Hyundai Starex: Smoke-belching and stalling engine

Our tech guru has the answers
by Ferman Lao | Mar 21, 2014


Dear Mr. Lao:

I am a regular reader of Top Gear Philippines, and I always look forward to reading your column.

I would like to ask your opinion about my 2006 Hyundai Starex CRDi with automatic transmission. I have two problems:

1. Despite bringing the unit for repair to at least two Hyundai dealerships, the smoke-belching problem cannot seem to be solved. One dealer even went to the extent of cleaning the injectors and cleaning the exhaust system, but the problem still persisted.

2. I also noticed that power delivery is extremely poor, such that going uphill (as low an incline as Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City going to the Central Business District) becomes such a chore.

What could be the problem?  Are diesel engines bound to become smoke-belchers eventually? Where can I bring my vehicle so that the above problems may be solved?

I would very much appreciate your help.

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Thank you very much in advance.

Jojo Espiritu

Hi, Jojo. I don't know how many miles you already have on your 2006 Starex, but if you're like most city-dwellers who occasionally go out of town on weekends, I would assume you have about 75,000-90,000km on your odometer.

For your first question, I would look into having the flow rates of the injectors checked. Over time, the nozzles will wear down and the injectors will deliver more fuel for a given injector pulse. This causes excess fuel to be injected into the engine's combustion chamber, and the excess (and partially combusted) fuel is what produces the black smoke out the tailpipe. That's one possible (and most likely) cause. Cleaning the injector won't do much if the flow rates have increased.

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All injectors encounter this problem, but diesels, locally at least, seem to encounter this sooner than gasoline engines.

For your second problem, it is possible that your transmission may be the problem, or the problem may be related to your first problem. I would fix the first problem first before trying to attend to the second one.

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You can try going to any Bosch Diesel Service Center, or you can also check out Malabon Diesel (telephone number 287-0485).

(Read: Is the Hyundai Grand Starex's CRDi diesel engine unreliable?)

Hello, Ferman. More power to you and Top Gear Philippines! I want to ask you a question about our recently purchased Hyundai Starex. Since we bought the vehicle, there have been instances when the engine died while the vehicle was running.

After the first instance, we immediately reported the problem to Hyundai. The service center found no trouble code from the vehicle's computer and told us to observe the vehicle. After a few more months, the problem persisted. We brought it to the Hyundai Service Center to have it checked again. No issue was found. They then changed the fuel filter. We were instructed to observe the vehicle again.

After a few months, the issue happened for the third time. Hyundai's service center checked on the vehicle again. They removed the fuel tank and told me that the fuel we had been using was dirty. After this remedy, the Starex was back to being observed. After six months, it happened again for the fourth time when my wife was driving. We brought the unit back to the service center. We were alarmed because they had to remove the fuel tank again.

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We brought up the issue with the carmaker's customer service, complaining that the fuel tank had just been recently removed. Our five-year-old Toyota FX has never had its fuel tank removed even if we fuel up with any brand.

Hyundai had an engineer check on our Starex and had the fuel pump replaced. After the fuel pump was replaced, the vehicle was once again placed under observation. I'd like to note that each time the engine stalled and the driver started the engine again, the engine responded and immediately restarted.

What do you think is the problem? The vehicle is new. I'm afraid that the vehicle will stall on us while overtaking. Please help.

Vicente Gatchalian

In situations like yours, when the issue happens sporadically, identifying the root of the problem is difficult. Based on your narration, it's possible that the fuel rail pressure sensor is the problem. The fuel rail pressure sensor monitors the fuel pressure that goes to the injection pump. A faulty or defective fuel rail pressure sensor in CRDi engines often results in an engine dying. It might be a loose connector that needs replacement, too. In cases when a connector is loose, more often than not, a trouble code does not appear on a vehicle's computer. This makes it difficult for the service technicians to track down the problem.

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The fuel pump assembly may also be the problem. As a result, the fuel pressure drops. It may be possible that your vehicle might have slipped through Hyundai's quality control, but this rarely happens. And your pump has already been replaced.

You have every right to be worried because the vehicle becomes difficult to control when the engine dies on you. Thus, this presents a clear danger. In unpredictable circumstances, you should be able to brake or steer the vehicle quickly. With such a problem, braking and steering the vehicle is difficult because its power assist depends on the engine's power.

I suggest you avoid overtaking, or if you have to, be alert when you do so until you're sure that the problem is gone. You can also try to be as observant as possible of the conditions leading up to the point when the engine dies--if you can, that is. The information can be helpful to the technicians who will diagnose the problem. If I were in your shoes--but I'm not sure if this is possible--I would request for a replacement unit should the problem persist, because it was a brand-new vehicle and the issue happened during its first few months without any real permanent solution.

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Best regards,

Ferman Lao
Technical Editor

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