Gamez: What to know after recall issued for Kia, Hyundai vehicles over fires

Sep 29, 2023, 3:28 PM

FILE - The company logo shines off the hood of a 2021 K5 sedan on display in the Kia exhibit at the...

FILE - The company logo shines off the hood of a 2021 K5 sedan on display in the Kia exhibit at the Denver auto show Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Elitch's Gardens in downtown Denver. Kia is recalling about 320,000 cars in the U.S. to fix a problem that could stop the trunk from being opened from the inside, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. The recall covers the Optima midsize car from 2016 through 2018, Optima hybrids and plug-ins from 2017 and 2018, and the Rio small car from 2016 and 2017. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Hyundai and Kia are recalling nearly 3.4 million vehicles in the U.S. and telling owners to park them outside due to the risk of engine compartment fires.

The recalls cover multiple car and SUV models from the 2010 through 2019 model years including Hyundai’s Santa Fe SUV and Kia’s Sorrento SUV, government documents state.

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“According to documents posted this week by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an anti-lock brake control module in recalled vehicles can leak fluid and cause an electrical short, which can touch off a fire whether the cars or being driven, or are parked,” according to The Associated Press.

It’s imperative if you drive a Kia or Hyundai from the stated model years that you get it checked out as soon as possible, according to the automakers.

Hyundai reported 21 fires in the United States and another 22 “thermal incidents,” including smoke, burning and melting of parts, according to government documents.

As a Kia owner myself, there are growing concerns over parking it outside, so I reached out to Kenton Brine, President of Northwest Insurance Council, to find out how to protect my car.

“The question for the vehicle owner is, first of all, does my Hyundai or Kia have the potential to have the fire problem fire hazard problem because of the year and model? And secondly, does it also have the threat potential of being stolen?” Brine said. “However, I think the smart move for Kia and Hyundai owners who are affected by this recall is to do as the company has suggested and have your vehicle outside.

“But you should invest, you know, a small investment in in a wheel lock to put on your steering wheel and make your car a little less vulnerable to theft than the one down the street,” Brine continued. “And that’s that’s a good place to start.”

What else you need to know

Brine also said it’s important to be extra careful and take the following steps:

  1. Park your car in a well-lit area.
  2. Don’t leave personal belongings in your car.
  3. Use a car lock.
  4. Lock your doors and roll up your windows.

If your car is vandalized or stolen, Brine suggested drivers call their insurance companies immediately.

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“Auto policies come with an optional policy that most people purchase when they get their liability insurance which is required by the state. It’s called comprehensive coverage. And if you do have your car broken into, windows smashed, or even stolen, you have insurance coverage to replace or repair that vehicle. That’s what that coverage is for,” Brine said.

And if a Kia or Hyundai is parked in the garage and it catches fire, will owners be covered?

“Yes, they are going to be insured. It’s certainly not the vehicle owner’s fault. Even if they are aware, there’s something wrong where you have what’s considered a known peril or, if you’ve been told multiple times that there’s a tree leaning over your house, and then the tree falls on your house,” Brine said. “Sometimes, some insurers will say, ‘Well, you should have, you should have done something about that tree.’ And, ‘Of course, it fell on your home.’ But in this case, I think that insurers are going to respond to this situation.”

It’s important to call your insurance company to make sure you are covered and don’t just have liability insurance.

What the automakers will do

Dealers will replace the anti-lock brake fuse at no cost to owners. Kia says in documents that it will send notification letters to owners starting Nov. 14. For Hyundai, the notifications will begin is Nov. 21.

Hyundai says owners can continue to drive the vehicles. The company said an O-ring in the antilock brake motor shaft can lose sealing strength over time due to the presence of moisture, dirt and dissolved metals in the brake fluid, causing leaks. The new fuse limits the operating current of the brake module, the company said.

In a separate statement, Kia said an engine compartment fire could happen in the area of the brake control unit due to an electrical short that results in excessive current — but the exact cause of the short circuit is unknown.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Gamez: What to know after recall issued for Kia, Hyundai vehicles over fires