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Old 09-07-2012, 11:18 PM   #1 (permalink)
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2009 Hyundai Tucson JM, 2.0L 4-cylinder gasoline
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Default 2009 Hyundai Tucson 2.0L 4-cylinder low power issue in Costa Rica

Hi,

Hoping I can get some suggestions on an issue I am having. My wife and I are US expatriates living in Costa Rica for a work assignment. We bought a 2009 Hyundai Tucson and have been having an issue with the power decreasing over the last couple months or so. Service and parts are a little hard to come by in Costa Rica, so I am trying to deal with this myself and have work friends bring me parts from the US when needed!! I’m pretty decent mechanically.

Here is some background and what I have done so far:

- 2009 Hyundai Tucson 2.0L 4-cylinder gasoline engine
- Purchased with 90,000 km (56,000 miles)
- Currently has 114,000 km (70,000 miles)
- Do not know the car’s service history prior to purchase
- Have not had any issues with powertrain previously
- Starts fine with zero hesitation
- Idles and operates smoothly with no missing (for me this rules out a bad plug wire or something specific to one cylinder)
Using lots of fuel (approx. 2x normal I would guess, though I have not measured this)
- On hills where I used to be able to accelerate, now the car holds at maybe 5,000rpm and just will NOT build RPMs and power and will not upshift because it knows it won’t make any more power once it shifts. At this point, you get kind of a “flutter” sound sort of like when you over-rev a dirt bike (“rev limiter”). If you let off gently so it upshifts, there is very little power.

I started with the easy/obvious. I recently put a new air filter in it, but I swapped a new one just in case (maybe it was wet or something silly). No change.

Next I thought fuel delivery. Fuel is known to be quite dirty in Costa Rica, so I suspected the fuel filter. It had potentially never had a replacement for 70,000 miles, so I figured it was time for a replacement anyway. Some friends of mine have experienced low power issues caused by a severely plugged fuel filter so this seemed pretty likely. I ordered a new filter housing and had a friend bring it down from the states. I just did the swap tonight (small side rant: why do the manufacturer’s insist on engineering such a complicated assembly – just put the dang filter separate somewhere easy to access!!) Anyway, the swap of the fuel level sensor, fitting, plugs, connections, pump itself, o-rings, etc. to the new filter housing was not too difficult. The biggest concern was not to snap any of the little “tangs” that I needed to re-use!! I sawed through the filter out of curiosity. It was quite dirty – however, I do not know what a “normal” used filter should look like. See attached picture.

I took it for a test drive. Result was a very minimal improvement. It went up a couple of my daily driven hills a tiny bit better, but still nowhere near what it used to do. Still has the “flutter” and refusal to build RPMs and power.

Now, I am thinking 2 things 1) still maybe fuel delivery or 2) ignition

Fuel Delivery
Given the slight improvement with the fuel filter swap, maybe I am onto something with the fuel delivery. Maybe a dying fuel pump? Perhaps from having to work so hard from a really bad fuel filter (if it was truly so bad)? One thing that makes me think the pump is fine is that when I turn the key to on, the fuel pump seems to cycle normally. No excessive noise, does not sound like it is struggling, does not sound like it is overcoming a lack of fuel pressure each time.

Or perhaps the issue is atomization of the fuel i.e. dirty fuel injectors. I plan to pick up some fuel injector cleaner this weekend to try to rule that out.

Ignition
Plug wires and whatever else this thing uses (rotor? I actually don’t know what this vehicle uses)

Okay, well sorry for my essay, just want to make sure to give you all the information you might need to make a determination and suggestion.

I appreciate any and all help you can give!!

Pura vida, (standard Costa Rican well wishing)
Danny Simon in Costa Rica
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I should have mentioned, there are no check engine lots being shown.

I checked the catalytic converter and other exhaust components, no obvious signs of internal breakage when hitting with a mallet.

I also inspected the plug wires which all looked fine. Was gonna try to measure the resistance to OEM spec, but my multimeter isn't working.

I pulled a couple spark plugs, which looked normal. Kind of a nice medium-brown color with no deposits or anything that jumped out at me as suspect. I checked the plug gap while I was there...right at nominal of OEM spec.

I added a bottle of fuel injector cleaner to a fresh tank today, we will see what happens.

I'm going to try to duck out of work tomorrow with a local co-worker and see if I can have the fuel pressure tested to rule out fuel supply or not. My gut is still telling me it's starving for fuel based on how it behaves when trying to accelerate up mild inclines. That or maybe an ignition coil or something that impacts the overall system as a whole. And being that there aren't any check engine lights, it seems that the computer system/sensors as a whole are happy.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:30 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Here is a picture of a spark plug.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Hi, I see you are having some problems with your Tucson

So far it seems there may be some kind of fuel delivery or exhaust malfunction. The cat converter may be plugged from the bad fuel, but this condition will not be detected unless removed and inspected by had by looking through it.

