Prerak Patel told NJ Advance Media about the incident in an interview, saying the steering wheel just fell off of its holder.
“We were lucky enough,” he said. “Thank God I was able to make it off. If there was a truck or a car…”
Patel said in a Tweet on Jan. 29 that he “was driving on highway and all the sudden steering wheel fall off, was lucky enough there was no car behind” and he was able to pull onto the side of the road.
A video of the GPS location showed he was somewhere near Woodbridge. Patel later said his family was heading home from the Woodbridge Mall.
The Woodbridge Police Department confirmed it called for a tow for the Tesla on Route 1 South in Woodbridge near the Garden State Parkway on Jan. 29. The incident report said the driver said “their steering wheel detached from steering column.”
An employee at American Towing of Colonia said the company towed the car after the incident. “(The steering wheel) was in his lap,” said Doug, a company employee who asked that his last name be withheld.
Tesla’s corporate office did not immediately respond to inquiries. Efforts to reach the local dealership by phone were unsuccessful and an email was not immediately returned.
In a later post, Patel showed the Tesla Model Y’s video screen, which he said showed his claim about the steering wheel was true.
Other photos seemed to show the steering wheel hanging down with wires that were exposed.
Subsequent posts that Patel said were screenshots of a conversation between himself and the service department at the Lawrence Township/Princeton Tesla location showed an invoice for $103.96, seemingly to repair the steering wheel.
“Am I responsible for manufacturing defect? It’s not even week and getting bill for faulty steering wheel. Isn’t it company’s responsibility to fix it? We lost trust in Tesla and would greatly appreciate the car be taken back and full refund be issued,” Patel wrote.
In the screenshots, Tesla said it removed the charge and “Tesla does not have a return policy.”
But on Tuesday, Patel put up a new post, thanking Woodbridge police and saying Tesla had given him two choices: “Keep car with Assurance” or “Replaced with New Ones.” He asked Twitter users to vote in a Twitter poll about what he should do, and nearly 5,200 people voted by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The poll will run through midnight.
Until he decides, Patel said, he is getting loaner from the dealership.
Tesla owner Elon Musk, who also owns Twitter, was tagged in the Tweets, but didn’t appear to publicly respond to the messages.
This is not the first report of a Tesla steering wheel falling off. A Twitter user in England in 2020 said the steering wheel fell off of his new Model 3 in 2020.
“@elonmusk steering wheel fell off today! Concerned the rest of the car will fall to bits too! Can this be looked into as to why it’s happened to a car just over 1 month old? #TeslaServiceIssues,” he wrote.
“Tesla confirmed that the steering wheel was not fixed to the body of the car with a bolt, and they are looking into what happened on production,” that driver told the New York Post.
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NJ Advance Media Research Editor Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report.