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Nearly 150,000 vehicles were just recalled over fire hazards

Published Apr 22nd, 2021 2:41PM EDT
vehicle recall
Image: Kia

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Recalls can happen to a vehicle at any point in its life. Some cars are recalled many years after they initially hit the road, after it becomes clear that some component or system fails after a certain amount of time. Others are recalled much sooner after they leave the assembly line, and that’s what just happened with Kia’s new Seltos and Soul models. The vehicles, which are from the 2020 and 2021 model years, are now facing a recall over a pretty serious issue with their engines that could cause a fire hazard and potentially damage the motor itself.

In a new recall bulletin posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Kia Seltos models from 2021 and Kia Soul models from 2020 and 2021 are highlighted. The total number of cars affected nears 150,000, and while they’re all included in the recall and will have to be sent to Kia dealers for inspection, an addition 1 out of every 100 of the cars will likely have to have full engine replacements.

The recall is focused on the 2.0L Nu MPI engines that provide the power for the new Soul and Seltos models. The company says that the piston oil rings installed in the engines “have not been properly heat-treated, which may result in engine damage.” This may lead to a stall of the engine, which would cause a crash risk, or if hot oil leaks from the engine it could cause a fire risk. Neither of those things is acceptable to Kia or the NHTSA and the recall has been issued as a result.

Oil rings are typically installed on each piston inside a combustion engine. There are typically several rings on each piston and they’re designed to provide a tight fit between each piston and the cylinder walls. They also help to prevent oil from leaking out of the cylinder by scraping the cylinder walls clean with each stroke. These rings have to be able to withstand extreme temperatures and in this case, it sounds like some of them are not fit for the job.

As for how Kia plans on fixing the issue, it explains in the recall bulletin:

Kia will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the engine, free of charge. In addition, Kia will deploy Piston Ring Noise Sensing System (PNSS) software. The recall is expected to begin June 11, 2021. Owners may contact Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542. Kia’s number for this recall is SC209.

Based on the language used in the recall notice, not all of the 147,249 cars that are being recalled will have to actually be worked on. Kia mechanics will inspect the engines to see if they are damaged or are at risk of a future failure. If that is the case, the engines will be completely swapped out for no cost.