Hyundai and Kia are recalling nearly 3.4 million vehicles in the U.S. and advising owners to park them outside due to the risk of engine compartment fires. The recalls cover multiple car and SUV models from 2010 to 2019 and were initiated after it was discovered that the anti-lock brake control module can leak fluid and cause an electrical short, leading to potential fires. The automakers are recommending that owners park their vehicles outdoors until the necessary repairs are completed. Both Hyundai and Kia will replace the anti-lock brake fuse at no cost to owners.
Hyundai reported 21 fires in the affected vehicles, along with 22 other incidents of smoke, burning, and melting. Kia, on the other hand, reported 10 fires and melting incidents. While owners can still drive their vehicles, the automakers are undertaking the recall to prioritize customer safety. The problem arises from an O-ring in the antilock brake motor shaft, which can lose its sealing strength over time due to the presence of moisture, dirt, and dissolved metals in the brake fluid. By replacing the fuse, the operating current of the brake module is limited.
Critics, such as Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, have questioned the companies’ approach. Brooks expressed concern over the fact that the companies are not fixing the underlying design issue causing the leak, but rather addressing the symptom. He also raised questions about the delay in sending notification letters to owners and suggested that interim letters should be sent out immediately to warn of the fire risk. NHTSA, the regulatory agency, stated that automakers have the autonomy to choose the remedy for a defect, but will monitor the effectiveness of the repairs.
Affected Kia models include the Borrego, Cadenza, Forte, Forte Koup, Sportage, K900, Optima, Optima Hybrid, Soul, Rio, Sorento, and Rondo, while Hyundai models covered by the recall include the Elantra, Genesis Coupe, Sonata Hybrid, Accent, Azera, Veloster, Elantra Coupe, Santa Fe, Equus, Veracruz, Tucson, Tucson Fuel Cell, and Santa Fe Sport. Vehicle owners can check if their vehicle is affected by entering their 17-digit vehicle identification number on the NHTSA website. Both Hyundai and Kia have faced fire problems since 2015, with previous recalls for fires and engine issues already exceeding 9.2 million vehicles.