Hyundai Should Get Out With the Nu, Their Ticking Time-Bomb of an Engine

The 1.8L Nu engine has been ticking owners off with its constant ticks, connecting rod knocks, predispostion to engine bearing failure and problems with oil sludge. These problems all happen within Hyundai's 10-year / 100,000 mile warranty, but the automaker is allegedly placing blame on owner maintenance habits in order to avoid honoring their end of the deal.

For a bit of backstory, the 1.8L Nu engine was first introduced in the 2011 Elantra to welcome in the vehicle’s 5th generation. It aimed to “fill the gap” between Hyundai’s 1.6L Gamma and 2.0L Theta engines, while improving on the fuel economy of its 1.8L Beta predecessor.

Engine HP Torque Compression Cylinder Block
Beta 1.8L 130hp 126 ft.lb 9.2:1 Cast Iron
Nu 1.8L 148hp 131 ft.lb 10.3:1 Aluminum

The engine offers similar power to the Beta engine, but its “unique configuration results in a block that is 30 percent lighter than an iron block, shedding more than 74 pounds off the entire engine weight1.

A less bulky engine is a good thing when you’re undoubtedly going to have to haul it to ths scrap yard soon.

Piston Slap and Ticking Noise Complaints

The Nu engine has an infamous engine tick that is consistent with something known as piston slap. That happens when the piston head isn’t properly secured, allowing the piston to rotate and slap against the cylinder wall.

Owners typically complain about the ticking or knocking noise during the engine’s start-up. That’s because as the engine reaches operating temperature, the piston will expand to sit more securely in the cylinder.

There’s plenty of debate over this noise and whether it poses any threat. But it’s been complained about enough for Hyundai to address it in a technical service bulletin.

Hyundai Canada releases TSB #12-20-002

In March of 2014, Hyundai Auto Canada Corporation acknowledged the ticking noise as “defects in the piston skirt coating as well as improper finishing of the connecting rods.” in the 2011-2013 Elantra.

Dealerships were warned that owners might complain that “the engine exhibits a loud knock during start up but the noise reduces as the engine reaches operating temperature.” Hyundai requested that dealerships reject any warranty claims unless the owner could provide perfect oil change records.

The TSB only applied to Canadian cars, even though those sold in the US were built on the same assembly lines.

Lawsuit Over Ticking Noise From Pistons in Nu Engines

In July of 2018, Elizabeth Brown filed a lawsuit accusing Hyundai of covering up Nu engine issues and failing to honor their warranty.

Although her Elantra engine was allegedly still covered by a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, Hyundai said the oil sludge problem was caused by Brown for failing to change the oil in the car. The Hyundai dealer allegedly said the least expensive option would be to pay $3,500 for a used engine.

Brown’s engine failure happened around 64,000 miles which is well below the standard 100,000 mile warranty. But rather than offer to help, the automaker was quick to point fingers at oil sludge in the engine as a potential sign of neglect from the owner.

The lawsuit points out:

  1. TSB #12-20-002 is evidence of Hyundai’s preference to blame owner’s maintenance habits over their own knowledge of the engine’s defects.
  2. Even owners with “perfect oil records” have had their engines replaced.
  3. The replacement Nu engines show exhibit the same defects as before.

The case is pending.

  1. 30% lighter quote from Hyundai Nu Press Release 

Vehicles That Might Have This Problem

Model Generation Years PainRank
Elantra 5th Gen 2011–2016 41.58

OK, Now What?

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