We’ve all heard a clattering sound coming from inside the car while driving, right? Usually, it’s just a piece of trim coming loose or some poorly secured load in the trunk. But for two Tesla Model Y drivers, it was something more serious clattering loose: their steering wheel. Now, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has launched a probe into the rogue wheels.
According to Automotive News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into the Tesla crossover after reports of steering wheels detaching while driving. The report affects more than 120,000 Model Ys sold so far. According to the site:
In a document made public Wednesday, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said it was aware of two reports of “complete detachment of the steering wheel from the steering column while driving.”
Both vehicles were delivered to the owners with a missing retaining bolt that attaches the steering wheel to the steering column, the agency said in the document.
According to the agency, the steering wheels were stuck to the affected models with nothing more than a “friction fit,” which held them in place until a large enough force was applied. In the case of the two affected vehicles, the steering wheels have since been removed and properly re-installed.
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The NHTSA’s preliminary evaluation has now been launched to assess the scope and frequency of the potential safety issue. It will also investigate the manufacturing processes that led to the steering wheel issues.
The evaluation is the first step for the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation. During the process, engineers can request information from a manufacturer, including data on complaints, injuries, and warranty claims. Once the investigation is complete, the NHTSA will either close the investigation, or escalate the issue by sending a “recall request” letter to the manufacturer.
So far, the Office of Defects Investigation has already investigated Tesla for issues relating to its driver assist software following a series of crashes in the U.S. This investigation prompted Tesla to recall nearly 363,000 U.S. vehicles equipped with the software.
Another investigation was launched in February 2022 after the agency received hundreds of complaints about “phantom braking” in Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles.