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Steering Wheel - High Frequency Vibration / Feedback

Does your steering wheel exhibit a high-frequency vibration/feedback?

  • Yes

    Votes: 10 58.8%
  • No

    Votes: 7 41.2%

  • Total voters
    17

FlyingViking

Member
Aug 30, 2018
18
8
Dallas, TX
I’ve posted about this in a few related threads, but figured it deserved a place of it’s own due to how absolutely stumped this has Tesla, and me.
(before you read on: this is NOT due to lane departure warning)

My 2018 LR RWD started producing a high-frequency gentle vibration or feedback felt in the steering wheel at around 3000 miles.

The most basic way I can explain it is that the steering wheel transmits every... little... imperfection in the road through it, and even vibrates gently on perfectly smooth, new asphalt. It’s not Porsche-type / sports car road feedback / “I can feel what the car is doing” - but unwelcome, constant high-frequency vibration that leads to numb hands after even a 30 minute highway drive. I am probably very alert of it now, but notice it from 5-10mph and up. It gets more fatiguing and more noticeable at higher speeds, but doesn’t seem to increase in intensity.

It’s a very subtle vibration. Think high-frequency massage thingy... only on your hands. Haha. You can’t see the wheel vibrate at all, you have to hold it to feel it. Also doesn’t transmit much through seats or chassis, just steering wheel and rack (can feel it also when grasping the plastic clamshell cover behind steering wheel)

This has persisted through:
  • Three sets of tires (all road force balanced to below 10lbs each wheel) - 2x Michelin Pilot Sport 4s (currently on car) - 1x OEM MXM4
  • Loaner wheels to eliminate rims as possible culprit - I have the 18” aero, cap removed
  • Three alignments performed by Tesla
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve thoroughly exhausted the possibility it’s rims, alignment or tires at this point.

I drove an AWD with the OEM MXM4 from a Tesla showroom a few months ago to verify I’m not insane - and it’s butter smooth, just like mine was for first 3000 miles.
I also drove a friends LR RWD, also with Pilot Sport 4s on OEM 18” wheels - also butter smooth.

Today, together with a very interested technician during my Service appointment for this - we got to test drive a LR RWD Engineering test car with a vin around 4000 (mine is 106xxx), and guess what - IT DOES THE SAME THING.

The service tech did agree that it’s very uncomfortable when just cruising on the highway, and it makes no sense to program that much feedback or “road noise” into the electric steering on purpose. Unfortunately, the tech wouldn’t even know where to start diagnosing it, and as the Engineering test car exhibits the same vibration / feedback, he wouldn’t be able to start diagnosis under warranty. If I wanted to start throwing money at non-warranty diagnosis and replacing parts at random, I was welcome to, but we both agreed it’s a waste until we know where to start. I suggested maybe wheel bearings, rotors, but tech’s opinion was that if it was either of those things we’d REALLY be feeling some heavy vibrations... Suggested I don’t proceed with paying for either until we have better idea of where to begin troubleshooting.

Soooo... Can anyone else confirm that their car does the same? Has anyone managed to fix this?

And yes, I know - “why don’t you just use autopilot”. That’s beside the point. I actually enjoyed driving the car before this started, and would like to get it back to the way it was if at all possible. It absolutely ruins the driving experience and puts me off wanting to road-trip or use the car unless necessary. Had my first test drive car, or my own car had this on delivery, I would not have bought it or returned it promptly for a refund. But it didn’t show up until around 3000 miles.

Thanks for reading - any and all help or insight appreciated! If anyone wants to compare cars for fun, or help me prove to Service that this isn’t normal - I am in DFW and travel around Texas frequently :D
 
Last edited:

camalaio

Active Member
May 28, 2019
1,483
2,098
Vernon, BC, Canada
I've had most vehicles I've driven do this to varying extents. However, whenever it's been greater (to the point of actually seeing it visually), it's been because of warped front rotors. Have you had to slam on the brakes hard at highway speeds, ever? Or ridden the friction brakes while coasting down a long hill? I know you're not seeing it visually, just going through the process.

