Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

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hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
56,069 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Hyundai Santa Fe engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Owner Comments

problem #13

Mar 032014

Santa Fe

  • miles


2003 Hyundai Santa Fe. Consumer writes in regards to electrical problems and engine compartment fire. The consumer stated while driving, the engine began to overheat.

- Benton, AR, USA

problem #12

Aug 172010

Santa Fe

  • 61,000 miles
Purchased as a used vehicle with 30,000 mi. In 2008 from a dealership with owners manual missing. On 8-1-2010 while driving home from work, the vehicle engine stopped running on a bridge on a busy roadway, causing the vehicle to lose power steering and power brakes. Other vehicles in the area had to take evasive action causing a immediate hazardous condition. Upon having the vehicle towed to a repair garage, it was determined that the cause of the catastrophic engine failure was the result of a defective timing belt that was a known issue for this model and make of vehicle. The manufacturer recommended changing of the timing belt was to be 60,000 miles, thus telling me the belt should have been changed in 2007 at the 60,000 mile mark. As you can see, I bought the vehicle in 2008 will 30,000 miles on it (no owners manual). I was told I was to be responsible for the cost of the replacement motor, which of course was a used motor because they redesigned the 3.5 liter engine in 2005 when this problem was evident and those engines would not fit my 2003. Why was there not a recall then on this for engine failure at that time" they had replaced the belt with a new design timing chain for the newer vehicles. While my vehicle was under repair, another 2003 Santa Fe was also in for the same issue. Fortunately, I was not injured, but the possibility was there. A minute earlier, I was traveling down a steep grade prior to the engine failure. This looks like an inherent problem for the Hyundai 3.5 liter engine, they had to get my replacement engine from Texas. Were used car buyers aware of this problem with the Hyundai 3.5 liter engine models prior to 2006? this is a serious safety violation. The vehicle engine failed without warning! how about Hyundai reimbursing me $4000"

- Ludlow, MA, USA

problem #11

Jun 112010

Santa Fe

  • 131,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe. While the contact was driving approximately 20 mph, the engine revved which caused the rpms to increase excessively high. The brakes were applied and the gear was shifted into the park position to stop the vehicle. The vehicle restarted and was driven to a parking lot, and the engine was turned off. The contact waited fifteen to twenty minutes before resuming to operation with extreme caution. Currently, the vehicle was being diagnosed at an authorized dealer. The failure mileage was 131,000.

- Minneapolis, MN, USA

problem #10

Aug 092009

Santa Fe

  • 112,000 miles


2003 Santa Fe stalls at highway speeds but immediately starts again. Stalling has also been noticed at lower speeds and while idling at stop lights. This occurs sporadically and with no indication that anything is wrong, check engine light is not on so a diagnostic scan is useless. I have seen many other complaints about the same problem with no solution from Hyundai. Also recalls on 2001 and 2002 for the same problem.

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #9

Aug 282009

Santa Fe

  • 140,000 miles
About 3 months ago, my airbag light came on and was not gone off since. I wondered if this meant I had no airbag function, but now after reading these complaints I know it is not working. This problem combined with the engine that mysteriously and suddenly shuts down while driving on the interstate is not a good combination. I smell trouble.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #8

Jun 182009

Santa Fe

  • 81,203 miles
I purchased a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe 09/2007 with 78K mi. In May 2009 I took vehicle to dealership for oil change & asked them to check it out before I went on a road trip. I wasn't having any problems, just wanted to be sure everything was ok. Service tech recommended transmission flush, replacement of timing belt, & replacement of crank sensor. I agreed to recommendations because I want to drive a safe & reliable vehicle. Since may I have returned to service dept. At least 4 times because the vehicle now stalls while I'm driving, no warning, just quits. It starts back up after a few minutes. These events are intermittent. The failures have occurred at speeds between 15 & 55 mph, while A/C on, outdoor temp 80+ & humid. Sometimes failure occurs while accelerating from a stop, other times at higher speed on hwy. Service tech has been unable to duplicate or get a read on the problem. He has even driven the vehicle home & back (60 mi) at least twice, stating he had no problems. Each visit I am told "no problem found" yet failures persist. Hyundai usa has advised me if it happens again, have it towed to dealership so they may diagnose/duplicate the problem. The person I spoke to at Hyundai usa seemed very familiar with this issue. To me, this is a very serious safety issue. So far I've been lucky to avoid an accident. Do Santa Fe drivers have to be seriously injured or killed before Hyundai makes this issue a priority? I have read many similar complaints online, some dating back to late 2003. Almost all mention being told its a problem with crank sensor or related components. Also, Hyundai apparently did recall 2001 & 2002 models with the same or similar problems. My vehicle didn't stall until the crank sensor was replaced, could be a coincidence, but I don't think so. Besides the safety issue, this is a financial rip-off. $90/hr labor adds up quickly. Hyundai keeps profiting from a defect they seem to be aware of, yet refuse to correct.

