Good morning Autopians. If you’re anything like my colleague Jason Torchinsky or me, you notice everything and anything about car turn signals, taillights, brake lights, fog lights, and on and on. Seriously, I have an unhealthy obsession with staring at random cars in traffic with their blinkers on… it’s addicting. Lock me up for it, I don’t care (as long as you at least grant me Youtube access and a search history consisting of “Mazda pulsating blinker” or “Toyota sequential turn signal”). Apparently we’re not the only folks whose internet personality revolves around taillights; there’s a Facebook group called “Hyundai and Kia Burnt Taillight Spotting Club,” and they recently found an official Kia ad showing a Kia Forte with a taillight out. As you might imagine, the group is dying of laughter.
My colleague recently wrote the article “Turn Signals In Rear Bumpers Are Just Bad, And That’s All There Is To It” about bumper-mounted turn signals overwhelmingly found on Hyundais and Kias. Off the top of my head, I know that Tucson, Forte, Telluride, Santa Fe, and Kona all have this questionable setup. Oh, the Carnival minivan as well. BUT that’s not the issue I’m trying to point out; I want to show you the hilarious mistake in the Kia of America advertisement shown above.
Do you spot it? Take a gander at the driver’s side tail light; it’s burned out! I cannot believe this post made it through the marketing department. I’m sure it must have been checked by at least five individuals in Kia PR or Advertising before the post, or maybe I’m wrong. Either way, how did this get through without a single person noticing? I’m baffled. Just look and stare. I can’t believe it! When I saw the post on my feed, I nearly dropped my phone out of laughter.
Everywhere I drive, I constantly see at least three Hyundais or Kias with a burnt taillight. Usually it’s a third-gen Sonata with only the third brake light functioning, except it doesn’t seem to turn off, staying illuminated constantly. Not exactly the car you want to be behind in stop and go traffic on the Long Island Expressway. My friends and I always send each other pictures of these sightinings; it never gets old. There’s even an entire Facebook group dedicated to spotting all cars of the Korean automakers with burnt out taillights. It has nearly 8,000 members. I’m not alone, I’ve found my people!
Naturally, when the “Hyundai and Kia Burnt Taillight Spotting Club” spotted Kia of America’s gaf, it reveled in it, even making it the group’s banner photo:
“Icing on the cake,” reads the post by member Eric Klanderud.
The comments reveal a bunch of folks who “literally just can’t even” as the kids are saying these days:
“Close the group down, this is it,” writes Debrien Johnson. I love that comment. Here are a few more:
A number of folks admit that the cause of the driver’s side light not being illuminated may have to do with photography, and not a broken car. Here’s what user Jagger Williams commented on the group’s recently-changed banner photo:
as much as we joke about it, from a photographers standpoint, i really wonder if it was actually burnt out or if it was just shutter/fps. either way still hilarious that this somehow made it with a portion of the taillight not illuminated
Check out that Facebook group if you have a chance; it’s basically just a bunch of people, in traffic, taking photos of Kias with blown taillights.
Owners are fed up as well. A Kia Soul owner on “Kia Soul Forums” states that they had to replace their driver and passenger side brake/tail light bulbs three times within a singular year. There seems to be some confusion to whether or not it’s the bulbs themselves or simply just weak grounds. Either way, it shouldn’t happen to a newish car with less than 75,000 miles.
Between the bumper mounted turn signals and the lack of functioning brake lights, I suggest you do not tailgate a newer Hyundai or Kia — that’s a recipe for disaster. Better yet, maybe don’t drive behind one at all, unless you’re in that Facebook Group, in which case you have content to capture for your fellow Kia/Hyundai Burnt-Out-Taillight enthusiasts.
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Huh, that’s interesting… I have owned three Hyundai Products: a 2003 Elantra, a 2010 Elantra Touring, and a 2019 Kona and I never replaced a single bulb on any of them as long as I owned them… (I still own the Kona)
The camera explanation does make sense. Take a picture of a car with LED lights using your phone and you’ll often get this.
However, it seems like every other automaker has figured out how to produce marketing images of their vehicles without LED lights appearing like they’re burned out. So, maybe someone messed up and nobody noticed?
Nah, if you’re taking photos at this level, you’re using ND filters to bring your shutter speed slow enough to get the whole light illuminated. This is also a low-light shoot – they’re hitting the badge on the trunk with an extra off-camera light.
A lot of cameras have it in their settings 50hz or 60hz. The issue is LED runs on pulse width modulation and they pulse in a fixed frequency. Cameras often catch them at literally a bad time. Changing the camera settings to a different frequency often resolves the problem.
You’d think they would have the abilities, technologies, and common sense to not include a picture with a distorted light…. the icing on the cake is that it’s a Kia. Honda Accord? Yeah, probably just a frequency discrepancy. But a Kia???? It just has to be burnt, I need it to be.
I think the camera angle makes fairly logical sense, but knowing how much work goes into marketing photos these days, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this was simply a Photoshop error.
Meaning, due to LED lighting and shutter speeds, along with trying to make sure it is all glare free and perfect, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this photo started off far less ‘glamorous’ looking and was, as is every other hero shot of a car, sent off for touch ups to make it perfect. Perhaps someone either failed to properly ‘fill in’ the desired taillight illumination, or it was there and somehow got edited out when cleaning up the images of other artifacts.
Yeah, my first thought was “is this a camera oops?” Cameras are notorious for not playing nice with LEDs, as mentioned.
