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Big Hyundai/Kia recall to fix air bags, brake lights

Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia are recalling almost 1.9 million vehicles to fix problems with air bags and brake-light switches.

The switch recall covers almost 1.7 million vehicles -- most of the automakers' model lineups from the 2007 through 2011 model years.

In addition, Hyundai Motor Co. is recalling about 194,000 Elantra compacts from 2011 to 2013 to fix an air bag problem.

More than 32,000 of the affected models were registered on Long Island in a spring 2011 vehicle census done for Newsday by auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co. That figure does not include all of the 2012 Elantras involved and, of course, none of the 2013 Elantras.

A faulty switch can stop the brake lights from illuminating when drivers press on the pedal, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. Also, the cruise control may not turn off when a driver steps on the brake, push-to-start buttons may not work, and a feature that stops the driver from shifting out of park without a foot on the brake may fail.

Spokesmen for Hyundai and Kia Motors Corp. said Wednesday there haven't been any crashes or injuries due to the problem. Both said the malfunctions don't affect performance of the brakes.

Hyundai and Kia try to use the same parts in as many cars as possible to get a better price from parts suppliers and make manufacturing simpler. But when something goes wrong, it can cause a massive recall.

Hyundai and Kia will notify owners of affected models, and dealers will replace the switches free of charge. Kia will send notifications in May, while Hyundai expects to send them in June, after replacement parts are shipped to dealers.

In the Elantra air bag recall, a support bracket can come loose when the side air bags are inflated and cause injuries. In one case the bracket cut a driver's ear.With Tom Incantalupo

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