Hyundai Recalls Accent, Elantra over Exploding Seatbelt Parts

·2 min read
Photo credit: Yuriko Nakao - Getty Images
Photo credit: Yuriko Nakao - Getty Images
  • Hyundai is recalling 239,000 Elantra and Accent models due to faulty seatbelt pretensioners that may explode as they deploy.

  • Exploding pretensioners (present in 2019–2022 Accents, 2021–2023 Elantras, and 2021–2022 Elantra hybrids) have resulted in shrapnel injuries to owners in the US and Singapore.

  • The company's solution, available to owners at no charge, is to cap off the suspect part.

After three separate accidents led to shrapnel-based injuries, Hyundai has issued a safety recall on select Accent and Elantra models with exploding seatbelt pretensioners. Specific models affected include the 2019-2022 Hyundai Accent, 2021-2023 Hyundai Elantra, and 2021-2022 Hyundai Elantra HEV. Hyundai continues investigating the root cause of this issue, though the effects of exploding parts on vehicle occupants are relatively clear.

Designed to retract and tighten seatbelts in the event of a collision, pretensioners are designed to keep occupants from being thrown around the cabin in the seconds following an impact. Pyrotechnically actuated pretensioners are quite common, meaning Hyundai’s design is not out of the ordinary. The way these specific pretensioners deploy, however, is what makes them dangerous.

“The subject vehicles are equipped with driver/passenger pyrotechnic-type seatbelt pretensioners that may deploy abnormally during a crash,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall notice reads. “An abnormal pyrotechnic pretensioner deployment could cause metal fragments to enter the vehicle occupant compartment, which may result in injury to vehicle occupants.”

Photo credit: DREW PHILLIPS
Photo credit: DREW PHILLIPS

In two cases in the US and one in Singapore, exactly that happened. According to the NHTSA timeline, Hyundai became aware of the defect after an accident and subsequent lawsuit occurring last fall. An additional incident in Puerto Rico was reported last December, followed by a crash in Singapore in February. Two of the three accidents resulted in shrapnel injuries to rear seat passengers while the malfunctioning pretensioners were installed in the front seats. No fatalities have been reported as a result of the exploding parts.

A total of 239,000 vehicles have been recalled: 61,000 Accents, 166,000 standard Elantras, and 12,000 Elantra hybrids will soon be eligible for the no-cost repair provided by Hyundai. The Accent was manufactured in Kia’s Monterrey, Mexico, plant while the Elantra and Elantra HEV are produced at Hyundai’s facility in Montgomery, Alabama.

Working with NHTSA and engineering consultants, Hyundai has worked out out a solution: The suspect “micro gas generator connection” will be secured with a cap and reinforced to limit the potential of explosion. Hyundai is expected to officially notify owners on July 15. For more information, check the NHTSA recall page.