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12 Severe Problems Of The Hyundai Santa Fe

12 Severe Problems Of The Hyundai Santa Fe

The American-made Hyundai Santa Fe is one of those cars that can do it all, from adventure to family. Spacious, good-looking, and increasingly popular are just some of the adjectives that would describe the Sante Fe. However, is it reliable? That is what we are here for. In this blog post, you will learn all the common problems, recalls, and faults of the Santa Fe. Below is the short answer.

Hyundai Santa Fe have various engine problems that can lead to complete engine failure or turbocharger failure, specifically in the 2.0/2.4L Theta II engine and the 3.3L Lambda engine. Also, steering problems are common; there were two recalls because of ABS problems and several complaints due to various suspension problems. 

If you are anything like us, you are hungry for all the details. If you continue reading, we will discuss each of the problems above in greater detail. This includes quotes from actual Santa Fe owners and more. Keep reading!

1. Major Engine Problems – Theta II Engine

We already discussed the numerous problems of the Theta II engine in our reviews of specific Kia models, which are commercially labeled as the 2.0L and the 2.4L GDI engine. Kia and Hyundai shared these engines, and they suffered from numerous catastrophic issues.

The most known issue is related to the knocking sound of the engine and complete engine failures. This occurred as a consequence of residual debris being contained in the engine, which potentially caused a restriction of the oil flow to the main bearings.

An oil-deprived engine prematurely wore out the main bearing and the connecting rod bearing responsibility for the infamous knocking sound. If the bearings failed completely, the driver lost all power, and an engine replacement was needed.

This issue was present in specific 2011-2014 model year Hyundai Santa Fe’s and Hyundai addressed it in the recall campaign number 162 (NHTSA campaign number 17V-226).

Several owners on NHTSA also complain about excessive oil consumption problems with the same engines built during this period. It goes without saying that you are better off just avoiding this engine altogether.

2. Engine Problems – 3.3L Engine

Continuing with the topic of engine failure, the 2017 model year Santa Fe’s with a 3.3L engine. The story of the excessive wear of the bearings repeats itself; however, in this case, the fault came about due to surface irregularities in the crankshaft pin. 

These irregularities caused premature engine bearing wear, which led to the vehicles stalling and the engine seizing up. Hyundai launched the 168 recall (NHTSA campaign number 17V578000), which ordered the service centers to inspect the affected vehicles and replace the engines if needed.

3. Turbocharger Oil Supply Issues

The newest 2022 model year Santa Fe is already a hot topic regarding engine problems. In March of 2022, Hyundai launched recall campaign number 222 (NHTSA campaign number 22V197000), which recalled certain vehicles with turbocharged engines. 

In order for the turbocharger to work effectively, it needs a constant supply of fresh oil. Without it, the turbo can fail prematurely. The oil feed line that goes to the turbocharger was prone to cracking on particular 2022 Santa Fe’s, which was the reason for the immediate recall.

Any oil leaks near the hot engine and exhaust surfaces can also result in an engine fire, making it a severe fire risk.

4. Fuel Leaks On The 2021-2022 Model Year Vehicles

Even though there are no NHTSA complaints of this happening, it is only normal that as the first cases were discovered, Hyundai immediately launched a recall.

As the title suggests, fuel leaks were found on the 2.5L turbocharged engines. Fuel escaped from the fuel lines at the pipe fitting between the high-pressure fuel pump and the fuel rail.

Due to the high risk of an engine fire, Hyundai launched recall campaign number 207 (NHTSA campaign number 21V524000). Read more here about the types of fuel a Santa Fe uses.

5. Headlight Bulbs Blowing Out

We have detected numerous NHTSA complaints regarding frequent headlight bulb problems. Owners report repeated bulb failure, the following owner of a 2013 Santa Fe complained:

My right low-beam headlight keeps blowing out. We have replaced the light 3 times in less than a week. Our mechanic suggested that I report this problem to the NHTSA to see if there is a recall on this problem. My light is out again!!! This is a serious safety problem. Cannot see the right side of the road unless I use my high beams.

NHTSA ID Number 11312039

No recall, service bulletins, or other response related to this issue has been detected from Hyundai.

6. Fuel Tank Issues

It is not common that we see reports of fuel tank issues; however, we have definitely detected an issue today. Several NHTSA complaints can be found reporting of similar problems where owners seem to think that they have filled up their fuel tank, only to learn that they filled up only ¾ of the fuel tank.

An owner of a 2013 model year Santa Fe complaints:

“This issue seems to be well documented by others on the internet. When pumping gas, the fuel tank acts like it is full causing the gas pump to shut off. However, the tank is only about 3/4 full. if you are patient enough, you can eventually fill up the tank by trickling in gas…”

NHTSA ID Number 10626895

This issue was addressed with the Hyundai technical service bulletin 16-01-068; the part at fault is the fuel tank vent valve. Replacing this ventilation valve is free of charge under warranty and potentially free out of warranty from Hyundai’s goodwill program.

7. Airbag Problems And Recalls

Despite a low number of airbag-related NHTSA complaints from the owner’s side, there are two severe recalls regarding Santa Fe’s airbags we must mention.

