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I am/was the owner of an 08 Hyundai Santa Fe. I live in Louisiana and I’m the 28 year old mother to two young boys, ages 8 and 4. My oldest unfortunately struggles with a developmental disorder which causes him to be delayed. Because of his disorder we see numerous specialists as well as private therapy in hopes he may progress. As for me, I’m a regular person who is a proud and strong stay at home mom. My husband works 16 hr days just to allow me to care for our boys. We struggle like every average American family. Everything we have is because my husband physically worked to provide it for us. We come from poor families and are very proud people. We never have to ask anyone for help.
Almost two weeks ago my life was flipped upside down. I was driving from picking my husband up with our 8 yr old son. I do this every evening and thought this day would be no different. I drive an hr to pick him up and as I was driving I noticed my Esc light would illuminate at random which would cause the front end to then randomly jerk. I had not personally seen this before and wasn’t sure what it was. Once I pick my husband up, I notice at acceleration and braking it jerks and it seemed to be getting worse. My esc light sporadically illuminating and then going off. I realize this isn’t normal and for some reason the traction control is going off and on. To pay $300 to have a tow truck tow us almost an hr to our home was not possible. And it wasn’t steadily jerking but completely what seemed to be at random.
At this point it begins to lightly drizzle with rain. I carefully continued to drive, holding my steering wheel with a death grip in case it jerked. It seemed to happen less frequently and I think it’s gonna function correctly. I approach a sharp curve and as I start into it out of nowhere, and absolutely with no warning my vehicle jerks towards the wrong side of the road towards the woods that are full of Louisiana pine trees. I’ve never been in a situation where I lose control of a vehicle. When it jerked out of my hand, all I could do was try to get it back to my lane. At this point we’re sliding. My truck is the only thing I own. The one thing I had to have to be able to take care of my sons needs, who I should also mention is nonverbal. In an instant it was slammed into a hill/embankment, then turned onto its side and preceded to flip down the highway with my little family inside minus my youngest son, thank god! After it flipped 2-3 times it came to a stop on its side. Immediately I rip my seatbelt off and my husband does the same. Our main worry in that moment is to get to our son. I look in the back seat and I hear him cry. My husband is able to get to him and pull him out his car seat and despite the whole vehicle being crumpled from every angle we were able to escape via the sunroof. My son had a couple scratches and scrapes but miraculously escaped with very minor injuries.
It wasn’t until about 10 minutes later while we were waiting on emergency personnel that I randomly start to feel faint. A sharp pain develops in my ribs and kidney area. My son is watching me laid out in a ditch and doesn’t understand what’s going on. My husband had some slight pain in his back but we were all alive. Ems arrives and to keep my son from having a meltdown we decide to go to the hospital via my sister in her vehicle. The state trooper asks me what happened and I proceed to explain to them my esc light randomly started malfunctioning and when I entered this curve, it unexpectedly jerked violently towards a row of endless pine trees and to stop the vehicle from plowing into the trees I tried to correct it and it was like sliding on ice. I lost complete control and in an instant my vehicle was a mangled pile of metal. To say I was broken looking at my only vehicle now not even recognizable is a huge understatement.
As much as I wanted to completely break down I knew my son was scared and if I started to get upset it would trigger him to panic. After a few minutes the state trooper comes back and tells me because I failed to control my vehicle he had to write me a careless operation ticket and because I wasn’t completely sure if my insurance was active, he wrote me a no insurance ticket. (I did confirm my insurance was current at the time of the accident). I took the majority of the impact. My ribs were hit by the air bag located within the seats, I had blood in my urine and a bruised kidney. I’ve never in my life felt so low and helpless. In a matter of minutes my life was in shambles.
I have no vehicle, and this strong, proud, average, and hard hardworking family was now in a mess and you can’t begin to imagine the stress I immediately felt. When you can’t even take your child to the dr because they’re all at least an hour away you feel worthless and like a huge failure.
The next couple of days I just fought with my depression and fears of what I was going to do. I have no savings thanks to this pandemic and my husband had only been back at work two weeks at this time. To go from a strong proud woman to my husband having to help me use the bathroom is the most degrading feeling. I can’t describe the pain in my rib cage. It would cause sharp pain and moving made it difficult to breathe because everything was so swollen. I had dark, black, and purple bruises show up over the next couple of days after the wreck. My husband stayed home 3 days and because our finances depended on it he had to go back to work.
Yesterday I decided to look into what caused my traction control to malfunction intermittently and cause my vehicle to become so unstable. I did a simple google search and immediately find out that Hyundai not only knew this could happen but there was a recall for this reason because it put the driver and passengers at risk of injury and severe crash. In my case, my whole family could have been killed in a matter of minutes over something that Hyundai acknowledges may result in a crash. I honestly just felt so sick. The very company who claims quality is important and Hyundai was recommended because safety was of great importance. I had checked the safety rating on this vehicle. It was very well taken care of. I just have to say though, to find out that the very company I studied and trusted due to safety ratings was the same company responsible for the malfunction of steering and traction control randomly and with no warning or anything. Hyundai who I told any and everyone was the best!
