LANCASTER, Ohio (WCMH) — Clara Collins loved her black 2013 Kia Sorento, the first new-to-her car she’d been able to afford from a dealership.

But on May 2, Collins, of Lancaster, returned from the mall with her 19-year-old son and his two friends. Driving along State Route 315 near Bethel Road, Collins heard a loud pop and pulled over to inspect her tires.

“I loved that car. I bragged about that car,” Collins remembered. “I was so proud. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

The teens got out of the car as it began to smoke. Collins panicked, called 911, and helplessly watched her car burst into flames.

“It was just gone, like that. I couldn’t even believe what was happening,” she said.

Collins said she bought the car from a used car dealership a year ago and assumed the recalls had been taken care of by the dealer.

“All cars have some little recalls here and there,” Collins said. “If there was anything, I didn’t think it would be anything where I could have lost my entire family.”

Collins said she is a housekeeper in a nursing home. She lives paycheck to paycheck, and said she can’t afford a down payment on another used car, particularly since she said she’s still paying on the Sorento.

At the Better Business Bureau in Grandview Heights, president Judy Dollison said that recall research needs to be built into buying a used car.

Federal law dictates that new cars cannot be sold with an open recall, Dollison explained. However, used cars can be sold with open recalls.

“You want to do your research up front,” Dollison said. “Make sure before you purchase the car that you get on and determine if there’s any open recalls that haven’t been fixed. And also, again, make sure you’re working with a dealership you can trust.

“It is still important to check the VIN number, because not all cars within a particular model will have that safety recall.”

Dollison added that people can find a reliable used-car dealership through

Kelly Blue says that nearly 300,000 vehicles were recalled in January 2021 for risk of engine compartment fire. Earlier, in January 2019, Kia recalled 71,000 vehicles due to fuel leaks causing a fire risk.

Consumers typically find out about recalls through the mail from their vehicle’s manufacturer. Letters tell owners how to get the issue fixed, how long the repair should take, and when the fix will be available. There’s no charge, according to the BBB.

Collins said Kia helped her with a rental through the end of the month and that a fire investigator is currently inspecting the car.

NBC4 reached out to Kia for a comment. Kia is researching the situation and will provide an update as soon as one is available.