The first recalls affect certain 2021 Santa Fe’s, which experienced trouble with the occupant detection system module. This system did not detect the presence of a child in the front passenger seat. This means that in a case of an accident, it deployed the airbags and caused potential harm to the child. With the Hyundai recall number 202 (NHTSA campaign number 21V185000), owners were granted a free replacement of the mentioned safety module.

Two years prior, the 2019 model year of the Santa Fe faced issues with poorly designed mounts of the side curtain airbag. The mounting bolts may interfere and damage the airbags during deployment, and this means the airbags might not inflate in case of an accident. This issue was repaired in Hyundai’s recall campaign 177 (NHTSA campaign number 18V715000).

8. Steering Coupler Failure

We continue with a controversial problem. This issue cannot be found by looking through the recall list; however, it is widely reported by the owners on the NHTSA.

The following quote from an owner of 2013 Santa Fe explains the issue well:

Our 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe had a steering coupler failure at about 35,000 miles that resulted in a loud clunking sound in the steering wheel and less responsive steering, which is unsafe. Hyundai and Kia have extended warranties for many of their models for this exact same problem, but for some reason they have not offered extended service for the Santa Fe.

NHTSA ID Number 11455704

A steering coupler is a small cross-shaped plastic component that conveys the rotation of the steering wheel to the steering rack, which makes the wheels turn. So despite its small form factor, it is an essential component for the functionality and safety of the car.

We mentioned the same issue in our review of the Kia Forte; however, Hyundai still feels that the Santa Fe is not affected by these issues. Because of this, Santa Fe owners are forced to pay for the repairs out of their pocket.

9. Sunroof Fractures

One of the NHTSA complaints describes this issue very vividly “The panoramic sunroof on my 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe exploded, sending glass shards everywhere. It sounded like a shotgun went off inside the vehicle.”

exploded sunroof of a hyundai santa fe 2022 phev

And that is all there is to this problem; the sudden fractures of the sunroofs seem to have no solution, nor did Hyundai offer one. It is not a case of a few vehicles. Based on the sheer number of NHTSA complaints, the issue is spread across multiple model years and happens completely randomly (meaning there is no common reason, such as high or low temperatures or anything similar).

10. Problems With Brakes

Many NHTSA complaints regarding the brakes were in connection to ABS module warning lights. These complaints are a result of several ABS-related recalls.

In 2020, Hyundai recalled specific 2013-2015 Santa Fe Sport models due to a potential leak of brake fluid into the Anti-Lock Brake system (ABS). This increased the chances of an electrical short circuit which could result in an engine compartment fire. Hyundai resolved this issue with recall number 194 (NHTSA campaign number 20V520000).

A year later, Hyundai issued recall campaign number 205 (NHTSA campaign number 21V303000), which resolved the same issue as the previous recall, on even more units of the 2013-2015 model year Santa Fe.

And the ABS issues did not end there. In 2022, Hyundai recalled (recall number 208, NHTSA campaign number 22V056000) specific 2017-2018 model year Santa Fe due to a possibility of a malfunction in the ABS module itself. This malfunction could cause an electrical short, resulting in a fire while driving or parked.

11. Forward Collision Avoidance System Issues

Radar cruise control and forward collision avoidance systems are both common problems and the most sought-after safety and comfort features in most modern cars. The radar sensor is a crucial part of such systems. It keeps the “eyes” on the road and applies the brakes and gas when needed.

Due to the grime that gets picked up from the road, the radar that is supposed to increase your safety is also responsible for endangering many owners with such systems. And many Santa Fe owners report these exact problems.

An owner of a 2021 Sante Fe complained:

“While driving in the fast lane on the freeway at speed limit the car suddenly began to slow/stop, after which a warning flashed on the display that said Danger, collision imminent, or something like that. There was no one close in front of me when that happened. This exact scenario has happened three times now in this car, in the same way!”

NHTSA ID Number 11439221

Because such problems are hard to replicate on command, Hyundai does very little to help owners with such problems. Until there is a problem with the system that shows up on the diagnostics software, drivers are left on their own to deal with these issues. We have observed at least 15 NHTSA complaints on this matter.

12. Various Suspension Problems

After analyzing each of the 2012-2022 model years of the Santa Fe, we detected two reoccurring suspension problems. The vast majority of these reports have been made during 2012-2015 production. 

The first one has been described by multiple owners as weird suspension bangs and pops when turning or driving over speedbumps. A number of owners have reported this issue. There is no solution in terms of a recall, technical bulletin, or owner’s solution reports that we were able to find.

The second problem has been described as constant swaying to the left or right and general problems with making the car go in a straight line. This can either be a suspension problem or a problem with the alignment of the wheels.

Owner of a 2014 Santa Fe reports:

“Vehicle does not stay in a straight line. I’ve had alignment issues before with other cars where it pulled to one side but this car is all over the place on the interstate. I constantly have to correct the steering wheel which is exhausting after 20 mins. Sometimes left, sometimes right.”

NHTSA ID Number 10573151

If you are in the market for a Santa Fe, make sure you take it for a test drive. Pay attention to how the car behaves and if there are any unusual sounds. Read more here about potential transmission problems as well.


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