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Tesla recalls nearly 27,000 EVs over defrosting problem

Tesla's third recall in recent weeks involves the Model 3, Model Y, Model S and Model X electric vehicles. An OTA update should fix it.

Tesla Model X Plaid
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Tesla Model X Plaid

Tesla's 2022 Model X is among the vehicle lines under recall for heat-pump-related defroster issues.

Tesla

Tesla is recalling 26,681 of its Model 3, Model Y, Model S and Model X electric vehicles due to windshields that may not defrost quickly enough. The condition, which affects select cars of the company's 2021 and 2022 model-year EVs, can result in diminished visibility, increasing the likelihood of a crash. 

According to documents posted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recall website, the issue stems from a software error that can open a heat-pump valve unintentionally. This condition can "trap the refrigerant inside the evaporator, resulting in decreased defrosting performance." That means the affected Tesla vehicles might not match the minimum performance requirement outlined in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard rules. Those same documents say that operators of affected vehicles will be made aware of the issue when their vehicles alert them "to the cabin heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning ('HVAC') system's performance being limited or unavailable."

The problem began to surface in December of 2021, when customers complained of "loss of heating performance in extreme cold weather conditions." Some of these reports were chronicled on social media. On Feb. 15, the automaker's CEO, Elon Musk, replied to a popular Canadian brand fan Twitter account, Drive Tesla, acknowledging the fault by saying, "Fixing this [problem] is a high priority." Tesla owners from other cold-weather countries including Sweden and Norway have also taken to social media to report the issue.

Tesla developed the heat pump for 2020 model-year vehicles after owners of older models complained of poor cold-weather performance. In March of 2020, Musk tweeted, "Model Y heat pump is some of the best engineering I've seen in a while. Team did next-level work."

Tesla is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to the defogging problem.

This is the third Tesla safety recall announced in recent weeks, including a Feb. 1 recall of nearly 820,000 models over a seat-belt chime malfunction and 54,000 units due to Full Self-Driving software that allowed vehicles to execute illegal rolling stops.

Tesla Model X Plaid gets a big interior overhaul

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While owners of affected vehicles are not expected to be notified of the safety action until an April 1 mailer, it's likely that the over-the-air, or OTA, firmware update will be available sooner. The free repair is not expected to require owners bringing in their vehicle for service. In fact, some vehicles may have already received the fix wirelessly via a firmware update. Concerned owners can call Tesla customer service at 1-877-798-3752 for more information.

The rise of OTA update fixes to such problems suggests that new, clarifying terminology from the federal government for these types of virtual, software-based actions may be in order -- at least in cases where there is no need to service a vehicle in person and no actual mechanical fixes are required. 

Tesla did not immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment on this issue. The automaker no longer operates a public relations department that would typically field such requests.

Watch this: 2021 Tesla Model Y review: Why you shouldn't buy Tesla's littler SUV
Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.

Article updated on February 9, 2022 at 7:15 AM PST

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Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
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