American regulators are looking into a potential concern relating to the power steering systems on 2023 Tesla Model 3s and Ys. These vehicles could lose steering assistance, making them difficult to turn, and impacting a driver’s ability to control them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says its investigation into this possible issue has turned up a total of 2,388 complaints relating to the alleged power steering faults. Among those, it has found one crash that may be associated with it.
Drivers who submitted complaints about this issue said that the effort required to turn the steering wheel increased, and some said that it rose to such a degree that they could not turn their Tesla at all.
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According to regulators, there have been multiple allegations of drivers blocking intersections and roadways. The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) received reports of over 50 vehicles allegedly being towed due to this issue, with incidents in various locations like driveways, parking lots, roadsides, and intersections. Some complaints mentioned temporarily resolving the problem by power cycling the vehicle, but the issue persisted until the steering rack was replaced.
NHTSA says that issues were reported at a variety of speeds. A third of complaints stated that they lost power steering at speeds of less than 5 mph (8 km/h), around half occurred at speeds of between 5 and 10 mph (8-16 km/h), and the remainder occurred at speeds above 35 mph. The highest speed at which a loss of power steering was reported was 75 mph (121 km/h).
The majority of complaints reported that the loss of their ability to steer was accompanied by a warning message stating, “steering assist reduced.” These messages were shown before, during, and after drivers experienced a problem.
Another warning that a vehicle might have experienced this issue came in the form of “notchy” or “clicky” steering around the time of the incident. Some owners reported that turning the vehicle off and on again made the power steering resume, but they said that the problem reoccurred until the steering rack was replaced.
NHTSA has now launched an Engineering Analysis into the issue, which could affect as many as 334,569 Model Ys and 3s. It will seek to assess what conditions lead to and stem from what it described as steering rack failures. If it determines that a risk to drivers’ safety exists, it may demand that Tesla start a recall campaign.