Tesla's Model Y Under Investigation Over Detached Steering Wheels

Two complaints prompt a probe by US auto safety officials.

Kourtnee Jackson Senior Editor
Kourtnee covers TV streaming services and home entertainment news and reviews at CNET. She previously worked as an entertainment reporter at Showbiz Cheat Sheet where she wrote about film, television, music, celebrities, and streaming platforms.
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2 min read
gray Tesla model Y sits on an illuminated platform at a car show

A Tesla Model Y SUV on display at the 2023 Brussels Motor Show.

Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into 2023 Tesla Model Y vehicles. The agency announced on Wednesday that it's conducting a preliminary probe following two reports that the steering wheel detached while driving. The investigation will cover roughly 120,000 of the crossover SUVs. 

Consumer complaints, followed by preliminary investigations, are typically the first steps that help the agency determine whether a recall is warranted. No recalls have been issued at this time. 

According to the NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation, two customers received their vehicles with a missing retaining bolt, which is meant to connect the steering wheel to the steering column, and the steering wheel fell off while the car was in motion. In its summary document, the agency notes that a friction fit kept the wheel in place until force exertion caused it to separate from the steering column. According to the NHTSA, "both incidents occurred at low vehicle mileage." 

An NHTSA web page about the Tesla Model Y shows a steering-related complaint from Feb. 1. In the summary of the complaint, which lists a tweet that includes images, the customer says he was driving on the highway on Jan. 29 when the steering wheel fell off. The driver was able to safely pull over to the side of the road and felt fortunate another car wasn't following behind when the mishap occurred. 

The NHTSA says both Tesla customers received repairs that required removal and reinstallation of the wheel. 

Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but the automaker no longer operates a public relations department, which would typically field such requests.