Auto safety regulators in the US have opened an investigation into Tesla following reports that steering wheels on Model Y SUVs have fallen off while the vehicle is being driven. In documents posted on Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it’s aware of two separate incidents involving 2023 Tesla Model Y vehicles in which the SUV’s steering wheel completely detached from the steering column.
The preliminary evaluation was opened on March 4th and, according to NHTSA, applies to over 120,000 vehicles. In both instances, the brand-new vehicles were delivered without a necessary retaining bolt to attach the steering wheel to the column and had low mileage during the time of the incidents.
The Associated Press reports that one of the complaints stems from a now-viral Twitter post in which a family documented the steering wheel of their new Tesla Model Y falling off while driving the vehicle. Tesla quoted the vehicle owner $103.96 to repair the defect before removing the charge. The family has since been issued with a replacement Model Y.
NHTSA regulators will investigate how often the problem occurs before deciding if impacted Model Y vehicles will need to be recalled. Thousands of Model Y EVs were recalled by Tesla last month after it was discovered that bolts in the vehicles’ back seats had not been correctly secured, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.
There have been other recent recalls on Tesla EVs, including many that were dealt with via software updates, like the over 360,000 vehicles equipped with Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software that were recalled back in February over concerns for vehicle safety and traffic laws. Steering wheels becoming detached has also been previously reported on other Tesla EV models, but these incidents haven't resulted in a recall for the impacted vehicles.