I did always mention the small recalls, in which have all been repaired multiple times. All at my expense. My father in law was the original owner and bought this vehicle brand new. He treated this vehicle like royalty and was so proud the day he paid it off. He surprised me and my husband with it around 2016 after I was hit head on by a distracted kid driving. He told me he could go buy any used vehicle but he knew this one was reliable, he is a loyal Hyundai customer and was so impressed with this Santa Fe, even despite the few recalls he had repaired through his local dealership. His significant other also fell in love with the Hyundai brand and the fact that safety was a priority. So much they traded they’re Chevy truck in just for a Hyundai Genesis. Based solely off of this 08 Santa Fe.
Within the first year or two we noticed our fuel level sensor was acting crazy mainly at fillups and ultimately failed completely, leaving me guessing if there was gas in it or not. I found out this was recalled and already repaired once before. I chose to not spend the hundreds of dollars on the price I was quoted and began keeping track of fuel with my mileage. Worked most of the time. I can’t say I was happy to be dealing with something that was supposed to be corrected but my father in law loved it so I gave Hyundai the benefit of the doubt and didn’t let that influence my opinion.
As the next few months passed I had to go 3 hours away for a specialist appointment that I had done many times. I notice when I’m almost home what feels like a slight possible miss. I could tell something was going on. I get home and pop the hood just to check it. It didn’t take long to notice the oil gushing out of the front of my motor and down into my alternator. Again I assume it’s my bad luck and upon trying to get a price on parts I find the recall on these exact gaskets. So after I read the recall I find out that both valve cover gaskets may fail prematurely. So just to be sure I inspect the back of the motor and again fresh oil seeping out at the crease. Now I’m getting aggravated because I’ve never had problems and my father in law never had problems but the same recalls that were supposedly repaired are now failing again and this time it’s affecting my motor.
The next morning I call my mechanic and it’s repaired that day along with spark plugs as a precaution. After a few days I just let it go and said maybe it’s just a coincidence. And just ate the cost of repairs so I could get my vehicle back. For about 8 months she was reliable and I had no complaints other than no ac from ac compressor which failed due to this massive oil leak because of the valve gaskets and this fuel sensor. I’m a simple person. I don’t need much and I rarely complain. It didn’t seem like a big enough deal to contact Hyundai directly.
Well, about 8 months after valve gaskets repair (second time) I notice it’s running a little rough. I get nervous but immediately Check under my hood. When I tell you I was appalled to see oil once again seeping slowly out the exact same spot as it did only 8 months ago. The alternator I just replaced looks no better than the last one and now I’m in the hole for roughly $500 and this recall y’all said you would fix the first time has now failed for the third time. If I can be completely honest I was so livid. I couldn’t stand to look at it that day and the next morning I once again call the mechanic and again pay out of my pocket to fix y’all’s recall that will now have been repaired a total of 3 times. This time it was only the front of the motor at the valve cover gasket. This time I completely planned on contacting Hyundai. I was not happy and I’m feeling like this is becoming a reoccurring issue. My son has to be at various different therapies every day. So now at this point I’m nervous I’m gonna end up stranded with kids.
I get busy and keep putting off contacting Hyundai and ultimately I’m like well there’s no way it should fail a fourth time. It sucks but again it wasn’t worth the aggravation. I continue driving the vehicle for about 6 months when I feel the truck, which always rode super smooth, feel like it’s struggling or missing. This time I really didn’t want to look under the hood because if history taught me anything it’s that history is an indicator of the future. Sure enough this time I have a small leak AGAIN right above the alternator and I’ve learned from the past 3 times to check to check the back of the motor too for valve cover gasket leak. This time the back of my motor is pouring oil. It’s not even leaking, it's just pouring all down the back of the motor directly from the crease where my valve cover gaskets are.
At this point I’m sick. Legitimately sick to my stomach. I didn’t even look at my vehicle for a couple of days because I was so mad. This time I had to wait a week before I could afford yet a fourth repair on valve cover gaskets that were recalled and supposed to be fixed the first time which occurred not all that long ago. At this point I want to sell it. Over the next few weeks I changed my mind because the vehicle has been regularly maintenanced and I didn’t wanna end up worse off. Ultimately I decided to just keep the Santa Fe and continue checking for the valve cover leaks as a precaution to avoid being stranded.