Honestly, this looks more like someone forgot it in post.
This is something I’ve noticed to the point I’ve thought about trying to capture it, because it’s so common – but had no idea there’s a FB group for it. It could be just their commonality, but the Elantras and Sonatas from the 2010s seem to be most common, moreso than other Hyundais or their Kia equivalents. I had a 2015 Optima for 3.5 years and never had to replace any bulbs though I was behind a 2011-14 model that was on just the CHMSL. I wonder if the manufacturing plant or a supplier could be a factor, since Hyundai made both Sonatas and Elantras (though not all of them) in the Alabama plant.
It’s always some combo of brake, tail, or both lights, and seems compounded by the fact that there’s separate taillights from the stop/taillight combo – like Honda/Toyota/etc. used to do more – so it’s more obvious when a taillight is out.
Certainly seems like GMT800 burnt out DRL of the era. I’ll also add, when Honda brought out the 2nd-gen Odyssey – I often seemed to see them with burnt out CHMSLs, and even the next couple generations had the same as well as the Pilot. Accords and Civics didn’t have the same issue, so it wasn’t universal Honda. But never could figure out why.
I’ve noticed a lot of cars lately that have one side brake light and the third light out. My 15 year old A4 can tell me exactly which light is out on the dash. It can’t be that hard to do on modern highly computerized cars.
Cadillacs had fiber optic indicators back in the early 70s to see if a light is out, and which one it was. My mid-90s Volvo 850 could tell you a light was out. Sounds like Kia needs to take some inspiration.
850? Just continuing the tradition. Volvo gave the 240 a bulb-out indicator on the dash from the very start. I don’t remember if my 145 had the same feature.
My ’88 MBZ has a broken light indicator. It’s a little overzealous as it’s warned me twice about perfectly good lights.
It isn’t hard.
It also isn’t a bulb. It’s an LED assembly. And it’s $516 to replace.
That’s why nobody’s fixing them. The XLR’s tail lights were just a preview.
should be covered by warranty, no?
My fiat even tells me when a bulb is out…. or when I’ve replaced a bulb with an LED
What always baffles me is why manufacturers allow known issues like this to linger for years. Maybe someone inside the industry can explain.
*Kia boys have joined the chat*
I’ve always wondered about this. My mother had a 2008 Optima and that thing ate bulbs for breakfast, and I seem to see more Kias and Hyundais on the road with burned out bulbs than any other brand.
Something else interesting about that car is that the original battery lasted 10 years, and only died when the alternator did. I wondered if they ran their electrical system at a higher voltage or something but never bothered to break out a multimeter to check.
YES!! I’m so relieved to know i’m not the only one that has noticed all the Kia/Hyundai models with a dead taillight. Are they just using subpar bulbs or do they have a fundamental electrical system flaw?
On a recent relatively short drive I counted THREE vehicles with turn signals in the bumpers! Stupid stupid design.
It’s funny that I’ve subliminally noticed that Hyundai/Kia vehicles have disabled taillights, but this woke me up to the fact that I have actually seen this many times.
Very often these photos are composited from a series of shots to better (and more quickly) control the light. It’s likely that the photographer or their tech forgot to include the lit taillight piece in the final image.
No way it’s a shutter speed thing; anyone photographing cars at this level should be using ND filters so they can get their shutter speed slow enough to get the light without flickering being an issue. (There’s also off-camera lighting illuminating the badge on the back; this is a low-light situation.)
Kia is slow to the game. Chevy was leading in the clubhouse for years with the 2000s era pickups always having one daytime light out.
Kia of America’s gaf
Quite a gaffe, indeed.
Apparently none of these Kia owners ever owned a MK4 VW product. My friendly, independent VW mechanic stopped charging my parents for bulbs or labor as long as the car was having other service performed, which of course it was. But 2-5 bulbs a year was not uncommon for a while. Oddly my mother gave it to my son and we have not had to change a single one yet. (knocks on head)
Was going to comment on those. I think not one of them older than 6 months had all bulbs operational.
At this year’s Chicago Auto Show, BMW had an X7 and a 760i on display that had their left taillights burned out. You’d think they would want to make a good impression at an auto show.
Yes! I heard about that haha. There was a superbowl commercial a few years back, DT and I were trying to remember what car it was, and it had a missing taillight.
I never noticed the Kia Hyundai light thing. I will also not that at the front of cars drls will go off on the side you turn the blinker on. Maybe blinker related some way or another. $500 for a light assembly is ridiculous, they can make them with bulbs that plug in?
The DRLs often dim or turn off on the side with the blinker because there’s meant to be enough contrast. Not something limited to LEDs, cars were doing it before with halogen DRLs too.
Ooh, I didn’t realize this was such an issue for Hyundai and Kia. Come to think of it, my mom’s 2003 Sorento EX ate taillight bulbs like it was nothing. So did her 2012 Sonata Limited 2.4, whose socket literally melted and fused. That car also ate its own engine due to a factory defect, and fortunately Hyundai replaced it. But due to that and numerous other things that have happened to Hyundai and Kia vehicles in my family, they are verboten among us.
As for burnt-out lights, it seems like every other GMT900-generation GM truck/SUV has a burnt-out parking light on one side or the other.
Bring back sealed beam Headlights and taillights!
You get it!
Those were the only kinds of bulbs I’ve ever had to replace and pretty frequently. Don’t recall having to replace a bulb in about 25 years.