- Mint Hill, NC, USA

problem #7

Jul 182006

Santa Fe

  • 22,112 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe. While driving approximately 25 mph, the vehicle jerked and the engine stalled without warning. Roadside assistance was called to the scene and the vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer for diagnostic testing. The throttle position sensor was replaced. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer on a separate occasion for the identical failure and the throttle position sensor was replaced again. The vehicle has not been repaired properly and the failure still persists. The failure mileage was 22,112 and current mileage was 41,496.

- Port Charlotte, FL, USA

problem #6

Aug 152006

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,521 miles
Went to the dealer to get my vehicle fixed 4 times and got charged for a tune up that I did not need. The last and 4th time when picking up my vehicle, they had the parts out after I had told them 2 times not to work on it anymore and they took it apart anyway. They told me I needed to tow it out of their shop. I told them I wanted the car back just the way I brought it there. They gave my a much stressful hard time finally they put it back and I got it back the next day in worst condition. There is a lot more story but not enough letters left so I will end it here for now.

- Kissimmee, FL, USA

problem #5

Jul 122006

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,920 miles
: the contact stated there has been a continuous hesitation and surging of the vehicle, as well as, extremely poor gas mileage. The vehicle was inspected by a service dealer, the hesitation and surge could not be recreated and no problem was diagnosed. When inspected again by the same service dealer, a detached cable was found under the vehicle. There was also a spring under the accelerator pedal found to be disconnected. Once the items were repaired, the mileage improved, but the hesitation and surging continued. An independent mechanic test drove the vehicle and confirmed there was in fact a hesitation and a surging. On the next visit to the service dealer, a knock sensor was replaced. The manufacturer was alerted who recommended the contact try another service dealer. Upon inspection by another service dealer, the knock sensor was observe to be loose and it was crimped to tighten it. However, the hesitation and surging continued. The consumer stated the vehicle has stalled on several occasions. Updated 08/25/06.

- Riverdale, MD, USA

problem #4

Dec 102003

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,019 miles
While driving at any speed vehicle stalled. Driver was not able to restart vehicle, and had it towed to the dealer for inspection. Mechanic determined that the crankshaft position sensor needed to be replaced, and replace it. However, the problem recurred, and the vehicle was taken back to the dealer for inspection. Then, mechanic replaced the engine compartment relay, fuel sensor assembly, and the computer module. Consumer stated there has been 6 incidents/failures that are causing serious concerns with starting and stalling. It became more frequent and started happening while driving Santa Fe on roads and highway. Consumer have confidence in the vehicle and fear of it stalling in the center lane where there is little options except getting hit and possible getting seriously injured.

- Manchester, CT, USA

problem #3

Nov 052004

Santa Fe 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,000 miles


On November 5, 2004 at approx 7:30 pm our 2003 Santa Fe with only approx 14,000 miles suddenly "died" in the middle of the road. All of the vehicle warning lights came on, the heater and radio began making strange noises, the headlamps failed, and the vehicle engine stopped running and would not start, leaving the vehicle in the middle of the road, stranding me and my pregnant wife, with no lights or flashers in the middle of the road on a cold night. Hyunadai roadside service contractor cross country motorclub claimed that it would take over 3 hours to get the vehicle towed, so finally 9 after nearly 2 hours) county police towed the vehicle as a traffic hazard to fairfax Hyundai.

- Burke, VA, USA

problem #2

Oct 232004

Santa Fe 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 21,620 miles
On 10/23/04, my 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe with 21,600 miles, began to experience a very low idle and then stalled out each time I had to stop at a stop sign or a stop light. I could start the vehicle without a problem each time but as soon as I would shift into "drive", the car would repeat the low idle/stall out process and I could not move the car an inch. The car had to be flatbed towed to the dealership. The dealership said they drove the car and hooked the car up to the computer but could not duplicate or find a reason for the problem. On 10/29/04, two days after I picked the car up from the dealership with a clean bill of health, the exact same scenario occurred again and the car was again flatbed towed to a different dealership to try to get another mechanic's view of the situation. They also could not duplicate the problem and nothing was found wrong with the car. I am unable to rely on this vehicle but am frustrated that 2 different Hyundai dealerships cannot seem to discover the problem. They keep telling me "there is nothing wrong with the car".

- Holden, MA, USA

problem #1

Aug 112004

Santa Fe 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 500 miles
Vehicle stalled intermittently while driving at any speed. Dealer was unable to duplicate the problem.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

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