Spontaneous Kia and Hyundai Fires Results in Recall of 160K Vehicles

More than 160,000 Hyundai and Kia cars and SUVs may have been improperly repaired during a prior recall, leaving them susceptible to fuel leaks that continue to result in vehicle fires. 

A Hyundai and Kia fuel recall was announced by this week, following hundreds of consumer reports complaints of the engine compartment overheating, resulting in smoke and several dozen cases where the vehicles caught on fire. Hyundai issued a press release announcing the recall on January 16, affecting about 100,000 of its vehicles. Kia officials have also told media outlets that it is recalling about 68,000 vehicles for similar problems.

Since June 2018, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has reported 120 incidents of certain Hyundai Sonata, Santa Fe, and Kia Optima and Sorento vehicles spontaneously catching on fire, resulting in at least six cases where individuals were injured or burned.

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In the middle of last year, the consumer safety group called on federal regulators to open a formal investigation into certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles, as a result of the overheating problems that were suspected to be a result of a previous recall campaign that involved engine component replacements.

Although Hyundai and Kia are two separate business entities, they share a corporate parent company, and vehicles often have similar parts, designs, and engineering.

In 2017, both Hyundai and Kia recalled 2.4 liter four-cylinder engines that required their engines to be replaced due to a knocking and stalling issue. The recall was caused by the improper manufacturing of engine parts. As part of the 2017 recall, the vehicles fuel pipes were replaced, which is believed to be the cause of the current spontaneous fire hazards.

The current issue is suspected to be caused by a damaged, misaligned or improperly tightened high-pressure fuel pipe that was installed under the 2017 recall campaign. When the vehicle is on and running, parts of the engine can become extremely hot, presenting a source of ignition for leaking fuel.

The vehicles impacted by the fuel injector pipe recall are approximately 168,000 2011 through 2014 Kia Optima cars, 2012 through 2014 Sorento SUV’s, 2011 through 2013 Sportage SUV’s, 2011 through 2014 Hyundai Sonata cars and 2013 through 2014 Santa Fe Sport SUV’s.

CAS executive director Jason Levine, stated the number of vehicles being recalled for the fuel injector pipe issue are significantly less than the number of vehicles impacted by the 2017 engine repair, which raises question if there are additional vehicles not being recalled that could spontaneously catch on fire.

The NHTSA is currently not involved in the recall due to the ongoing government shutdown. NHTSA officials have stated recently they may recall furloughed employees back to work without pay if information of imminent threats to the safety of human life or protection of property are raised.

Hyundai and Kia are planning to notify owners and dealers of the leaking fuel pipe defect by first class mail with instructions for customers to schedule an inspection at their local dealer, where dealers will check the high-pressure fuel pipe for leaks and replace as necessary.

Customers with additional questions regarding the recall are encouraged to contact Hyundai at 800-633-5151 or Kia at 800-333-4542. A recall campaign number for these recalls have not been assigned yet.

In addition to the recall, both KIA and Hyundai have also announced they will be performing a software update and warranty extension of approximately 2 million 2011 through 2018 Hyundai Sonata vehicles and 2013 through 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SUV’s as well as 1.6 million 2011 through 2018 Kia Optima sedans, 2012 through 2018 Kia Sorento SUV’s and 2011 through 2018 Kia Sportage SUV’s.


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