one cord that transfers both data, sound and power. CarPlay is wireless only but Android Auto can be both wired and wireless.


It's a clean setup. I could have hid the wiring - Atoto offers a wired camera system as well for this device but I wanted to be able to pop this off and into the glovebox while parked. I connect it to the car via Aux but there's a FM Transmitter option as well.

As you likely saw earlier, it has it's own UI for using things like the phone, the dashcam/backup cam, and BT streaming w/out using phone projection, if you wanted. A pic of how the screen looks at night - auto brightness is disabled on this screen but it gets very bright when needed:


CarPlay looks fantastic:



The touchscreen is capacitive for quick and accurate responses and the matte coating works well to eliminate glare. Using Siri works fine even while moving at highway speed using the mic built into the device.

The only hiccups:
*My phone still struggles a bit in terms of performance with some audio glitches esp when the phone's workload rises. I considered plugging in to try and see if it was wi-fi related but I can't because this device is wireless only for CarPlay.

*I wonder if my phone is using the BT mic of the car (which is what I'd prefer) vs the mic in the Atoto - the phone is paired to both - i tried unpairing from the Atoto but you need BT to connect to Wireless CarPlay.

Still, with those minor quibbles aside. it's worth the investment - The Atoto device starts up when I start my car and shuts off when I turn it off making wireless CarPlay even more seamless. I never "got" the point of it until I used it....the friction of plugging in is incredibly small..but once it's gone, it's noticeable. It feels like a legitimate upgrade and I'll be able to easily move this device to ideally a fun older, manual, 2nd car in the future.
Nifty! Might have to look into one of these for my fiancé. This is the non-Pro unit? And how do you find the mic for phone calls; do people report that you're echoey?
Did I turn you on to AAH?
Nifty! Might have to look into one of these for my fiancé. This is the non-Pro unit? And how do you find the mic for phone calls; do people report that you're echoey?

Yup it's the non pro, this guy. Screenshotting because the forum is treating the Amazon link as a media link and breaking it, lol:


I didn't bother with the package that included the camera kit but if they did something like connect the tablet display to the dock with a pogopin setup and have the cameras and audio/power feed into the dock, that'd be interesting.

I was trying to figure out how I could test it out but then my Grandma did it for me. I have my phone connected to my car's built in Bluetooth and the Atoto through CarPlay and, at least when I answer using the steering wheel controls, the car gets priority:


Did I turn you on to AAH?

Honestly I don't remember, lol I feel like I discovered it separately and noticed your posts too. But maybe I did discover it from you, and if so, thanks! Great show for those of us who love getting a taste of how the proverbial sausage is made for sure!
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Update time!
In December I drove my trusty steed on it's longest journey it's ever had while it's been in my possession - a 14 hour, 973 mile drive to Florida and for a week to see my family then the same drive back home over the holidays. Enjoy this godawful picture of me next to a giant dolphin at a rest stop:


(I'm working on this, rest assured, it's tough but anyway back to the trip and the car....)

Things went well, each way. - the most drama I experienced was difficulty with the CarPlay screen staying on it's mount after I detached it for parking - turns out you have to push surprisingly hard to "click" the mounting adapter in place on the back of the display. The AC worked well although the temps were pretty mild, and the car held highway speeds without much fuss. The CarPlay screen itself performed near flawlessly, save for some very occasional interference due to it being wireless, and the limitations of my slow 6S Plus phone getting hot. I since retired it for a iPhone 12 which is like a night and day difference.

Ended up visiting a cute town with the fam called Mt. Dora which goes all out each year for the holidays:



And also took advantage of the trail system at a park where my Dad and Stepmom play pickleball:



A couple weeks after the return trip, I noticed the first issue in a while - the car didn't fully turn over when i started it and I had to let it crank a bit to star. Then when i would hit the stop sign at the end of my street the engine would threaten to stall and the idle would get super lumpy and rough, you could feel it pulsing.... I had to goose the gas pedal to keep it alive - that was a instant nope from me and I nursed it back into the parking spot. Went back out later in the day to check various things - hoses and lines, electrical connections, spark plug wiring/boots, air filter, etc. One of the connectors on a spark plug was seated but didn't click so I pushed the connector in further - still no click but it seemed fine.

Went ahead and started the car and it was fine, turned over right away, the car held a steady idle while in gear. Things were good again....or so I thought.

2 days later the same thing happened, car took longer to turn over, had a rough idle, engine threatened to stall unless I gave it gas, etc. I also noticed the transmission would behave very poorly when I took the car to the store (this was a trip that had to happen unfortunately), it hung out in 2nd gear for a while before shifting into third gear and beyond, making my progress up a steep hill that I have to turn onto pretty much immediately after leaving my house a bit stress inducing. I parked, got out of the car and went into the store.

15 min later I got back in, turned on the car, and it was fine! I drove it back home, engine smooth, transmission fine. It was truly bizarre behavior and meant that the issues only happened during the initial drive of the day.