Another list of thoughts/options...
  • This vibration can vary depending on the road surface. Did anything change about the roads you drive on at around 3000 miles?
  • Can you test other Model 3s? It's entirely possible they all do this and you happen to be sensitive to it.
  • Does it go away or get stronger with application of friction brakes? (You may want to set regen to "Low" to test this easier)
 

FlyingViking

Member
Aug 30, 2018
18
8
Dallas, TX
I've had most vehicles I've driven do this to varying extents. However, whenever it's been greater (to the point of actually seeing it visually), it's been because of warped front rotors. Have you had to slam on the brakes hard at highway speeds, ever? Or ridden the friction brakes while coasting down a long hill? I know you're not seeing it visually, just going through the process.

Another list of thoughts/options...
  • This vibration can vary depending on the road surface. Did anything change about the roads you drive on at around 3000 miles?
  • Can you test other Model 3s? It's entirely possible they all do this and you happen to be sensitive to it.
  • Does it go away or get stronger with application of friction brakes? (You may want to set regen to "Low" to test this easier)

Thanks for the feedback! (Pun intended)
  • No, the road surfaces I spend most of my time driving on did not change around 3000 miles. It wasn't a night/day shift either - it's something that started off gradually.
  • I have tested two other Model 3's that don't exhibit this kind of vibration/feedback, including another exact match to mine with same PS4 tires and all. It just so happened to be my luck that the Engineering car at my local Service Center did.
  • It remains unchanged with brakes applied, making me doubt if it's rotors, as it should be getting stronger when applying brakes. The tech who drove the car with me also agreed that normally if it were rotors or wheel bearings, it would be extremely evident and they would be able to tell quickly.
I did note that my steering rack has an updated model listed on the Tesla EPC. Mine is 1044831-98-E, and the latest is
1044831-00-F. I might go back to my friend's identical Model 3 that doesn't have this vibration, pull the frunk and see what version rack he's got.
 

Nirenk

Member
Mar 3, 2016
83
28
Monmouth Junction, NJ
I stumbled across this thread literally looking for anyone else having similar problem. I have AWD model 3 about year old with close to 30k miles on it. But I have experienced this very subtle vibrations and “vibration sound” since the day I picked up the car. I have taken it back to Tesla 3 times so far to check tires, wheels, bearings but every time Tesla just returned the car back saying they don’t feel or hear anything. I am very sensitive to vibration sound. This has driven me nuts. First I paid for wheel alignment at Tesla. I was told one of the tires has uneven tread because of the alignment issue.. I changed it to eliminate that possibility. Problem continued. Changed remaining 3 tires last month. Problem continued. Last week I picked up aftermarket wheels and replaced OEMs. Problem continues.

The frustrating part is every time Tesla technicians says they don’t feel or hear anything. makes me wonder if I am insane. I had Model S before this and had no such issues. I am yet to drive another Model 3.

I have no idea what to try next.
 

TheLocNar

Member
Mar 10, 2018
941
855
Chicago
2018 20” Performance here. I too get a vibration. Especially at highway speeds above 65 on all types of surfaces. It’s a slight, but very rapid type vibration I can feel through the steering wheel. Too many things could be possible, so I’m not going to worry about it right now. I’ll be swapping to my 18” winter setup soon, so I’ll know if it’s still present. That would at least exclude wheels/tires/foam liner/balancing if it is.
 

KenC

Active Member
Sep 4, 2018
3,605
3,272
Maine
I stumbled across this thread literally looking for anyone else having similar problem. I have AWD model 3 about year old with close to 30k miles on it. But I have experienced this very subtle vibrations and “vibration sound” since the day I picked up the car. I have taken it back to Tesla 3 times so far to check tires, wheels, bearings but every time Tesla just returned the car back saying they don’t feel or hear anything. I am very sensitive to vibration sound. This has driven me nuts. First I paid for wheel alignment at Tesla. I was told one of the tires has uneven tread because of the alignment issue.. I changed it to eliminate that possibility. Problem continued. Changed remaining 3 tires last month. Problem continued. Last week I picked up aftermarket wheels and replaced OEMs. Problem continues.

The frustrating part is every time Tesla technicians says they don’t feel or hear anything. makes me wonder if I am insane. I had Model S before this and had no such issues. I am yet to drive another Model 3.

