The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has escalated an investigation into Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y to an engineering analysis, following driver complaints about losing power steering.
The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened the probe into the Tesla power steering on 2023 Model 3 and Model Y units last July, and now the agency has officially escalated the investigation to an engineering analysis, as detailed in a document from the agency shared this week.
The shift to an engineering analysis could lead to a physical recall of the vehicles, and Tesla has given part numbers to the ODI as a part of the probe.
The investigation is being conducted over an estimated 334,569 total Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, following 2,388 complaints from owners reporting the loss of power steering control. In the complaints, some owners noted the inability to turn the steering wheel, while other complaints said the issue required increased effort to turn the steering wheel.
The majority of complaints also said that the vehicle displayed a warning message to drivers, saying “steering assist reduced,” either before or during the loss of power steering.
One accident has been associated with the problem, in which the driver wasn’t able to complete a right turn in an intersection and ended up colliding with another vehicle. The ODI also said it’s aware of more than 50 vehicles that were allegedly towed away from driveways, parking lots, the side of the road, and intersections.
Tesla and the ODI performed a joint inspection on the accident, and the two parties have identified steering rack part numbers 1044832-00-A and 1188832-00-A as potentially being associated with the problem.
The news comes as the latest in Tesla’s investigations and recalls, and as the most recent to likely require a physical fix. For example, recent recalls have been issued for Tesla’s vehicles due to the size of on-screen text, and due to an issue causing backup cams to not display correctly. In both of these cases, and in those of many other non-physical recalls, Tesla immediately deployed a software update to fix the issues.
You can see the full document from the NHTSA upgrading the power steering probe to an engineering analysis below.