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2020-2023 Kia Sorento Tow Harness Problems

Class Action Investigation

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Lemberg Law is investigating complaints that owners of tens of thousands of 2020-2023 Kia Sorento vehicles are facing an unsolved fire risk. A problem with the tow hitch harness could result in a fire when the Sorento is parked or while driving. While an urgent safety recall was issued for the vehicles in September 2022, nearly 9 months later, Kia America still doesn’t have a remedy. Dozens of owners have complained to the NHTSA about the lack of a fix, while several have reported fires. However Kia is not acknowledging the faulty tow harness as the cause of fires.  

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Is There a Problem with the Tow Harness?

There is a major, very widespread problem with certain Kia Sorento models. In addition to the regular 2020-2022 and some earlier Kia Sorento SUV models, it affects the 2021-2023 Sorento hybrid (HEV) and the 2022-2023 Sorento PHEV. The issue is that Kia America issued an urgent safety recall on September 19, 2022, because they discovered that tens of thousands of Sorento vehicles potentially have a tow hitch harness issue that could cause a fire. But in early June 2023, nearly 9 months later, there is still no recall repair or remedy available to affected owners.

As a result, many owners of these Sorento models have lodged complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Most, but not all the complaints were initiated after the recall, NHTSA Campaign Number 22V703000 was issued. There is at least one complaint that reports a fire that happened prior to the recall that is now thought to be due to the trailer hitch problem.

Complaints highlighting the fact that Kia is unable to develop a remedy are filed mostly as trailer hitch issues. Most of those reporting fires are filed as problems that affect the electrical system.

Recall

The tow hitch harness recall, 22V703000, relates to Sorento trailer hitches. It warns that affected vehicles may catch fire while parked or driving, which can result in a fire that could lead to a risk of injury.

In all cases, affected vehicles have tow hitch harnesses that were installed as original equipment, or purchased as an accessory through a Kia dealership. The problem is that debris and moisture can accumulate on the harness module printed circuit board (PCB). If this happens, it can cause an electrical short, which is what may result in a fire.

Because of this, “owners are advised to park outside and away from structures until the recall repair is complete. The recall notice states that the “final remedy is currently under development.” So, as an interim repair, “dealers will install a new fuse, free of charge.”

Letters, notifying owners of the safety risk, were mailed in November 2022 and May 2023. “A third notice will be sent once the final remedy is available. Remedy parts are expected to be available in late July 2023.” That’s not much more than a month away. But as the owner of a 2021 Sorento model stated in a complaint lodged on May 28, 2023, neither the automaker nor dealerships have produced any information about the repair since the recall was issued.

What Tow Harness Issues are Owners Experiencing?

The most common problem that 2020-2023 Kia Sorento owners are experiencing is the fact that Kia promises a remedy for the urgent fire risk recall but has not produced one. Generally, these complaints state that “the manufacturer had exceeded a reasonable amount of time for the recall repair.” Also, they say that the VIN tool confirms that the required parts are not available.

Additionally, there are an alarming number of owners who have reported fires they assume are related to the recall issue. A few others state they have smelled burning in the cabin, but don’t report fire.

Another owner of a 2021 Sorento from Kansas states that after receiving the recall notice, he contacted Kia. After all, the automaker was “essentially telling me not to drive this vehicle and park it away from my home or other vehicles.” He was told “all they are currently doing is a reimbursement of up to 40 dollars a day for a rental while they figure out how to fix this. Rentals here are over 100 dollars a day. When I told them that, I was told the additional money would be on me. My car is still under warranty but they expect me to pay for their issue.” Ultimately, “ I am only still driving this car because it would be too expensive for me to fund a rental for an unknown length of time.”

Hyundai Palisade Owners Have the Same Problem

It is interesting that many 2020-2022 Hyundai Palisade owners are faced with exactly the same fire risk problem caused by faulty tow hitch harnesses. While Kia and Hyundai automakers operate independently, Hyundai Motor Group is Kia Motors’ parent company, and both use the same basic platform for some of their vehicles. As Lemberg Law has reported, the urgent safety recall notice for Hyundai Palisade models was issued in August 2022, a month  before the Kia recall. The issues are the same, and there is still no recall repair available, and there is no indication when there may be a remedy.

