CBC Marketplace and Go Public Investigate Hyundai and Kia Recalls

February 26th, 2021


An update to this topic was published in August 2022 here.


Hyundai and Kia Canada Recalls and Product Improvement Campaigns due to engine issues and fires - Santa Fe

Hyundai and Kia Canada issued important recalls and "Product Improvement Campaigns" covering 2011-2019 models with four-cylinder 2L and 2.4L turbocharged and non-turbo engines. The engines are used in the Optima and Sonata sedans, the smaller Elantra and Forte cars, and many Sportage, Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs. The fire risk posed by these engines was reported by CBC`s Go Public in several broadcasts (listed below) that ran nationally and raised the profile of the Canadian investigations. When interviewed by CBC, Jason Levine, the Director of the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety reported over 300 fires in the United States reported to his organisation.

In November 2020, the US National Highway Traffic Administration announced an innovative settlement with both manufacturers:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced consent orders with Hyundai Motor America, Inc. and Kia Motors America, Inc. related to recalls for vehicles equipped with Theta II engines. The combined penalties amount to $210 million.

The consent orders reflect the agency’s assessment that both Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls of over 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Theta II engines, and inaccurately reported certain information to NHTSA regarding the recalls.

The consent orders establish both monetary and non-monetary measures designed to enhance each company’s safety practices. In addition to monetary penalties, Kia will be creating a new U.S. safety office headed by a Chief Safety Officer, and Hyundai will be building a U.S. test facility for safety investigations. Both companies will develop and implement sophisticated data analytics programs to better detect safety-related concerns. Under the agreements, each company will retain an independent, Third-Party Auditor, who will directly report to NHTSA…Both companies also committed to substantial organizational improvements to enhance their ability to identify and investigate potential safety issues in the United States… [Source: NHTSA]


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The more sophisticated GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) versions of the engines are able to receive a software upgrade only; MPI (Multiport Injection) engines are covered by a different, more involved recall that upgrades engine knock detection. According to Hyundai`s notice, the campaign enhances "the knock sensor software to detect abnormal engine bearing noise before potentially severe engine damage occurs. If abnormal engine bearing noise is detected, the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) will blink continuously, and the vehicle will be placed in Limp Home Mode allowing the customer to drive to the nearest Hyundai dealer for diagnosis and repair. The vehicle can continue to be operated for a limited time in an Engine Protection Mode, but it will accelerate slower and have a reduced maximum speed. Engine RPM will be limited to approximately 1800-2000 RPM." (about 90 km/h) The objective is for the driver to be alerted to have the vehicle looked at before the engine stops suddenly. The automaker campaigns are unusual because they involve installing an early warning system, but not an actual defect correction. Hyundai Canada says it is acting, "In an effort to improve customer satisfaction and in an abundance of caution."

Hyundai Sonata Product Improvement Campaign and Canadian Recall Notice 2019

Warranty Extended for Engine Failures

The APA is pleased to report that Hyundai Canada and Kia Motors have extended the warranty for all vehicles covered under the Knock Sensor Detection Software campaign to 10 years/200 000 km, whichever comes first; several of the early recalls were accompanied by a lifetime warranty which remains in place. Hyundai and Kia wrote vehicle owners to bring in their vehicles for the upgrades. In the event of an engine failure, the knock sensor detection upgrade must have been installed to benefit from the warranty extension.

If you already paid to replace an engine, or sold a Hyundai or Kia vehicle with a blown engine at a substantial loss, you may be eligible for compensation under the Hyundai and Kia Theta II Engine Class Action Settlement.

Hyundai Canada Engine Settlement Website
Kia Canada Engine Settlement Website

The number of fires reported in Canada since Go Public`s three reports more than tripled, suggesting that many Canadians do not know there is a federal authority to whom they should report a vehicle fire. And insurance companies simply can`t be bothered -- reporting a safety defect to Transport Canada could tie up the burnt hulk of a vehicle in a towing yard for a couple of weeks during the investigation, incurring storage fees that insurance companies are reluctant to pay. When there is property damage, like a partially burnt garage or home, the insurer will often contact the automaker directly and settle on condition of confidentiality, so no report is sent to the government. This points to flaws in the reporting system in Canada for vehicle safety defects. Not yet understood are the causes of fires reported in Hyundai and Kia vehicles that were parked for several hours; in those cases, there were no hot engine parts, and a fire in a parked vehicle usually involves an electrical system short circuit and possibly a gasoline leak. If you experience such an occurrence please get in touch with the APA and we will forward your report to Transport Canada and the automaker.

