Modern automotive technology has made so many previously impossible things commonplace, from in-dash navigation to pickup trucks that get 40 mpg to cars helping you to stay in lanes and so much more. They’ve also made incredible new ways to fail, like getting in your car and finding that all your dash instruments are upside down, something that sounds like it would be gearhead prank your grandfather’s friends would play on him in his old Hudson. Well, thanks to modern tech, Hyundai has pulled this off electronically.
I suppose if you don’t think upside-down instruments are cool, then I guess you could get it fixed via the recall Hyundai has issued, which describes the problem like this:
Potential Number of Units Affected 714
Hyundai Motor America (Hyundai) is recalling certain 2022 Santa Fe HEV and Santa Fe PHEV vehicles. The instrument cluster liquid-crystal display (LCD) may invert the image on the screen upon vehicle startup, making the display illegible. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 101, “Controls and Displays.”
If you have an affected vehicle — which seems to be just 2022 Santa Fe hybrids and plug-in hybrids — then you can go to the dealer and they’ll fix it for you, for free, by installing a mirror on the dash that will reflect your instruments in the proper orientation.
I’m kidding! They’ll replace the whole LCD dash unit, which should fix this.
What I find so incredible about this is the drama and specificity of the error — it’s not that the screen just failed or went dark or whatever, the image gets flipped vertically!
Actually, that’s not right: what’s happening is that the display is being rotated 180 degrees, because as you can see there, if you just flip it vertically, it ends up mirrored left-to-right.
Even weirder, some reports have suggested that it only happens at really low temperatures, which makes no sense at all: why would a low temperature affect the orientation of how the instrument cluster computer is rendering its images?
I reached out to Hyundai for some answers, and was given this statement:
To ensure the safety and security of its customers, Hyundai Motor North America is conducting a noncompliance recall of certain model year 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid vehicles to address a condition with the instrument panel cluster display. The recall population includes approximately 714 vehicles in the U.S. and 283 in Canada. Hyundai is not aware of any crashes or injuries attributable to the recall condition.
The instrument panel (“IP”) cluster liquid-crystal display (“LCD”) in the subject vehicles may have been produced with incorrect resistors resulting in the possibility of an inverted image of associated controls, gauges, and telltale indicators upon startup of the vehicle at extremely low temperatures. This condition will not suddenly occur during normal driving.
Owners of these vehicles will bring them to a Hyundai dealer to have the IP cluster replaced. The recall procedure will be performed at no charge. Owners will be mailed notification letters beginning in late February 2022.
Incorrect resistors are to blame? This feels much more like a software error, like perhaps this same LCD module is used in a different installation orientation on another vehicle, so there’s code in there to rotate the display 180 degrees in certain circumstances, and maybe a bug in the code is causing it to branch to that orientation, or something.
But a hardware thing? How are those resistors affecting what the display is showing — unless, maybe, the computer is checking some resistance values to know the orientation to display?
I find this a fascinating and strange issue to have, one that reveals more about how modern cars work than if, say, the screens just blanked out. It’s also one of those things that would absolutely baffle a car lover who got frozen in 1980 or so and just was thawed today.
“There’s a recall for a problem that causes all of a car’s gauges to be upside down,” you’d tell them, and then you could just watch their face contort and them opening and closing their mouth several times, their brain helplessly fishing for the right question to ask that might help explain what the fuck is going on.
I don’t think they’ll find that question.