Complaints About Burning Smells

In May 2023, the owner of a 2020 Kia Sorento filed an NHTSA complaint stating that on multiple occasions there had been “an abnormal burning odor inside the cabin of the vehicle.” In the same complaint, the owner notes that the recall repair for NHTSA Campaign Number 22V703000 was still not available.

Then, in September 2022, the owner of a 2022 Kia Sorento reported to the NHTSA that there was a burning smell that seemed to be electrical.

Reports of Kia Sorento Vehicles Catching Fire

Owners of 2020, 2021, and 2022 Kia Sorento models have lodged complaints with the NHTSA about their vehicles catching fire. By June 2023, it appears that Kia hadn’t acknowledged responsibility for any of the reported fires.

Burning Experiences of 2020 Owners

In October 2021, a 2020 Kia Sorento owner from Virginia stated in an NHTSA complaint that while the Sorento was parked, her daughter saw smoke coming out of the vehicle. As she opened the door of the Sorento, she saw flames on the front side of the SUV. Fortunately, with the help of the local fire department, she was able to extinguish the fire. “The vehicle was towed to a tow lot where it was totaled.”

The manufacturer was notified, and sent out a field technician to investigate the cause of the failure. The owner associated the fire with the trailer hitch recall. But the manufacturer later sent a letter to her stating that “the cause of the failure was undetermined.”

In December 2022, an owner from Florida also experienced a fire. He states that the “vehicle electrical wires started burning, exactly as warned in the recall.” But despite the recall, “Kia has refused to honor the recall” because Kia claims “that the trailer hitch and wiring was not installed by Kia. But in fact it was installed by a Kia Dealer.”

Fire Destroys a 2021 Kia Sorento

In November 2022, after receiving the recall notice, the New Hampshire owners of a 2021 Sorento became a victim of what they had been warned about. According to the complaint, after being parked for about 3 hours, they were told by a passer-by that “flames were coming from near the fuel tank.

The fire department was called to put out the fire. The vehicle was towed and deemed totaled.” One of them burned their hand attempting to remove items from the vehicle before it completely burned. Also, “a nearby tree became charred by the fire as well as the ground surrounding the vehicle.”

The complaint states that their insurance company, which “deemed the vehicle a total loss,” was going to contact the manufacturer. At the time of the complaint, they were still waiting for news about the cause of the fire.

Parked 2022 Kia Sorento Catches Fire

The owner of a 2022 Kia Sorento from Texas also experienced a devastating fire, this time, before the recall was issued. The complaint states that it “looks like a total loss,” but the owner was waiting for confirmation.

In August 2022, he “parked in the driveway at around 8 pm. After about 2 hours I heard (the) car alarm. I looked out (the) window and saw flames engulfing (the) rear of (the) vehicle.” He called 911, and firefighters extinguished flames.

The fire crew stated that the fire was probably electrical and that it started near the tow hitch receptacle. The “tow hitch was installed by a Kia dealer weeks after I bought (the) car. They told me it was an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) hitch.” This is important, because only OEM tow hitch harnesses are covered by the recall.

“I’d never used the hitch until the day of the fire. That afternoon I bought a Kuuat bicycle rack with lights. The bike store installed the rack and plugged it into the hitch receptacle. I did errands for several hours with nothing appearing amiss.”

What Should You Do if Your Sorento has a Tow Harness Problems?

If you’ve experienced any problems relating to your 2020-2023 Kia Sorento tow harness, you may want to consider joining our class action investigation. Lemberg Law values the input of anyone who has relevant experience. So, if you’d like to join our class action investigation, call us at 844-928-4443 or complete our contact form. We will evaluate your case and see if you qualify.

About the Author:

Sergei Lemberg is a lawyer whose practice focuses on consumer law, class actions and personal injury litigation. He has been repeatedly recognized as the “most active consumer attorney” in the country. In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid in the United States Supreme Court in the case entitled Duguid v. Facebook. He is the author of Defanging Debt Collectors, a book that teaches consumers how to battle debt collectors and win.

See more posts from Sergei Lemberg
1 COMMENT
  • Patrick B

    Good day I am Canadian living in Canada and bought a 2022 kia sorento and ordered a tow hitch they installed it but the tow hitch harness was never installed that was in November 2022. Can I be part of your class action or is it reserve to US citizens?

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