2003 Kia Spectra Transmission Question



My daughters 2003 Kia’s automatic transmission seems to slip in first gear when accelerating from a stop, however if it is placed in first gear, it accelerates normally. Is this a common problem and what could be the issue?


The automatic transmission in the Spectra has a one-way sprague clutch that is used to carry reaction force for low gear. If that clutch is damaged and not holding, you will get slipping in first gear while in Drive. The transmission has a multiplate friction clutch backing up this sprague clutch which is engaged when the selector is placed in 1st.

I gather that once the car gets up to a speed where second gear is available the transmission will shift adequately once the selector is put back in Drive? You might run the car by a transmission shop that specializes in Kia transmissions to see if they can scan for codes and do a pressure check when the slipping is occurring. However, the solution is probably going to be a transmission rebuild or replacement.

Hope this helps. Good luck.


As a follow up, is it safe to drive and will it get any worse if she continues to manually put it in first gear? A tranny rebuild is not in the budget right now.


It is safe to drive if the operation of the transmission is not affecting the control of the car, IMHO. Yes, the problem could become worse. It is likely that the transmission is making metal particles that may be circulating. Steel particles will be captured by the magnet in the pan (if there is one) but nonmagnetic metal particles can get through the filter screen into the pump, torque converter, fluid heat exchanger, valve body, etc.

If a rebuild or disassembly is not in the near future, you might have the transmission shop drain the pan fluid, drop the pan, examine the debris, clean the pan and magnet(s), change the filter/screen, and refill with the correct fluid. Then the transmission technician can give you advice about further use of the transmission.

Come back to us with his/her findings, diagnosis and recommendation and we can comment. Hopefully transman618 will pipe in with his assessment as he has seen a lot of failed transmissions and has seen early and late consequences.


Thank you. I will certainly let you know what we find out.