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Drive a Hyundai or Kia? See if your car is one of the nearly 3.4 million under recall for fire risks

By TOM KRISHER, Associated Press
Published: October 1, 2023, 6:00am

DETROIT (AP) — Nearly 3.4 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the U.S. are under recall due to the risk of engine compartment fires and it’s important for drivers to check if their car is one of them.

Both the companies and federal regulators are warning owners of the recalled vehicles to park them outdoors until repairs are made. Mail notifications about the recalls won’t begin until November, but owners can check right now to see if their vehicle in on the list — which covers multiple car and SUV models from the model years 2010 through 2019.

Here’s what you need to know about the recalls and what to do if your car is impacted by it.

  • Why are these Hyundai and Kia cars getting recalled?

According to documents posted this week by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an anti-lock brake control module in recalled vehicles can leak fluid and cause an electrical short, which can touch off a fire whether the cars or being driven, or are parked.

Hyundai has already reported 21 fires in the U.S. vehicles, and another 22 “thermal incidents” including smoke, burning and melting of parts, according to government documents.

No related crashes or injuries have been reported by the companies as of Wednesday.

  • Recall list: Is your car is affected?

Affected Kia models include the 2010 through 2019 Borrego, the 2014 to 2016 Cadenza, 2010 through 2013 Forte, Forte Koup and Sportage, the 2015 to 2018 K900, the 2011 to 2015 Optima, the 2011 to 2013 Optima Hybrid and Soul, the 2012 to 2017 Rio, the 2011 to 2014 Sorento, and the 2010 to 2011 Rondo.

Hyundai models covered by the recall include the 2011 to 2015 Elantra, Genesis Coupe, and Sonata Hybrid, the 2012 to 2015 Accent, Azera, and Veloster, the 2013 to 2015 Elantra Coupe and Santa Fe, the 2014 to 2015 Equus, the 2010 to 2012 Veracruz, the 2010 to 2013 Tucson, the 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell, and the 2013 Santa Fe Sport.

Owners can go to www.nhtsa.gov/recalls — as well as Kia and Hyundai’s websites — and use their 17-digit vehicle identification number to see if their vehicle is affected. Automakers also have 60 days to notify owners of recalled vehicles by letter, but the mailings can happen sooner, the NHTSA said.

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  • My car is on the recall list. What do I do?

Both the automakers and the NHTSA are warning impacted owners to park their vehicles outdoors until repairs are made. Kia and Hyundai also advised parking the recalled cars away from structures.

Dealers will replace the anti-lock brake fuse at no cost to owners. Kia says in documents that it will send notification letters to owners starting Nov. 14. For Hyundai, the notifications will begin is Nov. 21.

Hyundai says that owners can continue to drive the vehicles. The company said an O-ring in the antilock brake motor shaft can lose sealing strength over time due to the presence of moisture, dirt and dissolved metals in the brake fluid, causing leaks. The new fuse limits the operating current of the brake module, the company said.

In a separate statement, Kia said an engine compartment fire could happen in the area of the brake control unit due to an electrical short that results in excessive current — but the exact cause of the short circuit is unknown.

  • Other lingering concerns

Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, questioned why the companies aren’t fixing the leak problem and why they are waiting so long to send letters to owners.

The remedy is replacing one fuse with another, but brake fluid can still leak, potentially causing a safety problem, he said. Brooks also questioned why NHTSA is allowing the companies to only replace a fuse, and why owners aren’t being sent interim letters immediately warning them of a serious problem.

In response to a question from The Associated Press, Hyundai said in a statement late Thursday that dealers will inspect the ABS module and replace it with a new one if necessary. The replacement fuse will mitigate the risk of a fire, it said. Hyundai also said it’s looking at other ways to communicate with customers faster.

Kia didn’t answer questions about the brake fluid leaks or why it would take until November to notify owners by letter.

NHTSA said that under the federal motor vehicle safety act, automakers can choose the remedy to fix a defect. The agency said it will monitor the effectiveness of the repairs and open an investigation if warranted.

  • What are the track records of Hyundai and Kia?

Hyundai and Kia have been plagued by fire problems since 2015. The Center for Auto Safety successfully petitioned U.S. regulators to seek recalls in 2018 and says on its website that the automakers have recalled more than 9.2 million vehicles for fires and engine problems, not including the recalls announced Wednesday.

In addition, NHTSA is investigating 3 million vehicles made by the automakers from the 2011 through 2016 model years. NHTSA says it’s received 161 complaints of engine fires, some of which occurred in vehicles that had already been recalled.

In June 2018, NHTSA said it had received owner complaints of more than 3,100 fires, 103 injuries and one death. Hyundai and Kia were fined by NHTSA in 2020 for moving too slowly to recall vehicles that were prone to engine failures.