Saturday, 25 January 2014

2013 Hyundai Sonata destroyed by a fire that started in the passenger compartment. Who is accountable?

Fire gutted interior of 2013 Hyundai Sonata. A catastrophic fire 
by any standard. Will Hyundai be accountable?

2013 Hyundai Sonata burns at the roadside. 

by Tom Thorne, Belleville, Ontario, 25 January 2013

On Monday 20 January 2013 my oldest daughter was driving her 2013 Hyundai Sonata from the school where she teaches to pick up her three teenage children at their high school.

Suddenly the car dashboard began to light up. The car began to show signs of shutting down the power train so she pulled over to the side of the road. Nothing worked and her four way flashers would not come on.  Almost instantly smoke began to billow from the back seat. She got out of the driver’s side grabbing her purse from the front passenger seat.

She attempted to open the back doors to retrieve her computer and school student records. The doors would not open. She backed away from the car as it was engulfed in flames. Someone called 911 and the police and fire department from Quinte West were soon on site retarding the fire. The car could not be saved it is a total loss.

At this time it is not known what caused the fire but it is clear that it started in the back seat after a general systems failure.  One thing is certain the fire did not start in the engine. The engine is completely intact as I saw yesterday when I visited the wreckers in Belleville where the car is stored until insurance officials and fire forensic people examine it.

The wrecker company manager told me at the site that they are seeing more and more wiring that is “too thin” leading to seat heaters and other systems. Another employee offered that he knows of other Hyundai cars that have self ignited but not brought to their lot. A quick search of the internet confirms that Hyundai cars have ignited elsewhere. Some of these instances are listed below.

The fact is this one did ignite for no good reason is a cause for alarm. The insurance company is initially offering a replacement value which means that the victim of this situation does not get the full purchase price back. This car had only 26,000 km. so it is worth less from insurance book values. That means the victim bites the financing or price paid difference after only a year of driving.

 American Fire Administration facts from a report covering 2008-2010 indicate one in seven fires responded to are in cars, 86 percent of those fires are in passenger vehicles. Many of these fires (32 percent) are described as “unintentional”.  Sixty one percent of these fires are in the engine compartment. Forty four percent of fires are started by “mechanical failures”. Twenty eight percent of car fires are caused by insulation problems around wires and 18 percent of fires are caused by flammable liquids.

The average dollar loss per car fire to the victim after insurance is about $5,000 adjusting for market values. Per thousand car fires 2.3 percent result in fatalities usually because the fire is a result of a car crash. In this specific Hyundai Sonata case the fire resulted in no deaths or physical  injury but its psychological effects can be deeper especially when the back doors would not open. My daughter keeps thinking about her children caught in the backseat. 

The American government figures on these fires show clearly that passenger cars are less safe than transport vehicles. Sixty nine percent of vehicle fires are in passenger cars, 16 percent in other passenger vehicles such as light trucks. Non commercial fires on the road account for 86 percent of the fires reported versus seven percent for transport vehicles. Naturally there are more cars than transports but the fire safety of these cars on the road is still 32 percent of fires not caused by a crash.

The remedy for these “unintentional” car fires seems to indicate a tort court action if the drivers of these lemons are to make an impact on the car building industry. There is no excuse for a system failure where wires overheat create a fire and destroy a new car. Clearly there is negligence here in the engineering, sourcing and quality control when these cars are built. That negligence is clearly the responsibility and accountability of the car manufacturers and even those who wilfully offer and sell them to the public.

Please comment on this story with your own car fire experiences at this email or below:

The engine was not burned only the interior of this 2013 Hyundai Sonata.
What could cause such a fire?  

Some examples of similar experiences from a simple Google search “Hyundai Sonata fires”:

1. Rocco Feb 2013: As a fire investigator, I have just examined 2 car fires in a week due to electrical failure...2012 sonata-2013 sonata. Coincidence? I think not. Someone in the auto industry needs to look into this.

2. MICHELLE Jan 18, 2014 9:03:16 AM
I had fire 2012 hyundia sonata -- burned on side of hwy -- electrical problem??

3.Another Hyundai Sonata taxi catches fire on expressway - 08May2012 youTube

4. Hyundai Sonata GLS: My 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire on my
Resolved Question:
My 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire on my way to work this morning. Now it is a total loss. I had an oil change 1 week ago. What do you think may have happened?

5.The vehicle was a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. The VIN of the car is 5NPEC4AC7B_. Upon pulling out from a stop sign the engine stalled, after coasting to a stop and placing in park I tried to restart engine. All lights went off and motor did not turn. Attempted again, same thing then passenger compartment filled with smoke. Fire dept arrived and determined somewhere in dash a component had fried. They then disconnected battery. Vehicle was towed to dealer, per dealer engine locked up and they have to disassemble dash to determine what had fried. This issue happened on Tuesday, September 6, 2011.

