Rivian R1S Owner Terrified To See the Steering Wheel Coming Loose, All Within Spec?

Rivian R1S owner terrified to see the steering wheel coming loose 6 photos
Photo: Dirtman1016 via Reddit
Rivian R1S owner terrified to see the steering wheel coming looseRivian R1S owner terrified to see the steering wheel coming looseRivian R1TRivian R1SRivian R1S
After Tesla came under an NHTSA investigation because the steering wheels were falling off, it was Rivian's turn to attract criticism. An R1S owner shared a video showing the steering wheel wobbling as if it was just about to come loose. It looks like detaching steering wheels are more common than people might think.
The steering wheel is one of the most sacred parts of a car, at least until autonomous vehicles become prevalent. This comes from more than a century of automobile culture, which made people rely on a steering wheel to do its job no matter what. Brakes may fail, and the engine may break, but you can always count on the steering wheel to keep the car going in the right direction. Well, this is not guaranteed anymore.

If you search the internet, you'll find many articles about Tesla EVs losing their steering wheels. Although the matter went viral because of Tesla's inherent high profile, many carmakers in recent history have had to deal with such an issue. It happened to the Chevrolet Cruze in 2011, the Hyundai Santa Fe in 2018, and Ford Fusion also in 2018 (I know, it was a bad year for steering wheels).

Jason Tuatara was the first Tesla owner to remain with the steering wheel in his hands in April 2020. He was driving a brand-new Tesla Model 3 when the steering wheel detached from the steering column. Two other Tesla Model Y owners reported the same thing happening to them in 2023. At that time, the NHTSA opened an investigation to find out what the problem was.

According to the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), both vehicles were delivered without the retaining bolt that attaches the steering wheel to the steering column. In both cases, the steering wheel detached on low-mileage vehicles while in motion. It must have been a terrifying experience, and the possibility of happening to someone is far from zero.

This is something that a Rivian R1S owner discovered recently. In a video shared on Reddit (attached below), Dirtman1016 shows the steering wheel still attached to the column but wobbling terribly, as if it was just about to come loose. As he described in the post, the problem occurred suddenly while leaving for an out-of-town trip. Fortunately, it happened close to the house at low speed, and he was able to stop safely.

This is the first time a Rivian owner has reported a detaching steering wheel, so it must not be a manufacturing-related issue. People have generally praised Rivian for the build quality, although it has seen its fair share of safety-related recalls. In 2022, the EV startup issued a recall because of an insufficiently torqued steering knuckle fastener. According to the recall notice, this could cause "excessive wheel camber, or, in rare instances, a separation, affecting the driver's ability to control the vehicle and increasing the risk of a crash."

In this case, it appears that the bolt securing the steering wheel has become loose. Fun fact, Rivian initiated a customer satisfaction campaign last year for some 2022 and 2023 R1T and R1S vehicles. The campaign was triggered by complaints that the steering wheel might not be properly aligned with the steering rack. In other words, the steering wheel was not always straight when the car was going straight. This did not affect driving, and it was just an esthetical issue.

As part of the campaign, Service Center technicians would remove the airbag to verify that the steering wheel is aligned correctly. If it wasn't, the steering wheel bolt was unfastened so the steering wheel could be aligned. Dirtman1016 doesn't tell us whether his R1S had the steering wheel aligned as part of the campaign. If it did, his problem might have been caused by a technician failing to fasten the locking bolt properly.

Steering Wheel Coming Loose
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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