According to a recent study, certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles that come with four-cylinder engines have doubled the non-crash fire claim rates more than the average vehicle.
The Highway Loss Data Institute analyzed data from nearly 85% of the US insurance industry and reported these findings with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
HLDI supports the IIHS mission through scientific studies of insurance data. IIHS “is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from motor vehicle crashes.”
The report has since been turned over to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which is now investigating engine failures and fires in Hyundai and Kia vehicles. NHTSA frequently uses the studies from HLDI to assess safety hazards on roads across the country.
Hyundai and Kia Recall
This is not good news for the South Korean brands. Last week, Hyundai and Kia announced 168,000 vehicles would be recalled to fix a problem that happened as the result of a previous recall. The latest recall involves a fuel pipe that can cause fires, which stems from improper repairs during the recall before that.
In 2015, Hyundai and Kia recalled nearly 1.7 million vehicles due to manufacturing debris restricting oil flow to connecting rod bearings. In simpler terms, this can cause bearings to wear, fail and cause fires. Aside from the potential deadly results of a vehicle catching on fire, the estimated cost of this kind of repair involves a very expensive engine block replacement. Roughly 618,000 vehicles in that recall involved Kias.
Hyundai spokesman Michael Stewart said the majority of the models in the HLDI study have already been recalled:
“Hyundai actively monitors and evaluates potential safety concerns, including non-collision fires, with all of its vehicles and acts swiftly to recall any vehicles with safety-related defects,” he said.
Kia spokesman James Bell also indicated the company takes corrective action seriously and would be cooperating with NHTSA. He said many of the fires included the engine failure recall and could have been prevented if owners had the repairs done.
Fires in the News
But most owners expect to feel safe in their vehicles, like Cindy Titus in Colorado. Last year, she was driving her 2013 Kia Sorento on a Denver interstate when it caught on fire.
“Within seconds I lost my brakes, my steering, my everything and my car was on fire,” Titus told Denver7 in a SKYPE interview.
Fortunately for her, a driver saw the vehicle on fire, pulled in front of her to make her stop. That’s when she noticed the car on fire and immediately jumped out of the moving vehicle with her dog. “Within seconds my whole car engulfed in flames from the back to the front,” she said.
Lorinda Hixon was driving in Los Angeles freeway when suddenly her 2012 Kia Sorento caught on fire. After NBC Los Angeles reported Hixon’s story, a viewer, Jason Tellefsen reached out and described the same situation.
He had two daughters in the backseat at the time. “My girls were, you know, hysterical. They were terrified,” he said.
Center for Auto Safety and Recall List
The fire study began after the Center for Auto Safety petitioned NHTSA for an immediate recall of Hyundai and Kia models in October 2018. Like the Highway Loss Data Institute, the Center found that a higher amount of consumer complaints happened with the suspect cars.There had been over 230 complaints of the cars bursting into flames the same way others explained.
The following vehicles and year had higher noncrash fire claim rates:
Kia Optima (2011 to 2015)
The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine had 5 claims compared to 1.7 claims for 21 other mid-sized cars. The 2.4-liter engine had 2.8 claims.
Kia Sorento (2011 to 2015)
The 2.4-liter engine on this model had 2.6 claims (double the averages of comparable SUVs).
Hyundai Sonata (2001 to 2014)
The 2-liter engine had 4.2 claims, while the 2.4-liter engine had 2.7 claims.
Hyundai Santa Fe (2011, 2012)
The 2.4-liter engine had 2.1 claims
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport (2013, 2014)
The 2-liter turbo had 2.9 claims per 10,000 vehicle years, while the 2.4-liter engine had 2.2 claims. Though noncrash fire claims are rare, turbocharged engines have higher claim rates. This type of system sends more gas into the smaller engine, making it more powerful.
The following vehicles have a recall in place for the fuel injector pipe:
- Kia Optima (2011 to 2014)
- Kia Sorento (2012 to 2014)
- Kia Sportage SUV (2011 to 2013)
- Hyundai Sonata (2011 to 2014)
- Hyundai Santa Fe Sport (2013 to 2014)
Software and engine knock sensor updates include 2 million Hyundai Sonata (2011) and Santa Fe Sport (2013 through 2018). Roughly 1.7 million Kias are covered (Optima 2011 to 2018, Sorento 2012 to 2018, and Sportage 2011 to 2018).
Owners will be notified by letter if their vehicle is one of the recalls. Dealers will be able to check fuel pipe for leaks and potentially replace the pipe if necessary.
To check if your vehicle is on the list of recalls, click here.