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Recalls likely for Tesla Models 3 and Y

Steering wheel failures and phantom braking issues prompt NHTSA to take action

13 Mar 2023

TESLA’S travails look set to continue with news emerging that the battery electric vehicle manufacturer may be forced to recall up to 120,000 vehicles with suspect steering wheel fitment.


Additionally, the brand is fielding hundreds of complaints from US owners relating to a phenomenon dubbed ‘phantom braking’ affecting some Tesla models.


It comes on top of an ongoing stoush in between Tesla and various safety agencies in the United States regarding the dependability of the company’s autonomous drive system.


According to a report published by US outlet Automotive News this week, the United States automotive safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has opened a safety probe into 120,000 Tesla Model Y crossover SUVs for the possible detachment of its steering wheel.


The report says NHTSA’s Office of Defects and Investigation has received two reports of “complete detachment of the steering wheel from the steering column while driving”, with both cases said to be related to MY23 Model Y SUVs.


It is understood that both vehicles appear to have been delivered to the customers with a missing retaining bolt that attaches the steering wheel to the steering column. Tesla remediated the issue by removing and refitting the steering wheels according to the original specification.


“A friction fit maintained the connection between the steering wheel and the column splines during operation until separation,” said the NHTSA in a statement.


“Sudden separation occurred when the force exerted on the steering wheel overcame the resistance of the friction fit while the vehicles were in motion. Both known incidents occurred at low vehicle mileage.”


The NTHSA has opened a preliminary evaluation of the reported events “to assess the scope and frequency of the potential safety issue as well as the associated manufacturing processes”.


Most NHTSA investigations start as preliminary evaluations – in which agency engineers request information from the manufacturer, including data on complaints, injuries, and warranty claims – before the investigation is either closed or a recall issued.


Tesla is currently embroiled in several NHTSA safety investigations relating to the company’s Full Self-Driving system after a string of injurious crashes in the United States, one of which was fatal.


As a result of one particular investigation, Tesla recalled nearly 363,000 vehicles sold in the US that are either equipped with or have pending installation of its Full Self-Driving Beta software.


Yet another NHTSA investigation involving Tesla relates to so-called ‘phantom braking’ where the vehicle unexpectedly activates the automatic emergency braking (AEB) for no apparent reason.


The investigation started last month and affects some 416,000 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y variants.


Locally, and according to the Australian government’s vehicle recalls website, Tesla vehicles including the Model S, 3, X, and Y have been the subject of various recalls last year but not for the issues mentioned herein.


Tesla owners should continue to monitor communications relating to their vehicle and take any action advised by the manufacturer in a timely manner.

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