Phantom braking, and sudden unintended acceleration issues are the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
According to Reuters, the 2023 Tesla Model 3 has been revamped in an endeavor to cut production costs and boost the appeal of the electric sedan launched in 2017. The focus is reportedly to reduce the complexity and number of components in the car’s interior, and in this way, drive costs down. The Model 3 is already the brand’s cheapest EV and aimed at the mass market. But the revamp hasn’t solved problematic issues, including phantom braking, that have plagued the car since Day 1.
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Most Common Problems with the 2023 Tesla Model 3
All the complaints lodged by consumers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) between November 12 and December 11, 2022, relate to phantom braking, problems with the emergency brakes, and/or sudden unintended acceleration, and issues with cruise control. Two of the complaints report crashes. It appears that these problems might all be inter-related.
One third of the NHTSA complaints about the 2017 launch model mention these same issues.
But there are other problems too. For example, a review on Kelley Blue Book (KBB) gives the 2023 Model 3 just 1 out of 5 stars stating it is fun to drive but unreliable. After coming home from work one night, the driver experienced complete electrical power loss. That’s bad enough, but “Tesla was unable to diagnose the issue,” even though they had it for more than a month.
Another reviewer blames a “system malfunction” for his car getting “totaled.” “These cars have way too many problems.”
“In winter, (the) battery will only give you half-mileage performance, and (the) price for that compact car is insanely expensive,” says another owner.
Several KBB reviews also mention poor build quality, which is something we mention in our posts about the 2022 and 2021 models.
2023 Tesla Model 3 Complaint Summary
|Number of Complaints
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
|Vehicle Speed Control
|Unknown Or Other
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
|Lane Departure: Assist
Phantom Braking Problems
Of the 8 complaints filed with the NHTSA about the 2023 Tesla Model 3, half mention phantom braking. But, these same complaints also mention emergency braking problems once and cruise control issues at least 3 times.
An owner from Iowa states that when phantom braking occurred, it was when both cruise control and autopilot were enabled. The Model 3 had slowed from between 70 and 50 mph very quickly “when there was no object nearby that would cause a collision. This is both frightening and upsetting, as such sudden braking could cause an accident, especially with any car following me from behind.”
An owner from Minnesota was traveling on the interstate at more than 75 mph with cruise control engaged. The Model 3’s emergency braking system braked twice during one trip. “The first felt like a fluke (when the) speed was reduced by 10-ish miles per hour. The second time was terrifying. I was traveling (at) approximately 77 mph on the interstate and out of nowhere, my vehicle slowed down significantly. I was too scared of getting hit from behind to look at the speedometer to know how much it actually braked, but it felt like it dropped down to 30 mph out of nowhere.”
The complaint goes on to say that because they were “scared out of our minds, wondering why and how this happened,” they immediately Googled the problem. That’s when they found out about phantom braking.
“I have owned this car for less than a week and now I am scared to use cruise control. I don’t even have the self driving or advanced auto pilot (feature). Thank God no one was hurt. This is more than a safety issue, this could be life and death.”
What Does Tesla Say About the Braking Issues?
There is nothing on record from Tesla about the 2023 Model Y that deals with this issue. In fact, as of mid-December, 2022, there are zero manufacturer communications. But then, there are only 2 communications on file for the 2022 model, both service bulletins. These relate to some Heat Pump Model 3 vehicles that were built without a hydraulic control unit “wake-up wire.” It states, amongst other things, that “in rare circumstances, braking and stability control related alerts may appear on the instrument cluster and touchscreen during the vehicle power-on process.” If they get customer complaints, dealerships are instructed to retrofit an HCU wake-up wire.
There are also 2 open NHTSA investigations into 2021-2022 Model 3 vehicles. This relates to “unexpected brake activation,” and is the result of hundreds of complaints made to the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). This is, of course, phantom braking. It is likely that the 2023 model will be added to investigation as more complaints emerge.
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Problems with the Electrical System
It would seem given that an EV would have a reliable electrical system, but that seems to be one of the biggest problems with the Model 3.
One user on the Tesla Motor Club Forum said, “Hello, I got my new 2022 model 3 LR last week (Dec 30). On Jan 1st, I got the message ‘vcfront 192’ and the model 3 was unable to drive. The screen worked good, but drive shift could not work at all. After few minutes, it worked and It was able to be driven. Jan 4th, I got the same issue and never fixed. My model 3 is in the service center. They have not told me why yet. If you have some experiences about it, please give me any information for me. I cannot find out enough information about the issue on google. I cannot believe it…it is just brand new one…”
Tesla isn’t a stranger to electrical system issues. This problem listed above requires a brand new battery, which is simply ridiculous. But, even older models suffered from an electrical system defect that required the touchscreen to be recalled. These parts seem like basic components that shouldn’t fail in an EV, yet Tesla seems to fail every which way around. It doesn’t seem that the Model 3 can “go anywhere” after all, especially when the car is in the shop for a battery replacement.
Issues with Sudden Unintended Acceleration
Sudden unintended acceleration (SUA), is a malfunction identified when a vehicle suddenly accelerates and speeds up without driver control. While SUA is often a result of driver error, it also happens when there’s an electronic malfunction inside a vehicle. You might be able to stop SUA by braking hard. But there are many reported cases of drivers saying that a malfunction prevents them from braking and they cannot control the vehicle.
Just one day after picking up a new 2023 Tesla Model 3, an owner from New Jersey crashed after an SUA episode. “I was pulling into a parking spot, coming to a stop, and the car, within seconds, accelerated into a building. There was no warning at all. Also, after the collision a warning popped on the screen saying that the emergency brake was disabled. This was the first time seeing this alert, and I did not disable anything.”
An owner from California also experienced spontaneous SUA. According to the NHTSA complaint, it happened just after getting an update (presumably a software update). The “car accelerated by itself” just after the driver had exited the freeway” and pulled my foot off the pedal.” At first, “it started to decelerate, then there was a chime sound and the car suddenly shot forward.”
The driver slammed on the brakes as quickly as possible. “Luckily no-one was around. The driving conditions were terrible. It was raining hard and (it was) cold. I also just canceled autopilot by signaling right before exiting.”
Could a Faulty Cruise Control Function Be the Issue?
One of the complainants, an owner from California, describes how cruise control was accidentally activated while moving the car to Drive mode. This “resulted in (the) car moving on its own from a stopped position in (the) garage.” Before he realized what had happened, the car had rear-ended another parked car. “Luckily no human was in front of the car and thus grave body injury was avoided. The car speed might have been less than 20 mph.” There was no front collision avoidance warning, and the emergency brakes didn’t get deployed.
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