By on June 25, 2020


Having both forward driving lights illuminated after dark is a key element of road safety; one most automakers nailed long ago, at least until their vehicles start really getting on in years. Even then, a new bulb should be all a driver ever needs to keep the path ahead well lit.

Not so for some Kia Sorento owners. Enough consumer complaints have rolled in to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the federal agency has opened an investigation.

The probe, which kicked off this month, concerns 2011-2013 Sorento models. According to the feds, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received “74 reports of sudden, unexpected loss of headlights” in Sorento models of that vintage.

The agency says complainants “allege the headlights can turn off for some time until it corrects itself or the driver turns the vehicle off and on again,” adding, “Some vehicle owners complain they have taken the vehicle in to dealerships for service several times, but the problem has reoccurred.”

No crashes or injuries stem from the reported incidents, but clearly some owners are sick of not being able to count on forward illumination while underway. As the owner of a heavenly Toyota Camry car that sustained two deer strikes in short succession, this writer known all too well the frustration (and potential police trouble) that can arise from having just one headlight on the blink.

A typical complaint received by the NHTSA follows:

“I have had to replace my headlight bulbs 4 times since I have had this car. I had to replace the passenger side wiring harness because the lights kept going out. Now the drivers side headlight was just replaced and it went back out.”

And another:

“Lighting has went out multiple times, both headlights and now turn signals. When headlight go out, it often melts the light bulb socket and burns wires. When the turn signal went out, the bulb burning out caused the computer to short out, by design according to the service technician. Lights randomly go out without warning, often flickering, especially when hitting bumps.”

Frustrating, for sure. As this is just a preliminary investigation designed to get a fix on the scope of the issue, no recall has been advised. That said, Kia could launch one without the NHTSA’s prompting, assuming it knows the issue’s origin and has a fix in mind.

[Image: Kia]

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4 Comments on “Enter Night: Feds Probe Kia Over Sudden Headlight Failure...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My 74 Fiat 128SL used to do this, of course.

    I wonder what’s so unique about the Sorento that it’s not happening on other Kia models of that vintage.

  • avatar

    H/Kia are notorious for losing the lights. We already talked about it. You see a fairly new H/K driving and lights are missing. The only car I experienced missing lights with – 2009 Highlander. License plate lights would go on/off on their own. But I remember when I had 13yo Nissan, the light wouldn’t work because contact on the bulb would be too compressed over the years. So, I would solder some more contact material on it and old bulb would go on for more years in service.

  • avatar

    Headlights are too important so I wouldn’t mess around. Forget the dealer and go to the stereo shop. It’s just basic 12 Volts, and the dealer won’t alter/upgrade or even bypass the original system or relays on problematic and or intermittent fails.

    Maybe not a stereo shop exactly, but some things call for custom work.

    I’ve been doing it myself on older cars and trucks since I’ve been driving (stereo/amps are a hobby) and it’s clear all vehicles use the absolute thinnest gauge wires and cheapest lighting system components they can get away with. They draw high amperage and there’s lots of heating, cooling and oxidation at the contacts. Plugs also distort and twist from overheating.

    And there’s way to many loom contacts/plugs, all for making the assembly process cheaper/faster.

    Except I’d leave the high beams stock if there isn’t a problem with those. The same goes for running lights, fogs, etc.

  • avatar

    I didn’t know Lucas had set up shop in Korea.

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