Investigating Hyundai and Kia Recalls: CBC Marketplace

Here`s the latest report from CBC Marketplace that aired in February 2021:

"My car`s on fire": Drivers fear for their safety as years-long recall rollout drags on. Watch the full report on the CBC Marketplace website

Hyundai and Kia drivers say they fear getting behind the wheel of their own cars — with the risk of engine fires and failures hanging over their heads. The recalls on millions of these vehicles have dragged on for years — starting in 2015 with more models and years still being added. Now, a joint Marketplace and Go Public investigation exposes flaws in the Canadian recall system — one that relies largely on automakers to identify and address their own safety issues — that allows that to happen.

Each recall names very specific models and years, often excluding cars with the exact same engine, only to add those vehicles and others months or years later. CBC producers interviewed drivers with sudden engine failures and fires, yet their Hyundai and Kia models were not on any recall list. Some of those interviewed said their car engines died or caught fire without warning, even after an early detection system meant to warn drivers about a possible fire or engine failure was installed.

Continue reading the CBC story. | Watch the full Marketplace episode.

Kia Optima Canada Recall Notice and Product Improvement Campaign 2019

APA guidance to reduce the likelihood of an engine failure in the future:

1) Change oil at 6000 km or 8000 km intervals. 6000 km is the Kia and Hyundai severe usage oil change interval for the affected vehicles. If you use a synthetic oil, you can switch to a slightly higher viscosity oil than the original, say a 5W-30 or 10W-40 after the warranty has ended. This will enhance protection of the engine bearings. For 2021, the oil change interval for several models has dropped to 8000 km, down from 12,000 km in previous years. Beginning with the 2021 models, most engines require synthetic oil.

2) Check the oil level about once a month (every three or four gas fill-ups). Top up if it goes down by more than half a litre. The engines appear to be sensitive to low oil.

3) Check the carmaker websites (see "Affected Vehicles" below) to determine if your vehicle is included in the Knock Sensor Detection System upgrade. To benefit from the 10 year/200,000 km warranty extension, the detection system must be installed. It is designed to reduce power before a sudden engine failure or fire and trigger a warning light on the dash. The vehicle operator is supposed to have enough advance warning to drive the car in for service.

4) Retain your oil change records. Your Hyundai or Kia dealer will request service records for at least the last year, and sometimes longer. If you are a second or subsequent owner, or have moved, update the automaker’s records with your current address and contact information. This is important in the event of future recalls.

Affected Vehicles 

The following list of recalled vehicles has been changing frequently as the recalls expand; it is current to early March 2021. In some cases, recalls omit some engines in a given model year. If the engine in your vehicle experiences a sudden failure similar to the one in the recalls, but it’s not covered under any program, report the incident to Transport Canada at 1-800-333-0510. If there are enough complaints, they may be able to convince Hyundai or Kia to expand the scope of their recalls.

Model Years
Vehicle Engine
2014-2016 Hyundai Elantra & Elantra GT 2L
2012 & 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 4 Cyl.
2013-2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport  
2011-2019 Hyundai Sonata  
2010-2015, 2019  Hyundai Tucson 2.4L
2014-2017  Hyundai Tucson 2L
2015-2016, 2019 Hyundai Veloster 1.6L & 2T
2010-2011 Kia Forte 2.4L Theta II engine



Kia Forte 

Kia Forte


2L Nu engine

2012-2015 Kia Forte Koup  2.4L Theta II engine
2011-2019 Kia Optima  



Kia Rondo

Kia Rondo


2L Nu engine

2011-2012, 2015-2019 Kia Sorento 4 Cyl.
2014-2016 Kia Soul 2L
2011-2020 Kia Sportage  


Related Articles: 

CBC Marketplace: February 19, 2021 `My car`s on fire`: Drivers fear for their safety as years-long recall rollout drags on 
... Watch the full CBC Marketplace episode.

APA: April 19, 2019 Two major recalls and a warranty extension from Hyundai and Kia Canada

CBC Go Public: March 6, 2019 Drivers say automakers are putting lives at risk by not recalling engines known to fail or catch fire

CBC Go Public: March 24, 2019 `We would have been dead`: Father outraged after engine fire puts family at risk

CBC Go Public: March 27, 2019 `Companies knew they had a big problem`: Kia, Hyundai owners say they were knowingly sold defective vehicles