New Driver Door Handle Motor

A few days ago, I went to drive away, and alas I could not open the door.  The door handles all presented themselves, but the driver door would not open.  When I first got my low VIN car, my doors were haunted and opened by themselves.  Five years later, the driver door motor just wore out.

Door Handle Presents Itself But Door Won’t Open

I went to the passenger side rear door and it opened just fine.

I called Tesla and they confirmed that my driver door was stuck, and I made an appointment to have a mobile service person come to my home.

Using the Car with a Broken Door Handle

I had a few days between the break and the service appointment.  A few earlier appointments were available, but none that were particularly convenient.  So in the meantime, I still wanted to drive the car.

There are at least five ways to get into your car by yourself when you can’t open the passenger door listed in the order of the most amusing to the most convenient:

  1. Open the sunroof, crawl onto the roof, and drop down.
  2. Get into the passenger seat, and hurl yourself over to the driver’s seat.
  3. Get into the back seat, and manipulate the seat and your arms to open the front door.
  4. Get into the passenger seat, open the driver side door, leave the car, and hope that the door did not shut itself if you are parked at any angle (like parallel on a street).
  5. Get into the passenger seat, roll down the driver side door window, leave the car, and open the driver side door.

I only tried the last 3 methods.  I know as a teen I had crawled over from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat in a vehicle and found it harder than it looks.  Trying to open the door didn’t work as well as it sounds as the door tended to close itself.  The best way by far was to just open the window from the passenger seat, walk around the car to the driver’s side,  and easily open the door through the open window.

Service Call

The professional and friendly mechanic showed up in a Tesla promptly on time.  The total cost to replace one door handle motor is $740.  Unfortunately my car is out of warranty and I had to pocket the cost.  The service is the same price whether you take your car into the service center or have the more convenient mobile service fix your vehicle.

The actual service takes about one hour.

Mobile Service with a Tesla Model S

Unique Door Handles and Motors

I have a cheap streak and was contemplating moving one of the passenger seat door handle motors to the front seat.  I didn’t think I would do it at this stage, but I could imagine that if the car was much older, having a non-functioning back seat door opener would perhaps be acceptable.

Turns out, all four door handles are unique and all four motors in the door handle are unique!  Because of slight differences in the shapes, the plastic around the motor encasing is different.

Summary

I like the convenience of the mobile service; perhaps even more than the convenient valet service that sporadically occurs now.  I hope my new motor will last longer than 5 years.

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Service – “Number 6”

My Model S is five years old and quickly approaching 80,000. My ICE and all of my other cars for the last 20 plus years give you little warnings “time for service” on the dash. I’ve often found these warnings to be a bit annoying, but I’ve been a bit trained to expect them. I sort of figured it was about time and took it in last week.

Tesla has two types of annual service inspections: odd numbered and even numbered. The odd numbered services: 1, 3, 5 etc… are lighter services, and the even numbered ones are more substantial. The prices for the Model S and Model X vary also $475 for the odd year services and $725 – $850 for the even number services.  When I bought the car, I did purchase a maintenance plan that was packaged at the time as a “four year service plan”.

As I have documented in detail on the blog, my car has been in for numerous times for issues with the 21” wheels and some other issues. Somehow my car was serviced at Year 1, Year 2 and Year 4 but I skipped the Year 3 and Year 5 service. I purchased the “4-Year Maintenance Plan” but the fine terms were never very clear to me. Technically the plan expired last month, but my service advisor permitted me to get the service done as part of the pre-purchased package. A friendly dashboard or email reminder that the plan was about to expire from Tesla would have been greatly appreciated.

Because of my well documented hassles with the 21” wheels, I did get a free 2 year 25,000 mile warranty plan. Luckily I did because I had my touchscreen replaced during that period. Now, I am driving the car with no warranty, and no maintenance plan. Because I had an extended warranty even for only two years, there is no option for me to extend my warranty any further.

Service Plans and Regular Service?

A question from this time forward is how often I should be servicing my Model S and in what manner.

Lets look in detail what happens at the less expensive odd year $475 services:

1. Key fob battery replacement
2. Wiper blade set replacement
3. Tire rotation
4. Wheel alignment check
5. Multi-point inspection

Key Fob Battery Replacement

I appreciate that the battery replacement is part of the service, but this task is quite easy to do on your own and is well documented.

Replacing Wiper Blades

Replacing wiper blades is an easy task. You can buy the wipers online, and easily install them in less than 10 minutes. This video is a good description of how to do it yourself.

Tire Management

Rotating tires, aligning the wheels, and buying new tires are somewhat generic tasks. I have a fabulous garage within walking distance of my home. I also order my tires through the internet instead of buying them through a garage or Tesla. So for any of these tasks, unless there is extenuating circumstances, I do not plan on doing tire work through Tesla. I’m so thrilled I bought 19” wheels to replace the 21” wheels. They now have 15,000 miles on them and have worn very evenly with all specifications at an even 5/32 across the board! Most likely in 6 months I’ll take them in to the local shop to have them rotated and replaced if necessary.

