Hyundai Starex/H-1 A1 with a mileage: automatic transmission is more reliable than manual transmission, and the Korean diesel is better than the Japanese one


Running gear

Brake System

Brakes in commercial vehicles are usually strong, and H-1 is not an exception. Certainly, for the car with the weight over 2 tons, 274 mm diameter rotors are not such a great achievement, but in theory one must not fly on such car, and the driver must be a professional. In practice, the service life is quite acceptable, the large area of the pads and the two-piston caliper. Moreover, the caliper serves better than the Korean crossovers, and often the first repairs start after a decade of operation, and that is usually due to poor service. Pads’ resource is very good, in fact their thickness has been increased at least by a couple of millimeters in comparison with passenger cars. Disc brakes at the rear are also a reliable thing. If drums are on rear axle, it is not a problem, they also go long and quite reliable, and the drive of parking brake is in any case made in an easy way, by cables.

But there are a couple of nuances. ABS is optional here, and often it does not work. The second option is worse than the first one at least by the fact that stability of the car when braking in such variant is very low, and a “колдун” costs from 120 euros, and used ones in good condition are not found in the nature.

The second feature is in unusual fastening of front brake disks – they are “from within” a hub, thus for replacement it is necessary to remove a hub, and then carefully separate a disk from it, which is often connected with accurate work with a sledge hammer or press. Rusty ABS rings and bearing oil seals can be replaced at the same time. In general, there is a lot of work, and there are chances to break something in the process.

Brake tubes, of course, rot after 10 years of exploitation – first of all, as a rule, rear ones.

Front suspension in all versions is double wishbone with torsion. The rear suspension depends on a version and year of manufacture. Up to mid 2001, all versions rear suspension is on leaf springs, but after that only passenger vans with short wheelbase have spring suspension with five-levers guiding apparatus. SuspensionFront suspension is made with a fair margin of safety and maintainability is very high. There are even support cups for the body among the spare parts. Well, compatibility with Porter light-duty truck allows you not to worry about availability of spare parts in the stores.

On early cars, the ball joints need to be sealed regularly, check this when you inspect and buy them. However, even with maintenance-free ball joints, there is usually something to get your hands on.

Little by little the characteristics of torsions are leaving – they are very sensitive to overloading, the points of their fixings do not like corrosion, the splines can tear at the most inappropriate moment, and the adjusting mechanism can seize up, and there is often a rust spot on the frame in this place. So check for unauthorized welding when buying.

Front upper arm.

Front levers are strong, but after ten years the metal gives up at the ball joint attachment points: the holes are broken and corroded, as well as the silentblocks mounting points. The lower arm sometimes loses geometry because of age, overloading and bad roads. And the attachment points to the body at 500+ mileage often have to be welded and replaced.

The rear suspension is in any case solid and by design more like a cargo suspension. It is considered, that as the spring version is structurally simpler, it is cheaper in service. But in practice it is not so. There are wearing elements besides the leaf springs, such as silent blocks in the “ears” of the leaf springs and in the shock absorber mountings. The springs themselves are not eternal and require maintenance, reassembly and replacement, especially with regular overloading or frequent trips on unpaved roads. The rear axle beam has a limited service life. Corrosion erodes the “ears” and wears out the mounts. And welding should be carried out very carefully, because the beam may be warped by local heating, and then the axle will have to be sent to a specialized service.

And the most unpleasant thing is that the spring suspension is cargo not only by design, but also by characteristics. With it, an empty car can shake its soul on a rough asphalt. It even comes to modification of suspension under air bags for the sake of run smoothness improvement.

The variant with five arms and springs looks more difficult, but in practice it is simpler in service. The guiding apparatus itself in the form of tie rods and levers is more durable, even with heavy wear of the silent blocks there are no misalignments and problems with stability on the road and the work of the driveshafts. It does not need complex adjustments, only a very strong shock can damage levers. In addition, the car is softer and handles better. The durability of silent blocks is great, and they are easy and fast to change. As a result, there is less chance of expensive and delayed repairs.


