Hyundai and Kia recall 423,000 cars for increased engine fire risk

December 7, 2020

Hyundai and Kia announced the recall of certain sedans and crossovers for an increased fire risk, the NHTSA reported Monday. 

The South Korean automakers maintain separate identities but share many parts, including the Theta II, Lambda, Gamma, and Nu engine models investigated by the NHTSA prompted by customer complaints. Hyundai and Kia stated the severity of the engine fires varies, and the source wasn't known. It is believed that premature wear on the connecting rod bearings could cause the rods to puncture the engine block and cause engine oil to leak. Leaking oil dripping or contacting hot engine surfaces could result in smoke and fire. 

Owners may notice an abnormal knocking noise from the engine or the oil pressure warning light or check engine light may illuminate in the cluster. Drivers may notice a burning smell, smoke, visible oil leaks, and reduced power or hesitation from the engine. The affected cars could stall at highway speeds and increase the risk of a crash. 

While Hyundai identified the rod bearing as the likely culprit, Kia said "a cause resulting from a manufacturing or design defect has not been identified." The result is the same, and Kia's portion of the recall encompasses more models and more years.

Kia recalled 294,756 units total, including:

- 2012-2013 Kia Sorento SUV with 2.4-liter inline-4 Theta II multi-port injection engine;

- 2012 Kia Sportage SUV with 2.4-liter inline-4 Theta II multi-port injection engine;

- 2012-2015 Kia Forte and Koup subcompact car with 2.0-liter inline-4 Nu engine and 2.4-liter inline-4 Theta II multi-port injection engine;

- 2011-2013 Kia Optima Hybrid with 2.4-liter inline-4 Theta II multi-port injection engine;

- 2014-2015 Kia Soul with 2.0-liter inline-4 Nu engine. 

Hyundai recalled 128,948 units, including:

- 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe with 2.4-liter inline-4 Theta II multi-port injection engine;

- 2015-2016 Hyundai Veloster with 1.6-liter inline-4 Gamma gasoline direct injection engine;

- 2011-2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with 2.4-liter inline-4 Theta II multi-port injection engine;

- 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with 2.0-liter inline-4 Nu engine.

Hyundai and Kia will notify owners by January 22 and January 27, respectively, and dealers will inspect the engine and, if damaged, be replaced free of charge. All affected vehicles will receive a knock sensor system that will monitor unusual engine vibrations. 

Kia will expand its warranty coverage to 15 years/150,000 miles for engine block assembly repairs due to the connecting rod issue. Hyundai and Kia will reimburse owners who had engines repaired for the issue. 

To check on the status of your car, visit Kia's recall website or contact Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542 and reference recall SC200. Hyundai owners can visit their recall site or call customer service at 1-855-371-9460 and reference recall 198.  

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