I have no idea what to try next.
Can any of your passengers feel it? Have you driven any other Model 3 and how did they feel? Do you have any friends who drive performance cars who can give you their opinions?

Did your old OEM tires have any uneven wear? Any feathering? Do you have your alignment report?
 

camalaio

Active Member
May 28, 2019
1,483
2,098
Vernon, BC, Canada
2018 20” Performance here. I too get a vibration. Especially at highway speeds above 65 on all types of surfaces. It’s a slight, but very rapid type vibration I can feel through the steering wheel. Too many things could be possible, so I’m not going to worry about it right now. I’ll be swapping to my 18” winter setup soon, so I’ll know if it’s still present. That would at least exclude wheels/tires/foam liner/balancing if it is.

The foam liner is a good point. Some people have had issues balancing tires because the foam is messed up somehow inside the tire. But this issue apparently happened with other rubber as well unfortunately (which likely didn't have the foam).

This led me to another thought. My last vehicle (Honda Crosstour) almost never had perfectly balanced tires from day one. The shop I took it to always had the balance a little off, which did result in vibration especially at highway speeds.

However, more impactful was the fact my winter rims accumulated mud and dirt which always unbalanced them within weeks. Cleaning them out thoroughly was the only solution (and they'd collect dirt in no time again!). Just in case... I know you have another set of rims with the same issue, but is it maybe just unbalanced due to dirt or mud on the rim surfaces?

If that doesn't help, go to a local third party mechanic. Get them to hoist it, check bearings, etc. Tesla service is very swamped and rushed right now, and likely want "minor issues" out of their way.
 
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TheLocNar

Member
Mar 10, 2018
941
855
Chicago
Well it’s going to snow here this week so I changed to my winter setup earlier than I wanted. I’m not getting that slight vibration anymore on my P with 18” TSportline TSTs and 235/45/18 X-Ice. So there’s something up with the 20s. At least I think that’s a safe conclusion right now. A balance issue? A bend/crack in a rim that’s not noticeable? The acoustic foam? Guess I’ll revisit this in the spring. At this point, just relieved it doesn’t seem to be an issue with the car itself.
 

kbecks13

Active Member
Dec 27, 2017
1,916
2,279
SoCal
I feel a very subtle vibration from what i think is the AC compressor. Can feel a slight, high frequency, oscillation when stopped and the AC kicks on, but it's super minor. Previous RWD car didn't do it but the P3D does.
 

FlyingViking

Member
Aug 30, 2018
18
8
Dallas, TX
Well it’s going to snow here this week so I changed to my winter setup earlier than I wanted. I’m not getting that slight vibration anymore on my P with 18” TSportline TSTs and 235/45/18 X-Ice. So there’s something up with the 20s. At least I think that’s a safe conclusion right now. A balance issue? A bend/crack in a rim that’s not noticeable? The acoustic foam? Guess I’ll revisit this in the spring. At this point, just relieved it doesn’t seem to be an issue with the car itself.

Interesting! The 20” tires are the Pilot Sports that are OEM? I switched from MXM4s to Pilot Sport 4s earlier this year hoping it’d get rid of the vibration, but didn’t change a thing.
 

TeeEmCee

Member
Nov 16, 2015
901
726
Null
Hats off for a very clearly and thoroughly framed question.

Vibrations in the steering wheel would most likely have to come from a rotational imbalance somewhere, so that leaves the wheels, hubs, bearings or axles as the likely source. Try to eliminate one variable at the time and hopefully you can guide the SC toward the solution (I had to do that myself on multiple occasions, with both Dallas and Plano).

Make note of the intensity of the vibration in relation to speed. Does it correlate at all, is there a max/resonance speed? If you let go of the steering wheel (without any driver aid engaged), do you see it vibrating?
Verify this this on both fresh tarmac (I think the turnpike towards Plano has some very smooth new asphalt) and on the typical grooved concrete found on most freeways around DFW.

