Troubleshooters: Hyundai thefts contributing to repair backlog

Troubleshooters: Hyundai thefts contributing to repair backlog
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 3:23 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Earlier this summer Kia and Hyundai rolled out software updates to try and stop an ongoing plague of car thefts.

Social media and security videos show how some of their models can be stolen with just a screwdriver, USB cable, and a broken window.

Repairing thousands of theft damaged vehicles is having ripple effects. Hyundai owner Renee Barron contacted the WAVE Troubleshooter hotline after being forced to rent a car for a month. Her Hyundai Santa Fe’s engine is broken and is covered under warranty, but she can’t get an appointment to get it repaired.

“It just stopped working and I thought initially it was the alternator. We fixed that and there’s still this horrible noise in the car,” Barron said.

Barron’s mechanic told her the car has a bad engine.

“When they put it on their machine, the errors read exactly the same as the errors that have been on the engines that were bad,” Barron said.

The good news, it’s covered under warranty. The bad news, the mechanic can’t work on it. Only Hyundai can. And Barron said she can’t get in anywhere.

“It may be as late as October,” Barron said.

Dealerships told WAVE they’re backlogged. Some with repairing cars damaged by theft. Others dealing with getting new mechanics trained. It doesn’t surprise Douglas Addington.

“That’s the biggest problem, ignition cylinders, we’ll have a car for months waitin’ on (parts),” said Addington, the area manager of Joe Hudson Collision Center.

Thieves have figured out these models lack immobilizers, so they can be easily stolen. Social media made the craze go viral with thefts spiking across the country. The damage they leave behind is a mess.

“You might have to buy a whole wiring harness because there’s certain wires in a car you can’t repair,” Addington said.

Kia and Hyundai have put out a software fix, but Addington suggested owners should get a Club steering wheel lock to visually deter potential thieves.

“Even if you put an immobilizer on the car, people trying to take the car can’t tell that from the outside. Now they break the car, do the damage, now the car just won’t start,” Addington said.

Leaving a seemingly endless cycle of cars needing repair and leaving owners with mechanical issues like Barron stuck with two car payments. She was paying for the broken one and the rental.

“I’m spending about $590 a week for a car,” Barron said.

WAVE was able to get Barron in touch with one dealership who got her a loaner. But her Santa Fe is stuck on the list waiting to be repaired. Her wait time will be months.