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Steering wheel vibrating @10cps at any speed - 2012 Model S air suspension


Active Member
May 16, 2012
Pulled car out of ditch using straps on front rims on 6 o'clock spokes on a gravel road surface. Then car became very hard to steer with accompanying message on screen: "more effort will be required". 40 miles later steering became powered again, as normal, BUT steering wheel was now vibrating back n forth buzzing like crazy. Wheel back and forth was about 1/8 inch or 1/16 inch depending on how tightly I was gripping wheel. Was able to drive and steer normally at 70mph no problem except for the wheel buzzing, still at approx 10cps. Turning into parking lot at slow speed the noise increased a good bit but settles down once back driving down the road. Battery drain for the trip seemed normal both 12 volt and high voltage as far as I could determine. Made a service appointment for 2 weeks hence but of course I cannot call Tesla to inquire if there is any easy reset/fix. I have turned steering lock to lock several times but no joy, the motor starts buzzing as soon as I turn the car on. I have yet to look for breaker/fuse to disconnect/reconnect but that is my next ploy. Car has 87k miles and never any steering or suspension problems before. Towing was done with car ON in neutral so as to free up the rear axle - my mistake, would have been better to leave car OFF. [sadface]
Failed to use Tow Mode! Forgot about this most likely due to car being in body shop for past 3 months; how quickly one forgets, mea culpa.

Ebay had no pre-2016 steering pumps available yesterday. Anyone know of a source?
I'd suggest you get a bit of diagnosis before just ordering expensive parts. was it pulled out with a winch, or jerked out with a tow strap? If the steering wheel was shaking, that would lead me to believe you bent something.
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Took delivery of a steering pull, minus the rack, so I can replace the motor for starters. But the problem is logically somewhere else like in whatever sensors are involved in this system. But I do have all of it in this motor module. Providing good power steering plus providing back & forth vibration is not being done by the motor itself, is my considered opinion.

Awaiting call back from Service who hopefully have already queried up the tech ladder at TM.

Nothing wrong with my rack and steering rods, arms, knuckles etc as the pull force to move the car was truly minimal. Besides the car steers and handles perfectly at 70mph. When pulling the car forward there was a toe-in force applied to the steering which obviously upset the sensor balance and has provoked this back and forth oscillation of the steering wheel. I hope if the motor fails ie burns out that I will be presented with the same 'very hard to steer' situation that was present in the first 50 miles since the incident. That I can live with - hard to imagine that steering could even become harder somehow or even lock up.

Again, the vibration/oscillation derives entirely from the electric motor/sensors/actuators and NOT from wheel imbalance or bent steering geometry. How long the electric motor can continue to deliver this extra energy is the question here. If the failure mode simply removes the motor from the system leaving me with very hard steering, ok, I can live with that. But if it should jam the steering that would be (add your own adjective here).

Possibly TM has never seen this problem before even after 10 years of ModelS. No one towing a MS in DRIVE instead of TOW MODE - what are the odds? :))
TM advises it is a sensor problem and sensors are in the rack section. As soon as car is turned ON the steering begins to vibrate; this continues until car OFF.

Still have error msg on screen but vibration force is much reduced driving straight ahead at 70 mph. So like motor is now using 1/4 of the power and likely I can continue with this indefinitely. In fact at 70 mph you can easily forget about the issue, it is like driving a car in need of minor wheel balancing. When doing a 90 degree turn however the noise increases of course as steering slop is designed to increase as you enter a sharp turn.

Likely this vulnerability was removed with the 2017 re-design of the rack. I'll retrieve the original steering + shipping box for investigative purposes.
If anyone has been INTO the early (2012 - 2016) MS steering can you see what possibly could have gone wrong in this case to cause the continuous vibration? Is there any chance it can be reset electronically. I still feel there is little chance that I bent anything inside the steering rack etc.

As irritating as this is I'm willing to keep driving it until the electric steering motor dies and I'm left with no steering assist. Will always carry used eBay steering unit with me.
After the incident I had NO assist for 50 miles which made for hard but doable steering. Pulling the fuse would of course revert to that. But also maybe it might do some kind of RESET. Great idea, I will try this!

As mentioned the vibration starts as soon as the car starts and only stops when you finally remove butt from driver's seat, with hands & ears still ringing, LOL.

It is a 5A fuse in the driver side fusebox which is the one with only 6 little fuses and the rest large breakers. Middle fuse in left row #75. Fusecheck webpage is excellent for 2012 just use the 2013 page. My 2012 has no fuse layout stickers in the fuse covers or anywhere else.

Wow, removing the fuse thus killing the steering motor makes steering almost impossible. I drove 20ft out of garage a couple times with great difficulty, replaced the fuse and then did a 3 mile test run which performed as previously. No magical RESET so far. Will make a 1300 mile trip next week. Will bring a few extra 5A fuses along as well as the eBay used steering just in case. Vibration seems like a minor nuisance compared to no assist at all. Looks like I will have to collect all the tools needed and plan on doing this job sometime in the future.

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