Help! My 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe locks itself. Can you unlock it, please?

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By Christopher Elliott

Brian Seligman has a peculiar problem: his 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe locks itself spontaneously.

“Just last Friday, the car locked itself with my key inside,” he says. “It’s a good thing my friend had the tools to get into the vehicle.”

Seligman has visited two Hyundai dealerships. “They found nothing,” he says.

Now he wants to know if Hyundai would either fix the car or swap vehicles, giving him a working 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe. And he wants me to help him.

That’s a question we don’t see too often on this site — how bad does a product have to be before the company should replace it? And should that include an almost-new car?

Self-locking Hyundais have been a problem since 2002. I’m surprised the manufacturer hasn’t offered a permanent fix for it and that the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe locks itself.

But how much responsibility do new customers bear when they buy a product that’s known to have a defect? Could Seligman have known that Hyundais sometimes spontaneously self-lock? I don’t think so.

What about lemon laws?

Seligman, who lives in Florida, might be covered by the state’s Lemon Law.

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Florida’s Lemon Law covers defects or conditions that substantially impair the use, value or safety of a new car.

According to the state’s attorney general,

These defects must be first reported to the manufacturer or its authorized service agent (usually, this is the dealer) during the “Lemon Law Rights Period,” which is the first 24 months after the date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer.

If the manufacturer fails to conform the vehicle to the warranty after a reasonable number of attempts to repair these defects, the law requires the manufacturer to buy back the defective vehicle and give the consumer a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle.

Seligman is well within that period and has given Hyundai ample opportunity to address the issue. If his 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe locks itself, he probably can invoke Florida’s Lemon Law.

Should I get involved?

So, to recap: Hyundai should have fixed this problem a long time ago. It looks as if Seligman can file a claim under Florida’s Lemon Law. Should I step in and help out, or should I advise Seligman to go through normal channels?

The more I review Seligman’s case, the more I think he should just let the system work. He hasn’t reached out to Hyundai’s executive contacts yet. He still has a little homework to do. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

And yet, I also think he self-locking thing is maddening and he doesn’t deserve the runaround he’s getting from Hyundai.

Parenthetically, a car that locks itself must be one of the most frustrating things, ever. It’ll keep the AAA tow truck busy, but doesn’t Seligman have better things to do?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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