DETROIT – Hyundai and Kia have added more than a half-million vehicles to a 3 ½-year string of U.S. recalls for engine failures and fires.
Three recalls released Thursday by the government add new problems and vehicles to the Korean automakers' list of safety woes, which have brought hundreds of complaints about fires from across the nation.
The companies have now recalled nearly 2.4 million vehicles for fire and engine failure problems since September of 2015, and they are under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for potentially being slow to fix faulty vehicles.
In addition, the companies are doing a "product improvement campaign" covering another 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures and send the cars into a reduced-speed "limp" mode if problems are detected.
The largest of three recalls posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website Thursday covers nearly 379,000 Kia Soul small SUVs from 2012 through 2016 with 1.6-liter engines. Documents show that high exhaust gas temperatures can damage the catalytic converters, which control pollution. That can cause abnormal combustion and damage pistons and connecting rods. A failed connecting rod can pierce the engine block and cause oil leaks that can cause fires.
In addition, Hyundai and Kia are recalling 152,000 Tuscon SUVs from 2011 to 2013 and Sportage SUVs from 2011 and 2012 to fix an engine oil pan leak that also can cause fires.
A Hyundai spokesperson said that the potential manufacturing problem can cause an engine oil leak which could lead to engine failure, stalling and even fire.
"Potential oil leaks are the result of a manufacturing issue with the oil pan liquid sealing process. While the remedy for this recall is under final development, Hyundai will inspect the affected engines for leaking oil and listen for a knocking sound that can indicate bearing wear caused by insufficient oil lubrication. If leaking oil is observed, Hyundai will replace the oil gasket. If engine damage caused by bearing wear is detected, Hyundai will replace the engine. All repairs will be performed at no cost to owners," the spokesperson said.
The company is not aware of any injuries or accidents caused by the issue.
Documents show that Kia had been investigating fires in Souls after the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety petitioned the government to look into the fires last year. In November, the automaker couldn't find any safety problem trends, but it kept monitoring repair data and found the problem with the catalytic converters.
All Souls with 1.6-liter engines made from July 8, 2011 through August 11, 2016 are being recalled. Dealers will replace a computer that prevents the catalytic converter from overheating. They'll also replace the catalytic converter and the engine if they have been damaged. Letters will be mailed to owners starting April 12.
In the Tucson and Sportage recalls, the fix for the oil pan problem is still being developed. Hyundai owners will be notified starting March 29, while Kia owners will get letters starting April 10.
In a letter to legislators mailed Wednesday, the Center for Auto Safety asked for congressional action to hold Hyundai and Kia responsible for failing to repair millions of fire-prone vehicles. The center said the government has more than 300 Hyundai-Kia fire complaints, which is high compared with similar vehicles.
On Thursday, the organization released the following statement regarding the most recent recall:
“The better late than never recall of Kia Souls -- hopefully -- will remedy this fire-causing defect. Yet, one has to wonder why Kia’s initial reaction was to deny the validity of our petition, particularly as there were dozens of reports of fires involving these vehicles all the way back to last summer," a spokesperson for the Center for Auto Safety told News 6. "Further, what does this admission by Kia, after denying the fire problem with the Souls, suggest about Kia’s continued resistance to expanding the recall of the other vehicles that have been prone to non-collision fires?”
Hyundai officials released the following statement regarding the recall involving its Tucson model vehicle:
"To ensure the safety and security of its customers, and in close coordination with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Hyundai is voluntarily recalling approximately 123,500 2011-2013 Hyundai Tucson vehicles equipped with 2.4-liter engines. The recall is being conducted to address a potential manufacturing problem that can result in an engine oil leak and potentially lead to engine failure and stalling, and in limited cases a fire. Hyundai is not aware of any accidents or injuries caused by this issue.
Potential oil leaks are the result of a manufacturing issue with the oil pan liquid sealing process. While the remedy for this recall is under final development, Hyundai will inspect the affected engines for leaking oil and listen for a knocking sound that can indicate bearing wear caused by insufficient oil lubrication. If leaking oil is observed, Hyundai will replace the oil gasket. If engine damage caused by bearing wear is detected, Hyundai will replace the engine. All repairs will be performed at no cost to owners."
Kia officials sent News 6 the following information regarding the recalls of its vehicles: