2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Lighting, fuel system, steering and engine issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

In the world of compact SUVs, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe gained a lot of popularity with modern American families. Unfortunately, part of the notoriety came from numerous defects. While the new models state that “Safety Comes Standard,” we can’t agree with this. Instead, it’s clear that this Hyundai SUV suffers from a defective engine, malfunctioning fuel system and poor powertrain, all of which put occupants in danger.

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NHTSA Complaints for the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Service Brakes, Hydraulic
Unknown Or Other
Fuel/propulsion System
Vehicle Speed Control
Electrical System
Service Brakes
Power Train
Air Bags

Problems with the Engine

It’s not fun to drive a new vehicle with an underperforming engine, but that’s what Santa Fe users run into once they leave the dealership.

Just look at this review from the NHTSA website. “I was driving on the interstate at 70 mph and the engine suddenly shut off, it has been at the Hyundai garage in Dubois, PA for 3 weeks waiting for a new engine and it is a new vehicle with only 12,600 miles.”

Why would a brand new SUV need a replacement engine? That just proves the poor manufacturing put into these Hyundai models. It turns out that there have been numerous engine issues with this Santa Fe. Even Service Bulletin #19-01-002H-4 points out trouble with severe engine damage caused by an abnormal bearing design. To watch for engine damage, the automaker added knock sensor software that alerts users to trouble. In the meantime, Hyundai has its fingers crossed that the engines won’t fail until after the warranty expires.

Problems with the Fuel System

In conjunction with the engine, these vehicles must have a properly functioning fuel system in order to produce power. Again, we see numerous problems with this system.

Another NHTSA complaint states, “My car is 6 months old with 7,600 miles on it. I stopped at a red light. My car began to shake/shudder and then shut off. I had to try and restart it 4 times before it successfully restarted. This happened on a city street, thankfully right before getting on the highway.”

Hyundai doesn’t want to discuss any concerns with the fuel system. In fact, their manufacturer communications only contain Service Bulletin #19-FL-001H, which explains the difference of a gasoline direct injection engine to a conventional multi-point fuel injection. Because of these differences, the automaker wants to ensure that technicians understand how to service the motor. Not to point out the obvious, but should the techs need a bulletin from the manufacturer to understand the workings of an engine? If they do, it’s clear to see why this engine and systems are so dysfunctional.

Problems with the Transmission

The main component in a powertrain is the transmission. This, along with the other parts, help propel the SUV forward or backward on command. Yet again, it’s clear that Hyundai doesn’t know how to manufacture quality automotive parts.

This NHTSA review states, “New car with less than 400 miles. I have experienced 7 episodes during the month of January, where the car fails to accelerate when turning onto a city street. This has happened with both right or left turns to enter traffic from a stop sign. It is just unresponsive for 1-2 seconds then engages with a bit of a jerk. Very frightening! I’ve had a feeling of panic not knowing if the car will move forward as traffic is approaching. Took to dealership where they checked for DTCs and computer updates. Since the problem is unpredictably intermittent, the road test did not replicate the problem, and they returned the car saying it ‘drives as designed.’ There is definitely a safety issue that should be resolved before releasing the car. I have lost confidence in the car had hoped would be safe and problem free.”

While this issue itself isn’t discussed in the bulletins, #19-AT-012H does talk about other transmission issues. It appears that the transaxle requires repair in some vehicles because of the clutch slipping. If safety is standard on this model, then it would drive adequately and not put owners in danger. Instead, this SUV chooses to sit at stop signs and garnish unwanted attention.

Problems with the Steering

When the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is actually driving, there are other issues with the steering system.

One NHTSA user stated, “When driving the vehicle on the highway at speeds higher than 60 mph, the steering wheel seems to stick in one position and jerk when you try to adjust the steering in the slightest.”

While inability to steer is scary, what’s more alarming is the recall labeled with NHTSA Campaign Number 18V118000. In this documentation, Hyundai admits that the steering wheel can detach from the steering column. This leads to a loss of vehicle control and might cause an accident. With more than 40,000 vehicles on the road with this potential defect, there’s a lot to be worried about. Unlike in the cartoons, losing a steering wheel is no joking matter.

Problems with the Headlights

What is the purpose of exterior lighting? It’s more valuable than just to create a unique look to a vehicle but also meant for maximum safety, which Hyundai claims to care about.

Yet, this NHTSA complaint shows a different picture. “Both of the headlights and fog lights are getting foggy two days after I got the car from the dealer. Replaced with new ones and still getting foggy.”

It’s become evident that this model is defective right off in the lot, in numerous ways. The lighting is just the cherry on the top that drives owners over the edge. Of course, Hyundai doesn’t want to discuss this situation and has kept it relatively quiet. Still, Hyundai owners recognize their own in oncoming traffic by the foggy lights in the front.

Problems with the Vehicle Speed Control

The vehicle speed control is necessary to ensure drivers operate their vehicle at the desired pace. When the speed begins to malfunction, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next.

