Near catastrophe with control panel failure on Hyundai Kona Car!

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Yorkieguy

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Location
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My wife & I had a very scary experience on Sunday 26 May in out Hyundai Kona car.

I'd be interested to learn if anyone else on the forum has had his happen - I hope not!

The electrics are so complex in modern cars, but an event occurred which I never could have imagined would happen.

Driving in heavy traffic in torrential rain, about to negotiate a roundabout, all the warning lights on the dashboard lit up - 'ABS Failure, Generator Failure, Power Steering Failure' etc. The car lost power, I had to lug the steering wheel to manhandle the car around the roundabout, and luckily, managed to get to a safe place to park the car and call for assistance. As the car has an electric handbrake, that wouldn't function, so I had to put it in gear to stop it rolling away.

It was later diagnosed as an alternator control panel failure. Had the fault occurred just 15 minutes later, I would have been going uphill on the M1 Northbound, south of Sheffield on a Smart Motorway' section, and could have been in any one of four lanes of heavy traffic in torrential rain, with no hard shoulder. At best, if in the nearside lane the car would have quickly slowed to a halt. A vehicle behind me would seen me slowing down have pulled out to overtake into the next lane, but other vehicles in the lane behind that one wouldn't have observed that my car had stopped. (No hazard warning lights either). Seems to me that a pile-up wouldn't have been just a possibility, but an inevitability. My wife and I would have had just seconds to have tried to exit via the front passenger door and scramble over the barrier and onto the embankment. Mercifully that didn't happen, but it illustrates just how unsafe smart motorways are.

What concerns me greatly is that the control panel is on 'back-order' with no indication of the timeline for availability.

I'd like to think that's because they're no stocked as the rarely fail, but I'm left wondering if this incident is more commonplace. Something so . Cars of any make and model do break down, and ordinarily Hyundai cars in general and the Kona in particular rank highly for reliability, with a five-year warranty and full breakdown cover. The screen washer pump failed the week before. Not safety critical, so I can live with that, but a safety-critical control panel, the failure of which poses a credible threat to life and limb, should be designed with a 'mean time before failure' which exceeds the life of the car.

Reliability of small SUVs aged up to five years old

RankMake and modelScore
1Suzuki Ignis (2016-present)99.4%
22016-2023 Mazda CX-398.3%
3Hyundai Kona (2017-2023)98.2%


I've written to the President of Hyundai UK LTD to express my concerns, and it will be interesting to see if I get a response.

Here is the text of my letter:

Mr Ashley Andrew,
President,
Hyundai Motor UK Ltd.,
Birchwood,
Springfield Drive,
Leatherhead,
KT22 7LP

Dear Mr Andrew.

CATASTROPHIC FAILURE OF CONTROL BOARD ON HYUNDAI KONA, 998cc HYBRID, REG YX71xxx REGISTERED 1 SEPTEMBER 2021.​

I am writing to you to express my deep concern about an event which occurred on Sunday 26 May 2024. I was driving home to East Yorkshire from Derbyshire in heavy traffic and torrential rain, about to negotiate a roundabout to drive downhill into Chesterfield when all the warning lights on the dashboard came on. The engine lost power and the power steering failed. I was able to manhandle the steering wheel to negotiate the roundabout and drive downhill into the town.

Luckily, I was able to coast into the car park of a Retail Park, at which point the engine cut out, and the electric handbrake failed to operate, so I had to put the car in gear to stop it rolling away. I called the Hyundai Assistance number who were very helpful and within minutes the AA attended. The Patrolman diagnosed that the alternator had failed in some way. Although our home was 80 miles away, and out of his normal range, as we are in our 80s and it was pouring with rain, rather than call a breakdown truck which risked a long delay, he kindly towed our car to the Hyundai dealer in Hull from whom we purchased it, (Drive Hyundai, Livingstone Road Hull HU13 0AB), then took us home.

