2023 Tesla Model Y Problems & Issues Analysis

Forward collision avoidance, vehicle speed control, and steering issues are among the top complaints from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

Since its launch in 2020, Tesla has used the tagline, “Designed for Safety,” to describe the Model Y. However, complaints from Model Y owners regarding safety issues have been increasing for the past two years, and it’s no different for the new 2023 model. Owners continue to complain about many of the same issues, including phantom braking and sudden acceleration problems, as well as major steering problems.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2020   2021   2022

Most Common Problems with the 2023 Tesla Model Y

There are widespread reports of Tesla delaying delivery of 2023 Model Y (MY) vehicles until well into 2023. At the same time, it is clear that some people in the U.S. were already driving the 2023 MY in November 2022, even though it is not known how many have taken delivery.

Nevertheless, by mid-December 2022, there were already complaints mounting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and on the Tesla Motor Club forum.

Forward collision avoidance and vehicle speed control issues topped the list of problems owners of the 2023 Model Y owners were reporting to the NHTSA. Most focused on unexpected, random braking, a common Tesla issue better known as phantom braking. Other components that consumers label as problematic are the structure, service brakes, and the electric vehicle’s electrical system.

By mid-February 2024, complaints to the NHTSA had risen to 605, with forward collision control (332) and vehicle speed control (121) still topping the list. However, steering has now also emerged as a major problem, with 110 owners lodging complaints between February 1, 2023, and February 12, 2024. Many other components and systems have also joined the list of complaints.

Before we look at the most common problems with the 2023 MY in more detail, we are going to outline problems experienced by owners since 2020. You will see how some of the same issues, particularly phantom braking, continue to recur.

Prior Year Complaints, Recalls, Investigations, and Manufacturer Communications

Forward collision avoidance and vehicle speed control complaints continue to rise, with steering and other problems joining the complaints lists. Recalls and investigations have risen for all prior models, and manufacturer communications remain surprisingly low in numbers.

2020 Model Y

As of mid-December 2022, there were 144 complaints about the launch 2020 model. There was a total of 25 manufacturer communications on record with the NHTSA dated between April 9, 2020, and April 29, 2022. One of these concerns MY vehicles built without a hydraulic control unit wake-up wire. It states that “in rare circumstances,” braking and stability control-related alerts may appear on the instrument cluster and touchscreen during the vehicle power-on process.

As the NHTSA points out, the law requires manufacturers to provide the NHTSA with these communications. They include all notifications to dealerships including service and other technical bulletins.

By mid-February 2024, there were 208 complaints about this model. Like the 2023 model, forward collision avoidance (94) and vehicle speed control (33) top the list. There are 15 complaints about steering and a total of 48 manufacturer communications.

By mid-December 2022, there was a total of 15 recalls, including one that related to the unexpected activation of the automatic emergency brake. Another is due to a problem with the car’s “rolling stop” functionality that may result in it failing to stop at a stop sign. By mid-February 2024, this number had risen to 18.

In December 2022, there were 3 NHTSA investigations on file, 2 of which were still open:

  1. Autopilot & First Responder Scenes, “motivated by an accumulation of crashes in which Tesla vehicles, operating with Autopilot engaged, struck stationary in-road or roadside first responder vehicles tending to pre-existing collision scenes.”
  2. Tesla’s “Passenger Play,” which complaints state has the potential to distract drivers.

By mid-February 2024, there were 6 NHTSA Office of Defects Investigations, the most recent of which (June 29, 2023) is because of sudden unintended acceleration. It is one of three investigations that are still open, and it affects every Model Y MY as well as all the Model 3, Model S, and Model X vehicles.

2021 Model Y

Complaints about the 2021 model had lept to 614 by mid-December 2022. Communications totaled only 12, and they were circulated between February 5, 2021, and April 29, 2022. Two of these were related to the stability control problem mentioned above. There were 14 recalls including the two mentioned above.

There were 4 NHTSA investigations on file, 3 of which were open. These included the two that relate to the 2020 model in December, as well as another, Unexpected Brake Activation. This is an investigation into the so-called phantom braking problem so many consumers have had and continue to experience.

By mid-February 2024, there were 810 complaints. Again, forward collision avoidance tops the list, with an incredible 526 complaints followed by service brakes (163), vehicle speed control (144), electrical system (80), and steering (50). But at 33, still a minimal number of manufacturer communications.

There are now 17 recalls and 7 investigations on file, 4 of which are still open.

