2022 Tesla Model 3 Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Phantom braking issues top the list of complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

When it comes to electric vehicles, the 2022 Tesla Model 3 is one that consistently gains attention. After all, the EV manufacturer claims it can “go anywhere.” Maybe it can, but hundreds of owners are complaining that it stops for no reason.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019  2020  2021  2023

Most Common Problems

Complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tell a sorry story about the 2022 Tesla Model 3. Like many other Tesla models, the biggest villain is forward collision-avoidance in the form of phantom braking. The emergency braking system initiates for no reason, often resulting in crashes and injuries. Understandably, affected owners are seriously unhappy.

The punchline is that there are hundreds of them! In fact, the complaints about the 2022 Tesla Model 3 must be some sort of NHTSA record, with 562 complaints registered between December 4, 2021, and September 25, 2023. Of these, more than 82% are forward collision-avoidance complaints. Some are considered to be linked to other components and systems, especially vehicle speed control (of which there are 142 in all) and brakes (138).

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that the very first and most recent complaints relate to phantom braking. These are generally associated as being forward collision-avoidance issues. What might surprise some people is that there are 10 recalls for the 2022 Model 3, two of which relate to forward collision-avoidance. But there are none that relate to phantom braking or any other brake-related problems.

There are also 6 investigations into this EV, one of which is related to forward collision-avoidance. Issued in February 2022, it relates specifically to phantom braking.

With numbers like that, you’d assume that Tesla was notifying its dealership and suggesting ways to overcome these challenging malfunctions. But there are only 15 manufacturer communications on record with the NHTSA, and none relate to forward collision-avoidance. What’s important to remember is that manufacturers are obliged by law to provide all manufacturer communications, including technical service bulletins (TSBs). This applies to all current communications, as well as any dating back to 2012 that aren’t already on file with the NHTSA.

2022 Tesla Model 3 Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Service Brakes
Vehicle Speed Control
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Unknown Or Other
Electrical System
Lane Departure: Assist
Power Train

Forward Collision-Avoidance Problems

Tesla owners report that phantom braking is a huge issue. It appears to be particularly bad for 2022 Tesla Model 3 owners, with an ever-growing number of complaints that follow the same theme.

An early complaint was filed in December 2021 by an owner in Arizona. It states that while driving on a freeway at 75 mph the car suddenly applied the brakes “and brought the car down to 45 mph before I could disengage the autopilot function. This has happened multiple times with just cruise control and both cruise control/steering. All instances happened for unknown reasons, sometimes on a 2-lane highway or multiple lane freeway with nobody around except behind me.” It is understandably difficult to control a car when this happens. As the owner says, “This is a very scary and extremely dangerous issue.” The problem was reported to Tesla but there was no indication whether Tesla responded with a fix or not.

Tesla clearly isn’t moved to do anything about the issue, despite the still open investigation into phantom braking. Incredibly, by 4 May, 2022, shortly after the investigation was launched, the NHTSA had already received 758 reports of “unexpected brake activation” from 2021-2022 Tesla Model 3 and Y owners.

In December 2022, a year after the first 2022 Model 3 phantom braking complaint, an owner from Texas reported that his Tesla Model 3 was doing the same thing. He stated it happened “even when all safety options (are) turned off.” It also “occurs even when just using standard cruise control. Very dangerous to the point (that I) do not feel safe using cruise control.”

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Recent Phantom Braking Complaints

Complaints have continued saying the same thing over and over again at least until late September 2023.

A recent complaint is from an owner in New Mexico who experienced 4-5 phantom braking episodes on a trip to Texas. “One time the phantom brake episode occurred while passing. Fortunately, there (were) no cars traveling close behind us or there could have been a serious multi-car accident. We contacted Tesla service and they told us the car had no discernable problems.”

An owner from Idaho reported more than 50 phantom braking incidents in August 2023. All occurred while using adaptive cruise control. “Once I got home, I logged a case with Tesla and they said the cameras were dirty and that was the issue. On a second trip, taking the same route, I cleaned the cameras and had the exact same results. I have noticed taking the same route, I only have issues when it is sunny out. When it is dark, with less glare, the car operates okay. Autopilot and Tesla’s adaptive cruise control are incredibly dangerous. I requested to have a standard cruise control, which Tesla said was impossible to get.”

A huge number of 2022 Model 3 owners are expressing their fear that the phantom braking issue is an accident waiting to happen. A driver whose car engaged automatic emergency braking (AEB) when the driver of a car in front lightly tapped the brakes says “my car came to a complete stop. I tried to accelerate to prevent being rear-ended, but my accelerator was disabled and I had no control of my car.” This was “absolutely terrifying and needs serious attention.” Yet, “Tesla will not take responsibility, nor have they acknowledged the problem… I am just waiting to get in an accident at this point.”

What To Do If Your 2022 Model 3 is a Lemon

Lemon law recognizes vehicles with recurring problems as potential candidates. So, if your 2022 Tesla Model S has one or more recurring problems that affect the value or your use of the EV you might have a lemon. And if this is the case, you have the right to do something about it. Since the law makes Tesla pay the legal fees of lemon law cases, it’s not going to cost you anything. Lemberg Law will assess your case free of charge and advise a course of action. All you need to do is contact our Helpline or fill out a contact form.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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