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Tesla’s latest recall can’t be solved with a software update

Tesla’s latest recall can’t be solved with a software update


It’s a surprise rare physical safety recall affecting over 24,000 Model 3 cars caused by incorrect reassembly of rear-left and center seat belt components

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Tesla is issuing a safety recall on over 24,000 Model 3 vehicles that can’t be fixed with a software update this time. The affected cars may have an improperly fastened rear-left seat belt buckle and center seat belt anchor (via Electrek). All model years are affected (2017–2022) but it’s not an issue from the factory — it’s caused by a previous service visit where the seat belt anchor was removed for another repair.

Tesla submitted a safety recall report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on October 21st. In the report, it says Tesla service technicians noticed that second-row center seat belt anchors weren’t being secured properly after previous repairs that require its disassembly and reassembly. Both components share a bolt.

An internal investigation began in August after some service technicians noticed the loose components. In total, 105 occurrences of incorrect seat belt reassembly at US service centers were found. It’s not revealed which service centers are specifically responsible for the error. Tesla has not determined any crashes or injuries caused by this issue.

Owners affected by the recall are being notified by email and will receive notification in the mail by December 20th. In the email, Tesla states that no action is required at this time and that it is planning “pop-up service events” where customers can get the issue fixed. The remedy is apparently fairly simple: Tesla will inspect the buckle and anchor to make sure they’re properly secured.

If you’d rather not wait for a pop-up you could also contact Tesla to get your Model 3 inspected at a regular service appointment. Tesla does describe some identifiable signs of the issue in the NHTSA report:

When the second-row left seat belt buckle and/or center seat belt anchor is not fastened to correct specifications, one or both components may be loose when pulled up and away from the second-row seat bench.

It’s rare for Tesla to have a recall that actually requires taking the car in, as most of its previous recalls have been remedied with an over-the-air (OTA) software update. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is known to dislike the term “recall” since it can imply greater issues with the car beyond a simple software push.

Tesla pushed multiple OTA updates just this past year to fix issues like windows that can roll up and pinch fingers and the Boombox feature that obscured the pedestrian safety warning system. Similarly, there was also a muted seatbelt reminder chime issue, a situation where infotainment video games were playable while driving, and Tesla had to roll back on the unsafe rolling stop behaviors of its Full Self-Driving software.

Below is the full email sent to customers:

Tesla has decided to proactively recall certain Model 3 vehicles manufactured between 2017-2022 to inspect the assembly of the second-row left-hand seat belt buckle and the center seat belt anchor to ensure components are fastened to specification. Our records indicate that your vehicle(s) may be affected by this recall.

Servicing certain components of Model 3 vehicles requires disassembly of the second-row left-hand seat belt buckle and center seat belt anchor, both of which are fastened with the same bolt. One or both components may have been incorrectly reassembled during service. We are not aware of any crashes or injuries relating to this condition.

No immediate action is required if you own a Model 3 vehicle affected by this recall. Although you may schedule an appointment to have this recall performed, Tesla will reach out with details to coordinate local pop-up service events to specifically address this recall for customer convenience. If you have an existing service appointment for any other concern, Tesla will service the necessary components during your visit.

Thank you for being a Tesla customer, and we apologize for this inconvenience.