ORLANDO, Fla. – Both Hyundai Motors America and Kia Motors America are instructing owners of some vehicle models to stay away from certain places due to recalls.
Drivers of certain Hyundai Elantras, Entourages and Sante Fes and some models of Kia Sedonas and Sorrentos were told to park their vehicles outdoors and away from other vehicles or structures until a recall repair can be performed.
The companies won’t be notifying owners by mail until April.
Two weeks ago, Hyundai and Kia alerted the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about a rare but dangerous defect discovered in 10 Hyundai Elantras that caught fire while parked and off.
[TO SEE WHICH CARS HAVE BEEN RECALLED, SCROLL TO BOTTOM OF STORY]
According to the two companies, during a review of vehicle production records, the automaker discovered a faulty anti-lock brake system (ABS) module was to blame and could short circuit when exposed to moisture.
One of the cases happened in Central Florida.
Derek Anderson said the 2008 Hyundai Elantra he bought for his daughter caught fire on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. According to Anderson, the vehicle burned up while parked outside the family’s home. Anderson said he felt lucky no one was inside the car.
"We're also fortunate it wasn't a vehicle in a garage," Anderson said.
While Anderson was thankful the damage wasn't worse, he wanted to know how this could have happened.
He made sure to collect his own set of clues and shared them with Hyundai Motor America.
“When you pick the car up and take it off, you’re going to lose some of the evidence,” Anderson said. “So I photographed a lot of additional areas.”
Anderson, who majored in automotive engineering in college, said he knew the issue had to do with the car’s anti-lock brake system -- specifically the hydraulics module.
He said the dealership even confirmed that when his daughter brought the car in the month before after she discovered smoke coming from under the hood.
Anderson said he ordered the part so he could do the repair himself, but the car caught fire before it ever arrived.
“I really think that the ABS module would have prevented this event from happening,” Anderson said.
When News 6 reached out to Hyundai a year ago, company officials confirmed they would immediately launch an investigation into Anderson’s case. At that time, they said the chance of a fire starting near the ABS module was exceptionally rare.
The company also claimed they found no identifying trend that would suggest a defect or a need for a recall.
Now, Hyundai admits that while still rare, the defect is there -- and so is the need for a recall.
Hyundai Motor America Response
A Hyundai spokesperson wouldn’t say why it took so long to issue the recall, only stating that the problem is extremely rare and has only resulted in fires in 10 cars out of more than 470,000 that they know of.
“As more data becomes available over time, we immediately conduct a recall when we determine one is necessary to protect the safety of our customers. We are in the process of sourcing the parts needed for the remedy,” said Michael Stewart, a spokesperson for Hyundai Motor America USA. “We are working to get those as soon as possible and once we do, we will directly notify customers by the timing listed in the recall. Once customers are notified, they should bring their vehicle in for the free repair.”
In September 2018, Heriberto Vega’s black 2008 Kia Sorrento also mysteriously caught fire while parked inside his garage in Palm Bay.
“To me, I couldn’t understand it,” Vega said. “It was weird for something like that to happen. I mean, a car that you park in your garage for two whole days -- you don’t even start it up and it catches fire on its own? That’s pretty dangerous and scary.”
Vega said he wants to know why the Korean automaker didn’t issue a recall or at least a warning about the potential ABS defect earlier.
"If it would have happened (before) my car burned down, maybe I would have been able to do something about it. But it took so long," Vega said.
Kia Motors America (KMA) Response
Here’s what Kia Motors Response officials had to say about the situation:
"KMA recognizes that customer safety is paramount and is committed to addressing every thermal incident. All automobiles contain combustible materials and a vehicle fire may be the result of any number of complex factors, such as a manufacturing issue, inadequate maintenance, the installation of aftermarket parts, an improper repair, arson, or some other non-vehicle source, and must be carefully evaluated by a qualified and trained investigator or technician.
Claims involving damage to a Kia vehicle, including fires, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If a fire is determined to be the result of a Kia manufacturing issue, KMA will work with the customer to reach a satisfactory resolution to the matter.
In this case, KMA settled with the customer and repurchased the vehicle for further analysis. KMA does not provide comment about the impact of individual cases on its recall determinations, which typically require the synthesis of information and analysis from several distinct sources.
Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact KMA’s Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia)."
The warning: Don’t park in your garage until you get the module fixed
Both Hyundai and Kia confirm that starting in April, they will notify affected car owners to take their vehicles into the dealerships to install a free relay switch to prevent the problem. Until then, they have to wait, since they are still in the process of sourcing all the parts needed for the fix.
"If I knew that was my vehicle right now out in the driveway, I would be making the appointment to have it in there, just to be on the safe side," Anderson said.
News 6 spoke with Jason Levine, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group that has been pushing the Korean automaker to do more to prevent engine fires and to alert car owners faster to any dangerous problems.
“It is inexcusable for Hyundai and Kia to continue to leave their consumers in the lurch when it comes to car fires, whether it be this ABS unit or other car fire units problems that they’ve had,” Levine said. “They need to fix them. They need to fix them faster and they need to take more responsibility.”
Anderson and Vega said they are just glad the mystery was finally solved. They say they just hope this recall and fix will prevent another devastating fire from happening.
“(It’s a) scary feeling to see something like that happen, especially when its inside my garage,” Vega said. “My house could have caught fire. I mean, had it happened during the night time, we would have been dead.”
Both Kia and Hyundai confirm, starting in April, affected car owners will be able to bring their car into a dealership and get a relay switch put in free of charge.
KMA Action: “All owners of the subject vehicles will be notified via first-class mail with instructions to bring their vehicle to the nearest Kia dealership. Dealers will be instructed to install a relay in the vehicle’s main junction box, which will prevent power being directed to the HECU when the vehicle’s ignition is turned off. Kia will reimburse owners for repair expenses already incurred pursuant to Kia’s General Reimbursement Plan filed April 10, 2018. Customers with questions may contact KMA consumer assistance at 1-800-333-4542 or their Kia dealer.”
HMA Action: “Dealers and owners will be notified in early April. Hyundai is constantly evaluating issues identified in the field to determine if there is a safety-related defect trend that needs to be addressed with a recall. As more data becomes available over time, we immediately conduct a recall when we determine one is necessary to protect the safety of our customers.”