US government investigates Kia and Hyundai over stalling vehicles

Washington, D.C. September 28, 2022 – The U.S. government’s auto safety regulator is investigating Hyundai (NASDAQ:HYMTF) and sister company Kia (OTCMKTS:KIMTF) over an allegation some of their cars can develop a severe and sudden engine oil leak. This can cause the engine to seize and stall the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash and injury. 

If the investigation leads to a recall, it could affect an estimated 5.2 million vehicles.

 Some of the potentially affected vehicles include: 

  • 2010 – 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • 2013 – 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • 2006 – 2019 Hyundai Sonata
  • 2011 – 2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
  • 2016 – 2019 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid
  • 2010 – 2015 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2018 – 2019 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2010 – 2013 Kia Forte
  • 2010 – 2013 Kia Forte Koup
  • 2005 – 2020 Kia Optima
  • 2007 – 2010 Kia Rondo
  • 2011 – 2020 Kia Sorento
  • 2011 – 2021 Kia Sportage
  • 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe XL
  • 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

All these vehicles have 1.6L T-GDI Gamma, 2.4L Theta II GDI, 2.4L GDI Theta II, Kappa or 3.8L GDI Lambda-II engines.


A sudden stall can dramatically increase the risk of a crash. In addition, the unexpected loss of oil can result in “catastrophic engine damage.” Indeed, several owners had to have their engines replaced as a result of this issue.

Investigation summary  

The regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), opened an investigation on September 12,  2022, following a petition submitted by the “majority of the nation’s automotive repair and preventative maintenance professionals” claiming ‘unprecedented’ oil leaks that would happen without any prior warnings

The issue appears to be caused by oil “drain pan assembly failures” that are alleged to be caused in part by “flimsy” materials used in pan construction. In addition to that, the pans appear to have a design defect which makes the oil leak more likely to occur.

What is flimsy?

The oil drain pan – or a sump – is a metal pan that holds oil that is required to lubricate the engine. The sump has a hole whose only purpose is to allow the engine oil to drain during replacement. The hole is sealed off by a plug, which is a bolt that screws into the hole to close it.

Based on the allegations, the oil drain plug can loosen up while driving at highway speeds. This could create a substantial oil leak, which may cause the engine to seize, stalling the vehicle.

Where is the design defect?

The gasket is a piece of rubber or plastic that sits on top of the oil filter and “seals the area between the oil pan and the engine block” to prevent leaks.

When the oil is changed out, the gasket needs to be changed as well to avoid “double-gasketing”, which may result in a leak by pushing the oil out to the top.

In the affected vehicles, the oil pan and the gasket are both painted black, making it easy for the person changing the oil to miss the extra gasket. This can also result in the oil leaking out of the engine, resulting in a stall.


There have been multiple customer complaints going back to as far back as 2017. In several cases, dealers refused to cover the cost of the repair, attributing the plug issue to the owner accidentally not tightening it properly during the last oil change or “teenagers… loosening oil plugs as a prank.” 

Other Hyundai and Kia recalls

Owners of Hyundai and Kia vehicles should be aware of the ongoing engine and fire-related issues, as described in one of the Hyundai Santa Fe recalls

In addition, oil starvation and subsequent engine failure caused one of the previous Kia Forte recalls dating to April 2021.  

Is your vehicle part of a recall?

This investigation may eventually lead to a Hyundai engine recall, possibly affecting over 5 million vehicles. To do a Hyundai or Kia recall check and see if your car might be a part of it, please use MotorSafety’s free vehicle lookup tool.

Bojan PopicUS government investigates Kia and Hyundai over stalling vehicles

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