Thousands of Kias and Hyundais may qualify for free engine replacement

Hyundai sign
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

Millions of people who drive a Hyundai or Kia may be eligible for a free replacement engine under a recent class action settlement. The trouble is that many car owners don’t know it and are paying big repair bills or even scrapping their cars when faced with a major engine repair bill.

Rolanda Underwood was driving her 2016 Hyundai Sonata when something went wrong.

“I was driving on the highway to pick up my paycheck,” she said, when the car sputtered.

“I was going 60, and all of a sudden, it was 50,” she said.

The car lost power rapidly, she said, and within minutes, she was stuck on the side of the road. A tow truck took her to a nearby Hyundai dealer, who she says diagnosed a blown engine.

Ira and Jima Gansler were driving home when their 2015 Kia Sportage suddenly quit, going down a winding hill with their young son in the backseat.

“We had no power steering and no brakes. It was pretty scary,” Gansler said.

Their Kia dealer also diagnosed a blown engine.

Class action settlement could mean help for owners

Breakdowns like this have become more common, with thousands of Hyundai and Kia owners in recent years reporting major engine problems that can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

The good news for owners is that Hyundai and Kia in 2021 settled a class action case, providing a warranty extension that could mean a free replacement.

Kevin Williams of the auto site The Drive.Com said several million vehicles may qualify for an engine replacement but said owners often end up paying for repairs.

“There are a lot of people, especially people who are second and third owners of vehicles with those engines,” he said, “who just don’t know that they are part of that warranty extension.”

Vehicles that may be covered by the settlement include many of the following 2011 to 2019 models with a “Theta” engine:

  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Kia Optima
  • Kia Sportage
  • Kia Sorento

Not all models are included, however, and there are exclusions, especially if you did not save maintenance records or did not have a 2019 computer software recall performed.

So what should you do if you are starting to have engine issues?

The Drive’s Williams said before you go to a neighborhood repair shop, which cannot do warranty repairs, “you should call your local Hyundai or Kia service department with your vehicle’s VIN. That would give you a definite answer” as to whether you may qualify for the warranty extension.

Unfortunately, the Ganslers claim was denied because they say their older son, a mechanic, had done several driveway oil changes.

A Kia spokesperson told us the couple “produced only 5 of 13 oil change receipts” and therefore did not have the required paperwork to qualify for a free repair. He also said there was no evidence their car had been brought in for that 2019 recall, which is required for the warranty extension.

Rolanda Underwood was luckier. Her Sonata got a free engine replacement, though her car still has issues.

“Now the check engine light came on,” she said. We are contacting her dealer to see if they can assist with that.

The Kia spokesman said customers can learn more about whether their car might qualify at the official Kia Engine Settlement webpage.

Hyundai owners can learn more about whether they may qualify at the Hyundai Warranty Extension webpage.

While the settlement is not perfect, if you own a 2011 to 2019 Kia or Hyundai with engine problems, there is a chance you may qualify for a free engine replacement, so you don’t waste your money.

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John Matarese

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