Help installing timing belt on 2001 Kia Sephia

I am trying to replace the timing belt on my 2001 Kia Sephia. I replaced the waterpump, idler pulley, and the tensioner pulley/and spring. When I route the belt back on the cams/crank after they are all lined back to where they are supposed to be, I can not get the belt to go back over the tensioner pulley. I have pulled it back all the way and tightened it down, but there is just not enough slack in the belt to get it over the pulley. I have tried several different methods to include trying to route the belt backwards, but nothing is working. It seems like there is just no enough slack in the belt. I can really use some help figuring this out, because after 3 days and several skinned knuckles, my patience is wearing thin. I have changed timing belts out before, but I have never had this much trouble. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Do you have a belt routing diagram for your car and are your new belt and old belt the same length?

im sure ive done one of these but i cant remember specifically that one has the v6 right? i think its a massive pain. but anyway. lots of the timing belts are so friggin tight on many different cars it would make a preacher cuss trying to install one. I do them nearly daily on different cars.

first off Of course it sounds like you know, but dont move your crank or camshafts more than a half inch or so in either direction with the belt off

also be ware of the camshafts they will jump. I was fighting to get a belt on a honda once and chopped the tip of my finger off with a cam gear that jumped.

off hand im not familiar with the exact design but in general. I usually leave the tensioner off of the car, and install the belt best i can all the way around and install the tensioner with the belt on it. Also if there are any idler pulleys for the timing belt i will leave those off until the belt is installed. sometimes it also of course helps to rotate the crank ever so slightly to give you more slack on one side. Sometimes ill get the belt on one side, and rotate the crank to pull that side tight to make more slack on the other. all very risky of course. Once again dont move the crank much at all with belt off. Anyway sorry for the novel, good luck.

Oldtimer, I have verified by part numbers that the new belt is the correct belt, the old belt was thrown away by my kids who were “cleaning up” around the car. I have reviewed diagrams online for the belts, but no luck.

Zoomo, I bought the cam locking tool because they would not stay lined up, they naturally wanted to roll slightly before and after independently on the intake/exhaust cams. I had thought about taking the tensioner pulley off, but there is a spring behind the pulley that has to go into a hole in the waterpump housing. Not sure if I could get it back in. I have spent countless hours routing and rerouting the belt, but can’t seem to “stretch” the extra 1/4 inch it seems I need out of the belt.

i can picture that little spring now, its a pain in the ass itself. ONce again this is risky, and would be best if you had a second set of good competent hands. Maybe if you cold get the belt on everything but the tensioner and then take your cam locking tool out and rotate the engine by the crankshaft just slightly to pull everything tight and get it on? could turn into a disaster, but ive had to get them on that way before.

you may also try taking the belt back off and standing on it with one foot and giving it a good long hard pull, not yank but just pull to try and stretch it. not sure if ive ever done that before but it works with serpentine belts.

i was just looking it up, it looks like that tensioner pulley may even have a lip on it? if thats the case its going to have to be feed on else where. Its a nightmare sometimes, ive had to pry and force them up over the cam gears on some cars instead of installing them over the tensioner.

Has the belt tensioner been loosened before routing the belt? No pulley mismatch between the adjustable pulley and the idler? I assume so; just asking.

Once together I would strongly suggest that a few minutes be spent mentally verifying that all bolts are tight followed by rotating the engine through by hand 3 or 4 times before attempting a start.

You have to make sure that the timing belt is tight between the sprockets so all the slack in the timing belt ends up at the tensioner.


If this engine is set up so the timing belt goes over two camshaft pulleys and the one on the crankshaft, that makes installing the belt and getting the timing marks spot on a good deal more challenging. This task has actually been a topic on the show, and Ray has said this can be a frustrating job and easy to do incorrectly. As I recall Ray mentioned the same thing as Tester’s post above, that one important key is to remove all slack between the two camshaft sprockets first.

On my 4afe equipped Corolla the timing belt – besides going over the crankshaft pulley – it only goes over the camshaft pulley, the other camshaft being driven by gears from the first, so it’s very easy to get the timing belt on and aligned.

