Seat belt, airbag, forward collision avoidance, and acceleration issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
There’s no denying that the Elantra is a popular compact sedan. Launched in 1990, it’s been around the block many times. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra boasts a “sensuous sportiness design identity” along with “exciting driving dynamics” and other features. But owners whose seat belts malfunction, engines surge, and cars accelerate out of control when they press the brakes aren’t even vaguely excited.
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Most Reported Problems
Issues reported to various reliable platforms including Lemberg Law and official complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) tell a story that reveals multiple problems.
Seat belt issues, sometimes combined with faulty airbags, are top of the list. There are also lots of problems relating to forward collision avoidance and vehicle speed control. Many owners report that the forward collision avoidance system fails, while others report major acceleration issues. The latter includes cars that stop accelerating as well as others that accelerate when the driver is pressing the brakes. There are lots of reports that say the car won’t accelerate and then surges forward. Some owners have had issues with engines seizing.
In an effort to identify the components and systems at fault, we can look at numbers. Seat belts are top of the list followed by forward collision avoidance, vehicle speed control, the electrical system, the engine, and the brakes. But (in alphabetical order), the child seat, exterior lighting, fuel/propulsion system, lane departure, powertrain, seats, service brakes, steering, structure, suspension, and visibility all feature as well.
Recalls and Investigations
There are also five recalls for the 2021 Hyundai Electra, all of which involve other Hyundai vehicles as well. Three of these warn that seat belt pretensioners may explode. One states that seat back recliners may not have been properly welded. The fifth warns that the windshield has bonding issues and could detach from the car if there is a crash.
While unintended vehicle acceleration is reportedly a huge problem with all 2021 Elantra vehicles, there is only a recall for 37,997 2021-2023 Elantra HEV vehicles. This states clearly that, “A software error in the motor control unit may cause unintended vehicle acceleration after the brake pedal is released.” There is no explanation as to why the other 2021 Elantra vehicles aren’t included in the recall.
There is also an investigation opened in August 2022, that is looking at an issue that seat belt pretensioners may rupture. This includes all 2021 Elantra vehicles, including HEV vehicles.
2021 Hyundai Elantra Complaint Summary
|Complaint Category||Number of Complaints|
|Unknown Or Other|
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings|
|Vehicle Speed Control|
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control|
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking|
Seat Belt Problems
The most recent seat belt recall was issued in May 2022, warning that “an exploding seat belt pretensioner can project metal fragments into the vehicle, strike vehicle occupants, and result in injury.” It replaced two previous recalls that were issued in October 2021 and April 2022. It states that any vehicles already repaired under the previous recalls will need to have the new remedy completed.
Most complaints listed as being a seat belt problem state (as recently as December 2022) that the parts required for recall repair weren’t available. But there are a few that describe chilling incidents.
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Malfunctioning Seat Belts
In June 2022, a mother and son were traveling together when the Elantra crashed. He was driving and “had begun to make a left turn onto a highway as an oncoming vehicle struck the front passenger side of the vehicle at a high rate of speed.” The impact sent the vehicle spinning and both of them “were tossed around inside the vehicle due to the impact. The airbags did deploy.” Both were transported to the hospital. The woman “suffered blunt force injury to her chest and multiple rib fractures to both sides of her ribs. She also suffered lacerations to her liver and left leg, as well as fractures to her right tibia and left ankle.” She died as a result of her injuries. Her son “suffered from a left bruised carotid artery, a broken right hip and a right lung contusion.” The car was totaled and towed away.
After the accident, the family received the most recent recall notification!
A complaint from a Connecticut owner tells how a “child became entrapped in (a) car seat.” A parent unbuckled the seat belt to get the child out, but the belt “snagged” on the underside of the car seat. The “belt would not retract from the retractor mechanism. With (the) child’s movement, (the) belt only tightened around his upper chest and neck. Two adults could not get (the) belt to release.” To release the child “and prevent strangulation,” they cut the belt.
Forward Collision Avoidance Failure
Sometimes the system engages unnecessarily, sometimes it doesn’t engage at all.
