By on May 18, 2021

kia logo emblem

Despite Kia’s obvious efforts to transform its lineup into a slew of handsome models offering more of what drivers want, it continues to have trouble with some of them catching fire. That’s likely going to be a deal-breaker for many shoppers, especially with the latest recall suggesting flames could spring up after vehicles have been turned off.

Hyundai Motor Group (which owns Kia) is requesting 440,370 examples of the Optima and Sorento be returned to dealers over a potential brake fluid leak that may damage the hydraulic electronic control unit (HECU) and start a fire. The notice comes just weeks after Hyundai asked to see 125,800 automobiles (Kona, Veloster, Elantra) and Kia wanted to check on 147,000 (Seltos, Soul) models for the same issue. 

The problem is a familiar one, with control units drenched in brake fluid throwing sparks around the engine compartment until something catches. Kia has stated that it’s not aware of any fires related to the issue, though it’s still recommending owners park their vehicles outside and keep them a healthy distance away from anything they don’t want to see burned to a crisp.

What should you be on the lookout for? Horrible burning smells and smoke emanating from beneath your hood are probably decent indicators that something might be wrong. But Hyundai/Kia have also suggested that an ABS warning light might be a sign that you’re in for trouble. For now, the problem is only supposed to affect 2013-2015 model year Kia Optima sedans and 2014-2015 Sorento crossovers.

Customers will be encouraged to bring their vehicles in for inspection starting July 2nd, though we probably wouldn’t blame you for calling ahead of the official notice. Dealerships have been informed to check to see if there are any errant brake fluids and replace the HECU if so. Otherwise, your car will simply be equipped with new fuses designed not to throw sparks everywhere when covered with any number of liquids — should that happen later.

As always, the repair bill will be footed by the manufacturer. Kia said it would also reimburse any owner that took care of the problem themselves.

[Image: Kia Motors]

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8 Comments on “Hyundai Motor Group Is on Fire: Kia Recalls Optima, Sorento Models...”


  • avatar
    tonycd

    This problem’s been in the news for a long time now, and on multiple models. One has to suspect that Hyundai/Kia either doesn’t know how to fix it or doesn’t care.

  • avatar

    For some reason I always stayed clear from Koreans (I mean cars) even when I lived in Russia. Now I know why.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Fire and opposable thumbs are two of the few advantages I have in life. Let’s keep them.

  • avatar
    redapple

    H K are crap.
    redapple example 23
    My brother reports. his 2015 Sonata. 35,000 miles.

    Disintegrating key fob – rubber panels.
    Chrome rubbing off dash trim.
    Chrome on door panel deliminating.
    Rear wheel hub. grind / clunk. Replacement completed.
    Trunk release button on trunk. Disintegrated.
    No spare tire. Not even a donut. wait 1.5 hr for tow truck.
    Others report seats in a 5 yr old car look like a 10 year old car.
    Now Fires.
    Brutal. Just Brutal. No sale. Period

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Your brother is not alone. Pretty sure that Steven Lang, used car shopping professional who used to write about the topic for this site, has shared his personal observation that Hyundai and Kia vehicles tend to age faster than their Japanese competitors.

      South Korea does not have especially cheap labor. As my own brother puts it, “The cost savings have to come from somewhere.”

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