Feds Accelerate Tesla Steering Probe

Thousands of complaints sparked investigation that could lead to recall of 2023 Models 3 and Y.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
  • 10+ years in insurance and personal finance content

  • 30+ years in media, PR, and content creation

Evelyn leads Insurify’s content team. She’s passionate about creating empowering content to help people transform their financial lives and make sound insurance-buying decisions.

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John Leach
Edited byJohn Leach
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John LeachInsurance Copy Editor
  • Licensed property and casualty insurance agent

  • 8+ years editing experience

John leads Insurify’s copy desk, helping ensure the accuracy and readability of Insurify’s content. He’s a licensed agent specializing in home and car insurance topics.

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Published February 7, 2024 at 4:00 PM PST | Reading time: 2 minutes

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Federal investigators are now actively analyzing steering rack parts that have been linked to thousands of Tesla crashes. Typically, an engineering analysis is the last investigative step before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a recall.

Affected drivers reported being unable to turn the steering wheel either while driving or when starting their vehicles. Most reports were for vehicles traveling between 5 mph and 35 mph — with at least one steering wheel failure at 75 mph, the Office of Defects Investigation said.

The probe’s progress

In a Feb. 1 announcement, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said it’s escalating the probe initially opened on July 28, 2023. The initial evaluation stemmed from 12 reports by 2023 Model 3 and Y owners. Additionally, investigators uncovered 2,264 complaints through manufacturer data.

Most drivers reported seeing a warning message around the time of the steering failure. In at least 50 cases, drivers were unable to move their vehicles after the steering failure and had to be towed out of intersections, roadways, driveways, and parking lots, the ODI said.

Turning the Tesla off and back on temporarily solved the problem for some Tesla owners, but the problem recurred. Replacing the steering rack resolved the issue.

Tesla’s troubles

The high sales price of Teslas isn’t the only high cost drivers of the EVs face. Tesla car insurance is historically higher than coverage for other makes — an average of $231 per month for a Model 3, Insurify data shows. The average for a Model Y is $205 per month. By contrast, the overall national average cost of car insurance is $155 per month.

The high cost of replacement parts significantly contributes to higher insurance costs for Tesla owners. And the design of some Teslas makes it nearly impossible to replace a damaged battery — meaning an accident that would otherwise be minor may total a Tesla if the accident damages the battery.

In 2019, Tesla launched its own telematics-based car insurance product in select states. The coverage relies on real-time data that tracks driver behavior using technology already available in Models S, X, Y, and 3 vehicles. But Tesla insurance is currently facing a class-action lawsuit by policyholders who say Tesla overcharged them based on false forward-collision warnings.

What’s next?

After a preliminary evaluation of data and documents, the ODI will now conduct an engineering analysis of the affected steering racks. The analysis may include additional information requests to Tesla, information requests to other manufacturers, and parts testing.

If the analysis finds a defect that affects vehicle safety, the NHTSA can require Tesla to issue a recall of affected models.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content

Evelyn Pimplaskar is Insurify’s director of content. With 30-plus years in content creation – including 10 years specializing in personal finance – Evelyn’s done everything from covering volatile local elections as a beat reporter to building fintech content libraries from the ground up.

Before joining Insurify, she was editor-in-chief at Credible, where she launched and developed the lending marketplace’s media partnership’s content initiative and managed the restructuring of the editorial team to enhance content production efficiency. Formerly, as tax editor for Credit Karma, Evelyn built a library of more than 300 educational articles on federal and state taxes, achieving triple-digit year-over-year growth in e-files from organic search.

Her early career included work as a content marketer, vice president and managing officer of a boutique public relations agency, chief copy editor for 14 weekly Forbes publications, reporting for large and mid-sized daily newspapers, and freelancing for the Associated Press.

Evelyn is passionate about creating personal finance content that distills complex topics into relatable, easy-to-understand stories. She believes great content helps empower readers with the information they need to make important personal finance decisions.

John Leach
Edited byJohn LeachInsurance Copy Editor
Photo of an Insurify author
John LeachInsurance Copy Editor
  • Licensed property and casualty insurance agent

  • 8+ years editing experience

John leads Insurify’s copy desk, helping ensure the accuracy and readability of Insurify’s content. He’s a licensed agent specializing in home and car insurance topics.

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