“My vehicle has become a deathtrap waiting to happen,” states an owner from Kentucky in an NHTSA complaint. Three times while turning, the steering wheel locked up and the forward collision warning system engaged, stopping the car on the road. Twice the car had to be towed to the dealership. “The dealer has been working very hard to identify the issue while working with Hyundai tech services. They have poured countless hours and money into this car and still have not been able to identify and correct it.”
An owner from New York states that the forward collision warning system continually disengages “dangerously and inappropriately, almost causing me to be hit from behind.” The complaint goes on to say that software updates haven’t remedied the problem.
An owner from Missouri states that the “Forward collision system continually fails. This disables the vehicle’s cruise control. The vehicle has been in the shop multiple times with no resolution.”
The forward collision warning and braking system automatically engage repeatedly, another owner from New York states. “I always keep a good distance in front when driving, but because of the system inappropriately engaging I almost got rear-ended about four times.” When it happened in the middle lane of a bridge in heavy traffic, “it was terrifying and EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!”
When the car belonging to a man from California crashed into a wall there was no front-end collision warning and the auto braking system didn’t engage. The system still doesn’t function, but the dealership can’t find anything wrong with it.
Issues with Acceleration When Braking
Problems related to spontaneous acceleration are regarded as vehicle speed control, engine, and/or brake problems.
An owner from Tennessee states that the Elantra surges unexpectedly “and you cannot get it to slow down except by keeping your foot on the brake and pulling off the road. This has happened multiple times.” Alarmingly, the complaint states, “Recently, I had the car in for service and they said they did a recall for the software to stop this condition from happening again. However, one month later, it happened and this time it was the worst I have ever experienced. As I kept my foot off the accelerator, it surged over 15mph from the speed I was originally at with me doing nothing and it was still gaining. My car was trying to accelerate with my foot on the brake and I had to cross lanes of traffic to get to the side of the road to restart the vehicle.”
Complaining that the car “lurched” or accelerated multiple times when his foot wasn’t on the accelerator pedal, an owner states that because the dealer could “pull any codes” they “deemed the car safe.”
An owner from California has a similar story. The complaint states that the “car will accelerate when pressing on brakes.” Although it happened at least three times at random moments while on the road, the dealership is never able to replicate the issue.
But an owner from Texas reports that first the car won’t accelerate, then it accelerates on its own while the driver’s foot is on the brake. “Even worse, while driving, the car will go into accident-avoidance mode, even though there is nothing in front of us.”
An owner from Las Angeles states that spontaneous acceleration resulted in his car crashing into a wall.
Airbag problems don’t rank in terms of numbers, but they do in terms of severity.
In October 2023, an owner from Texas was driving at about 2 mph with the brake pedal depressed. The car accelerated and crashed into another vehicle. The airbags didn’t deploy and the owner “sustained stomach chest and arm injuries that required medical attention.”
When a 2021 Elantra’s brakes failed in February 2022, an owner from Illinois crashed into another vehicle. The airbags didn’t deploy. “The (dealership) mechanic checked the brake pads, drove it for 3 miles, and deemed that the vehicle’s pads were adequate.” After taking the car back to the dealership for other issues related to the engine and taillight, they carried out inspections that verified the codes were working. “When I visited the Body Shop & Collision (Center) I was told to ‘hire an attorney’. The vehicle was defective and should have never been on the streets.” They had discovered that the airbag sensor was impacted and “highly damaged,” and the airbags should have deployed.
An owner from Arizona was crashed into by a pickup truck and the car was hit on the right rear door side and back bumper. He called the dealership and they said it was the first call they had received about the problem. The police confirmed that no airbags deployed in the crash.
A man from California was lucky not to be injured when he crashed on a freeway. There was no collision warning, the airbags didn’t deploy, and the car was badly damaged.
Your Lemon Law Legal Rights
If you think that your 2021 Hyundai Elantra may be a lemon, Lemberg Law is available to assess your problems free of charge. The law makes Hyundai pay lemon law legal fees. Furthermore, every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners.
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