Hyundai recalls over 180,000 vehicles as electrical short blamed for vehicle fires

For the second time this month, Hyundai is telling some SUV owners to park outdoors because an electrical short in a computer can cause vehicles to catch fire.

About a dozen vehicle fires have been reported so far

The logo of Hyundai Motor Co. is seen at its showroom in Seoul, South Korea, on July 26, 2018. This is the second time this month that the company has recalled thousands of their vehicles due concerns over possible electrical fires. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

For the second time this month, Hyundai is telling some SUV owners to park outdoors because an electrical short in a computer could cause vehicles to catch fire.

The Korean automaker is recalling about 180,000 Tucson SUVs for model years 2019 through 2021 in the United States to fix the problem. The company says corrosion can cause a short-circuit in defective anti-lock brake circuit boards that can lead to a fire even if engines are off.

Hyundai said on Friday that it knows of a dozen engine fires caused by the problem but no injuries. 

The company said if the anti-lock brake warning light comes on, the SUVs should not be driven and owners should disconnect the positive cable on the battery. They should contact a dealer who will provide a loaner vehicle if needed.

Separately, Kia, which is affiliated with Hyundai, is recalling more than 9,000 Stinger sports cars with 3.3-litre turbocharged engines for a similar problem. Documents posted by U.S. safety regulators say fires can occur in the area of the anti-lock brake control computer.

The Kia Stinger was awarded the 2019 Car of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada during an event at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto in 2019. Kia has also recalled more than 9,000 Stinger cars. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Kia said in a statement Friday it has six fire reports with no injuries. The company has no reports of fires after engines are turned off, but it's still recommending they be parked outdoors until repairs are made, "out of an abundance of caution," the statement said. The cause of the fires isn't yet known. 

The recalls are the latest in a series of engine fire problems that have plagued the two automakers and have touched off investigations by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Hyundai will notify owners of the recall by mail starting around Oct. 30. In the meantime, owners can key in their 17-digit vehicle identification number at the Hyundai website to see if their Tucson is affected.

The automaker said it's investigating whether the same problem is happening in other countries. 

Second recall this month

On Sept. 3, U.S. safety regulators announced that Hyundai and Kia would recall over 600,000 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada to fix a brake fluid leak that could cause engine fires. 

Those recalls are not related to the Tucson recall. They cover more than 440,000 Kia Optima mid-size sedans from 2013 through 2015 and Kia Sorento SUVs from 2014 and 2015. Also covered are 203,000 Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs from 2013 to 2015. 

A day later, Hyundai said it recommends the vehicles be parked outdoors until the problem is repaired. Kia said Friday that the Sorentos should be parked outdoors as well.

In February, Hyundai recalled nearly 430,000 small cars for a similar problem. The company said water can get into the anti-lock brake computer, cause an electrical short and possibly an engine fire. That recall covered certain 2006 through 2011 Elantra and 2007 through 2011 Elantra Touring vehicles. 

The company said the electrical short could cause a fire even when the cars are turned off. 

The Hyundai Elantra, named the Canadian Car of the Year, is shown at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto in February 2012. The company has recalled its Hyundai Elantra 2006 through 2011 models, as well as its 2007 through 2011 Elantra Touring vehicles.  (Nathan Denette/ The Canadian Press)

In April of 2019, 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 investigations, one for Hyundai and the other for Kia, cover non-crash fires in almost three million vehicles from the automakers.

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

Jason Levine, executive director of the centre, said Friday that the recall shows consumer complaints need to be monitored and taken seriously by NHTSA and automakers. 

"This recall of brand new models finally peels back the story that the epidemic of Hyundais catching fire were only happening on their older vehicles and they fixed the problem," Levine said.

Engine failure and fire problems with Hyundais and Kias have affected more than six million vehicles since 2015, according to NHTSA documents.

Hyundai said in a statement that it has recalled vehicles when a safety defect has been identified. 

"We are constantly evaluating data from a variety of sources and won't hesitate to conduct or expand a recall when we determine one is necessary to protect the safety of our owners," the company said.