Applications of Investigative Mechanical Engineering

Although we have been practicing forensic engineering for over 30 years, it has come to our attention that many adjusters in the commercial and personal property lines markets may not know the extent of our services.  So, a list of services has been attached below.  Most of the applications are self explanatory.  However, every once in a while, someone will ask if the loss they are handling is within the scope of our expertise.  While it would be impossible for an adjuster to recognize every scenario, we welcome questions about our services as they pertain to the loss.  Recently, we were asked if a water loss involving a skid steer was something we could evaluate.  The loss involved determining whether engine damage was part of the loss and should have been covered.  This application was definitely within our experience and service capability.  In general, if the loss involves something mechanical or electro-mechanical, we can usually accept the assignment.  Please feel free to make contact by calling the office or emailing directly,  Our contact information can be found on the “About” page of our website located at www.rjhill.com.

Supco Surge Protector Warning

A warning has been discovered that was issued by Sealed Unit Parts Company (Supco) that alerts consumers to a potentially defective lightning surge protector.  The warning identifies two surge protectors, SCM 60 and SCM 150 that are intended for use with HVAC equipment.  The surge protectors can fail and cause a fire which can spread to a home.  The units are wired into the HVAC unit’s disconnect box and is supposed to shunt lightning away from the HVAC unit through its ground connection.  The disconnect box is that box located adjacent to the unit that controls power going to the unit. Supco recommends that the units be replaced or removed.  Supco has also identified the manufacturer of the surge protectors as Sycom Surge Inc. and could be out of business.  The company website lists a toll free telephone number that appears to be assigned to another party.  However, it is unknown if the address is still current.  Furthermore, Sycom managed to obtain Underwriter Laboratories (UL) seal of approval.  However, UL, has also issued a warning saying the surge protectors do meet UL safety standards.  It should be noted that the surge protectors have NOT been recalled.  The warnings are contained in the attachments shown below along with photos of the surge protectors. 

Kia Recalls Sportage Vehicles

Kia Motors America has announced the recall of its 2017 through 2021 Sportage vehicles not equipped with smart cruise control.  Kia has identified a defect in the hydraulic electronic control unit (HECU) that can short circuit and result in an engine compartment fire.  This is the same item that has been tentatively indentified in previous posts involving vehicle fires.  See archived posts made on May 5, 2021, “Second Hyundai Vehicle Fire Update”; January 20, 2021, “Ford F350 Engine  Fire”; January 7, 2021, “Hyundai Recall Update”; and September 10, 2020, “Hyundai and Kia Vehicles Recalled for Fire Hazard.  Although not specifically confirmed as being the same component, the HECU is suspected of leaking brake fluid internally within the unit that causes the short circuit and ultimately results in the engine fires.  For this reason, the vehicle manufacturers want owners to park their vehicles outside and away from any combustible structures.  According to Kia, illumination of various warning lights such as tire pressure, antilock brake, and check engine can also occur.  In addition, a burning odor or smoke coming from the engine compartment can occur.  If a burning odor is detected or smoke is observed, stop and exit the vehicle as soon as possible.  Get all passengers out and away from the vehicle.  For this particular recall, owners can refer to NHTSA campaign number 21V137 when contacting their Kia dealers for a repair.  The repair involves the replacement of certain fuses in order to prevent the overcurrent condition leading to engine fires.  For additional information, owners can contact Kia by calling 1-800-333-4542 or visiting Kia’s website at www.kia.com.

Ford Recalls Explorer Vehicles

The Ford Motor Company has announced a recall for 2016-2019 Explorer vehicles.  620,483 vehicles are being recalled for a faulty roof rail cover that can become detached.  If the rail cover separates from the vehicle while the vehicle is in motion, it can become a flying hazard for other drivers and their passengers.  Affected vehicles include base models, XLT, police interceptor, and Explorer Sport.  The rail covers are painted silver, black or absolute black.  Dealers will secure the rail covers with plastic push pins.  Owner notification is expected to begin during the week of June 28.  Ford’s reference number for this campaign is 21S22.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-800-392-3673. Owners can also visit Ford’s website at www.ford.com.      

Hyundai Recalls Elantra, Kona and Veloster Vehicles

Hyundai Motor Company has announced the recall of 125,840 2019 througb 2020 Elantra and 2019 through 2021 Kona and Veloster vehicles.  All of these vehicles are equipped with 2 liter engines.  The reason for the recall was that the piston oil rings were not properly heat treated.  As a result, the rings can chip and scar the engine cylinders.  The result can be oil leakage, engine fires and total engine failure.  Owners are instructed to take their vehicles to their dealers for inspection of the engine.  Dealers will replace the engine at no cost to the owners and also install piston noise sensing software.  Owner notification is expected to begin on June 25, 2021.  For additional information, owners can contact Hyundai by calling 1-800-633-5151 or visiting www.hyundaiusa.com.  Owners will need to have their vehicle identification number when contacting Hyundai.