2022 Model Y

There were 383 complaints about the 2022 model by mid-December 2022, and only one manufacturer communication, dated April 29, 2022. This is related to the same stability control problem found in previous models. There had been 9 recalls and 3 investigations, 2 of which were still open. These are Autopilot & First Responder Scenes and Unexpected Brake Activation, both mentioned above.

By mid-February 2024, complaints had escalated to 613, again with forward collision avoidance (424) and vehicle speed control (118) emerging as the biggest problem. There are only 21 manufacturer communications. There are now 14 recalls, two of which relate to steering, and 6 investigations, half of which are still open.

2023 Model Y

By mid-December, there were only 4 complaints on record, filed between November 18 and November 28, 2022. There were already 2 recalls, but no manufacturer communications or investigations. Looking at the first handful of complaints, we recognized that the NHTSA would be likely to include this model in the Unexpected Brake Activation investigation. We were right!

By mid-February 2024, there are 605 complaints, more than half of which (332) are about forward collision avoidance. There are 10 recalls, 5 investigations, and 26 manufacturer communications.

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2023 Tesla Model Y Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
221
221
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
180
180
Vehicle Speed Control
127
127
Steering
114
114
Service Brakes
113
113
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
71
71
Unknown Or Other
65
65
Electrical System
42
42
Visibility/wiper
35
35
Lane Departure: Assist
23
23

Phantom Braking Problems

A 2023 MY owner from Colorado had only 500 miles on the clock when he started experiencing phantom braking while driving at 75 mph. According to the complaint, he experienced the failure three times within two days. No warning lights were illuminated.

An Oregon owner states that when cruise control is activated in the 2023 Model Y, “it suddenly brakes for no apparent reason.” This happened suddenly, on a road trip, and recurred many times during the trip. “It’s quite scary and dangerous.”

Phantom braking is just one of the problems an owner from California describes. It started while he was driving at about 40 mph on a local road during rush hour. While making a lane change, without any warning, the car went into parking mode and the speed was reduced to 0 rapidly. This, the complaint states, was an “extremely dangerous situation” that increased the risk of being rear-ended. Because the driver was unable to put the car back into Drive mode, it had to be towed to a service center.

A member of the Tesla Motors Club writes that while driving from Tucson to Las Vegas he and his wife experienced 19 phantom braking incidents. They were driving mostly on an open desert highway. Every time, the car decided to “brake at highway speeds for no reason. In all cases there were no cars or obstructions in the way and this occurred at various stretches of the trip. The braking was very aggressive.”

They tried disabling autopilot features including emergency braking. But it continued to happen even when using regular cruise control with all the other features disabled.

“The experience was unpleasant and dangerous. If at any time during the phantom braking event there was a car following us closely there would have been an accident.”

Sudden Acceleration Problems

Another owner from California describes how the 2023 MY suddenly accelerated after the driver pulled slowly up to the curb while applying the brake. It jumped the curb next to a shopping center and hit the post outside a restaurant. It was a brand-new vehicle with just 10 miles on the odometer that had been delivered the previous day. There was no warning of any kind that this might happen.

A recent complaint from an owner in New York tells a very similar story. “After making a right turn, the car accelerated automatically and drove onto the sidewalk.” The driver tried hitting the brakes and turning the steering wheel, but both components were locked. As a result, the Model Y lost control and crashed into a flower pot, parked cars, and building pillars.

“Two weeks after the accident, Tesla sent out a recall notice in regards to autosteer which can increase risk of collision, but prior to this no notice/warning was in place. The police were involved and at the scene at the time of the event and a police report has been made.”

Despite the ongoing ODI investigation, there has been no recall that relates to sudden unintended acceleration. If the ODI’s initial suppositions are correct, this may be caused by “intermittent high electrical current demands on the vehicles’ 12VDC systems.”

Steering Problems

The Tesla Model Y shares the same steering problems as the Model 3, according to the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), which has been investigating the vehicles’ loss of steering control since July 28, 2023. The initial investigation was escalated to an Engineering Analysis on February 1, 2024. The most recent ODI describes the loss of steering control problem as frequently being “accompanied by driver-facing messages indicating that power steering assist is reduced or disabled.”

They have identified 2,388 complaints, one of which involved a crash. The driver was unable to complete a right hand turn in the intersection and hit another vehicle. The ODI recovered the steering rack with the owner’s permission.

