NHTSA escalates Tesla power steering probe to engineering analysis

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has upgraded its investigation over potential power steering problems in some Tesla vehicles, moving the inquiry into an engineering analysis phase.

This upgrade could lead to a recall, affecting 334,569 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles from the 2023 model year.

The probe initially began in July 2023 after the NHTSA received twelve complaints regarding the loss of steering control in 2023 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. Since the investigation was announced, the number of complaints has surged to 2,388, with incidents ranging from complete inability to turn the steering wheel to increased effort required for steering.

The agency has linked at least one crash to these steering issues, where a driver was unable to complete a turn, leading to a collision. The NHTSA also says they are aware of over 50 incidents where the vehicle had been towed as a result of the issue, adding that it can sometimes be corrected by rebooting the vehicle, but that the issue returns, and was only fully corrected after the steering rack was replaced.

The engineering analysis by the NHTSA will look into the conditions leading to and the consequences of steering rack failures in the affected Tesla models. There have been reports of the steering feeling “notchy” or “clicky” before or after the loss of power steering, pointing to potential issues with the steering rack mechanism.

Tesla has previously addressed some vehicle issues through remote software updates. However, if the NHTSA determines that physical parts need to be repaired or replaced to resolve the steering problems, Tesla could face an actual recall, which would be a more costly and complex solution.

Interestingly, Tesla recently issued a over-the-air (OTA) recall in Australia impacting 4,382 units of 2022-2023 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles for an issue “where the steering wheel may feel notchy when operating the vehicle in cold temperatures.”

You can read the full ODI Resume below.

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