Hyundai widens exploding seatbelt recall to 240,000 cars

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Hyundai has expanded a recall of its Elantra and Accent sedans to address seatbelt pretensioners that can explode in the event of an accident. The recall, which originated with just a few hundred units and later expanded to include several thousand, now targets approximately 239,000 models. Owners of 2019-2022 Accents and 2021-2023 Elantras, take note.

Like airbags, pretensioners (the mechanisms that deploy to lock the seatbelt retractors in place when a collision is detected) rely on small explosive devices. Rather than producing gases that fill an airbag, however, the explosion drives a piston that rotates the spool holding the seat belt, forcing it to retract rapidly and tighten around the occupant, securing them in place prior to the airbags being deployed. In the case of these models, the pretensioners supplied for the seatbelt retractor mechanisms may not perform the way Hyundai's safety engineers intended, and an uncontrolled explosion may release shrapnel into the cabin.

Hyundai says it is now aware of three such incidents happening in the hands of customer vehicles. Two of these occurred in the United States (one involving an Accent and one involving an Elantra) and the third in Singapore (another Elantra). Unlike the high-profile Takata airbag recall, however, the issue with Hyundai's pretensioners appears to stem from the design of the hardware itself, as the failures appear to be associated with microfractures in the delivery pipe that secures the gas generator (where the tiny explosion is initiated) to the pretensioner mechanism itself. Fortunately, the issue seems to be isolated to the Accent and Elantra due to the way their crash structures behave in a collision; the same part in other vehicles has not failed, Hyundai says.

The discovery of this mechanism failure prompted Hyundai to expand the recall, as it is now appears the issue may be a design flaw in the pretensioner rather than merely a bad batch. Hyundai is in the process of reaching out to Elantra and Accent owners so that the parts can be replaced with a modified design that includes a pressure relief valve designed to keep the mechanism from exploding in the event of a crash.

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