Swap your wheels front to back and see if anything changes. Alternatively, you could swap the front wheels with a pair from a car known to not exhibit the issue. This is quite likely to show that indeed the wheels are the problem.
I know you said your wheels were roadforce balanced, but that’s not always enough. I have a car which has been hard to balance properly for our DFW roads. Look for Bill Schwab with Precision Mobile Tire (google him or pm me for phone number), he has done an outstanding job balancing my wheels (he put a lot of time into making sure that whatever imbalance was left was as close to imperceptible as possible). After I replaced the tires (with the same brand/model), the vibration has returned, so, in my case, the less than optimum balance was the issue. There’s a decent chance that you have the same type of problem.

If proper balancing does not solve the problem, then it’s time to move to diagnose the hubs, cv joints etc. Make note of the behavior under braking, in tight turns or in long sweeping turns at speed and relay your findings to the SC.

Alternatively, find an independent shop with more competence in this area. Some such shops are owned by people who do plenty of racing and surely they will have an easy time identifying your issue. When I was pulling my hair with Tesla suspension issues, I would go pester the local Porsche techs with questions. Anything can be fixed, none of this is rocket science.

Good luck with this and let us know here how it went!
 
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Sep 1, 2019
50
24
Baltimore, MD
I'm not saying an issue I had is what others here are having, but here is what happened to me. I kept getting that lane departure vibration that scared the sh** out of me, until I asked a service advisor and out it was a 'feature' lol
 
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Reactions: KenC

lolder

Member
Jun 11, 2016
900
692
SW Florida
I got this a month after delivery in July '18. The mobile tech agreed with me after we had removed frunk liner that it's from the condenser cooling fan that has probably thrown a balance weight off. It appeared all of a sudden. The fan speed is computer controlled and at one rpm there is a vibration peak. It's barely noticeable at other rpms. You can get it off the peak by changing the HVAC settings. I am waiting for a SC to open nearby within the warranty period to change the fan which is only accessible from underneath. The balance weight is probably laying in the plenum but it may be hard to find the spot it came off to just re-glue it.
 

FlyingViking

Member
Aug 30, 2018
18
8
Dallas, TX
I really appreciate all of your feedback on this. Part of my reason for starting this thread was to maybe help others having the same issue as well.

After a lot of deliberation this weekend I came to the conclusion I am not satisfied with the build quality or theoretical long term quality (considering the amount of issues I’ve had in year one) of the Model 3, and am going back to Toyota again with the new 2020 Tacoma TRD Pro. It’s a bit of a tough decision as there are several things I love about the Model 3, which is why I bought in in the first place, but I am the type of person who wants to drive a car and not worry about it because of QC/manufacturing problems. No amount of tech or cool factor can make up for that in my opinion.

If others have input to this issue - please keep this thread alive! I have found that the only way to get things moving at service centers is to show up informed and tell them EXACTLY what you want done. If you leave it up to them, you’ll get the old “... within spec”.
 
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FlyingViking

Member
Aug 30, 2018
18
8
Dallas, TX
Enjoy the TRD pro. Read up on complaints about the transmission to avoid future disappointment.

Thanks! I already verified that it’s no longer an issue on the 2019/2020 models. I did 1500 miles in a 2019 a few months ago and enjoyed it. Traded in a 2014 FJ Cruiser for the Model 3, and almost went Tacoma back then too.

I will miss the car, but the ownership experience put a bad taste in my mouth after a string of issues and poor customer service over the last year, ranging from insane rattles, two loose and rocking driver seats, dashboard creaking, underbody panels falling off car, missing bolts, the vibration issue in this post, alignment wrong from factory where Tesla refused to warranty tire replacement, and several others. In total I have had 17 face to face interactions with service in 14 months of ownership, more than any other car I’ve ever owned.

I likely just got unlucky with the car I received, and am in no way trying to crap on the brand as a whole. I know a majority of the cars have minor issues and nothing worse, hence why people love them so much. Even with all the issues it’s still hard to let the car go, and I will miss the tech, acceleration and incredible sound system.
 
Last edited:

GarZ

Member
Nov 25, 2019
55
40
San Diego
I notice a slight vibration on the steering wheel when on the freeway, I switch to the lanes and as i move the wheel slightly to the center I get the little vibration. It happens often.
 

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