It being Sunday, the Service Dept was closed, but the sales staff were very helpful in making a space available for the car in the car park and looking after the key. It was a Bank Holiday on Monday, so I contacted the Service Department on Tuesday who arranged for it to be looked at promptly. They called me back later to say that it wasn’t the alternator that had failed, but a control board/panel, and that these are on ‘back-order’ with no indication as to when one might become available.

The car is not yet three years old and has done less than 14,000 miles.

Without wishing to sound melodramatic, this is a safety critical component which should last the life of the car, the failure of which could - and almost did - pose a credible threat to life and limb. Had this event occurred 15 miles later, we would have been on an uphill stretch of the M1 Northbound - a Smart Motorway with four lanes of heavy traffic, including the hard shoulder. The car could have failed in any of the four lanes and even if on the inside lane, my wife and I would have been in great danger, having to exit the vehicle and clamber over a barrier onto a steep embankment. Thank heavens that didn’t happen, but it’s hard for us to un-think that scenario.

As the control board/panels are on ‘back order’, I’m left wondering if this is not simply an isolated incident, but a rather more commonplace occurrence – I certainly hope not.

I do have a hire car provided by Hyundai Assistance under the terms of the warranty, but I would like some indication of when my own car is likely to be repaired back on the road, and to address my concerns about the failure of this safety critical component. Drive Hyundai Ltd, Hull, who have the car, are unable to give me any indication of when my car will be roadworthy.

This is our second Hyundai – we had an i30 for five years and it never skipped a beat. The Kona fully meets our needs and is a pleasure to drive, but this event has really dented the confidence we had in Hyundai. Only three days before this incident, the car had been in for the replacement of the windscreen washer pump that had failed.

I would appreciate your early response to my safety concerns.

Yours sincerely,
 
Scary stuff, indeed.
I don't know how this 4 lane/no hard shoulder idea came into being - it screamed "lunacy" when first mooted.
Living fairly close, I do know that stretch of the M1 well - it's not far from where those two poor souls got killed some time ago.
Methinks you and your better half were lucky to say the least.

So here's to you and yours - your continued good health, squire!
 
sounds awful...

without wanting to minimise it - the reality is that all cars have things that can go wrong / every generation has had different things - now it might be more electrical but older cars were more likely to have mechanical failure (I had a classic range rover where road debris punched a hole through the oil filter seizing the engine on a dual carriageway at speed - no power / no steering / no assisted brakes... in a car with little electrical there was still something that could go wrong...)

I think we have expectations around quality and capability of motorcars which is way above what technology can guarantee - and while there might be a mean time to failure on a component (and most manufacturers do specify this at beyond warranty time period), mean time to failure will mean some components lasting 20 years and others failing in month 3
 
I'd like to think that's because they're no stocked as the rarely fail
There are so many parts for so many models that unless they have a reasonable turnover then they rely on ordering from the OEM when needed rather than have a stores department with thousands of pounds worth of parts just sitting on the shelf. Also main dealers gamble that they only handle new cars upto say four or five years old and so should not require any parts apart from what is needed on servicing, once older they shift them into the larger secondhand car market which saves them any hassle with problems on older cars. The problem with modern complex electronics on cars is not that it is complex but done for a price and the same for the wiring looms and interconnects which are also a source of problems when they get older. Another concern is that they do not take safety into consideration when designing these systems, certain functionality should be kept basic and seperate from the electronics. An example is the BIM or body interface module that is now for some reason used as an interface between the driver and the systems which includes brake lights and hazzard warning lights, I had a Peugot where the BIM decided to not allow me to turn the engine off and would drop out all displays on the cluster so no indication of road speed at random. Eventually it decided to cut out the engine without warning as well as no brake lights or hazzard warning lights on the A1 near Morpeth and so you cannot warn other drivers that you are slowing down so a real safety issue. The RAC guy said this is not uncommon but is a recovery only as they cannot repair and that by far the majority of breakdowns he gets are electronics where fault codes do not always help.

