After making a lot of headlines due to the very easy to steal nature of some of its cheaper models, Hyundai has a new headache. Korean car manufacturer recalls 1.6 million vehicles in the United States after 21 car fires and 22 heat incidents that have occurred since 2017.
The past few years have seen a lot of threats from the electric car crowd. One absurd claim is that EVs will be too heavy for multi-story parking, but very often, they are ignorant or people with an agenda claim—in the face of real data—that EVs are a fire hazard. On planet Earth, however, the risk of a car catching fire in a gasoline-powered car is much higher, representing a large number of 300,000 hot car occurring in the United States every year.
This is one such case. The problem is under the ABS module, or more specifically, the O-rings on the ABS module shaft.
When did it start happening?
In the summer of 2019, Hyundai learned about the heated ABS modules in the US market Elantra and the US market Accent and got diagnostic modules, but both were damaged too badly to determine the cause of the problem. The following June, another report reached the automaker of another Elantra that experienced the same problem.
With three cases on the books, Hyundai’s North American Safety Operations opened a formal case to investigate the matter, learning in December 2020 of a fourth case involving the Elantra. The vehicle module was also sent for investigation.
In February 2021, Hyundai gained its first knowledge of the problem, finding evidence of a brake fluid leak inside the unit. In 2021, there were more reports of damaged cars, and Hyundai partnered with a third-party engineering firm called Exponent to see if it could pinpoint the root cause.
As of December 2021, Exponent told Hyundai that the overheating problem may have been caused by an internal brake fluid leak from the ABS module’s hydraulic circuit. Research into the faulty module continued, and in May 2022, the culprit was identified – there was brake fluid around the O-rings on the ABS drive shaft that were supposed to prevent it from escaping.
The investigation continued into 2022 and into 2023, with Hyundai discovering foreign contaminants in the brake fluid residue left in the module. Then, this summer, found a problem:
Model found O-rings used in ABS modules included different rubber material compositions determined through thermogravimetric analysis (“TGA”). In an update issued on September 6, 2023, Exponent confirmed that certain formulations of materials used in O-ring rubber can lose hardness over time. Additionally, the material can be affected by foreign contaminants in the brake fluid, affecting the performance of the seal.
This leaking brake fluid can cause an electrical malfunction, resulting in a possible engine fire.
That decided things, and in mid-September, Hyundai decided to recall the affected vehicles. And there are several of them, including:
- 2012-2015 Hyundai Accent
- 2012-2015 Hyundai Azera
- 2011-2015 Hyundai Elantra
- 2013-2015 Hyundai Elantra Coupe
- 2014-2015 Hyundai Equus
- 2011-2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
- 2013-2015 Hyundai Santa Fe
- 2013-2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
- 2010-2013 Hyundai Tucson
- 2015-2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
- 2011-2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
- 2012-2015 Hyundai Veloster
- 2010-2012 Hyundai Veracruz
What to fix?
Owners of the affected vehicles can continue to drive, Hyundai says, but should park their vehicles outside and away from the structures until the problem is resolved. The solution is a new fuse for the ABS module, which provides a small operating current for the module. Hyundai also says that it “will provide owners of affected vehicles with reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs incurred to obtain a vehicle recall status settlement based on the recall plan submitted to NHTSA on February 24, 2022.”
Hyundai’s Korean and American distributors changed the O-ring design in September 2014 and February 2015, respectively.