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hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
57,037 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2009 Kia Optima drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2009 Kia Optima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #23

Apr 102013


  • 40,000 miles


Transmission shifting hard - started around 60,000 miles. Shifts hard from second gear to first gear - around 20 mph. Took it in to have the system (computer) upgrade in January of 2014 ($500) -- this fixed the issue for about 6 months. Took it back in January of 2015 ($500) for another system (computer) upgrade. It fixed the issue for several months. Took it back to Kia and the dealership recommended a new transmission. I asked the tech if he could guarantee me that this would stop the issue. He told me he could not guarantee me that installing a new transmission would stop the hard downshifting issue. It downshifts so hard that you feel like someone has slammed on the brakes.

- Cypress, TX, USA

problem #22

Aug 022016


  • 82,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Kia Optima. The contact stated that the instrument panel indicated that the vehicle was in drive regardless of the gear shifter's position. The contact was able to stop the vehicle by engaging the emergency brake. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed, but the details of the failure were not provided. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 82,000.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #21

May 072013


  • 50,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Kia Optima. While driving 10 mph and decelerating, the vehicle jerked violently. The failure recurred when the vehicle was cold. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, but was not diagnosed nor repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 50,000.

- Memphis, TN, USA

problem #20

Sep 012015


  • 67,500 miles


When vehicle is started at first and after slowing down between 20-30 mph applying brakes to slow down the vehicle makes a hard downshift jerk causing a harsh jolt. This happens continually up five times then decreases. This is a safety hazard and could cause death.

- Cutler Bay, FL, USA

problem #19

Mar 192014


  • 96,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Kia Optima. The contact stated that while shifting the vehicle into the park position, the key remained stuck in the ignition switch while attempting to turn the vehicle off. The failure was persistent. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 96,000.

- Alkol, WV, USA

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problem #18

Sep 142015


  • 52,000 miles
When driving the vehicle it jerks forward and downshifts aggressively around 30 mph. Kia is aware of the issue and will not fix it because there is no recall.

- Pennellville, NY, USA

problem #17

Oct 012014

Optima 4-cyl

  • 50,000 miles


Late last year (2014) in our Kia Optima 2009 got some transmission issue which is difficult to explain for. To me it looks like a manufacturing defect which Kia must resolve. This is what I experienced: In 2014 October, I started feeling a heavy jolt/jerk whenever I used the car and the engine is cold. The jolt is so strong that every passenger noticed it. This happens only when I try to slow down the car and it gets near to 20 mphr. So the factors are: 1. cold 2. downshift 3. speed 20 mphr on slippery roads it may be very dangerous which can lead to major injuries. Kia must accept this dangerous manufacturing defect before it start taking lives. It is very annoying issue too, it is always on my mind while driving which is causing distraction while driving. Kia must take an action instead of sitting quite. They must issue recall this to fix this dangerous issue. NHTSA also should support all the people with same problem so that people can believe their safety standards. I took my car 2-3 times there and explained the issue, but they could not fix it so far. If Kia's own dealers cannot fix this problem then who will? thanks for reading my complaint against Kia!

- Troy, OH, USA

problem #16

Jan 172011

Optima 4-cyl

  • 66,000 miles
While slowing down and breaking the transmission makes a rough downshift around 20 mph. It will literally jolt the diver and passengers. The transmission will do this until it has warmed up. It is especially bad during the cold winter months. The dealer has looked at it three different times and made one adjustment to the transmission software but to no avail. I stopped by the dealer again yesterday and they said I would be charged a $105 fee just to look at it. I am afraid the transmission is going to lock-up and cause a wreck.

- Albuquerque , NM, USA

problem #15

Nov 122014


  • 52,000 miles
When I get around 20 miles per hour the car downshifts hard form 2nd gear to 1 St gear hwne it is cold...but once it warms up it is fine...this vehicle only has 53,000 miles on it... it should not be having transmission has hardly been driven...I called the dealer they said the warranty ran out... I called Kia they said the same thing...this is a issue with the transmission control module... this should be a recall... I should not have to pay for is a manufacturer is said they don't stand behind their products... I am not the only one who has had this issue with Kia Optimas...please do a recall on this is getting out of hand..thanks [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #14

Dec 012014

Optima 4-cyl

  • miles
When the vehicle slows to 20 miles per hour, the car downshifts hard by itself. Car lurches forward. In researching online, I found numerous reports of the same thing. First thought it was the brakes, but mechanic said brakes were fine. It can only be the transmission / power train.

- Howard Beach, NY, USA

problem #13

Nov 282013


  • 60,000 miles


When the vehicle slows to 20 miles per hour, the car downshifts hard by itself. In researching online, I found numerous reports of the same thing. In speaking with my personal mechanic, he said this should be covered under the transmission portion of the power train warranty - new transmission software needs to be re-downloaded to the car's computer and then the computer reset - this should retrain the transmission on when to downshift.