The steering on the H-1 is a usual power steering. Pipelines are weak, and the pump is not superreliable, but the entire mechanism usually passes its 300 + without serious failures, if you do not forget to change the oil. Wear of the rack, knocking and leaks are related to either torn inserts of the rack, high loads and dirty oil, or with mileage over 500. Needless to say, non-original hose clamps and sloppy repairs can lead to leaks and pump hum at lower mileage.

Common problems.

Like many Hyundai’s of those years, the Starex/H-1’s half axle splines rust. The problem is especially acute on all-wheel-drive vehicles, where the splines on the front axles are still close to the working surface of the roller bearing. In case of corrosion, you will either have to change the half axle, or turn bushing on it, otherwise the bearing life will be very short.

The splines of propeller shaft will also suffer. But the rear axle is lucky, as it is assembled with a hub. The reasons are as usual in bad lubrication and weak axle shaft seals. And the quality of steel is not the best either. Joint gears and cardan joints are reliable enough, can be easily repaired – everything can be disassembled and assembled, if not blocked.

Manual Transmissions

The bulk of the machines are equipped with manual transmission – they are available of two types here. For older diesel engines 4D56/D4BH and gasoline 2.4 G4GSD4CB a 5-speed M5ZR1 is used. For the newer D4CB diesels, a more recent M5SR1 box was put in, and all four-wheel drive cars have the M5UR1.

Despite the seeming diversity and with all the differences in the bellhousing and even the shifting mechanism, all MCPs are based on the old Mitsubishi V5MT1 box, with which they even retain partial compatibility on clutches and synchromesh. Boxes of these series do not like fast shifts (from this the synchronizers suffer a lot), and also “swings”. Thus, it is possible to get a box wedge when rapidly shifting from rear to first because of the shifting mechanism.

The second typical problem of these transmissions is weak seals, so leaks are very probable after 200 thousand, and the further it is, the more abundant. But if not to economize on service, to eliminate leaks and to change gears without excessive zeal, the construction is conditionally eternal. Annoying will be only the floppy shifting mechanism – both due to backlashes, and because the mount of a rocker to a body is gradually torn off. And the last moment: machines with M5SR1 gearboxes usually have double-mass flywheel, which is an element of wearing and not cheap.

Automatic transmissions

“Automatic transmissions in H1, all other things being equal, are more reliable than mechanics – they can easily run 400 and more thousands until overhaul. It’s not such a surprise, because the automatic transmission A44DE/ A44DF is the good old Aisin AW03-72LE, which has been driving Chasers, Altecs, Crowns and Marks with Hylax for more than 20 years. And the Korean-built Starex/H-1 with a diesel prior to 2002 was powered by the equally legendary A340, aka Aisin 30-43LE. In due time Hyundai has got access to these boxes within the framework of cross-license agreement between Mitsubishi and Toyota.

Generally speaking, breakdowns in these series boxes are reduced to either a dead torque converter (TTC) or friction wear. Failure of GDT usually leads to overheating of the box and leak of box gland, and at the same time to the clogged hydroblock. And almost always the result is a dead pump and necessity of flushing everything from adhesive layer remnants of friction locking. At 350+ mileage it is possible to drive Overdrive Direct Forward and Low Reverse, but most often at offroaders and at fans of starting with smoke.

Repair usually consists in search of a contract unit – they are available for Korean cars, but not so widespread as for Japanese variants of automatic transmission. Or still in overhaul, but with use of Toyota box as a donor. And even for a set of friction clutches (from 70-80 euros) they usually save, because the whole box with minimal mileage with a little luck comes out the same or cheaper. And if the breakdowns are expensive oil pump or its bushing, there are simply no options, they cost from 150 euros and anyway for that amount will be used, but it is unknown from which unit.

