Not long ago, we reported about a Tesla owner whose steering wheel literally came off the car into their hands while driving. It wasn't the only case, and now there are other EV owners experiencing similar issues. To no surprise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a probe into the issue, which is related to 120,000 Model Y electric crossovers.
Tesla has had its fair share of recalls, especially of late. Interestingly, some fans, owners, and investors continue to point out that most of Tesla's issues aren't really recalls since they can be fixed with a free over-the-air software update, which doesn't require a service visit.
That said, they are still officially considered recalls, no matter how they're addressed. If a car has a potential safety issue, it gets "recalled." Fortunately, in most cases, Tesla owners don't need to have a physical repair carried out, but they still need to have the safety concern inspected and addressed.
In this particular case, if it's found that Tesla Model Y vehicles have an issue that could cause the steering wheel to detach, the automaker obviously isn't going to be able to send out a software update to "shore things up." Model Y owners will likely have to go through the typical inspection and repair process.
NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation put out a public memo today, Wednesday, March 3, 2023, outlining an issue it's now investigating based on receiving two reports. According to Automotive News, the two reports are related to "complete detachment of the steering wheel from the steering column while driving."
The Model Y crossovers were both reportedly delivered to customers missing a bolt that holds the steering wheel onto the steering column. Both EVs had to have the steering wheels removed and then reattached properly. NHTSA shared via Automotive News:
"A friction fit maintained the connection between the steering wheel and the column splines during operation until separation. 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 issue is currently being investigated as part of a preliminary probe, which isn't the same as a recall. Once NHTSA has uncovered all of the information it needs related to the potential steering wheel concern on the Model Y, it will determine whether there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed, as well as how to move forward.