The owner of a Hyundai Sonata says he was “almost killed” after his vehicle stalled on a busy Toronto highway before turning into a fireball on the side of the road.
“There was a clicking, it started to stutter and then it burst,” Alan Zielonko, a sound technician heading to work on a film shoot in the fall, told Global News in an interview.
Within a couple of minutes, fire from the engine compartment spread throughout the vehicle.
Zielonko said he initially feared leaving the car because vehicles were closely passing beside him and it appeared unsafe.
“If I open the door, I’m going into traffic with tractor-trailers. How long do I sit here?” he said.
Weighing the options, Zielonko said he waited for a break in traffic and bolted from the vehicle and called 911.
Zielonko said just before the fire began, the Sonata lost power — including acceleration, steering and brakes. A similar technical issue — a complete loss of power — caused him to bring the vehicle to a Hyundai dealer in Toronto for an assessment.
The dealership’s invoice described Zielonko’s complaint as “lots of noise and cannot drive more than 20 kilometres.”
According to the repair bill, the dealership didn’t make any repairs or suggestions for the issue at hand. Instead, it said the dealership replaced a rear stabilizer link and two front-wheel bearings at a cost of $910.88. The Sonata had been in the shop for about two weeks.
“You assume after two weeks it has got a clean bill of health,” Zielonko said.
But four days after Zielonko paid the bill and picked it up, the car stalled again as he travelled on the Gardiner Expressway toward Highway 427 — a busy north-south highway through Toronto.
Just before the on-ramp, Zielonko said he knew he was in trouble when he lost power again. Shortly afterward, the car caught fire and burned.
WATCH: Hyundai responds to Toronto man’s call for help after engine failure (May 19, 2017)
Zielonko said he recorded the fire on his mobile phone as he sat in the passenger seat of a pickup truck belonging to an off-duty fire department supervisor, who arrived at the scene before firefighters did.
He said he contacted Hyundai Canada to report what happened and to share his photos and video. Zielonko said the company didn’t appear interested.
“It felt like I was being passed around and everyone is saying the same thing,” he said.
In April 2017, Hyundai recalled 1.4 million cars and SUVs in Canada, the U.S. and South Korea because engines could stall and fail, increasing the risk of a crash. The 2011 Hyundai Sonata was among the vehicles on the list.
When contacted by Global News, Hyundai Canada said Zielonko’s vehicle was inspected on June 22, 2016 for possible engine problems “at which point it had successfully passed our testing,” a Hyundai spokesperson said.
“As the vehicle is now the property of said insurance company, we have not had the opportunity to inspect the vehicle,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
Global News has reported on other Canadian consumers who’ve experienced sudden stalling of their vehicles in traffic. Some told Global News they were terrified to lose control of their vehicles.
Zielonko expressed disappointment at Hyundai’s response and is cautioning other consumers.
He said he has since replaced the Sonata with a Subaru.