The Little Engine that Couldn’t

I own a 2012 Hyundai Sonata. It’s a Limited Edition Turbo Charged model. It’s by far the nicest vehicle I’ve ever owned and I love it to death. I did not buy it new, but I’m only the second owner. It was well take care of and I’ve done my best to keep everything running smoothly as well with regular oil changes, new tires, etcetera. 

So, it was a bit of a surprise when I was driving on the interstate passing a truck in the left lane and going about 85 miles per hour when as I accelerated and the engine revved up my dashboard lights all lit up like something seriously wrong just happened to my car.

Something seriously wrong had just happened to my car.

I quickly got over to the side of the road. I never felt like I didn’t have control. I slowed down, switched lanes and let the cars and trucks bearing down get around me as I pulled my car over on to the shoulder, stopped and turned the engine off. I smelled something vaguely like a cross between oil and the stench of burnt electrical.

I tried starting up the engine and to it’s credit the starter did it’s damndest to turn the engine over, but the engine was having none of it. After a couple whirls, I got nothing. 

Battery power was good since every time I tried turning the engine over, the radio and lights came on. Just no dice on the engine. Called a tow and waited.

A couple of days later my mechanic took a look and ultimately figured out the engine had actually seized up and that this was a well-known problem with the 2011-2012 Sonatas. Apparently, when they tooled the engine the metal shavings had not been properly removed. There had been a recall and a class action suit. He was pretty sure I was going to get a brand new engine and Hyundai was going to pay for it all.

My mechanic called me the luckiest unlucky person he knew. 

Thinking back on the interstate moment, I believe the only reason the engine stayed unseized for as long as it did was because I was running at a higher rpm at the time. I’m lucky it didn’t cause an accident.

I had to tow it from my personal mechanic to the authorized Hyundai dealership where they made a complete inspection, found the engine problem, contacted Hyundai corporate for approval on a brand new engine, was approved in a few hours and now I wait for a new engine to be delivered, which can be anywhere from two weeks to two months or longer. I did get a free rental car for the entire duration of the repair so that’s good too.

Everyone I’ve dealt with regarding this situation has been great. I wish it hadn’t happened, glad I wasn’t in an accident because of the problem, and happy the resolution has been so clean and simple. I was fortunate.

I still have a strong affinity for Hyundai. I did not get jerked around and I think their vehicles are top notch, despite this problem. 

My rental is a 2018 Elantra and it’s super nice. Still, I hope to get back into my Sonata soon. This time it will have a brand new engine basically turning it into a new car even if the odometer says it has 95,000 plus miles.

Posted in: