A 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid owner with the right amount of skills and engineering knowledge replaced his car’s Yoke steering wheel a Model 3 round steering. Not only that, but Ryan Huber was also able to make the stalks functional with the Model S software.
When Tesla launched the new 2021 Tesla Model S and Model S Plaid earlier this year, besides other changes, the automaker introduced the Yoke steering wheel that had no turn signal, gear selection, and Autopilot stalks.
Tesla designed the steering yoke as minimalistic as possible. Being a half-circle steering, it gives better instrument cluster visibility, Elon Musk stood with this point of view. Tesla even converted gear selection to digital via center touchscreen controls.
But many new Model S design refresh owners feel that the old round steering and the stalks were a better design choice. Several of these owners report that the Yoke is good for long journeys and highways but city driving is not a great experience with it.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has categorically said in the past that there will be no option for a normal steering wheel in 2021 Model S/X and Plaid variants.
Ryan with his knowledge in computer software and electronics engineering was able to correctly translate the steering control signals onto a Model 3 steering wheel and stalks. He stated that Tesla has used both LIN (Local Interconnect Network) and CAN (Controller Area Network) protocols for steering wheel signals.
“It is a mix of things. Some of the stalk stuff is CAN, most of the wheel stuff is LIN. I’m actually emulating the yoke on a microcontroller so that I can translate the wheels/buttons on the M3 wheel into plaid signals. It is a hodgepodge of things, and there are actually multiple ways to send some messages. For instance, turn signals can happen over LIN _or_ CAN, so we have options,” he shared this on social media.
Ryan also shared the demonstration video of the final product (below) — a fully working Model 3 steering wheel on a 2021 design refresh Model S (Plaid).
The creator of this solution wants to make it open source and has already posted a project repository on GitHub. He explains why he started this project in the following lines:
The yoke is fine but I do not like the haptic controls at all. I’ve driven 5k miles, and they just aren’t good. I decided to fix it for myself, and will share my work.
The Plaid uses a lot of the parts bin from the Model 3/Y, and that’s a great thing! The electrical architecture of the Plaid is basically just that of an oversized Model 3, which is a smart move for manufacturing simplification.
He is also willing to contribute to a commercial project if someone wants to produce the new Model S, Model X, and Plaid round steering wheels. The proceeds from the commercial project will be donated to a charity, Ryan says.
Withstanding Tesla OTA updates
With constant free over-the-air software updates, Tesla constantly modifies its firmware settings. If Tesla modifies some parameters in a software update, the retrofitted round steering can behave abnormally. Ryan says he has anticipated this and took the following steps to solve the problem:
Question: Problem is when Tesla decides to update a controller that isn’t there.
Answer: Yeah, I anticipated this and I made it easy to plug the yoke into the bus for updates. Everything comes down to the phone dock area and you just lift it to access the LIN bus line directly. I also made an experimental LIN-over-UDP thing that can remotely allow the yoke to talk to the car, so entirely possible to update with the yoke sitting at home on Wi-Fi.
The good thing about this reverse engineering of the yoke steering is that it has not modified the original Tesla setup, “This change is entirely reversible, and no stock hardware is permanently modified. The shrouds with cutouts for stalks are directly out of a Model 3, and the Plaid shrouds are untouched,” Ryan says in his notes about the project.
- The left stalk (signals/brights/wipers) is fully functional. The other side is a work in progress, but I’ve validated I can change gear via software, so I just need to wire everything up.
- You cannot just put a Model 3 or Y clockspring/SCCM into a Plaid and make it work. The refresh S ignores the CAN messages from this, and more importantly the car refuses to go into drive with an SCCM running firmware it doesn’t like.
- The stalk modules can be removed and fit perfectly into the Plaid SCCM because it is literally the same part number as the 3/Y SCCM. You cannot just plug the ribbon cables in, however, since the Plaid’s firmware doesn’t try to report on the stalks, so they’ll just look pretty without doing anything.
- I wrote custom firmware that uses a Particle Photon + Carloop device to send messages that the plaid expects. This took a bit of reverse engineering and I’ll post the info to the GitHub link as time allows. I will not directly help anyone who wants to do this, but I wish you luck. It should be relatively easy once I work out the remaining kinks.
- This change is entirely reversible, and no stock hardware is permanently modified. The shrouds with cutouts for stalks are directly out of a Model 3, and the Plaid shrouds are untouched.
Let’s watch how a Model 3 retrofit steering wheel works on a 2021 Tesla Model S, some cool video editing and background music make this video much more interesting.