Multi-point Inspection

The most nebulous thing on the shorter maintenance is the multi-point inspection. I think for the most part these are done with just daily use of the car. You would notice if a door stopped opening, or the horn did not honk. Perhaps it is nice that they check these but seems really unnecessary every 12,500 miles.  Here is the full list of what is included in the multi-point inspection.

  1. Pulled logs and checked for active faults. Are there any active faults that the car would not warn you about that would only be found at a service center?
  2. Checked firmware version. Updated to the latest version.
  3. Performed function check of closures (moving glass, doors, trunks): Cleaned and lubricated latches.
  4. Tested and inspected charging with shop’s cable.
  5. Remoteless Keyless Entry
  6. Seat belts and latches
  7. Interior/ exterior lighting and horn
  8. Performed inspection of powertrain and chassis components.
  9. Checked fluid levels:  topped off washer fluid.  Brake and coolant levels optimal.

In summary, I can replace my fob battery, and windshield wipers if needed by myself. I’ll get my tires rotated down the street. I can top off my washer fluid, and I’m okay not having the powertrain and brake and coolant levels checked that often.  I’m more than comfortable skipping the multi-point inspection. So I have no plans to take my car in for service 7.

Even year maintenance

The even year maintenance, or once every 25,000 miles performs all the above operations plus ones that I would not do myself, and seem important enough.

1. A/C desiccant bag replacement
2. Battery coolant replacement (only every 50,000 miles)
3. Brake fluid replacement
4. Cabin air filter replacement

Conclusion

I’ll wait for about 8,000 miles and have my tires rotated. I’ll skip the odd numbered maintenance at Tesla, and wait around 25,000 miles for a regular maintenance.
So at around 105,000 miles I’ll have service 8 done, and I’ll pay it out of my pocket for $850.

Drive Unit Failure

Unlike most other early Model S drivers, my Tesla hummed along without any drive unit failure for 71,000 miles.  For a few months it had a very small whine, but other than that was quiet as can be.  I know the very early rotors like mine were machined by hand.  The drive unit is covered by an 8 year unlimited mile warranty.

But one late afternoon while driving up a steep hill, the Tesla ground down to a quick halt without any warning.  Fortunately this hill is my own long street with little traffic.  I tried to drive the car forward to no avail.  The car made 3 different spurious click clack and whirling sounds, and I quickly knew my drive unit was gone.  I tried to punch it three times before rolling back down closer to the curb to call Tesla.

At first Tesla could not confirm the drive unit failure because it had not yet reported its demise to the cloud.  We restarted the touchscreen, and then the failure was apparent.  A toe truck was called and I fortunately could walk home and wait the hour.

Tesla service fixed my car in only a few days to my surprise.  They also rotated my 19” wheels which are holding up well.  I also never had to set foot in the service center, which I appreciate a lot.  They simply valeted my car back.

The only fault with the service was that they did not automatically send me my service record.  I like to have a “written” electronic record.  I don’t have a great memory for details such as mileage, dates, and names, and I need a record to check when to rotate my wheels. The lack of service record was minor but it was enough to not give a glowing report on survey.  I subsequently received my service record.

I have kept most of my cars about 10-12 years.  I run them to the ground usually until they are not worth fixing anymore.  I am very happy with the Model S except its width, and I just don’t see any upcoming reason to replace it in the near future.  I suspect if my drive unit fails after the 8 year warranty, replacing the drive unit may not make financial sense, and then I might get a new car.  The cost to replace a drive unit at this point is unknown but could be quite significant.

S, X and 3 Efficiencies

Five years ago I looked at the efficiencies  of various electric vehicles and was very impressed with the progress Tesla made with the Model S versus the Roadster.  Several months ago, someone commented on my blog that I do the same analysis on the Model 3, but all the data was not yet available (Yes, I could have written this several months ago).

The data I generated in 2012 was a conversion from the MPGe issued by the EPA.  In the five years since, drivers are more comfortable thinking in pure electric terms such as Range and kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity.  So I did not use the EPA numbers at all in the current calculations.  The final numbers do differ but not in any significant way for this high level analysis.

tonmiles.png

The efficiency analysis is quite simple.  First, how many miles of range can you go with a given battery pack.  So for the new Model 3 long range with 310 miles of range and a 74kWh battery, you can drive 4.19 Miles using 1 kWh.  All eight vehicles fall within a range of 2.95 to 4.38 miles per kWh.

