Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Santa Ana, San Jose, Costa Rica
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2009 Hyundai Tucson 2.0L 4-cylinder low power issue in Costa Rica
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
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.
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