6. The car is a 2009 Hyundai Sonata. Vehicle identification number (VIN) of the vehicle is 5NPET46C89_. I started my car and as I started to turn the steering wheel so I could pull out of the parking space smoke spewed from my dashboard. I looked up under the dash and noticed the wiring harness in flames. I extinguished the fire. I then had the car towed to a Hyundai dealer. They examined the damage and said tat it would cost me $4000 to repair it as I needed a new wiring harness. Hyundai claims it wasn't a manufacturers defect, even though the car was purchased brand new and therehas been no alterations or modifications, the same wiring harness is used in kia which has a recall on a wiring harness. I am in possession of the burnt harness and it clearly has kia written on it. This problem occurred on Oct. 1, 2010.

7. On my way home my 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire under the
Customer Question: On my way home my 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire under the hood. I just had starter replaced 3 days earlier. Received paper stating all is good with my car. What could have caused this fire?

8. › Recalled Products › Vehicle Recalls › Hyundai
Find recall information for Hyundai Sonata Recall and other recalled cars, trucks ... year 2012-2013 Hyundai Sonata passenger cars, manufactured from January 24, ..... IN THE PRESENCE OF AN IGNITION SOURCE MAY RESULT IN A FIRE.

9. Hyundai Sonata Engine - 2013 HYUNDAI SONATA Problems With ...

10. 2011 Hyundai Sonata Electrical System Complaints › Complaints › 2011 › Hyundai › Sonata
Provides Information about 2011 Hyundai Sonata Electrical System Complaints ... On 10/29/2013, 10/30/2013 and 11/01/2013 it began do do the exact same thing. ..... 40 minute with my family inside the vehicle, the left front side caught on fire.

11. My new hyundai sonata 2013 purchased in nov was parked in my ...
My new hyundai sonata 2013 purchased in nov was parked in my friends driveway for over 4 hours and spontaneously the engine caught fire. It was not arson it ...

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All rights waved for republishing or a reblog.


  1. I trust you will be going after Hyundai for the difference + inconvenience and more!

  2. My suggestion is for your daughter to take the insurance money and buy a used Honda Accord.

  3. Hyundai Tiên Phong ra mắt xe Xe Hyundai Sonata 2.0AT 2015 hoàn toàn mới. Giá bán Hyundai Sonata 2.0AT 2015 ưu đãi, đủ màu sắc và giao xe ngay khi khách hàng có nhu cầu.

  4. My brother owns a 2007 hyundai azera. He came home on 11/22/14 and parked in the driveway at about 6:30 pm. At about 10:00 pm he awoke to neighbors knocking on the door because his car had burst into flames while sitting in the driveway. The fire department was unable to determine the cause with certainty. Due to the extremely dangerous nature of the obvious defect with hyundai vehicles we feel that something needs to be done to prevent this from happening and causing serious injury/damage to someone or their property. Please comment back so we can discuss the matter further and work together to bring hyundai to justice for their negligence.

  5. Religious: got pictures and other evidence of this fire?

  6. I sure do. Pictures of the fire happening and the car is still in our driveway untouched other than by firefighters.

  7. I need the narrative of your brother's story plus any reports he may have from insurance, plus the pictures if I am report on this fire. Also I need to know who you and your contact information. I will not reveal you as a source. Here is the email to use:

    1. Same thing just happened to my brothers 2013 sonata it caught fire and complete burned while driving it. How does he go about this?

  8. Faulty electrical wiring could be one possible reason for this incident. But then again, these cars aren’t made available in the market, without having been tested or guaranteed to be in good condition. Anyway, since these kind of issues are occurring recently, it’s best if each and every one would take extra precautions, as well as check their specs for possible problems.

    Kellie Taylor @ Aim Dynamics

  9. So scary. Thank you for sharing this. I guess there is a lesson to be learned here. Make sure you understand your insurance and what your insurance company is really liable for. It is not fun to learn this type of lesson the hard way. I have switched several insurances because their fine print will change and thankfully I read.

    Rhonda Burgess @ Bob Dunn Hyundai

  10. Thanks for the comment, however, I note that your email lead to a Hyundai dealership. It is not always an insurance matter. It is in this case denial by Hyundai that is the most depressing part of this story. There still is no answer to the question why backseat seat heaters fail and set dangerous fires. The last story on the blog makes this point too. Have you any answers or experiences with these seat heater failures? We still await an explanation from Hyundai.

    Tom Thorne

  11. When shopping for a vehicle, I learned from my dad that there is always room to negotiate. I decided to pick my price before I left the house, and I was ready to walk several times when I was told that price was impossible. Long story short, I got the vehicle at the exact price and monthly terms that I wanted.

    Martin @ Fiesta Hyundai