I had an appointment scheduled for the state inspection so I figured I'd get it looked at there. The car passed inspection but upon testing the battery found that while it had a design capacity of 600 CCAs, it was only at 388 CCAs. So they threw it on the charger to boost it a bit to like 491 CCAs but warned that a new battery was definitely in my future.

And it was, a day or two later it got bitter cold again...same I milked it to a Advance Auto up the road (never thought I'd darken their doorstep again since the XJ but here we are, at least I wasn't walking in 90+ degree heat in the summer lol) and did the battery swap in their parking lot. Just like that, the car was fine and worked consistently well.

Until a few days ago. I had just gotten back from driving to NJ (about a 3 hour drive each way) to hang out with @LP at the NYIAS on Saturday. On Sunday I tried to start the car for the first time that day, in temperate temps mind you, probably 65 degrees F from a high of 75 degrees F in the afternoon by the time I drove the car that evening. The same symptoms popped back up, slow turnover, engine threatening to stall, transmission shift hangs, etc. and like before, 15 min later for the return drive was fine.

What changed from before this started happening and now? Well as a test, I decided to unplug the carplay display and my phone charger from the 12 volt outlets when the car is off and so far the car's been starting reliably and driving fine. I then introduced the phone charger into the mix again mid week and so far so good still. So unless it happens again, I bet the carplay display is somehow having just enough parasitic draw to slowly drain the battery overtime and my intermittent drives can't keep up. In theory, no power draw should occur - power is cut to the outlets when the car is switched off and I can see the light on the charger and the screen go out usually a few seconds after I turn off the car and open the driver's door - I have auto off (but not on) headlights that switch off when i open the driver's door so I leave them on all the time.

It's weird coincidence that this has happened a day (in the case of the latest case) to a week (after my trip to florida and back) after extended drives though.

I may give it another week of doing this before running to AutoZone or Advance to get a battery test done, just to see where I stand.
Anyway, here's a pic of the car after one of it's more recent car washes last month:


I have to park in a spot that I hate because my roommate can't drive stick and rolled his Jetta nearly into the creek, so he parks into this divot in our driveway out of paranoia and I was sick of him nearly hitting my car when he'd back out of said divot due to his rear end overlapping my car.

So now i park on the opposite part of the driveway where birds just shit on my car with reckless abandon - I wash the car now at least once a week because it's just inundated with shit. Cannot wait to move in June.

EDIT: Oh yeah - I got a letter from Kia today... It confirms they won't do the big anti-theft software update on the 1st gen Forte despite it and the 2013 Elantra being close to the same car and that car's getting a software update from Hyundai. So instead, they're going to ship me a gobsmackingly ugly yellow and silver fucking Club like it's 1985 or some shit. As someone who pre covid parked in sketch places to go to shows a lot and is starting to dip my toe in returning to my favorite haunts, it's a bit of a bummer. Hope she won't get stolen - the market's not favorable to buy a new car now with interest rates as they are!
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Update time!

Life with the Kia had been pretty uneventful since my trip in December - it made several trips up to my storage unit as I prepped to move, made it's way down to IKEA at least twice and overall proved to be perfectly adequate transportation.

Until it sat for a week at the BWI long term parking lot. You see, in early August, I took a plane ride out west to California to attend the first ever official Wafflehead Meetup at Vans HQ - Cali was amazing, i need to go back, etc...but that's a story for another thread.

When I got back to Baltimore, I attempted to start the car and sure did it's random weird sputtery/slow startup thing. All the same symptoms as before - shifting into drive or reverse induced stalling when slowing down, etc. I ended up driving around the lot and even revving the car up while in park for a bit before remembering that a restart of the car seems to fix it. Sure enough, restarting the car caused it to drive mostly normally and it made it back to my house without issue.

Until a day or two later when it did it again. In the past, I thought it was something plugged into the power outlet draining the battery....maybe my auto-off headlights as well but here's the thing - at BWI I made it a point to unplug everything and turn the headlights off. So something, somewhere, is causing some sort of phantom drain.

That combined with the fact that it's now happening more frequently meant that it was time to evaluate my options. I started looking around and whelp I ended up parking the Forte for the last time:


Final Mileage: 191059 miles


We've been through a lot together, but it never left me stranded. I appreciate that it held out for as long as it did.
My Lancer's phantom drain turned out to be a faulty Bluetooth module. They're crap from that era. Disconnected it and voila, no more phantom drain. I don't know if that's the case with the Kia or if you plan on keeping it, though.
🫡 That was a good run! You put almost 100k on it, right?
Yup. Just about 90k! Impressive actually!

My Lancer's phantom drain turned out to be a faulty Bluetooth module. They're crap from that era. Disconnected it and voila, no more phantom drain. I don't know if that's the case with the Kia or if you plan on keeping it, though.

:hmm: Interesting! I ended up trading it in so who knows if it'll end up on the road with another buyer to figure out! lol.