The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into alleged loss of steering control in 2023 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y electric cars.

The investigation—officially known as a Preliminary Evaluation—is based on 12 complaints alleging steering issues in the affected vehicles. Five complaints indicate an inability to steer, while seven complaints cite loss of power steering, which necessitated additional steering effort, an NHTSA document detailing the investigation said.

The agency said there is one crash associated with the alleged steering issue, but not injuries or fatalities.

2023 Tesla Model Y - Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.2023 Tesla Model Y – Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

In addition to loss of steering control, the problem is frequently accompanied by “driver-facing messages indicating that power steering assist is reduced or disabled,” according to the document.

No recall has been issued, but the investigation has the potential to be escalated to a recall depending on what’s found. A previous investigation led to the 2022 recall of just over 40,000 Tesla vehicles for “calibration issues” with steering. That issue was addressed via an over-the-air software update, which Tesla has used to make the recall process more convenient for its customers. Some recalls still require a service center visit, however.

2023 Tesla Model 32023 Tesla Model 3

The steering-issue probe is the fourth open NHTSA investigation for the 2023 Model Y at the time of publication, and the second for the 2023 Model 3. An investigation responding to a petition that Tesla add shift interlocks to prevent unintended acceleration includes both models, while the 2023 Model Y is also being investigated for an alleged defect that could cause steering wheels to detach, and a claim that intermittent high electrical current in 12-volt systems could cause unintended acceleration.

The federal government also earlier this year ordered changes to the functionality of Tesla’s controversial driver-assist system, labelled Full Self Driving Beta, in cities. That was considered a recall.

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