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Tesla Model Y, Model 3 probed by NHTSA on loss-of-steering complaints

NHTSA's investigation covers 280K Tesla vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into certain Tesla (TSLA) vehicles regarding complaints about loss of steering control and power steering.

According to NHTSA’s preliminary investigation report, 12 separate owners have reported that their Tesla Model 3s and Model Y SUVs have experienced “loss of steering control” and warning messages that indicated that “power steering assist is reduced or disabled.” Of those 12 owners, five reported inability to steer the vehicle, and the seven others cited loss of power steering that resulted in increased effort to control the vehicle.

NHTSA says the investigation covers an estimated 280,000 Model 3 and Model Y sedans from model year 2023.

Tesla may not be able to fix a steering issue via a software update, which could lead to an expensive recall campaign with parts replacement.

Several motorist complaints detailed the seriousness of the issue.

A motorist from Washington state wrote in a complaint that “while driving my 2023 Model Y, the electronic power steering suddenly stopped working. Luckily there wasn’t a vehicle behind me, which avoided any accident. I had to use immense manual power on the steering to make the vehicle move to the side.”

Another owner from Hawaii said that a week into ownership, “the steering wheel would lock up randomly … This occurred 6 times on different dates before we were able to get it to the Tesla service department.” The owner said the car "currently remains at Tesla for the next 3 weeks while we await a new steering rack/motor."

Tesla Model 3 vehicles are shown for sale at a Tesla facility in Long Beach, California, U.S., May 22, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Tesla Model 3 vehicles at a Tesla facility in Long Beach, California, U.S., May 22, 2023. (Mike Blake/REUTERS) (Mike Blake / reuters)

This is not the first time Tesla has had issues with steering. An investigation in March, which eventually led to a safety recall, addressed reports of the steering wheel in Model Y SUVs becoming completely detached from the steering column. The fix required the fastening of a nut to the steering wheel.

The NHTSA is also currently investigating Tesla over claims of unintended acceleration and a “phantom braking” issue that arises when the car is using its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving feature. These investigations are all separate from a larger NHTSA investigation currently ongoing into Autopilot software where Tesla vehicles have struck emergency vehicles stopped at scenes of accidents.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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