Hyundai Santa Fe and Elantra Fire Risks Results In Recall For 390K Vehicles

Amid continuing concerns about car fires, new recalls will impact nearly 400,000 Hyundai vehicles, which may experience engine fires due to faulty braking system components and improperly treated piston rings.

The Hyundai recalls were announced by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on April 28, affecting approximately 200,000 Sante Fe models with leaking ant-lock braking systems (ABS) and roughly 187,000 Elantra vehicles with faulty engine components. At least two vehicle fires have been blamed on the two problems, according to Hyundai and NHTSA officials.

The Hyundai Santa Fe recall affects about 150,000 models sold in the U.S., and another 50,000 distributed in Canada, which contain an anti-lock brake system that may allow brake fluid to leak and enter the control module, posing an increased risk of an electrical short, overheating and fire.

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To date, Hyundai has become aware of at least 18 vehicle fires related to the ABS defect. The recall warns owners to be cautious of smoke coming from the engine compartment, a burning or melting odor, and an illuminated ABS or check-engine light on the vehicle’s dashboard, as these are indications a brake fluid leak resulting in a short circuiting event may be present.

Hyundai announced customers should park the vehicles outside and away from structures while awaiting service. The manufacturer will begin notifying customers of the recall with instructions on how to schedule a free repair at their local dealer, where dealers will be instructed to replace the ABS multi-fuse and inspect and replace the ABS module as necessary.

The recalled Sante Fe models were previously linked to reports of engine fires that resulted in an earlier recall in September 2020, impacting certain model year 2013 through 2015 vehicles, along with 440,370 model year 2013 Kia Optima and 2014 through 15 Kia Sorento models.

Also on April 28, NHTSA announced an Elantra, Konas, and Velosters recall impacting roughly 187,000 model year 2019 and 2020 vehicles, and 2019 through 2021 Konas and Velosters models, all equipped with 2.0L Nu MPI engines.

The recall indicates the 2.0L Nu MPI engine piston oil rings may not have been properly heat-treated by the manufacturer, which could result in engine damage, oil leaks and possible fires.

NHTSA officials indicate the vehicle may suddenly stall if the engine is damaged, increasing the risk of a crash or injury. Officials further warned, if the oil leak from a damaged engine reaches an ignition source such as a hot exhaust components it could increase the risk of a fire.

To date, Hyundai has become aware of at least five fires related to the piston oil rings defect but no injuries have been reported.

Hyundai announced it will notify owners of the recall with instructions on how to schedule a free repair at their local dealer. Dealers will be instructed to inspect and, if necessary, replace the engine, free of charge.

Hyundai Vehicle Fires

The recalls are the latest in a series of fire-related Hyundai and Kia vehicle recalls which have impacted millions of vehicles. While Kia and Hyundai are separate brands, they share the same parent company, commonly resulting in similar designs, engineering and part suppliers overlapping.

Both automakers have been under investigation by the NHTSA since early 2019, due to potential problems with approximately three million Kia and Hyundai vehicles. A NHTSA investigation linked more than 3,100 fires, 103 injuries and one death to Kia and Hyundai engine compartment fires, which were determined to be caused by brake fluid leaking inside of the hydraulic control unit for the anti-lock brakes.

As a result of the findings, a consent order announced in November 2020 required Hyundai to pay a civil penalty of $140 million, including an upfront payment of $54 million and an obligation to expend an additional $40 million on specified safety performance measures, while Kia was forced to pay a total civil penalty of $70 million, which includes an upfront payment of $27 million, an obligation to expend an additional $16 million on specified safety performance measures.


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