So fault codes, they are not the holy grail of diagnostic's but a tool to assist, they are only as good as the technician and his experience otherwise you can end up the garden path. The reason is that many errors are deduced from other data so an actual fault could be masked by something else and is why changing the component pointed to by a fault code can lead to replacing another component unless the technician has come across this before.

I personally think that the reason they do not provide solid diagnostic's in cars unlike agricultural is simply that it saves a little money on each car and makes money for the auto repair shops whilst making people think twice about running older cars so hopefully they buy new.
 
I can’t understand why just because the alternator ( in effect) failed the whole car cut out, I would have thought that you would have had a little time to drive it using the battery to power the other functions.
It did though obviously, those "smart" motorways are anything but clever and I hate the thought of breaking down on one.
 
sounds awful...

without wanting to minimise it - the reality is that all cars have things that can go wrong / every generation has had different things - now it might be more electrical but older cars were more likely to have mechanical failure (I had a classic range rover where road debris punched a hole through the oil filter seizing the engine on a dual carriageway at speed - no power / no steering / no assisted brakes... in a car with little electrical there was still something that could go wrong...)

I think we have expectations around quality and capability of motorcars which is way above what technology can guarantee - and while there might be a mean time to failure on a component (and most manufacturers do specify this at beyond warranty time period), mean time to failure will mean some components lasting 20 years and others failing in month 3
Thanks for reading and for your comments.

In fairness to Hyundai, they do have a full five-year unlimited mileage warranty, including full AA breakdown cover. Only such things as bulbs, fuses and fan-belts aren't included. I take your point about nothing being infallible, but it's one thing if a window-winder motor, or screen-wash pump fails (as mine did, the week before this incident), though quite another for something that causes the power steering, handbrake, alternator, engine management system, and ABS braking system to to fail.

As it is, through good fortune, the breakdown arose in an urban area, in a 30MPH limit, where I as able to coast into a safe place before the engine died. The AA Patrol was there in minutes and was first class. On the journey home, he overheard me say to my wife "I'll ring the dealer and see if I can get loan car till ours is repaired". He said "No need to to do that - I'll arrange it for you". Next working day, one was delivered to our home.

All in all, I think I dodged a bullet!
 
We have a 2014 Renault Captur auto and have been having issues with the gearbox for a year or so.
We've just been told that the gearbox ECU has failed and our local dealer (in France) doesn't know when (or even if) he can get another. We're looking at a bill of 1600€ if the part can be found.
The car has only done a little over 100k km.
This type of spares unavailability issue will only get worse, for lots of different reasons
 
I had something similar happen to me 5yrs ago in a Ford C-Max, the alternator failed, no dash warning light, some time later, maybe a day or more once the battery was depleted the dash lit up like yours, no power steering or electric park brake etc.
Luckily I was in a 30mph zone and managed to sort of park it. It was scary though as you feel you have no control at all of whats happening.
 
We have a 2014 Renault Captur auto and have been having issues with the gearbox for a year or so.
We've just been told that the gearbox ECU has failed and our local dealer (in France) doesn't know when (or even if) he can get another. We're looking at a bill of 1600€ if the part can be found.
The car has only done a little over 100k km.
This type of spares unavailability issue will only get worse, for lots of different reasons
I would try a scrapyard, sorry vehicle recycling company. Most reputable places offer a limited guarantee on these sort of parts, so if it turns out to be as bad as the original you can take it back. If it's a common problem then chances are high one from another car may be the same. If it's uncommon then chances are a replacement could be ok. At least it's likely to be a quick and easy change.
I would also certainly look to take it to an independent Renault specialist for a second opinion, shouldn't be hard to find one in France ! They are often far better than the dealers, with far greater knowledge, especially of older higher mileage cars and their issues.
My wife's Golf developed an ABS fault, I was working away so couldn't look at it myself. By the time she told me she had been to the local main dealer. They had diagnosed a faulty ABS unit, and quoted around £1k to replace it. I got her to take it to the local Bosch independent specialist. They fixed it in about twenty minutes, and at a cost of something like £30. Turned out to just be a bad connector that had to be replaced. They certainly weren't very complimentary about the skills of the "mechanics" employed by most dealers.
Sadly Renault, and indeed all French cars have a reputation for poor electrics nowadays. They just don't seem to be able to make complex stuff like ecu's that have good long term reliability. No idea why this should be, the French are fine engineers. I guess it's just down to sacrificing quality to making stuff cheaply, the Japanese have always been best at being able to successfully combine both.
 
