Till the Wheels Fall Off: Nissan Recalls Ariya and the NHTSA Investigates the Tesla Model Y for Detaching Steering Wheels

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

We don’t often get to talk about recalls from different manufacturers in the same article, but here we are. Nissan recalled its new electric SUV over concerns that the steering wheel could fall off, while the NHTSA is investigating claims that the Tesla Model Y’s wheel could detach due to a missing bolt. Nissan’s recall is small, with just 1,063 vehicles, but if the investigation yields a recall, Tesla’s could include up to 120,000 Model Y SUVs. 

Though Nissan included more than a thousand Ariya EVs in its recall, the automaker said that just .18 percent of them (two vehicles) likely have the defect, which involves an incorrectly installed or tightened steering wheel bolt. Nissan is unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue but said that dealers would replace the steering wheel bolt for free if it is found to be defective. Interestingly, there have been three reports of loose steering wheels from dealers.

Tesla’s issue is a bit larger, dragging in 120,000 Model Y SUVs. The NHTSA said that the SUV’s friction-fit steering wheel attachment could loosen if the forces applied are greater than it can handle. Two incidents have been recorded, and both were recorded at low vehicle mileage. That said, the reports are frightening, outlining a “complete detachment of the steering wheel from the steering column while driving. 

[Image: Nissan]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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7 of 22 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Mar 08, 2023

    Do I get a hat tip? I posted about this earlier (the Model Y investigation).

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Mar 08, 2023

    Most cars have a friction-fit (interference fit is the correct term) steering wheel, usually with tapered splines. After that, a nut on the end of the shaft, sometimes with an e-clip or something else in a machined groove on the shaft, to keep the nut from backing off. I've pulled plenty of steering wheels in my time, replacing turn signal switches, clock springs, etc., or just replacing a wheel with a different kind. I've never found one that didn't use a nut to hold it on.

    Usually a steering wheel puller is required to get the wheel off - I've never used the redneck method of rocking it back and forth until it comes off (it can smack you in the face unexpectedly). Then when reinstalling it, cranking the nut down forces it back on the shaft.

    • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Mar 08, 2023

      He said "cranking the nut back on the shaft". Hu hu hu hu.

      I'm sorry, it's late and this is what happens to me.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Mar 09, 2023

    Here is the Nissan recall notice. "Certain Nissan Ariya vehicles underwent a recent port modification activity to replace the steering wheel due to a quality issue. As part of the activity, a technician may have inadvertently applied the incorrect torque settings to the steering wheel bolt. In certain cases, the steering wheel bolt may not have been installed. "

    The issue occurred outside the regular production facility. At the production plant, every OEM gives extra attention to things like airbags, steering wheels and brakes.

  • Islander800 Islander800 on Mar 09, 2023

    "Friction-fit steering wheel"?

    Is Elon telling us that his vehicle doesn't also have a retaining nut holding it on, like every other vehicle, as pointed out in another letter? Or was his assembly line worker so overworked they didn't notice the frigging retaining nut wasn't installed? Maybe they were too preoccupied with their bathroom break they weren't allowed to take?....

    • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Mar 10, 2023

      Yup. That sentence zoomed out to me! Can that really be acceptable engineering? I could imagine if the "friction fit" was the preamble to mating to permanent adhesive coated surface.