Tesla Model Y steering wheel detachments prompt NHTSA probe

Tesla is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after two reports of steering wheel detachments on Model Y vehicles. The probe was launched on March 4.

The NHTSA reports two complaints, one from the Office of Defects Investigation and another from the manufacturer, where vehicles were delivered vehicles that were void of a retaining bolt that attaches the steering wheel to the steering column. This caused steering wheels to fall off while driving, and both occurred with 2023 Model Y vehicles, documents showed.

Reuters saw the NHTSA’s investigation initially.

NHTSA also stated that the two vehicles under investigation received “an end-of-line repair requiring removal and re-installation of the steering wheel.” The steering wheels were connected by a friction fit and column splines during operation until they ultimately failed and disconnected. “Sudden separation occurred when the force exerted on the steering wheel overcame the resistance of the friction fit while the vehicles were in motion.”

The agency said the disconnections both happened at a low vehicle mileage.

One instance was covered by Teslarati in early February, as Prerak Patel’s Model Y steering wheel simply disconnected just six days after taking delivery on January 24. Patel was driving on the highway with his family when the steering wheel disconnected, and they were able to pull off the roadway and come to a stop.

Tesla ultimately repurchased the vehicle from Patel but denied that the Model Y contained any defect, nonconformity, or any other warrantable condition. The vehicle was replaced, and Patel said his motivation for bringing publicity to the event was to “make sure this doesn’t happen to any other family, what happened to us.”

The NHTSA’s preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s two steering wheel detachments has been opened in order to assess the scope, frequency, and manufacturing processes that may cause this to occur, the agency said.

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