To calculate efficiency of a vehicle, you need to also consider the weight of the car.  How much mass are you pushing along that one mile.  This number is listed in Ton-Miles / kWh.  Here again the English measuring system is very strange.  We normally think in pounds, and a ton is 2,000 pounds.  To calculate the efficiency measure of Ton-Miles / kWh, you simply multiply the weight of the car by the pervious range / energy number.

The “efficiency data” is quite interesting.  All the current Tesla vehicles fall within a very narrow range of 7.24 to 8.05 Ton-Miles / kWh.

Some of this data is a little tricky to calculate depending upon exact car options.   Tesla also did not report a lower weight for the Model 60, so the numbers are not exact but just give a general idea.   Surprisingly, the Model 3 is in the same efficiency range as the S and the X.  The Roadster, the BMW i3, Fiat 500e and the Nissan Leaf are much less efficient.  Perhaps the easy efficiency improvements were already implemented with the Model S.

Squeaky Car

Back in May I replaced my 21” wheels with a new set of 19” wheels.   I am very happy with the decision and really do not miss the 21” or their related headaches.

Immediately after the replacement, my car began to squeak, and squeak really loudly.  The noise was most noticeable when turning at very low speeds.  The worst of the noise sounded like furniture or house settling noises, but quite loud and easy to reproduce.  The sound was most noticeable in the morning when the air was colder than mid day.

When I went to the service center, an advisor verified the noises along with some bystanders.

“verified customer concern.  Creaking, popping, and clicking noise coming from the front suspension area when turning the steering wheel left to right or right to left”.

Tesla’s solution was to replace two bolts and two friction shims.

Unfortunately, when I picked up the car and even before driving out of the parking lot, I could reproduce the noise.  Instead of taking the car home, I left it at Tesla.

The next fix which thankfully worked was

“Replaced control arm and checked torque on suspension bolt, found camber arm bolts loose, tightened and steering rack bolts loose.  Loosened shield and cleaned, no more noise at this time.”

All the parts that were replaced or tightened had to do with the suspension in the car except for the shield, which protects the battery.

I strongly suspect that the squeaking was a result of the replacement of the tires and somehow the suspension got a little out of whack.  Since this incident I have driven about 3,000 miles with no more noise.

Downgrading to 19″ Wheels

After driving my Model S for four years on 21” wheels, I decided to downgrade the car to 19” wheels.  The decision process took a while, and the saga is a long one.

newwheels.jpg

New 19″ Slipstream Wheels

Slow Leak

A few months ago I noticed my tire had yet another leak.  The leak was very small and only required pumping up the air about every other week at the most.  Having so much experience with tires, I was not worried about this leak and had either used my electric pump, that I always have in the trunk, or the manual floor mounted bike pump in the garage to add more air.

I had intended to go to my very local service station / auto repair place and have them look at my tire at some point.  I suspected I had a nail in the tire and that the tire could be repaired.  The tires were not very new, so I was hoping I could delay replacing the tire, as that likely meant I needed to replace not just one tire but two.  When the tread is quite low on the tires, they do not want you to drive around with a set (either the front or the rear), where one tire has all its tread and the other is almost worn out.  I suspect this discrepancy could cause excess or unaligned tire wear.

Only an encounter with a Tesla service person on another matter changed the story.

Home or Office Service

I earlier reported that my 12 Volt battery had died and needed service.  The local service center now has one mechanic that goes to your location to repair batteries and tires.  As the ever curious Tesla owner, I watched him change the battery, and talked to him about various Tesla topics.

Somewhere during the conversation, I mentioned that I had a leak in one of my tires.  The service guy offered to look at my tire for no cost.  I had not planned on having Tesla address this leak, but I since it was free and he was already in my garage, I happily agreed.

Tire Inspection

The mobile service guy brought out his jack, and in very little time had the wheel off the car.  No nail was visible, but to my surprise I had a problem I have never seen on any car I have ever owned, my rim was cracked!

IMG_4905.JPG

Cracked Rim with Water Test to Show Leak

The rim was visibly cracked with a hairline fracture, and to confirm he added water and you could see the air bubbles.  He explained that if you hit a pothole “just so”, you can crack your rim.  He said I was safe to continue to drive the car with the wheels as long as I slowed down for any pot holes.

Pot Holes

Since I have been plagued by tire issues, I watch for potholes constantly.  I know where the road is worn out locally and steer out of my way to protect my tires.  I have been driving in this manner for 50,000 miles.  Luckily the town I live in has a fair amount of revenue stream and our roads are pristine.

I do remember however driving in the East Bay awhile ago and remembering a badly beat up stretch of payment on 580.  One fun grammatical note:  In Northern California, freeways are referred to by numbers not their names and are never preceded by the word “the”; in Southern California the naming convention is the reverse, which sounds so strange to our ears.  On 580, I distinctly remembered that I had avoided as much as I can any issues in the road pavement, but I know I did hit one pothole with the wheel in question.

