Tesla is recalling a total of just under 3,000 2020-2021 Model Ys and 2019-2021 Model 3s to address a potential suspension separation issue. As of June 2, 2021, Tesla service departments had reported 39 instances of one or both front suspension lateral link fasteners being found loose or missing.
This is not the first time Tesla's quality control has been subverted by a semi-sentient torque wrench. Recall campaigns have been launched to address similar issues with the company's front seat belts, brakes and suspension control arms.
"The front suspension lateral link on Model 3 and Model Y vehicles is attached to the sub-frame using two fasteners. If a fastener is not secured to the correct specification, the fastener may loosen over time or separate from the subframe, which could cause the lateral link to separate from the sub-frame," Tesla's report to NHTSA said. The issue appears to stem from a combination of human and quality control process error, which Tesla also described in the report:
"During assembly, the operator is tasked with securing both fasteners to the correct specification, which are registered in the torque record for the vehicle. In rare circumstances, if the operator made several unsuccessful attempts to torque a fastener to specification, the operator may have subsequently loosened a properly secured fastener. The torque record may not have accounted for the loosening of the fastener."
An improperly torqued lateral link fastener shouldn't pose an immediate threat, but as it works itself loose, it can alter the car's alignment and make the car less predictable while turning or braking. It can also lead to accelerated, uneven tire wear and prematurely fatigue other suspension components. Tesla says the loose component will be audible before it completely separates. If you hear clunking noises that persist after bumps, your car may not be safe to operate.