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

Forward collision avoidance, brake, steering, and electrical system issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2022 Tesla Model S is an EV that continues to make news. It’s hailed as the sedan that can “go anywhere” by the manufacturer, but customers with major problems find they aren’t going anywhere. Phantom braking is a significant issue as are steering problems that affect the horn. There are also multiple problems with the electrical system.

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

Most Common Problems with the 2022 Model S

Between January 6, 2022, and mid-September 2023, 80 2022 Tesla Model S owners complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the EV. More than 30% of the complaints are about forward collision avoidance issues. Most relate to phantom braking, which many owners describe as “a death trap.”  There are a handful of complaints listed as a service brake problem, but almost all are linked to forward collision avoidance.

Steering is another big issue. Like other Tesla models, this is related to the touch button for the horn and has led to emergency incidents. Many of the steering complaints are linked with the electrical system. However, there are other electrical problems too.

But, like other Tesla models, the S is also the subject of numerous recalls and investigations.

A total of 11 recalls relate to 8 components and systems. More than half are due to electrical system issues. Others relate to airbags, backover prevention, equipment, forward collision-avoidance, seatbelts, steering, and visibility. The 4 investigations relate to the electrical system, vehicle speed control, and an “unknown or other” problem. The latter is related to “sudden unintended acceleration events,” of which there are many.

2022 Tesla Model S Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Electrical System
Service Brakes
Vehicle Speed Control
Exterior Lighting
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings

Problems with Forward Collision Avoidance and Brakes

The Tesla Model S is designed with top-level safety systems, including forward collision avoidance, to provide a better drive. But when they malfunction, drivers are scared, with reason. Not all the complaints mention phantom braking, but the issue is clear.

An owner from Nevado tells how her husband was driving at about 70 mph when they experienced phantom braking. By the time they’d traveled 2,000 miles, it had happened about 8 times.

One of the earliest complaints states that the owner was using traffic-aware cruise control (TACC) while driving at normal highway speed. It was a clear day with no glare, and not “even shadows that could be misinterpreted as obstacles. This is extremely dangerous.” This happened twice, once when there were no other vehicles on the road, and once when one vehicle was “directly behind me.”

He also notes that “the only cruise control available is traffic-aware cruise control. There is no ‘basic’ cruise control, which means there is no way to avoid this scary phantom braking other than by not using cruise control at all. I have tried disabling all ADAS automatic braking features, yet this phenomenon still occurs.” Ultimately, he says: “I am scared that my car is going to kill me.”

An owner from Washington talks about “uncommanded FIRM phantom braking.” While it’s happened several times, frightening the driver and passengers and causing them to panic, he says it “cannot be reproduced at will.” The dealer says it’s a software problem.

Cruise control is a common factor linked to phantom braking. An owner from New Mexico says severe emergency braking happens “in cruise control or auto steering,” in a car that doesn’t have the auto-driving feature. “If cruise control or automatic steering is off and the driver has control, these events do not happen.”

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Steering Problems

An owner from California puts the steering problem in a nutshell. Listed as a steering, electrical, and unknown or other problem, the complaint states that the car “has a small capacitive touch button for (the) horn instead of (a) center-press.” The problem is that when there is an emergency, “it is not possible to react quickly and hit the horn.”

An owner from Pennsylvania had this very experience in an emergency. In January 2023, the Tesla Model S was hit while stationary in a parking lot. The owner, who was inside the car at the time, wasn’t able to “click the horn button as it is not in the center of the steering wheel.”

Another owner from California finds it difficult to use the “yoke style steering control” in even the least dangerous scenarios. “The yoke is also equipped with a horn button that I find impossible to find in an emergency. There were no test drives available when ordering this vehicle so I had no way of testing the yoke prior to taking delivery of the car.”

A discussion in Tesla Motors Club confirms that this is a very widespread issue. “My turn signal button works only 90% of the time. I have noticed this issue for over 10 months of ownership. It would happen less frequently and was just a minor annoyance. But now it’s getting to the point of happening once on a drive.” Because it happened so often, “I find myself missing turns or just overshooting my destination to avoid an accident. Yes, It’s LA and everyone tailgates so it’s quite a concern for me.

The overwhelming response from other Tesla drivers was that they thought it was user error. Now they are convinced, “It is definitely not a user error.”

Problems with the Electrical System

The electrical system in a Tesla should be leaps and bounds beyond others, considering this is an electric car. However, customers are flooding the internet with complaints. Some of the complaints are about the steering and horn issue, and others are linked to emergency (phantom) braking. Other problems include heating, the GPS system, and inaudible voice commands.

An owner from California states that “The navigation system keeps giving wrong directions due to an error in the GPS signal. I had to use my phone to route frequently. This is distracting and dangerous, and can lead to fatal accidents.”

An owner from Texas describes the voice commands as “a roulette wheel of results. 80% accuracy in detecting the specific command is the best Tesla manages.”

An owner from Pennsylvania had problems with “the audible seat belt reminder” failing to engage. Tesla said the vehicle needed a software update, but they weren’t able to do it “for unknown reasons.”

Another owner states: “Last night, I plugged in the car (2022 Tesla Model 3 Long Range) as I normally do and, via the Tesla app, scheduled the car cabin to be heated and the battery to be pre-conditioned by a specified time.” But the car didn’t heat up. ”The message on the display screen stated that the cabin heater was not functioning properly and that I should seek service. The temperature here in northern Wisconsin at the time of this incident was -13 F. Since I had planned to take a long trip across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this morning where there are few charging opportunities, and since I cannot assume that the battery pre-conditioned (which extends the range of the vehicle) if I had not aborted my trip I feel I could have been in a life-threatening situation due to extreme cold.”

What To Do If Your 2022 Model S is a Lemon

If you think that your 2022 Tesla Model S might be a lemon, call the Lemberg Law Helpline. The law makes Tesla pay legal fees, so we’ll assess your problems free of charge. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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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