Surprisingly, after the 4th time it seemed like she was back to her usual reliable self. I started to not worry as much about breaking down. It seemed like a thing of the past and I was genuinely relieved. Now back to present which is 8 months to a year since that 4th and final valve cover gasket replacement. We had dealt with my husband being laid off for covid and bills. Then they cancelled school and my son started showing behavior problems. It was a very hard and stressful time. Then about 3-4 weeks ago my husband’s job called him back to work. Thank god! It finally seems like things are going right and maybe our luck is changing. That lasted a couple of short weeks because that’s when the esc and steering malfunctioned. I wasn’t even mad at Hyundai. I never even thought about Hyundai and just assumed I have bad luck. All I could think was omg what am I gonna do. I had liability insurance and uninsured motorists so I'd never be in this situation. I never once expected I would lose my vehicle that I loved despite it’s bulls*** recalls. I loved it. I never fathomed that just like that my vehicle would be taken and crumbled up before my eyes.
In the days immediately after the accident the one thing that brought me some kind of consolation was that even though I lost my vehicle, even though they dropped the ball repairing these somewhat small recalls, I was so thankful to Hyundai because we all could have easily been killed. The airbags did their job besides the driver steering wheel airbag. That vehicle made the difference in an ambulance being called or the coroner. The safety measures were the sole reason we were walking away from this. slightly battered and bruised but alive. I was actually thankful to Hyundai. Until I realized that Hyundai had previously recalled 1.7 MILLION different models for this very problem. That this recall, this malfunction, put almost 2 million families' lives who trusted them at risk! That’s roughly give or take almost 8 million individuals, not just individuals, but customers that trusted you to keep them and their family safe and gave probably millions of dollars to your company over that same 8 year span and thinking y’all had their best interest at heart and their safety as a priority.
When I found out that this malfunction had previously been repaired along with all the recalls the first time. This was it for me. Everything I thought I knew about Hyundai was wrong. Everything I had told people about how great of a company this was. I recommended a company to friends that for 8 years made vehicles that randomly and sporadically malfunctioned in a number of different, and highly dangerous ways. It’s still so hard to fathom that every recall that was repaired and thought to never happen again has happened repeatedly. I made excuses, I didn’t want to be that difficult customer.
I can’t sit back quietly with this. Hyundai is directly responsible for this. Y’all knew this significantly increased the risk of a severe crash. Yet you attempted to repair every recall and shortly after every single issue always reoccurred. I’m still thankful to the airbag system in my Santa Fe because had it not worked properly, we would not be alive. It’s just sad that a company I thought put its customers and families first was putting an unimaginable amount of people at risk. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do for a vehicle. My life has been flipped upside down and I’m depressed, I’m overwhelmed and I’m still really mad. I didn’t want to be the difficult customer making a big deal over spilled milk but this is NOT spilled milk. These are people that bust their butts to give you their hard earned money because they trust your brand. Then you’re saying yes this could cause a severe crash but we recalled it. If you recall it though and don’t actually repair the problem, you are knowingly and carelessly putting kids and families directly in harm's way with no regard for them. That is not okay. Your customers trust you to keep your word to them. I know I did and on numerous occasions you showed me I couldn’t trust you.
At this point I have no idea how I’m going to get another vehicle. I’m literally trying to get through every day. I just couldn’t sit back and not say anything. I don’t mean this letter to threaten or even gain anything. I just needed you to know that my life is so messed up and I’m just a normal person with basic income. I’d love you if you were willing to make the loss of my vehicle right. She may have been an 08 model but let me tell you she ran like a brand new one. Finally after so much work and for nothing. I don’t care about my injuries, I’m tough. You’re safety kept my son safe and almost completely unharmed, just a little traumatized but he’s tough too and will overcome it. Not much gets to me. I’ve had to be strong to raise my 8 yr old. I have no help, he has extreme meltdowns, and will hit, pinch, spit at me when he’s angry. I’m a stone and I can’t be broken easily.
With that being said the fact that this wreck could have 100 percent been avoided, it wasn’t and we paid for it. Multiple times financially and almost with our life. That thought breaks me to the point of tears. When my son was 18 months I was told he had a terminal illness and wouldn’t see Age 2. I’ve been through a parents worst nightmare and miraculously to the surprise of everyone my son tested negative for this illness. My reason I’m saying that is my son has a purpose. You almost took that very miracle from him and it could have all been avoided. I’m hoping there’s something you can do to help me get back on the road. I assure you this message is not to be aggressive or put down on your company. In a way I’m thankful but this can’t be acceptable. I don’t have parents that have credit, or my husband. We come from poor homes and my husband has worked the past 9 years to give us better. I could really use any help you can offer.
I understand 1.7 million is a lot of vehicles and you could never replace them all but I have no other options. It will at the very least take me months just to save for a down payment to finance something I stuck making payments on. I just want my truck back. That was mine and no one could take it. Never having to rely on anyone. If you took the time to read this email I’m genuinely grateful. I truly hope you understand what I’m trying to convey to you and I hope you remember that we trust you. Don’t forget where you started. Selling cars to average families that work so hard to provide. It’s not all roses when you're building but if you can find a positive and be thankful it goes a long way.
- Morgan P.,