US regulator investigates Tesla for steering wheels ‘that can fall off’

Tesla car plant  (via REUTERS)
Tesla car plant (via REUTERS)

US regulators have opened an investigation into Tesla after reports that the steering wheel came off while being driven.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said its probe covers an estimated 120,000 vehicles from the 2023 Model Y make of car.

The agency said in two cases, the Model Ys were delivered to customers with a missing bolt that holds the wheel to the steering column.

A friction fit held the steering wheels on, but they separated when force was exerted while the cars were being driven. The Model Y is Tesla’s top-selling vehicle.

According to agency documents, both incidents happened while the vehicles had low mileage on their clocks.

The probe is the first step before any potential recall could be issued. It will look at how often the problem happens, how many vehicles were affected and at Tesla’s manufacturing process.

The agency said it received a complaint from a parent who had bought a new Model Y five days earlier and was in New Jersey on January 29 when “all the sudden” the steering wheel fell off.

The complainant said: “Was lucky there was no car behind and able to pull on divider.”

The NHTSA said “both vehicles received an end of line repair requiring removal and reinstallation of the steering wheel."

Separately, the regular said it was opening a new special crash investigation into a recent fatal crash in California involving a 2014 Tesla Model S.

The car’s advanced driver assistance system was suspected of being in use during the crash.

Last month, NHTSA said it asked Tesla for more information about the fatal collision involving a fire truck in Contra Costa County, California.

The fire department said the Tesla struck one of its fire trucks and the driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Standard has contacted Tesla for comment.