In San José, there is some people that are very knowledgeable and can work in your Tucson using the right tools and factory information. In fact, they are all "ex" employees from the parts and shop from former L&S.

They are located in Avenida 10, across the street from the central cemetery. Their place is named "Repuestos 10 y 10". They carry parts and have a small specialized shop in back, with very good mechanics.

Call them at 2222-7476 (BUSINESS HOURS). Ask for Mr. Enrique Castillo (he speaks fluent English) and tell him Robert Burgos told you about them.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thank you very much, Robert. I will give them a ring tomorrow and try to work it out with them.
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:56 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Just reading your post again and by looking at the spark plug picture, it looks you are another victim of the "manganese" additive from Recope's gasoline.

I guess you've seen the news recently about this issue. There are hundreds of people complaining about damaged engines (no real damage, just a couple of items).

Symptoms:

Loss of power
Excessive fuel consumption
Clogged cat converters and dirty spark plugs *
Possible damage to O2 sensor.

*Upon close inspection, cat converters will show clogged passage cells with a brownish - dull orange deposit. Same deposits will show in spark plugs.

Fix is easy: Just replace the damaged parts (plugs, cat converter and O2 sensor (if damaged).

But its worth having those guys at Repuestos 10 y 10 take a closer look.

The are located across the street from the Central (General) Cemetery, at Avenida 10. Coming from Santa Ana, get to the end of highway 27 at La Sabana. Then take Ave 10th to the East. Reach to the cemetery and they will be at the left side of the street, 1 + 1/2 blocks ahead. Phone number 2222-7476.
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Old 09-10-2012, 10:41 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Hi Robert,

Thank you very much for this information. I had not heard of this widespread issue. It sounds exactly like the problem I am having! It seems that the spark plugs are indicators, and the real performance issue most likely stems from the severely-restricted flow through the catalytic converter.

The cat would definitely not be something I can do at my own house (don't have the right tools, help, nor the part!) so I will be taking it in. But at least I have all this good information to present to Repuestos 10 y 10.

I called earlier but Enrique was not in at the time, so I will be calling back shortly.

Whatever happens, I will be sure to report back here to close out this thread.

Thanks again,
Danny
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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First off, big thanks to Robert for pointing me to Repuestos 10 y 10. Enrique and Ronald were great, very patient, heard everything I had to say/show, and had me stick around to make sure all info was passed off to them.

On Monday, Ronald ran a full scanner test which confirmed no codes and all sensors check out fine. Ran a vacuum check on the intake which held good vacuum (~17inHG, it was green on his gauge...I guess pretty standard) apparently indicating that the exhaust system is not plugged. Checked pulse timing of the injectors which checked out fine. Checked ignition system including coils, wires, etc. all check out fine. Checked fuel supply pressure.

We went on a long test drive to demonstrate all the symptoms under various driving conditions/hills/etc. We actually sort of settled on that it might just be a slipping auto trans (torque converter) or maybe a faulty signal for the trans to lock-up. Left it that night and they had their transmission guy look at it on Tuesday. Transmission guy says the trans checks out fine.

So they ran some more testing, including a compression test and leak-down test. Turns out cylinders #1 and #3 are low on compression. Root cause is a leaky head gasket. We've never overheated it to cause head warpage, but who knows in its prior life. It could also be from a not-so-gentle-driver (read: ME!) So they are pulling the head off and sending it to their machinist to repair. Crossing my fingers that there are no other internal issues, and they can just re-surface and put a new gasket on and call it a day. We will see.

- Danny
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:54 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Got the car back on Tuesday. Who knew my little 4-banger could have so much power! HA!

I think now looking back on it, this condition pre-existed when we bought the car. From day 1, when going up a big hill for an extended period, you would hear this small, single "blow-off" type sound. I think that was the leak past the head gasket. Then it got worse and worse and that sound was probably the "fluttering" sound (more prominent) when pushing the engine hard more recently.

Now when going up hills, the engine feels more solid, and has not since made any type of "blow-off" or "fluttering" sounds.

I guess out of laziness or busy-ness, or not thinking it was a big deal, I just wrote that sound off from the beginning when really it was a warning of things to come!

- Danny
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Old 09-22-2012, 03:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Very glad to see you got your Tucson up and running, and especially, that you discovered the blown head gasket was to blame on the previous owner.

I am not sure,but I do believe your engine's head will need to be "retorqued" some time in the near future. At least this was the common practice some years ago, any time the head was removed (for any reason) and the head gasket was replaced. If this is your case, those guys at Repuestos 10y10 probably told you so, and also probably told you to "drive gently" untill the head bolts get retorqued.

As for me, sometime next week I have to drop by those guys, and have them check my starter motor (Terracan) because I feel its failing (contacts? brushes? else?) because in the past two weeks, when turning the key, it produced a single "click" and nothing else. It was on the third or fourth attempt that the starter motor catched in and started the engine. Battery is new so this is ruled out.
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