Hyundai and Kia have announced massive recalls encompassing nearly 3.4 million vehicles in the United States due to the risk of engine compartment fires. The recalls cover over two dozen models from the 2010-2019 model years, including popular SUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorrento.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published documents stating that an anti-lock brake control module can leak fluid and cause an electrical short circuit. This may result in a fire while the car is running or parked. As an immediate precaution, the automakers are advising owners to park their vehicles outdoors and away from structures until the issue can be fixed.
Dealers will replace the anti-lock brake fuse free of charge once the recall begins. Notification letters will be mailed to owners starting November 14th for Kia vehicles and November 21st for Hyundai.
Hyundai’s statement revealed they were aware of 21 engine fires and 22 other “thermal incidents” in the U.S. involving smoke, melting, or overheating components. Kia reported 10 fires along with additional melting events. Fortunately, no crashes or injuries have occurred.
The problem stems from an O-ring in the anti-lock brake motor shaft that can deteriorate over time. Contaminants in the brake fluid like moisture, dirt, and dissolved metals can compromise the O-ring’s sealing strength, leading to leaks. The new fuse being installed will limit electrical current to the brake module.
Michael Brooks, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, raised concerns over why the fluid leaks themselves aren’t being fixed. He also questioned the length of time before owners will be notified, stating “You would think that you should be notifying those owners right now that they shouldn’t be parking in their garages or their house could catch fire.”
Representatives from Hyundai and Kia did not directly address why the leaks are not being repaired or why notification letters will take almost two months. They stated they would look into these issues.
NHTSA also did not provide information on why the underlying problem is not being fixed or why notifications were delayed. Their statement only warned owners to park outside until their vehicle can be repaired.
The expansive recalls span many top-selling Hyundai and Kia models over the past decade. This includes the Hyundai Elantra, Sonata, Santa Fe, Tucson, and Genesis. Kia models involved are the Forte, Optima, Sorento, Soul, Sportage, Cadenza, and more. Owners can check the NHTSA website by VIN number to see if their specific car is involved.
Kia’s recall encompasses around 1.7 million vehicles in the U.S. The model years included are 2010-2019 Borrego, 2014-2016 Cadenza, 2010-2013 Forte, Forte Koup, Sportage, 2015-2018 K900, 2011-2015 Optima, 2011-2013 Optima Hybrid, Soul, 2012-2017 Rio, 2011-2014 Sorento, and 2010-2011 Rondo.
Roughly 1.6 million Hyundai vehicles are also being recalled over this issue. The models and model years are 2011-2015 Elantra, Genesis Coupe, Sonata Hybrid, 2012-2015 Accent, Azera, Veloster, 2013-2015 Elantra Coupe, Santa Fe, 2014-2015 Equus, 2010-2012 Veracruz, 2010-2013 Tucson, 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell, and 2013 Santa Fe Sport.
Engine compartment fires can erupt suddenly and spread quickly, putting vehicles and property at risk. Parking outside and away from structures such as garages until repairs are completed is crucial. Owners should watch for recall notifications in the mail over the coming weeks and schedule service immediately. In the meantime, being vigilant about monitoring your vehicle for any signs of smoke or burning odors can help prevent these recalls from turning into a tragic situation.