Hyundai recalls over 400,000 cars for issue that could cause engine fires

February 7, 2020, 9:24 PM UTC
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 26: Hyundai's 2007 Elantra Sedan is seen at speed on California's Pacific Coast Highway following the firm's introduction of the vehicle to the motoring press in California, on Thursday, October 26, 2006. The four-door, powered by a 138 horsepower 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, features six standard airbags, side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side curtain airbags for front and outboard rear passengers. Hyundai estimates fuel economy at 28 city, 36 highway for both manual and automatic transmissions. (Photo by Mark Elias/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Mark Elias—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hyundai is recalling nearly 430,000 small cars because water can get into the antilock brake computer, cause an electrical short and possibly an engine fire.

The recall is another in a series of problems that the South Korean automaker and its related company Kia have had with engine fires during the past few years. Past problems have triggered an investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The latest recall covers certain 2006 through 2011 Elantra and 2007 through 2011 Elantra Touring vehicles.

The company says the electrical short can cause a fire even when the cars are turned off. But Hyundai said Friday that the rate of fires is so low that it’s not necessary to park the cars outside.

Hyundai said in documents filed with the U.S. government that it has three reports of fires and no related injuries.

Dealers will install a relay in the cars’ main electrical junction box to prevent short circuits while the car is turned off. The recall is to start on April 3.

Last April, NHTSA opened two new investigations into fires involving Hyundai and Kia vehicles after getting complaints of more than 3,100 fires and 103 injuries.

The agency granted a petition seeking the investigations by the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group.

The investigations, one for Hyundai and the other for Kia, cover non-crash fires in almost 3 million vehicles from the affiliated automakers. The probes cover the 2011 through 2014 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, the 2011 through 2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, and the 2010 through 2015 Kia Soul. The complaints came from consumers and from data provided by both automakers.

NHTSA had previously said it would incorporate the noncrash fires into a 2017 investigation that examined recalls of Hyundai and Kia vehicles for engine failures. It opened the new probes “based on the agency’s analysis of information received from multiple manufacturers, consumer complaints and other sources.”

Engine failure and fire problems with Hyundais and Kias have affected more than 6 million vehicles since 2015, according to NHTSA documents. So far, Hyundai and Kia have recalled about 2.4 million vehicles to fix problems that can cause fires and engine failures.

In addition, the automakers 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 latest recall “is not related to the previous Hyundai recalls for engine issues,” Hyundai spokesman Michael Stewart said in an email Friday.

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