It might also be worth seeing if you can find a local auto gearbox specialist. One in France is certain to be familiar with any faults common to the particular gearbox you have, and how to fix them. If the ECU is a common issue then I wouldn't be surprised to find there will be someone who does refurbished ones, a gearbox specialist will know.
 
I can’t understand why just because the alternator ( in effect) failed the whole car cut out
I would suspect that the alternator had failed to maintain the battery charge and once the system voltage fell too low then it could no longer continue to run.

Again it could be that the driver had no warning of alternator issues, the charge warning light used to be very simple in that it was wired between ignition live and a dedicated Dc output from the alternator. Once the alternator was producing an output this pin became positive so the light went out so simple. Now you find that they are controlled by a module that will be actually monitoring system voltage so no longer a direct warning like it once was.

They just don't seem to be able to make complex stuff like ecu's

The body interface modules in Peugot and some Fiats are made by Johnstone controls who are not French but have been a source of many failures. The common engine control modules used by most manufacturers are Siemens, Bosch, Denso and Delphi and they get blamed for more than they deserve as it is all to often poor wiring that causes failure and the french wiring is often a cause for concern but everything is made to a price.
 
My concern with this would be the loss of all systems simultaneously.
No handbrake, no hazards, etc.
This creates a greater danger than the failure of any one or even two.
It is a design weakness. If doing a risk analysis PROBABILITY x POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES, the one bottleneck part may be very reliable but the consequences of failure are much greater.

I'd be looking for somewhere in the department of transport to flag this up to and I'd share it on a hyundai users forum too. Someone else may be looking for cases like this and find your story useful to pursue a claim against Hyundai after the 5 yr manufacturers warranty is up. You have rights that last longer than 5 years if you can show a manufacturing or design defect.
 
Also once the engine cuts out you only have so many applications of the brakes where there is servo assistance, after that you need a lot more effort and also no power steering which is less of a problem at some speed but once rolling to a stop then it gets very heavy and with no hazzards or brake lights then someone might give you an unwanted shove.
 
I can’t understand why just because the alternator ( in effect) failed the whole car cut out, I would have thought that you would have had a little time to drive it using the battery to power the other functions.
It did though obviously, those "smart" motorways are anything but clever and I hate the thought of breaking down on one.
The alternator, (in fact the control panel it interfaces with), failed, but the car functioned until the battery was drained, then one after another warning light lit up highlighting failures of various functions. The car lost power, but I was able to drive for about another half mile to get to a safe place to park. The most alarming aspect was the loss of power steering as I was negotiating a roundabout and it was all that I could do to turn the steering wheel and to not mount the pavement.

When I parked it was on a slight slope, and that's when I realised that the handbrake didn't work as it's electric, and I noticed that when I took my foot off the footbrake, the car rolled forwards, so I put it in gear to stop it. When the AA guy arrived, hi attached a slave battery and the car fully functioned under test then he put it on the trailer.

Incidentally, the car is a 'mild hybrid' (not a 'plug-in), which - in addition to the main battery - has a 48V battery in the boot, which - when fully charged, drives the car on electric, but not far, and on short urban journeys with heating/air con on, maybe wipers, lights etc, rarely goes to electric drive, but I guess to an extent, it gives the alternator more work to do. (The car decides when it switches to electric and back to petrol).

