How To Tell If Your 2011-2019 Hyundai or Kia Engine Might Fail

The Hyundai and Kia Theta II engine will give clues before it dies.

byKevin WilliamsJul 6, 2022 1:30 PM
How To Tell If Your 2011-2019 Hyundai or Kia Engine Might Fail
Hyundai
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Recently, we shared an article outlining how certain owners of popular 2011-2019 Hyundai and Kia mid-sized sedans and crossovers might be eligible for an engine replacement. This eligibility is the result of a class-action lawsuit settlement that included a lifetime warranty extension, reimbursement for past repairs and rental car costs, compensation for time lost due to repair delays, compensation for traded or sold vehicles, or compensation for vehicles that caught on fire. Although deadlines to submit claims for reimbursement and compensation have passed, the warranty should still apply, whether it’s the first owner or not. A wide range of vehicles is affected, including the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Sorento and more.

This begs the question, what the heck happened for these Hyundai Theta II engines to be susceptible to failure? Let’s look at the details.

What Vehicles Are Involved?

If you own one of these vehicles with 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter Theta II gasoline direct injection engines, you might be covered under the settlement:

  • 2011-2019 Hyundai Sonata
  • 2013-2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • 2014-2015 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2018-2019 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2011-2019 Kia Optima
  • 2012-2019 Kia Sorento
  • 2011-2019 Kia Sportage
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Why Do These Engines Knock?

In short, reports from a series of lawsuits, a subsequent NHTSA investigation, and Hyundai's and Kia’s own investigations revealed serious manufacturing issues with crankshafts for the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter Theta II engines. Excess metal in the crank milling process produced too many metallic shavings and burrs, ones that were liable to get stuck in oil channels in the engine.

These metal shavings restrict oil flow and accelerate wear on engine parts, namely the crankshaft bearings. Eventually, these crank bearings wear out, and the tolerances between the crank bearings and connecting rods become loose. This causes knocking. In extreme cases, a connecting rod will completely separate or break off from a crank bearing, launching itself through the side of the block or into the cylinder head. 

What Are the Symptoms?

The most common symptom of a failing Theta II, by far, is metallic oil. Even with the utmost maintenance and regular oil changes, engine part wear will be accelerated due to the lack of lubrication making its way around the engine. This lack of lubrication facilitates metal-on-metal contact, and that metal shears off into the engine oil. Even with regular oil changes, the engine will still have issues with oil flow. This lack of lubrication will wear our engine parts, causing knocking or tapping. These issues might cause the engine to stall or force the engine warning light or oil pressure warning light to come on.

High oil consumption is also a common complaint of these engines, but that could also be related to a different, yet similarly troublesome, lawsuit brewing. 

When Does It Typically Happen?

It depends. Some owners have complained about failing engines within a few thousand miles of purchase. For others, the failure doesn’t come until later—sometimes not until the car is within its second or third owner.

Kia

How Do I Fix It?

Many owners will be covered by the class-action settlement, which sees a number of Hyundai and Kia Theta II engines eligible for a warranty extension. Unfortunately, remuneration for past repairs and associated costs closed in 2021, but the affected vehicles are eligible for the lifetime warranty, so long as it meets the criteria. Contact the dealership to ask about your specific vehicle. To qualify, owners must first make sure to get the Knock Sensor Detection Software update. To determine if your car has this software, visit the campaign home and check the VIN or call 855-371-9460.

Hyundai’s settlement site also had a page of FAQs that included the question, “How can I request arbitration if my claim is denied?” The answer said this:

“In order to request BBB-administered arbitration, you must first receive a final determination that your claim was denied. If you object to the denial and want to begin the arbitration process, you should respond to the denial communication you received noting that you wish to arbitrate. You will then be provided the address information as to where to mail your written notice of intent to arbitrate to Hyundai. You must mail your notice of intent to arbitrate to the provided address within 60 days from the date of your denial. Once Hyundai receives your notice, the parties will have at least 30 days to attempt to resolve the matter outside of arbitration. If the parties cannot agree to a resolution during that time or if Hyundai determines that your claim will remain denied, Hyundai will send you information on how to contact BBB National Programs to initiate arbitration. Arbitration fees will be paid by Hyundai, except in cases where the arbitrator determines the class member’s claims were brought in bad faith. If you have any questions about the process, please contact support@HMAEngineSettlement.com."

Where Can I Find More Information?

Although Hyundai’s hub page seems to be down, it can be accessed through an archive here. Hyundai said it switched to a different call center on June 30, 2022, so use enginesettlement@hyundaiusa.com. Kia’s settlement page is still active.