In 2019, after more than 3,000 reports of fires and a petition from the Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy group, NHTSA launched a still-ongoing investigation into the 2011 to 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe and Sonata, 2011 to 2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, and 2010 to 2015 Kia Soul. Separately, Hyundai and Kia paid a combined $210 million in penalties last year because of delays and inaccurate information reporting during fire-related recalls.
If any vehicle you are driving catches fire, here’s what to do, according to experts CR has consulted with.
• First, pull over and shut off the engine. This stops the flow of fuel.
• Get yourself and your passengers out of the car as quickly as possible. Make sure to stay a significant distance away—100 to 150 feet or more—and never go back into the vehicle to retrieve personal property, advises the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
• Call 911 or have another motorist make the call to get emergency services on their way as soon as possible.
• Attempt to put out the fire only if you have clear access to the source, have a suitable fire extinguisher, know how to use it correctly, and can maintain a safe distance from the car. Use only an extinguisher approved for Class B or Class C fires; a label on the extinguisher will identify which kind of fire it’s suitable for.
• Never open the hood or trunk if you suspect there’s a fire there; the additional air flowing in could cause the fire to enlarge.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Never stand on an active roadway. If you’re parked by the side of the road, stay far behind the vehicle to avoid being hit if another car strikes your vehicle.