Laguna Hills, Calif. – Jan. 26, 2019 – Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp are recalling close to 168,000 U.S. vehicles at risk of fuel leaks. This recall comes after a previous recall in 2017 for engine fire risks. The companies will also offer software upgrades for 3.7 million vehicles. The new recall covers 68,000 various Kia Optima, Sorento and Sportage vehicles from the 2011 through 2014 model years, and also affects 100,000 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata and 2013-2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport vehicles.
According to Reuters, engine replacements during the prior recall could have involved a high-pressure fuel pipe that may have been damaged or improperly installed. The faulty installation could increase the risk of fire. Hyundai and Kia now also state that the high-pressure fuel line may have been damaged, misaligned, or improperly adjusted during the engine replacement procedure. That could allow fuel to leak and increase the risk of fire.
Timeline of Events
According to Reuters, in 2015, Hyundai recalled 470,000 U.S. Sonata sedans. The reason for the recall was given as a possibility of engine failure that could result in a vehicle stall, increasing the risk of a crash. Kia did not recall its vehicles, which share the same “Theta II” engines, at that time.
In 2016, a South Korean whistleblower reported concerns regarding this design flaw to NHTSA. The U.S. agency had been investigating the timeliness of three U.S. recalls, and the number of vehicles recalled. In March 2017, Hyundai expanded the recall to include an additional 572,000 Sonata and Santa Fe Sport vehicles with “Theta II” engines, claiming a small amount of manufacturing debris was responsible for potential engine stall, and Kia recalled 618,000 Optima, Sorento and Sportage vehicles with the same engine at the same time.
According to Consumer Reports, in May 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a formal investigation into the recalls. The Center for Auto Safety (CAS), a consumer watchdog group, filed a formal petition with the NHTSA in June 2018 to investigate multiple fire complaints.
Authorized dealers will inspect the connection between the high-pressure fuel pipe and the fuel pump outlet. If leaking fuel is detected, the dealer will replace the fuel pipe and properly install a new one, at no charge to owners.
In addition to the recall, both automakers have announced a software update and warranty extension. This announcement affects approximately 2 million 2011-2018 Hyundai Sonata sedans and 2013-2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SUVs, and about 1.6 million 2011-2018 Kia Optima sedans, 2012-2018 Kia Sorento SUVs, and 2011-2018 Kia Sportage SUVs. The software update is reported to protect the engine from damage that could lead to vibrations or stalling. Kia and Hyundai will also extend engine warranties to 10 years and 120,000 miles for owners of affected vehicles who contact their dealer for a free software update.
Hyundai and Kia will notify owners of the recall details via first-class mail. Owners of affected vehicles may call Hyundai at 800-633-5151 or Kia at 800-333-4542. Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.