All-wheel drive

Four-wheel drive on the H-1 is the simplest, hard-switchable, so-called Part-time. A simple transfer case and hubs with vacuum control in the front axle. The transfer case lasts a long time, so do the driveshafts, and breakdowns are mostly due to vacuum system failures, all-wheel drive operation on hard surfaces, or just with 300+ miles. I’ve already mentioned front axle splines and bearings above, in the suspension section.

Vacuum valve is an expendable, it is poorly located, and you often have to replace it because of corrosion. Very widespread kohozing with usage of idling valve from VAZ 2105 with the number 21050-112701002. What is interesting, the Zhigulov analog turns out almost more reliable than the original.

Common problems

Almost all engines except the diesel D4CB 143/145 hp have almost direct analogues among the Mitsubishi units, but they are not completely compatible with them, and the constant “creeping” changes add to the confusion.

The quality of materials is not very high, so the motors require constant inspection and replacement of small cheap consumables, and most of the fasteners here are “disposable”. However, the prices are not very high. Particular attention should be paid to the cooling system: leaks due to leaky heater tubes and “car heater” are common.

Gasoline engines

The only gasoline engine on the Hyundai H-1 is the G4CS of the Sirius family. In fact it is Japanese 4G64 with one camshaft version with 112/118 hp with some modernization from Koreans. The problems are exactly the same as on other Mitsubishi models, for example Outlander of the first generation.

First of all it is the mechanism of timing with a belt of drive of one of balancer shafts. The belt is weak and thin, and it tears on old engines often because of wearing of bushings of balance shafts or oil penetration. Its remnants, in their turn, finish off the timing belt. It is thicker and usually its 60 thousand kilometers is quiet. A typical modification is the switch-off of balancer shafts altogether. For this purpose, it modifies the oil pump and removes the drive belt.

Otherwise it is an excellent engine, strong, with good maintainability and even potential for tuning: thus, it is possible to find examples of the installation of the cylinder head with two camshafts and even a supercharger.

Diesel engines

The diesel engines can be divided into two families. The first one is a clone of Japanese engine 4D56, 8-valve swirl chamber turbodiesel with mechanical valve timing and belt timing. Derivatives of this engine have indices D4BF, D4BH and D4BA. The most powerful one develops only 103 hp, and this is rather a good thing. The second range is more Korean D4CB engine with an output of 143/145 hp with an entirely new power system Common Rail, chain timing, 16-valve cylinder head and long-awaited hydro-compensators.

All heirs of the Japanese 4D56 have at least a few specific problems of the ancestor. First and foremost is the balancer belt timing design – essentially the same problem as the gasoline-powered 4G64. Only for a highly vibrating diesel motor, the balancers are more relevant, and given the mileage, problems with balancer liners are more common.

The design of the timing without the balancer problems is not the most successful: here with the time the rockers “fall”, and the valves should be adjusted often, every 15 thousand kilometers. It is advised to change the belt every 50 thousand km as a complete set, do not economize, and at the same time make sure that no oil is poured on it.

Oil leaks is the second popular problem. The engine leaks oil from all gaps and it is possible to struggle against it only with complete overhaul with replacement of all gaskets for new ones, and frequently with repair of the piston group.

The third trouble is that the massive piston group is rather brittle in practice. It is very easy to catch a crack of the piston due to overheating, overblowing or running nozzle. Thus the fair mass of pistons makes the engine absolutely “not torsionally” – it works as a typical cargo engine, 3,5 thousand rpm for it is almost a limit. Usually any troubles with overheating and overblowing are aggravated also by a punctured cylinder-head gasket – it is necessary to watch carefully for gases in the expansion tank. And buy only the best quality gaskets. And during repairs, be sure to check the block and cylinder-head gasket planes for bending and damages.

With mileage 300+ and MCP you also need to watch the crankshaft liners – operation at very low rpm under load kills them by that mileage with almost a guarantee.