Their resume of complaints include reports that drivers:

  • Find they can’t turn the steering wheel sometime at start-up and often during the drive cycle
  • Experience “speed” at start-up or while driving less than 5 mph. About ⅔ of the complaints describe this problem, with many reporting an inability to turn the steering wheel when this happens.
  • Experience the failure between 5-35 mph with 10% on open roads when traveling at 35 mph and over — sometimes up to 75 mph.
  • See a warning message, “Steering assist reduced”, either before, during or after a loss of steering control. Most complaints mention this.
  • Say the steering feels notchy” or “clicky” either prior to or just after they lose control of the steering.

The ODI is aware of multiple allegations of drivers blocking roadways and intersections as a result of the failures, with more than 50 vehicles having been towed because of it.

“Multiple complaints state they were able to temporarily remedy the condition by power cycling the vehicle, but the issue reoccurred until the steering rack was replaced.”

Steering Wheels May Detach

The ODI has another open investigation that relates to 2023 MY Tesla Model Y vehicles. This was prompted by two complaints that vehicles were delivered to new owners without the retaining bolt that attaches the steering wheel to the steering column. Both vehicles had to have their steering wheels removed and reinstalled.

The investigation, opened on March 4, 2023, is assessing “the scope, frequency, and manufacturing processes associated with this condition.”

Tesla Recalls that Relate to Steering

Tesla has issued two recalls that relate to steering. But neither of them acknowledges the many issues that the ODI is investigating — or the number of vehicles impacted by steering problems.

NHTSA Campaign Number 23V385000 warns that steering wheel fasteners on 137 2022-2023 Model Y vehicles may be loose. This could cause the steering wheel to disconnect from the steering column. If that happens it could “cause a loss of steering control and increase the risk of a crash.”

NHTSA Campaign Number 23V085000 warns that full self-driving (FSD) software can cause vehicles “to exceed speed limits or travel through intersections in an unlawful or unpredictable manner,” increasing the risk of a crash. Although the recall notice states that the electrical system and steering are affected, steering isn’t mentioned specifically. A total of 362,758 Tesla vehicles are affected, including the 2023 Model Y. The remedy is over-the-air software that Tesla was going to release.

Complaints

Many of the complaints to the NHTSA tell the same story as the ODI investigation into a loss of steering wheel control, and there are many reports of the Model Y crashing. Many of these combine unintended acceleration with steering problems.

There are other issues too including the steering wheel locking and a complete loss of power steering.

An owner from Massachusetts states that the Tesla “started skidding and didn’t respond to steering wheel control,” ultimately failing to make a turn and crashing into a ditch. The emergency brakes didn’t trigger and the airbags weren’t deployed. As a result, the driver was badly injured and transported to hospital by EMS.

An owner from California experienced steering system malfunction and failure after owning the vehicle for less than three months. He had had the car for two months when the steering rack had an internal fault. A Tesla-authorized repair shop replaced the steering rack. But 18 days later, the car veered to the right on its own while driving on a city street. “I then turned the steering wheel to the left, but the car did not turn to the left. My car then hit another vehicle that was parked on the right side of the street. The front of my vehicle was totally damaged on the right side. The entire left side of the other parked vehicle was also totally damaged. I was NOT on cruise control. I was NOT in self- driving mode.”

Could Galvanic Corrosion be Causing Steering Problems?

A non-U.S. resident filed a complaint, sharing reports on a Tesla forum in Germany that owners have discovered “severe corrosion on the ground terminal” of their Model Y vehicles.

“This looks like galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals. I think a bad ground connection might be the reason for the spate of power steering complaints on this model and possibly also causing brake booster failure. Tesla has been blaming the steering rack and replacing it. I think it is highly unlikely that the steering rack is faulty and it is much more likely that bad ground connections are the cause.

“The 2023 Model Y has some changes from the 2022 model including the use of large aluminum castings. I think this may increase the risk of galvanic corrosion and be the cause of the alarming increase in failures. Fatal crashes into oncoming vehicles may have been caused by this.”

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Not every problem makes a car a lemon. But if you experience recurring issues that impact the value or use of your Tesla Model Y, you might have bought a lemon.

Did you know that every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners? Better still, the law makes them pay the legal fees for lemon-related legal fees.

If you’d like Lemberg Law to assess your 2023 MY problems free of charge, call 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
1 COMMENT
  • Joel k

    I have phantom braking when using the cruise control. Car will suddenly and violently decelerate. Notified Tesla. They told me this was normal. My visualization computer doesn’t allows work meaning I have no blind spot or forward collision warning. Tesla indicated this was a firmware issue or operator issue.

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