Half A Million More Kia and Hyundai Vehicles Recalled Over Engine Fire Risks

Faulty electrical components in Hyundai and Kia vehicles may cause sudden and unexpected vehicle fires, a new NHTSA recall warns

Following a series of recalls involving Hyundai and Kia vehicle fires linked to brake fluid leaks, the Korean automakers are now warning owners of more than 500,000 vehicles to park outside and away from structures, due to a risk that electrical shorts may cause engine compartment fires.

The U.S. National highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a Hyundai ABS recall and Kia HECU recall on February 7, impacting several newer and older model year SUVs and sedans containing potentially defective electronic braking systems and hydraulic control units, which could be prone to shorting out and causing engine fires.

Although Hyundai and Kia are two separate business entities, they share a corporate parent company, and vehicles often have similar parts, designs, and engineering. Both manufacturers have faced a growing number of engine fire recalls over the last several years, which a NHTSA investigation revealed brake fluid leaking inside of the hydraulic control unit of for the anti-lock brakes has caused more than 3,100 fires vehicle fires, 103 injuries and one death.

However, the latest series of recalls pinpoint a new issue in the Hyundai and Kia vehicles, indicating that internal investigations suggest the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) and Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit (HECU) modules may malfunction and cause an electrical short, which could result in an engine compartment fire.

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For Hyundai Motor America, the recall includes approximately 357,830 model year 2016 through 2018 Santa Fe, 2017 through 2018 Santa Fe Sport, 20119 Santa Fe XL, and 2014 through 2015 Hyundai Tucson vehicles.

The recalled Hyundai vehicles are equipped with an ABS module which could malfunction internally and cause an electrical short, resulting in smoke coming from the engine, burning or melting of engine components, or fire.

Hyundai announced owners will be notified of the recall by mailed notice and will be instructed to schedule a service appointment at their local dealer, where dealers will inspect the ABS module, and replace it with a new one if necessary. Customers will also receive a new ABS multi-fuse that is rated at a lower amperage to limit the operating current of the ABS module, which the automaker indicates will mitigate the risk of an electrical short.

The Kia Motors America recall includes an estimated 126,747 model year 2016 through 2018 K900 and 2014 through 2016 Sportage models.

The automaker told officials the impacted vehicles are equipped with an HECU module that may experience an internal electrical short, resulting in an overcurrent that could result in an engine compartment fire. Kia announced that an exact cause to the issue has not been identified and an investigation is still ongoing.

Kia indicates it will notify owners on how to schedule an inspection and repair appointment at their local dealer, where dealers will install a new fuse with a different capacity to prevent overcurrent conditions in the HECU.

Both automakers are instructing customers to park their vehicles outside and away from structures until the recall repairs have been performed. Owners with additional questions or concerns regarding the recall are encouraged to contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460 or Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542.

Hyundai and Kia Engine Fire Risks

The concerns over Hyundai and Kia vehicle fires first arose in 2019, after the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer vehicle safety watchdog, presented more than 3,000 customer reports of Hyundai and Kia engine fires, along with a petition for the NHTSA to look into what was believed to be faulty oil pans, catalytic converters, fuel leaks, oil leaks, and other problems that increased the risk of a vehicle fire.

By November 27, 2020, NHTSA officials concluded an independent investigation of Hyundai Motor America, Inc. and Kia Motors America, Inc. finding a total of 3,125 reported non-crash vehicle fires or reports of the electrical wiring melting and smoldering in vehicles equipped with Theta II engines. The agency identified at least six victims have been burned and at least one person has died in connection to the vehicle fires.

The investigation further revealed both Hyundai and Kia Motors reported false information and delayed reporting known safety defects in approximately 1.6 million vehicles equipped with faulty Theta II engines, which were ultimately found to contain leaking anti-lock brake hydraulic control units which could cause the vehicles to catch on fire even when the engines are turned off.

As a result of the untimely recalls and providing false information to auto safety regulators, NHTSA obtained a consent order which forced the automakers to pay $210 million in fines. Kia also had to pay a civil penalty of $70 million, which included an upfront payment of $27 million and an obligation to expend an additional $16 million on specified safety performance measures.

Image Credit: Image via dcwcreations / Shutterstock.com


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