I dare say that most modern cars will have a similar electronics - not unique to Hyundai.
 
I would suspect that the alternator had failed to maintain the battery charge and once the system voltage fell too low then it could no longer continue to run.

Again it could be that the driver had no warning of alternator issues, the charge warning light used to be very simple in that it was wired between ignition live and a dedicated Dc output from the alternator. Once the alternator was producing an output this pin became positive so the light went out so simple. Now you find that they are controlled by a module that will be actually monitoring system voltage so no longer a direct warning like it once was.



The body interface modules in Peugot and some Fiats are made by Johnstone controls who are not French but have been a source of many failures. The common engine control modules used by most manufacturers are Siemens, Bosch, Denso and Delphi and they get blamed for more than they deserve as it is all to often poor wiring that causes failure and the french wiring is often a cause for concern but everything is made to a price.
That's interesting. Haven't really worked on any modern ones but assumed they were made by Ducellier or SEV as in the old days, neither of which were a patch on Bosch. I wonder who makes the gearbox itself, they used to buy them in, although both Renault and Peugeot Citroen big enough to make them in house. So many problems caused by introducing things that on the face of it have little point, my old W202 Mercedes stopped changing gear properly because the gizmo that tells the ECU what position the gearstick is in packed up, giving rise to an "anomalous gearstick position value". Not like it's fly by wire, it is connected to the box by a good old fashioned mechanical linkage, and the box has its own sensors. New gearstick assembly required. Umpteen hundred pounds from the main dealer. Ended up getting one from a specialist Mercedes breaker for about £40. Then the dealership will say, oh but you can't do that as the new part has to be programmed into the car. Utter b*****s in most cases, and even in those rare instances when it's true the independent specialists all have the kit to do it, and charge far less.
Most hilarious experience was with my Jeep which developed an ABS fault. It is pre OBD, so uses an earlier diagnostic system common to Chrysler and Mitsubishi called DRB, and you need the correct reader. So my local Jeep dealer had this old kit, but wanted £80 plus VAT to just put it on the car and read the fault. Further questioning revealed that although they had the kit, it was so old they didn't actually have any technicians who knew how to use it. So basically they wanted to charge me £100 to have to then show their "mechanic" how to use it. I ended up buying a complete old kit from a guy in Texas. By the time I had it in my hand it had cost me about £150, but has paid for itself many times over since.
 
the new part has to be programmed into the car.
That all depends if that component is part of the security system, not always obvious and depends if the component has the vehicle VIN within, instrument clusters, ABS modules and even more obstcure modules could be involved but they will be on one of the CAN buses. It used to work that on Key On that the security module confirms key code and then checks certain modules to make sure that everything is the same vehicle, supposed to reduce cars being stolen for the more expensive parts.
 
Jut a little update on my letter to Hyundai's UK President, which I quoted verbatim in my post above. I know that it was received and signed for last Monday, 3 June, but I think it must have been filed under 'burn before reading' as I've not even had an acknowledgement, let alone a response to my concerns. Likewise, I sent a letter to the Business Manager of the Hull Hyundai dealer from whence I bought my car new in Sept 2021, and where it now languishes till goodness knows when. Again, not a peep. Text of my letter to the Hyundai dealership:

Quote:

Lee Fothergill,
General Manager,
Drive Hyundai,
Livingstone Rd,
Hessle,
HU13 0AB.

Dear Mr Fothergill,
Re: HYUNDAI KONA, 998cc HYBRID, REG YX71 SXY.
I have enclosed for your information, a self-explanatory letter I have sent to the Managing Director of Hyundai Motor UK Ltd. he vehicle has been in your service department awaiting repair under warranty since Tuesday 28 May.