One NHTSA complaint talks about this problem by saying, “Vehicle has no acceleration after a stop. When taking off from a stop sign or stop light, the vehicle does not respond when stepping on the gas pedal putting our lives in danger of a collision. Seems to happen when switching from ECO to Normal mode. It has happened multiple times in the short month I have owned it. No indicator lights or visual items to prove it. It just does not accelerate. I have to turn car off and back on to get it to kick in.”

Again, there’s nothing for the Hyundai executives regarding trouble with the speeds. Instead, they continue to give off the persona that safety is important to the company, but we can clearly see that’s not the case. Steering wheels falling off, foggy lights and defective critical parts reveal the complete opposite. Maybe the tagline should be “Safety Concerns Come Standard.”

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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  • TB

    I haven’t had my 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe a year yet and my car wouldn’t start. I tried again, it started and now the engine is knocking loudly.

  • Gabriella

    2018 Santa Fe 70,000 miles with bad engine. Just bought the car a year and a half ago with 58,000 miles. Cost $26.5k after warranty, Tax, title and tags. Was quoted $19.1k to fix car at Hyundai. Hyundai agreed to pay half of engine and waiting to see if warranty will pay other half. Meanwhile haven’t had a car for three weeks and they say another month to be fixed. No long blocks available anymore this is just for short block and rebuild. What a hunk of crap this car is. The car isn’t worth the repair. Don’t buy this lemon auto. I feel robbed, broke and mad I have to go through this. Cars are so expensive as it is and then this.

  • Shayla N

    I was on my way to savannah to take my daughter to the doctor on June 29th. While I was driving the car started to hesitate to accelerate , it did it 2 times. I thought it was my oil but my check enginelight came on. I called the guy from the dealership and he told me to get there as soon as possible. We almost got into 3 accidents because the car kept stalling. Made it to the car dealership, went to the service desk, they told me it would be two weeks before they could see my car. He told me since the check engine light was on, i wasnt going to be able to drive the car.I told them I purchased on my insurance that if I needed a car, I could get a rental car from them. He told me there were no cars available for me to get until my car was fixed. I then asked to speak to the managerof the service apartment. So I began to talk to him and told him what was going on. He asked me what kind of car I had and I told him a Sante Fe 2018. He had a crazy look on his face and asked what was going on again. I told him my car was stalling and was hesitant on accelerating. He told me he hoped it wasn’t my engine because he already had 30 cars with the same problem. After he told us that , he said we would have to rent our car and Hyundai would reimburse our money.Also , , it went from two weeks for 72 days that i would be without a car and thats a long I was supposed to rent a car for. I could not afford that.So he went inside to get the machine to check the engine to see if that was the problem. It wasn’t inserted for long until he told me that’s what it was. We sat in the car for 3 hours to wait on a ride. My dad asked if there was a shuttle to take us to the mall and he said yes. Not long after, that he told us the man was gone and we had to wait 3 hours for our ride. The guy who sold me my car waited until after my dad pulled up to come check on us. When we got home we went over our paperwork from when we purchased the car and found out we did have warranty. Peacock was the name of the car dealership when we purchased it, and we’ve been trying to find a Peacock to get information from since they said they don’t have my information. I found on the internet a Hyundai customer service and I told them everything and they were trying to help. They told me a manager was going to call me and she never called. I left messages for her trying to get in contact but she never answered. We rented a car like they said to. It was 1,000 dollars for 2 weeks. When we went back to get the rest of my paper work to go over it, they gave my dad a paper saying it would be 3,000 to get my car fixed. The paper listed stuff with my engine,brakes,and rotors. We ended up towing the car back home , but before my dad left , they gave him another paper saying it wasn’t my engine. So we payed 1,000 for a car and never got our money back since he said it wasn’t my engine. So we wasted 1,000 dollars. On top of that, I still had to pay my car note which is 585 dollars. And our insurance company wasn’t helping either, but they did inform me on a recall on the brakes catching on fire leading to a problem with the engine. To this day we are still having problems with the car. There is a ticking noise. One of my neighbors works on cars and told me that my engine was about to go out.I have put over 3,000 dollars into this car. I just want justice for everything I’ve been through. Me and my daughter almost being in 3 accidents, the money I’ve lost, and for a car that’s almost gone but I’m almost done paying for. The car was 30,000 dollars and it doesn’t even run efficiently.

  • Brittani

    We have a 2018 Santa Fe, have had it serviced regularly. Bought it used in 2019. Had the oil changed a couple weeks ago and right after started getting knocking coming from the engine. We took it back and they said the oil was changed correctly. Took it to another mechanic for the knocking and he told us we need a new engine! Pistons are loose and going everywhere. Check engine light never came on… we’ve never had any light ever come on. And because we’re over 60k miles it’s not covered under a warranty even though it’s less than 5 years old. Never buying a Hyundai again!

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