Second Hyundai Vehicle Fire Update

Back in September of 2020, we announced that Hyundai was recalling 2013 through 2015 Santa Fe Sport SUVs for a problem with the ABS system that resulted in engine fires.  That recall was update in January of this year.  And now, Hyundai has again recalled these same vehicles for the same problem, increasing the total number recalled to 203,000.  The problem stems from the leakage of brake fluid onto the electronic circuitry within the ABS module and cause short circuiting and subsequent engine fires to occur.  It is recommended that owners who have not had their vehicle repaired, park their vehicles outside of garages or away from structures just in case a fire should erupt.  If a fire does occur, the damage can be extensive as shown in the photographs of our January 2021 update.  For additional information, owners can contact Hyundai by calling 1-800-633-5151 or visiting www.hyundaiusa.com.  Owners will also need to have their vehicle identification numbers (VIN).  The VIN can be found on the lower corner of the windshield on the driver’s side or on the inside of the driver’s door or pilar.     

Honda Recalls Over 600,000 Vehicles for Faulty Fuel Pump

American Honda Motor Company has announced that it is recalling 628,124 vehicles for a faulty fuel pump issue.  The fuel pump is located in the fuel tanks of the recalled vehicles.  The problem with the fuel pumps is that the impellers can break and stop sending fuel to the engine.  Engines will stall and possibly cause the vehicle to crash.  The recall is expected to begin on May 18, 2021.  Honda will replace the fuel assembly free of charge.  The following vehicles are part of this recall: 2019-2021 Acura MDX, MDX Sport Hybrid, RDX, TLX, Honda Accord, Civic Hatchback, Insight, 2019 Acura ILX, Honda Accord Hybrid, Civic Coupe, Civic Coupe si, Civic Sedan, Civic Sedan si, Civic Type R, Fit, HR-V, Odyssey, Passport, Pilot, Ridgeline, and 2018-2019 CR-V.  The current NHTSA campaign number assigned to this recall is 21V215000.  This recall is an extension of recall 20V-314.  For additional information, owners can contact Honda by calling 1-888-234-2138.

Another Refrigerator Water Filter Failure

In yet another example of a defective product, we have encountered another water filter that has failed and caused damage to a residence.  The appliance involved was a Samsung refrigerator, model # RS2556SH.  This refrigerator uses a water filter that is mounted inside the refrigerator, in the upper right hand corner of the cabinet and is shown below.  The refrigerator is also equipped with an electronic panel that, among other things, tells the user when to replace the filter.  Although there is no way to tell when a filter will burst, it is prudent (and recommended) to replace the filter as soon as the filter light indicator tells the user that the filter life has expired.  Leaving the filter in place after the life has expired is risking a serious water leakage and damage situation.  As shown in the photograph below, the crack almost propagated around the entire circumference of the filter.  As it happened, the filter had been in use for approximately six months before the failure occurred.  It should be noted that the manufacturer recommends replacing the filter every six months.

Water filter cracked almost completely around

Ford F 350 Engine Fire

In our last blog update, January 7, we talked about the recall issued by Hyundai regarding faulty antilock brake and hydraulic electronic control units.  In that blog, we also discussed the recall of thousands of Tucson SUVs that contained a defective ABS/HECU control circuit board.  The circuit board has a tendency to corrode, short circuit and cause an engine fire.  A recent investigation into an engine fire in a 2017 Ford F350 showed that a similar ABS/HECU was installed in that vehicle at the factory.  The vehicle was purchased new by the insured/owner and as a result, the ABS/HECU had never been replaced.  A photograph of the ABS/HECU is shown below.  When compared to the photograph of the ABS/HECU in the previous blog entry, the units are identical.  Although it is unknown if the unit in the Ford truck is the same as the recalled unit in the Hyundai Tucson, corrosion could still be the reason why the engine fire occurred in the Ford vehicle.  Engine fires attributed to the faulty ABS/HECU units can occur without warning.  That is, there are no instrument panel warning lights that illuminate prior to a fire.  In this particular case, the warning that the owner got was that the engine lost power (since it was a diesel engine).        

ABS/HECU found in Ford F 350

Hyundai Recall Update

Back in September of last year, we reported that Hyundai had issued a recall for various vehicles because of a faulty antilock brake system module.  The problem had to do with brake fluid leaking internally within the module that caused the electronics to short circuit and start an engine fire.  Since that report, we have encountered an actual situation with a Hyundai Santa Fe, one of the vehicles recalled.  According to the vehicle owner, the fire spread very quickly and barely had enough time to get his passengers out of the vehicle before it was fully engulfed.  The defective part and extent of damage are shown in the photos below.  Owner notification of the recall was supposed to have begun in October of 2020.  Owners who have not received their notification letter should contact their Hyundai dealer to arrange for a free inspection and/or repair.  The dealer will most likely ask for the vehicle identification number, which can be found on the lower left hand corner of the windshield or on the sticker inside the driver’s side door or pillar.  The list of vehicles to which this recall applies was given in our September 2020 blog entry.  It should be noted that Hyundai has expanded this recall to include approximately 180,000 2019 through 2021 Tucson SUVs and an additional 471,000 2016 through 2018 Tucson vehicles.  The total number of recalled vehicles is now approximately 652,000. However, the problem with the Tucson vehicles does not have anything to do brake fluid leakage as much as it does corrosion of the electronic circuit board causing engine fires. The circuit board is located behind the ABS assembly and is therefore not visible in the photograph below.       

Extent of Fire Damage to Hyundai Santa Fe
Faulty Antilock Brake Module
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