- Kaukauna, WI, USA

problem #12

Mar 202012


  • 62,000 miles
I purchased a used Kia Optima in March 2012, but had, what I thought were "grabbing" brakes. I took it in when I found a service bulletin tsb-067. I had the car analyzed, and found it had this shifting issue. I had the reprogramming done and everything was fine for a little over a year, then not only did the downshifting issue start back up again, but now have acceleration issues as well. Now the vehicle "lopes" on acceleration - sometimes a lot. I contacted Kia about it, and they said I had to take it back for diagnosis yet again, and then they would think about reimbursement for the second service appointment. I do not understand why there is not a recall on it yet. It is destroying my transmission because of the "banging" of the transmission due to the extreme downshifting of the vehicle.

- Oregon, IL, USA

problem #11

May 092014


  • 54,835 miles
While leaving for work in the am, as I decelerate at the stop sign, when speed nears 20-25 mph the vehicle jerks hard like it's trying to downshift. Seems to disappear as the vehicle warms to running temp.

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #10

Jul 092014


  • 83,000 miles
When I brake and slow down my Kia Optima and it gets to 20 mph or lower, it will jerk suddenly as if the transmission is changing abruptly and dangerously. This has been an ongoing issue and not just a recent occurrence.

- East Stroudsburg, PA, USA

problem #9

Jun 042013


  • 65,000 miles
Vehicle air bag trouble light illuminated on dashboard. When brought to the dealer, we were told that a seat sensor was defective and needed replacement at a cost of $1500. This is on top of a recent $2700 transmission replacement on the same vehicle one month prior. Since we are still paying for the transmission repair, we chose to drive the vehicle without the air bag system functioning properly which we realize is a safety issue, but we cannot afford another expensive Kia repair.

- Spotswood, NJ, USA

problem #8

Apr 022013

Optima 4-cyl

  • 64,000 miles
The vehicle had three expensive problems in rapid succession. The first was the transmission which started a severely hard downshift on braking from about 25 mph. The whole car shuddered and felt as if we slammed on the brakes for a second. After troubleshooting, Kia told us we needed a new transmission for $2700 with no help from Kia. After this repair, not even two weeks later, the air bag light came on. Diagnosis from Kia, defective sensor in the passenger seat, not covered by warranty and a $1500 replacement estimate. We decided not to fix this item because we were going to trade the car in on another make and cut our losses. The third problem which occurred one week later was a failure to start after parking the car for an hour at a doctor's office, stranding my wife in 95 degree heat. The car was towed to a non-Kia repair shop as I no longer want anything to do with Kia who will deny any claim against their so-called quality products and will be disposing of the car as soon as it is running again since Kia does not stand behind its defective products. After three major failures in a short period of time we feel this is an unsafe vehicle.

- Spotswood, NJ, USA

problem #7

Jun 062013

Optima 6-cyl

  • 62,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Kia Optima. The contact stated that while attempting to park, the gear shifter failed to secure into park or reverse. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnosis where it was stated that the brake switch needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired and the manufacturer was notified. The approximate failure mileage was 62,000.

- Martin Ferry, OH, USA

problem #6

Feb 012013


  • 160,000 miles
In the past month I have noticed when coming to a stop and applying the brakes on my 2009 Kia Optima that the car jerks like it doesn't want to stop. I have had my brake pads checked and they are fine. I have however noticed that when I'm coming to a stop and put the car in neutral I stop fine with no jerking. I have taken it to a transmission shop and they have said that their is no problems there and have also called the local Kia dealership to have the problem looked at but they stated that if its something not covered under warranty I have to pay $100 just for them looking at the vehicle regardless if they find the problem or not. I have searched the internet and have seen similar problems with this particular car but no information on what is causing the issue.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #5

Dec 192012


  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Kia Optima.the contact stated that while driving 20 mph, the vehicle was coasted and once the speed fell below 20 mph, the vehicle jerked violently. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for inspection and they stated that the computer and transmission needed to be reset. The vehicle was repaired but the failure recurred. The manufacturer was not notified. The failure mileage was 40,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Fort White, FL, USA

problem #4

Mar 012012

Optima 4-cyl

  • 32,553 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Kia Optima. The contact stated that while at a stop light, the vehicle down shift with extreme force. The dealer reprogrammed the transmission computer and the gear shift failure was corrected; however, the computer reprogramming affected the vehicles acceleration. The vehicle failed to accelerate after the brake pedal was released and the engine became idle. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer for a test drive where the failure was duplicated; however, the failure could not be corrected. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 32,553 and the current mileage was 43,240. Updated 3/25/13 the consumer stated it took months to figure out the problem. Kia denied there was even a problem. It was finally discovered, when the dealer reprogrammed the transmission for a hard shift, they inadvertently created a problem with the engine controls.

- Pittsboro , NC, USA

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