You will note that the part needed to make my vehicle roadworthy again is on back-order, with no indication as to when it might be in stock. That gives me serious concerns that the failure of this safety critical component, which should last the life of the car, may be rather more commonplace rather than an isolated incident.

I would appreciate your observations, and an update as to when my car might be roadworthy again.

Yours sincerely,

End quote.

As has become the norm nowadays, if I ring the dealer, the first thing I get is a message telling me how important my call is and it will be answered just as soon as possible. Followed by a diatribe saying have I seen the latest range, there are people waiting to buy my car if I trade it in, bursts of music, then a reminder 'how important my call is' (and have I checked the FAQs). Then I get through.

Here's what the company says about itself - a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering:

Quote:
Why choose Drive Hyundai Hull? Whether you're searching for your new motor or popping in for routine maintenance, our award-winning team will be more than happy to help.
Unquote.

We don't live in a perfect world, things break down and when they do, if problems are resolved quickly, and customers are treated with courtesy and feel valued, it can enhance their reputation and goodwill. (Think of the AA guy, who looked after us so well). Amazing how many outfits don't appreciate that a good reputation is rather like virginity - 'when it's gone, it's gone'.

I'll be on the case tomorrow. (It's not keeping me awake - time cures every problem in the end!).

Oh well, at least it's not an £80,000 Polestar (A Volvo sub-brand, made in China by Volvo's parent company Geeley). It's all electric, but note the problem: 'potential to cut the power to the drivetrain and cause the vehicle to stop running abruptly'. (Like in the outside lane of a busy 4-lane 'SMART' motorway?)

Polestar 2 recalled over potential power failure issue.

More than 4,500 Polestar 2s affected in Europe by a potential fault found in the new electric car The Swedish brand has narrowed down the problem to a bank of faulty inverters, which transform the stored energy in the EV’s battery packs into a voltage suitable to power the electric motors. The defective parts have the potential to cut power to the drivetrain and cause the vehicle to stop running abruptly.

Quote:
"We recognise the importance of updating our customers," Polestar said in its statement. "In order to successfully address the issues, we have needed to ensure that appropriate investigations are made before customers are informed. We appreciate our customers’ patience as we follow the necessary process."
End quote.

https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/poles...2-recalled-over-potential-power-failure-issue
 
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Main dealers are not magicians, they do get vehicles that they cannot repair and you need to physically visit and demand explanations. You are lucky it is under warranty because if they cannot fix your car within a reasonable timeframe then they will have to replace as a buyback which is no loss to them except reputation.
 
Main dealers are not magicians, they do get vehicles that they cannot repair and you need to physically visit and demand explanations. You are lucky it is under warranty because if they cannot fix your car within a reasonable timeframe then they will have to replace as a buyback which is no loss to them except reputation.

Thanks for reading my post Roy, and for your comments.

Really, I'm not 'lucky' that it's under warranty - the comprehensive five-year warranty was a key reason why I bought the car (in the hope of course that I wouldn't need it, as I didn't with my previous Hyundai). I think we were exceedingly unlucky to have had this rather traumatic event, but yes, lucky to have come out of it unscathed.

As you'll note from my letter to the local Business Manager, the tone wasn't a complaint or a rant - more an expression of concern that there was no indication from the Service Department of anything other than 'it's on back order'. My letter to the manager wasn't asking him to 'pull a rabbit out of a hat' - it was seeking his observations, and an update as to when my car might be roadworthy again.

I would have hoped that by now that he'd have looked into the supply chain issue, and contacted me with an update, and to at least show some empathy. After all, hopefully this is an isolated instance which - within a week -he could either have responded to, or delegate someone else to do so. I don't think that is an unrealistic expectation - just common courtesy and good business sense. (They've got my address, email, home and mobile phone numbers).

At this stage, I feel more than a little underwhelmed.
 
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Knowing how customer focused these asian car companies are it is odd that you have had no correspondence, if you have no luck with the UK president then go higher, Euisun Chung is at the top.
 

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