Besides the advice above, I can offer the general advice that sometimes with tight fitting belts the easiest way is you remove one or more of the pulleys/tensioners completely, route the belt around them, then re-install the pulley on the shaft with the belt already on it.

If I had this problem and nothing else seemed to work, here’s what I’d do:

  • Secure the manufacturers recommended instructions for doing this task from the factory service manual. There may be something you have to do in a certain order.

  • Visit a dealership shop during off-peak hours and see if I could ask for a suggestion from a mechanic there, someone who does this all the time.

  • I’d make a trip to the auto parts store and verify the belt I was using wasn’t shorter than other examples of the same part number. It could just be a manufacturing defect by the company that made the belt.

Thanks for the advice. I will try this tomorrow, for it has gotten dark, cold, and has been raining most of the the day here.

If your luck runs like mine, these kind of big DIY’er jobs seem to always be necessary to do in bad weather. It’s like that Mel Brooks movie with Gene Wilder and Marty Feldmen --Young Frankenstein I think – where they are digging a hole in muddy ground and say “could be worse , could be raining”. Then it starts to rain … lol …

Good on you for giving it a go on your own though. Think positive, with a little more effort, some invention maybe will be required, but eventually it will all be back together and working fine.

I just watched a video on Youtube of someone replacing the belt on a similar engine, Kia 1.8L, and they, too, had a hard time getting the belt over the tensioner pulley. Their solution was to remove the spring and set the tension manually. Can’t say that I agree, because they put that spring there for a reason.

I agree. I don’t think permanently removing the spring is a good idea.

Ok, went out and worked on it today. I got it, and it was a piece of cake once I removed the motor mount bracket. I routed the belt, put a wedge against the crank to hold it there, and snap ties to hold the belt on the cams, and then lossened the tensioner bolt and then moved it back and it went. No problem. Thanks for all the help and responses, and I hope this helps anyone else having this problem. Car cranked, and I was pleasantly pleased, because the timing bolt broke while I was driving.

Pull-quote from a Kia Motors article:

The Sportage and Sephia/Spectra are the only "freewheeling engines." The valves do not interfere with the pistons if the timing belt fails. All other Kia engines are "interference engines.” The valves may interfere with the pistons if valve timing is off.

Keep in mind this article only applies to the 1995-2002 Sportage, 1994-2001 Sephia, and the 2000-2004 Spectra.

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Thanks for posting back, good info. Congrats on sticking with it!

I assume you removed the mount bracket not b/c you absolutely had to, but b/c it was somewhat in your way when doing the install procedure. That’s one trick I’ve learned over the years when working on cars, don’t be overly afraid of removing stuff to make the job easier. When they train new surgeons, they always tell them to make the incision much bigger than necessary until they learn by experience improved technique.

Well, I mainly removed the bracket because of my big fat hands and lack of space 8). \

Insightful, good to know. The KIA dealer/shop I talked to told me the exact opposite, but at the same time, they told me know one new for sure about working on them because they didn’t have anyone that had been there long enough to know how to work on them. Go figure.

I am somewhat certain that as Tester mentioned, pulling the belt tight by turning the crankshaft clockwise will put all the slack in the belt on the tensioner side. Holding a camshaft bolt may be necessary.

I solicit the help of a friend to hold the tensioner back when I do mine. I’m sure they could come up with a more accommodating design, but I’d rather they keep the cost of the car down instead.

Start with basics. By now you’re frustrated, go back to the beginning, it’ll be quick and easy now that it’s all apart. First . . . check to see that the belt is the right one for the car. Measure it with the old one, check the numbers. Stuff happens. Next, is the tensioner back off all the way? Did you put a new tensioner on? Try the belt with the old tensioner installed. Next go through the route of the belt to make certain that it is correct. Lastly, try not to get mad, it doesn’t help. Good luck! Rocketman

He posted that he’s succeeded in getting the belt on, rocketman. But I’m sure he appreciated the thoughts anyway. I know I would.

Happy New Year.