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NHTSA Investigates 16 Recalls Totaling 6.4M Vehicles Made by Hyundai and Kia

From 2016 to the present day, South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia issued no fewer than 16 recalls over the anti-lock brake modules fitted to 6,383,145 vehicles. Manufactured by South Korean supplier Mando, the suspect parts in question are referred to as ABS module by Hyundai and HECU by Kia, HECU as in hydraulic electronic control unit.
2020 Kia Sportage 13 photos
Photo: Kia / edited
2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage2020 Kia Sportage58920-2E150 ABS Module for Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage
Given the number of vehicles and recalls, the Office of Defects Investigation has opened an audit query into Hyundai Motor America and Kia America due to varying descriptions of the defect. What's more, the NHTSA further notes different remedy descriptions for the same or similar equipment made by Mando.

The ODI will evaluate both the scoping and timeliness of the decision making, as well as the adherence to reporting requirements. Obviously enough, the feds will further look into the varying defect and remedy descriptions of the safety recalls.

As mentioned earlier, nearly 6.4 million vehicles were recalled in total for potential anti-lock brake module fires. The 16 recalls are split equally between Hyundai and Kia, beginning with 20V-520, 20V-543, 21V-161, 21V-160, 21V-303, 22V-056, 22V-810, and 23V-651 for Hyundai. Over at Kia, the safety recalls in question are 16V-815, 20V-518, 20V-519, 21V-137, 21V-331, 22V-051, 22V-800, and 23V-652. The first two characters indicate the calendar year of issuance, namely 2016 for recall number 16V-815.

Said recall concerns 71,704 examples of the 2008 to 2009 model year Kia Sportage over the improper sealing of the hydraulic electronic control unit's wiring harness cover. If moisture reaches the circuit board, the subsequent electrical short circuit could lead to a fire. Back then, Kia instructed its US dealer network to replace the connector cover. In case of corrosion on the connector pins, dealers had to replace both the connector cover and control unit.

58920\-2E150 ABS Module for Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage
Photo: SINOCMP PARTS on Amazon UK
The most recent recalls were published by the NHTSA on the federal agency's website in September 2023, with Kia recalling 1.7 million vehicles and Hyundai recalling 1.6 million vehicles. Kia told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the exact cause of the electrical short circuit remains unknown. Hyundai, on the other hand, said that the ABS motor shaft O-ring material formulation is susceptible to physical changes over time due to varying factors, including moisture.

Hyundai further explained that brake fluid could leak onto the printed circuit board of the anti-lock brake controller, leading to an electric short circuit. Rather than replacing the ABS module with a better-designed assembly, the South Korean automaker will replace the ABS fuse to limit the operating current of the ABS module. Known owners have been informed about this recall on November 21.

As the ODI notes in the audit query (attached below in portable document format), these discrepancies in defect and remedy descriptions are suspicious. More suspicious still, there are different accounts for how the recall condition was corrected in production.

Given how much time is required to get to the bottom of each and every one of the 16 recalls, the Office of Defects Investigation within the NHTSA will likely provide us with an update in 2024. First half or second half of 2024, it's nigh-on impossible to tell.
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Editor's note: 2020 model year Sportage pictured in the gallery.

 Download: NHTSA investigation into Hyundai ABS module fire recalls and Kia HECU fire recalls (PDF)

About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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