Tesla Issues Recall for Faulty Heat Pumps, Loss of Heating in Cold Weather

The automaker says a software update should fix the problem, which some Model 3, S, X, and Y owners said left them without heat in extremely cold temperatures

Tesla Model S winter driving Tesla/Tomasz Majewski Photography

Because some Tesla owners have complained about their vehicles not heating up in cold weather, the automaker has issued a recall that it says will address the issue. Over 26,000 Model S, X, 3, and Y vehicles from the 2021 and 2022 model years are included in the recall.

The problem is due to faulty software that can cause a valve within a heat pump to stay open, according to documents Tesla provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Electric vehicles often use a heat pump to warm the cabin in extremely cold temperatures because it uses less energy than other common heating methods and therefore doesn’t deplete the vehicle’s range as much. Tesla began equipping some of its vehicles with a heat pump in late 2020, and told NHTSA the problem started after a December software update.

Multiple owners complained about not having heat in their car, usually when temperatures were colder than 14° F—or what Tesla calls “worst-case scenario conditions,” according to NHTSA documentation.

In addition to the cabin heat not working, a vehicle’s defroster may also not work well enough to comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards regarding windshield visibility. Owners may also notice an error message on the vehicle’s user interface saying that heating and air conditioning are limited or unavailable. The blower motor, which sends air into the cabin, will remain operational. 

Tesla says the problem should be fixed in all newer firmware updates, including version 2021.44.30.7 and later. Owners of affected vehicles should install the latest firmware in their cars using an over-the-air update.

The Details

Vehicles Recalled
• Tesla Model X SUVs built between Oct. 31, 2021, and Jan. 11, 2022
• Tesla Model 3 sedans built between Feb. 13, 2021, and Jan. 12, 2022
• Tesla model S sedans built between March 5, 2021, and Jan. 12, 2022
• Tesla Model Y SUVs built between June 30, 2021, and Jan. 11, 2022

The problem: On vehicles equipped with firmware releases 2021.44 through 2021.44.30.6, a part called the Electronic Expansion Valve (EXV) may remain open if communication with the heat pump is interrupted and will realign itself once communication is re-established. Those repeated openings and realignments may cause the valve to stay open, trapping refrigerant inside the evaporator in a way that causes the compressor to shut itself down.

The fix: Owners should download the latest vehicle firmware.

How to contact the manufacturer: Owners may call Tesla at 877-798-3752.

NHTSA campaign number: 22V050. Tesla’s number for this recall is SB-22-18-002.

Check to see whether your vehicle has an open recall: NHTSA’s website will tell you whether your vehicle has any recalls that need to be addressed.

If you plug your car’s 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) into NHTSA’s website and a recall doesn’t appear, it means your vehicle doesn’t currently have one. Because automakers issue recalls often, and for many older vehicles, we recommend checking back regularly.

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