Car owner forced to replace engine twice within weeks despite safety recall
Transport Canada 'needs to act more assertively,' consumer advocate says
A B.C. man says he's in "disbelief" after learning he'll have to swallow the cost of replacing his SUV's engine — not once, but twice, within weeks — despite the vehicle being part of a major recall that was issued before the breakdowns.
And he's not the only one facing thousands of dollars in repair bills for vehicles under recall.
In June, Rick Lingard's 2011 Hyundai Tucson's engine seized and died while he was driving down a major highway near Cranbrook, B.C.
"They showed me the engine after they took it out and there was a hole in it. It was destroyed," said Lingard, who lives in Nelson.
He paid more than $7,000 to replace it, opting for a used engine with 40,000 kilometres on it, through an independent mechanic, after a Hyundai dealership quoted him more than $10,000 for a new one.
A few weeks later, it happened again.
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"The same kind of high-pitched rattle-y sound … and then all the lights came on again and — boom! I was in disbelief," he told Go Public.
Then, another twist: Just three days after the second catastrophic engine failure, Lingard got a recall notice describing the same problem.
The recall was issued in February, but the notice didn't arrive in the mail until August. Lingard says no one at two Hyundai dealerships he'd contacted about his engine breakdowns mentioned anything about a recall.
"To me, it's just irresponsible to the core," he said.
Transport Canada could easily fix the problem, according to one automotive consumer advocate, by forcing Hyundai to cover Lingard's costs. But the federal agency, says George Iny of the Automotive Protection Association, tends not to use the full extent of its powers.
The agency also has the power to force recalls — under changes made last year to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act — but has never used it.
"Transport Canada is a bit like an out-of-shape person who just got a gold-plated membership to the gym. That doesn't automatically put you in shape," said Iny.
"Transport Canada needs to act more assertively."
Debris in engines
After getting the recall notice, Lingard submitted his receipts to Hyundai Canada. It rejected the claim, saying his first engine failure was due to "insufficient engine maintenance, not the recall" because Lingard didn't do sufficiently frequent oil changes prior to 100,000 kilometres of driving, and didn't provide receipts for subsequent changes.
The company says he changed his oil every 20,000 kilometres instead of every 12,000 as required by the manual. After the warranty expired, Lingard says he stopped going to the dealership for oil changes.
Iny says using oil changes as a reason to deny claims is common but puzzling.
Zero compassion. Zero empathy. Zero everything.— Scott Wild, Kia customer
"The fact that you didn't keep records of oil changes doesn't make you negligent. That's just an invention," Iny said. "It's not a valid reason for refusing coverage."
He says both Kia and its part-owner Hyundai have admitted, in some cases, that such engine failures stem from metallic debris left inside during the manufacturing process.
In those cases, "whether you did oil changes or not," Iny said, "the debris was already there." Lingard's recall notice doesn't mention debris.
Hyundai Canada also denies responsibility for Lingard's second blown engine because, according to a spokesperson, the engine was not "provided, installed or inspected by a Hyundai dealer."
When Go Public asked why his recall notice took months to arrive, and why no one at the company told Lingard about the recall, it didn't respond.
Go Public has heard from dozens of Hyundai and Kia owners who say they, too, are being left out of the recall.
Scott Wild and his wife Donna Stewart, of Cambridge, Ont., experienced the same dangerous breakdown as Lingard, when the engine of their 2013 Kia Sportage suddenly failed at high speeds on June 4.
Their mechanic also found a hole had been blown in the side of the engine and it needed to be replaced.
"I said, 'You can't be serious … this vehicle has 140,000 kilometres on it and it's finally paid off,'" Wild said.
That's when the couple discovered there's a recall on the 2013 Kia Sportage, but their specific vehicle isn't covered.
Kia told them their vehicle identification number was not listed under the recall.
"It was really weird, " said Wild. "What happened to our vehicle is exactly the same as what happens to all the vehicles that are on the list."
Kia Canada told Go Public that the couple's vehicle had an MPI ("multi-point injection") engine — and only those with GDI ("gasoline direct injection") engines are part of the recalls.
What's the difference? When Go Public asked, the company didn't answer. But independent mechanic Chris Solodko, in Hamilton, told Go Public he's repaired dozens of both types and, in his opinion, their engine problems are almost identical.
"They all have the same noise, the same problem. One [type of engine] is running on a high pressure and the other one is running on a low pressure," he said.
Transport Canada told Go Public it has received 65 complaints of engine failures not covered by the Kia and Hyundai recalls since March and says it is investigating whether more vehicles should be added.
Iny says they have to move faster. "There is a pattern here. What we need of the carmakers is an open mind that the complaints that fall outside of the group are not just turned down but that they are looked into," he said.
Wild and Stewart ended up selling their vehicle for parts, then joined one of at least four Canadian, engine-related class-action lawsuits against Kia and Hyundai. The lawsuits have not yet been certified by the courts.
Left out of settlement
Both Hyundai and Kia have been dogged with engine failure and fire complaints and lawsuits in Canada and the U.S.
Hyundai and Kia have recalled almost 500,000 vehicles in Canada for engine-related defects since 2015, due to manufacturing debris that could cause the engines to fail.
The problem can also cause fires. Millions of other vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. and, in October, the companies agreed to set aside $758 million US to settle related class-actions in the U.S. and South Korea, pending approval by the courts.
Iny is hopeful a U.S. settlement might mean one is coming for drivers in Canada, but it could be a while before that happens — if at all.
"We would want total parity," he said.
In the meantime, Transport Canada is asking car owners who believe they have experienced a safety-related problem with their vehicle to contact its Defect Investigations and Recalls Division at 1-800-333-0510, or submit a defect complaint form online.
Wild and Stewart have filed complaints with Transport Canada. They are waiting to see what the agency decides.
"Zero compassion. Zero empathy. Zero everything," Wild said about his interaction with Kia staff. "Basically, 'Sorry about your luck.'"
With files by Jenn Blair, Ana Komnenic