Heavy Metal! |  May - 2018

2013 Santa Fe Loses All Power, Won’t Shift Due to Faulty Brake Light Switch

Well here we go again, I feel like Steve Harvey from the Family Feud show: “Hello folks, boy do we have a good one for you today.” The only difference is that you won’t be leaving with a new Ford Edge.

So it goes like this: A tow truck showed up at the door with a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe that wouldn’t move or accelerate. Okay, which one is it? Well, turns out it’s both. Okay, the customer was diagnosing his own vehicle and you know how that goes, so you better pay attention and listen.

The customer came into the office and explained how this happened. Fortunately, I was visiting the shop on a day off because that’s what we techs do. The wife will ask, “Honey, what are your plans for your day off?” “I’m going to visit couple of shops to see some friends and maybe have lunch with one of them.” “Okay, I’m going shopping then,” and we’re like, “okay, c’ya.”

The customer claimed that he was driving on the highway and all of a sudden had to brake because the traffic stopped. By the time he reached the vehicle in front, traffic started to move, so he kept rolling, but his car wouldn’t get out of its own way.

And when he stepped on the gas, the acceleration was limited no more than 1000 RPM; the engine had no power. I asked the shop owner to let me test drive the vehicle with the owner and he agreed. So off to the vehicle we headed and, as we walked, I started talking with the customer.

I asked how long he owned the vehicle, if he was the only driver, and if this was the first time this occurred. According to him, this was the first time. The vehicle looked clean and well taken care of and he even showed me all the service records: oil changes, transmission service, etc.

So I asked him to let me drive and he could be my copilot. So I sat down, turned the key, and the engine fired up. Then I moved the shifter to drive and this little truck took off like a rocket. I looked to my right and I could see the gentleman’s face in awe, so I smile and told him not to worry, this happens all the time. “Wow! I don’t believe this,” he replied.

I was driving the vehicle in a manner he wasn’t accustomed to, so I explained that I was trying to duplicate his issues in more than one way, that I wanted to find the problem rather than tell him I couldn’t duplicate the condition and send him home.

After 20 minutes driving, I was just about to pull into the shop, and bam! it happened: I lost all power and the vehicle wouldn’t accelerate or move. The aha moment just arrived so I called the guys at the shop and we pushed the vehicle back into the parking lot. I shook hands with the customer and thanked him for his time. He signed the paperwork and left.

I got the scan tool hooked up to pull codes in both the OBDII protocol and the OE protocol to see if I could discover what was going on. There weren’t any codes in any modules. By this point I was scratching my head and thinking, where would I begin? Then I thought, “I’d like to shoot a movie. But I’d need to get the vehicle to start in 1st gear and to shift to take a movie. How would I do that?”

I decided to let the engine cool down to see if the problem was temperature-related. After a couple hours, I went back and fired up the engine but to no avail; the engine still had no power and the transmission wouldn’t move. The engine idled well, with no misfires.

So I was sitting in the driver’s seat sideways, with my feet out the car door, engine running with the A/C on. While I was thinking, a kid on a bicycle went by and said, “Sir, your brake lights are on.” I thanked him, and suddenly another light bulb went on, this time in my head: My feet were out the door. How could the brake lights be on?

So I walked to the back and, sure enough, all three brake lights were on, so I went back in got the scan tool again. Bingo! There it was: The computer was seeing the brake switch on. I stuck my head under the dash to look at the brake switch and it was damaged (figure 1). With only 65,000 miles on this vehicle.

It turns out this is a common problem on 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe; Kia Optima, Rondo, Sorento, Sportage, and Telluride vehicles with A6LF1, A6MF2, A6LF2, A6MF2H, and A6GF1 6-speed transmissions.

I reset the switch the best I could for a test. The lights went out and, when I started the engine, the transmission went right into first gear. Back on the road I went and it drove beautifully. As I was driving I wiggled my foot, disturbing the brake switch and, sure enough, I lost everything. I was happier than a rooster in a chicken coop.

I discovered that the brake light switch was superseded because the black nylon cover would break when it became brittle from age, and it would crumble or crack, causing the brakes light to stay on. The new part is number 93810 3S000 (figure 2). After replacing the switch at a cost of $39 — in stock at the dealer — and readapting the unit, it worked flawlessly.

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