— Kia is recalling more than 10,700 Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid vehicles because the engines may stall or catch fire if the connecting rod bearings wear out.
The 2017-2018 Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid connecting rod bearings can become damaged for different reasons, but the damage will result in abnormal knocking noise. A driver may also see an illuminated oil pressure warning light.
In the worst case, the connecting rods can puncture the engine blocks and allow engine oil to leak onto hot exhaust components. The odds of a fire just went way up.
The Center for Auto Safety petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open a safety defect investigation into non-collision fires in 2011-2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, and Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe vehicles. The Center then requested 2010-2015 Kia Soul vehicles be added to the petition.
According to the petition, there are more non-crash fire complaints about the Kia vehicles compared to similar models. And all this was happening after NHTSA had already opened a query to determine if previous Kia engine recalls were adequate to repair Theta II engines.
Those engines were suffering damage that caused stalled engines and fires.
Even after years of investigations, Kia still doesn't know the root cause of the problem, whether it's a design problem or a manufacturing defect.
Kia says this Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid engine recall will help to detect engine damage before a connecting rod can puncture the engine block and cause a fire.
According to Kia, in addition to knocking engine noise and an illuminated oil pressure warning light, an Optima Hybrid driver should watch for reduced power, burning odors and smoke.
According to the Kia Optima Hybrid recall, engines will be tested by dealers to look for connecting rod bearing damage. The Optima Hybrid engine will be replaced if a dealer finds evidence of damage caused by a connecting rod.
Dealerships will also installed knock sensor detection software to allegedly prevent Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid engine damage from worn connecting rod bearings.
In addition, Kia will also extend warranty coverage to 15 years/150,000 miles for Optima Hybrid engine long block assembly repairs due to connecting rod bearing damage.
Model year 2017-2018 Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid owners who have paid for repairs related to the engines should ask Kia about their reimbursement program.
Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid owner recall notification letters are expected to be mailed November 29, 2021.
Kia Optima Hybrid owners who have questions about the recall should call 800-333-4542. Kia's engine recall number is SC218.