Let’s add here mechanical fuel injection pump, which is not very cheap. Fast wear of injector nozzles and smokiness because of them. Risks of cracks in the cylinder head and more minor problems like the need for regular replacement of damping pulleys, low life of the auxiliary units due to a very high amplitude of torsional vibrations, not very reliable alternator with a built-in mechanical vacuum pump… and you get not the most successful engine, but quite suitable for a truck or van.

With all that, there are examples with mileage over 400 and without overhauls. Old-fashioned design has its advantages, but is very demanding to the quality of service and its intervals, and as a result it is not cheap. In addition, the vibration is quite strong, and the fuel consumption is on average 10 liters per 100 km, even in highway mode.

Special thanks to Hyundai for not putting the newer 4D56 variants with Common Rail, lower compression ratio, and reinforced crankshaft and piston pin on their cars. Because the 116 and 136 hp variants from Mitsubishi showed themselves as not very reliable and resourceful – they even had a cracked block, and the service life of the piston group was not long. Which is not surprising, for revolutions of maximum power are raised almost up to gasoline 4500. It is the new “reinforced” engines that are responsible for most of the negativity about the 4D56, but they have nothing to do with the H-1.

The new D4CB engines have no belts, the cylinder head is 16-valve, and the valves do not need to be adjusted thanks to hydro-compensators. The advanced Common Rail system allowed to increase power up to 140 horsepower with more reliable starting in cold weather and at the same time to reduce fuel consumption on the highway by almost one and a half times.

It would seem that all the problems are solved? But no, the engine has appeared to be rather capricious. Hydraulic expansion joints do not like dirty oil and start banging, and if to ignore the problem, it is possible to receive screwed up camshafts and tappet shafts.

Timing chains (there are three of them) are quite strong, they run 150-250 thousand km, and even more – there are examples with mileage over 300. But they don’t like high rpm and infrequent oil changes, can noise much earlier during city operation.

In winter, cars with high mileage and chain noise often have torn oil pump drive chain if you over crank the engine in the cold. Chances are also good that the oil pump itself will jam, and the chain is already a secondary damage. The oil pump is very damaged by a clogged oil intake, it has a fine mesh here, and it’s best to check it or change it every time you change the chain. The oil pump should be changed at 300+ mileage, especially if liners or timing plates were worn – it has no performance reserve at all.

Very early, at runtimes of about the same 200 thousand you can face with wear of crankshaft liners. And with mileages over 300 thousand the problems with the balance shaft liners start.


The turbines Garrett 1752S on this version are not very reliable and much more expensive than Mitsubishi TD04-9 or BorgWarner BV43-2074 on 4D56 – any drop in oil pressure leads to their failure. But in general their service life is acceptable, they can go through 200 thousands. True, the price of the cartridge for Garrett from Chinese manufacturers is not great – from 90 to 120 euros.

Nozzles are more expensive than the simple mechanical ones for 4D56, but they serve their 300 thousand properly, and it is not necessary to change nozzles, although the rings of injectors burn out quickly with frequent use of full power.

Vacuum pump is reliable, provides normal brakes and front axle connection. The intake throttle is needed for EGR operation, but is useful for engine braking and to prevent runaway operation, especially since it does not get clogged with soot. The average service life of a piston group is under 500 thousand, it rarely lasts less.

At the same time the engine does not like high RPM just like old engines, its EGR is more capricious, the exchanger or its pipe can leak. The EGR valve itself supplies soot into the intake, severely reducing the engine power over time. The intake manifold gasket regularly squeezes around the first cylinder.

In general, the newer Korean engine is more complicated and much less repairable than the old Japanese one. Parts are noticeably more expensive, which is especially important at mileage 500+. However, it is more economical and provides very good dynamics.

To take or not to take?

The specificity of operation and age of Hyundai Starex/H-1 of the first generation is such that one must choose not a modification, but a concrete copy which has not been run down to the state of scrap metal yet. Other things being equal, the cars with more modern diesel engines and spring rear suspension look the most friendly to a person.


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