The Tesla “Both Pedals Pressed: Motor Power Reduced” Error – What’s It All About?

One very distinctive thing about driving electric cars like a Tesla Model 3 or Model X compared to any regular car is how much more computerized it is overall. All cars have on-board computers, and have done for decades, but the computerized nature of a Tesla is far more distinct, as seen in the way it receives over-the-air (OTA) updates, and how much impact those updates have on the way the car works.

While many are seeing the huge upside to greater digitization of vehicles, others still see only the downside. Then again, sometimes those with the message of a downside have a point, such as when your Tesla displays inexplicable and frustrating error messages in the same way your PC might do — also greatly to your annoyance.

One such error on a Tesla has affected many people since at least 2018, and that’s the “Both pedals pressed: Motor power reduced” error. What does this even mean? Why does it show up? Why is it potentially such a problem? And what can you do about it? These questions and more we will try to answer in today’s blog.

What Is the “Both Pedals Pressed” Error?

Various Both pedals pressed Motor power reduced errors on the Tesla Model Y touchscreen
Various “Both pedals pressed” and “Motor power reduced” errors on the Tesla Model Y touchscreen

If you’re unfamiliar with the layout of a typical Tesla vehicle, you should know that they are all currently equipped with only two pedal in the driver’s footwell:

  1. The “gas” pedal, which we now might as well follow our British friends in calling the “accelerator pedal” since there’s no gas anymore.
  2. The brake pedal.

There’s no clutch because there are no gear ratios to worry about, and the transmission is entirely automatic.

Even though Tesla cars now drive with so-called “one-pedal” driving, allowing regenerative braking to do most of the work of the brake pedal and the driver to simply lift their foot off and back onto the accelerator, the conventional brake pedal remains as an alternative for emergency braking situations.

So, if you were thinking that Tesla cars only have one pedal nowadays, you’re wrong. They still have two, even though drivers now enjoy one-pedal driving as the norm. According to reports from Tesla users, this particular error seems to occur not when accidentally pressing on both pedals (as one might expect an inexperienced driver to do in a moment of panic), but rather when the driver is simply pressing on the brake pedal.

Why Does It Occur?

A parked up Tesla Model S in a Tesla dealership
A Tesla Model S parked at a Tesla dealership

The interesting thing about this error is that it is born out of a proper safety function of a Tesla model. If you try for yourself pressing on the brake pedal while your foot is still depressing the accelerator, you will get this message, and it will appear correctly. It is not safe at all to have both pedals pressed and the car not responding in any way at all. 

Therefore, the message in itself is not an anomaly. The idea is that it detects both pedals pressed and thus diminishes the power of the motor to stop you speeding off uncontrollably. It seems that the car’s view is “when in doubt, slow them down and/or stop them.”

It’s arguably a good way of ensuring that those who insist — wrongly — on “two-foot” driving can be reminded that what they’re doing is unsafe and bad for the car.

However, this message should not be appearing when you are only pressing on the brake pedal, or perhaps even when you’re driving along pressing on the accelerator, and this is clearly an indication that something is wrong, but what?

Sensor Problems

According to many user reports, one of the most common causes of this error is a problem in the sensors, which seem to be picking up that either the brake pedal or accelerator are being pressed down, even when they’re not. Some users have said that they have tested the system by pulling up the brake pedal while the accelerator is pressed, and seeing that the error message then goes away.

If the sensors have been calibrated too sensitively, then it means that even if the pedal is slightly loose after many months or years of use, then it could lead to even a small downward movement being perceived as the foot pressing on the pedal. In these cases, a repair to the sensors seems to have solved the issue and prevented the error message from arriving unduly.

In Need of a Software Update

The software and package options screen on the screen of a Tesla Model Y
The software and package options screen on the screen of a Tesla Model Y

Following on from the previous point, others mentioned that in 2019 there was an update from version 2019.24.4 73fb1ab to version 2019.28.3.1 f9e95acd that also seemed to solve this issue. One user on Tesla Motor Club said that he was ready to call up the Tesla Service Center about this error when he noticed the update in his system queue.

This user decided to give the update a chance before calling the center, and he found that it fixed the problem. Many theorize that the update at the time may have recalibrated the above-mentioned sensors to make them less sensitive, and thus not react in that way to the very slight depression of the brake pedal.

Why Is the “Both Pedals Pressed” Error Such a Problem?

First of all, it’s not a safe thing when any of the car’s sensors are operating in a less than optimum condition. The safe operation of the vehicle is based on sensors working within the proper parameters, so if and when they are failing to do that, serious safety issues can occur. One further problem that has apparently arisen as an extension of the “Both Pedals” error in Tesla cars is the sudden simultaneous disappearance of the “Vehicle Hold” function in the brakes.

Some have said that as long as this error seems to be popping up randomly, their Vehicle Hold mode hasn’t been working properly. If a Tesla owner/driver were to encounter this problem while driving in traffic on a slope, or while expecting the Hold function to work as normal, the result could be unwanted roll either forwards or backwards, resulting in collisions with other vehicles, possibly even collisions with pedestrians crossing the street.

Furthermore, the emergence of this error at times when it was not intended to appear is a clear indication of a potentially wider problem with the car’s electrical systems. Interestingly, such issues are not unique to Tesla models.

Drivers of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma have reported similar problems with their “both pedals pressed” warning light appearing when they don’t expect it to, problems from which were then traced back to fundamental issues with the electrical system that needed immediate attention.

What Can You Do About This Error?

Tesla service ahead sign outside a dealership in Germany
Tesla service ahead sign outside a dealership in Germany

The remaining question, then, is what should we do when we encounter this potentially dangerous problem in a Tesla? The prudent suggestion would seem to be to immediately seek out an appointment at your nearest Tesla Service Center, but perhaps consider all of the following when making your decision:

Is Your Software Up to Date?

As the experience of some users shows, the problem of this error might be repaired by ensuring that you are running on the latest version of Tesla’s software in your car. If you have any updates waiting to be installed, then first install them to see if it makes any difference. Should you either already be up to date, or if the update makes no difference, then you can proceed to our other suggestions below.

Can You Confirm that the Problem Appears to be Sensor-Related?

Some users noted that they were able to either remove or produce the error just by tweaking the pedals up and down. If you feel comfortable with it, why not test your pedals to see if either of them feel loose? If there is looseness in the pedals, that might point to the sensors therefore reacting to that looseness too sensitively.

How Frequently Is It Occurring?

When did the problem last occur for you? Did it happen once and then since then it hasn’t happened again? Does it happen multiple times in a day, or does it seem to happen whenever you hit the brake pedal?

If it happened once and then seemingly never again, it might be an isolated error and you have nothing to worry about. If it’s happening a lot, you should consider making an urgent appointment with Tesla to get the problem sorted.

In the end, malfunctioning sensors relating to brake and throttle functions are one of those problems that you can’t afford not to see to as soon as possible. Therefore, if this “Both Pedals Pressed” error is a frequent visitor to your main Tesla screen, consider seeking a proper appointment as soon as possible.

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