Decision Time

I now really did not know what to do.  I knew not only I couldn’t just repair one tire, I had to buy a new rim also, and they cost $500!  I really didn’t want to do either, and this let me open up my thoughts to do something completely different.

Why I bought 21” Wheels in 2013

notmytaste.jpg

Original 19″ Wheels

Before my Model S, I was a very early 1xx Roadster owner.  I got used to zipping around
fast and hugging every curve.  I had initially configured the Model S to have the 19” wheels, but at the last minute a friend convinced me to go with the 21” primarily because they looked so much better.  I was just not particularly fond of look of the original 19” wheels, and Tesla no longer sells them to new buyers.

21” vs. 19” Reliability

Over the years I have talked to many different people associated with Tesla about my wheels.  I am not a particularly talkative person, but I can strike up a conversation with strangers with no qualms, and ask many detailed questions on an interesting subject.

The most interesting conversation about my tires was with a former Tesla Service Manager, whom I met in a very off chance circumstance.  I have heard the following different statements from 3 different Tesla employees that stuck in my brain, and I recalled them when thinking about what to do with my broken rim:

“Those 21s have had a lot of problems.”

“The vast majority of problems are with the 21s, no problems with the 19s.”

“Tesla should have never put such low profile tires on such a heavy car.”

My 21” experience vs. my fellow blogger

My fellow blogger from the East Coast has been very happy with his car and wheels.  He got 50,000 miles on a set of tires! That amount of mileage was and still is only something I can dream about.

Here is a short timeline of my tire experience:

  • March 2014 – four new tires  (mileage 12,500)
  • March 2014 – pothole damage, one new tire (mileage  12,600)
  • Spring 2014 – cross country road trip in Model S
  • June 2014 – four new tires (mileage 26,000)
  • July 2014 – new camber arms
  • October 2014  – nail and tire repair
  • October 2015 – four new tires (mileage 49,000)
  • October 2015 – leaky tire repaired
  • October 2016 – new tire (sidewall damage)
  • April 2017      – cracked rim (65,000 miles)

Tesla has treated me very well during this experience and have done a lot of monitoring of my alignment.  I managed to drive almost 23,000 miles on my third set of tires. My latest set of tires gave me at least 16,000 miles, which is respectable.  All four wheels had a fair to a considerable amount of curb rash.  I haven’t hit a curb in a couple of years, but it took a while to get used to the very wide car.

I was happy with what Tesla and I achieved in terms of tire mileage, but I was tired of how susceptible the tires were to other objects such as small potholes.  I was in a way tired of “living in fear” and having to watch the road excessively.  After the deluge of rain we received in California this winter, we have a lot of potholes in the state in general.

My current mileage was about 65,000.  I definitely had to replace one rim, and my front two tires were due to be replaced very soon, and the rears in short order.  Tesla provided the exact tread depth measurements, which are reported below.

Toe Wear!

I have extensively worked with Tesla over the last few years on my toe wear issues.  Tesla service has done really all they can to fix and monitor my extensive toe wear.  I am very glad my toe wear has improved enough that I can replace my tires closer to 20,000 miles instead of 12,500 miles.

But when looking at the wear report, the Tesla report still shows toe wear.

LF:6/32 6/32 3/32

RF:6/32 6/32 3/32

LR:6/32 6/32 4/32

RR6/32 6/32 4/32

When speaking to the first service person who was not my regular contact, I was told “you must have hit a pothole”.  No, I did not hit four potholes on all four wheels!   The car  still wears out the toe more than it should.

While the car sat in the shop waiting for a battery fix, I contemplated the numbers.  I had a choice.  Instead of sinking more money into a set of wheels that would never be very durable or long lasting for the Model S, I could fork out the cash to get the new 19” rims ($300 each) and tires ($180 each) for $480 each before tax and installation, or I could buy two 21” tires ($375 each), a new rim ($500) and in a few months buy two more new 21” tires.

  • 19” cost : (300 + 180) x4  = $1920
  • 21” cost: 500 + 2x 375  + 2 x 375 = $2000

Although I didn’t need to replace the back tires immediately, I would within 6 months.  So for the same price, I could get longer lasting lower maintenance tires.  The numbers are using Tesla default pricing and there are other options like buying tires through 3rd party places, but these calculations are listed here for simplicity.  So even in the short term, there was no real financial reason to stick with the 21s, and in the long run a very large savings.

Decision

I decided to go with the 19” rims.  I am tired of the hassle of these performance tires.

I had to wait a while because the service center only had two rims in stock, and needed to get the parts shipped in from the warehouse in Lathrop, California.

Selling 21” Wheels on CraigList

I also had another way to make a little money.  I could sell the wheels!  Tesla disposed of the wheel with the cracked rim, but I brought home the other three. I am not much of a seller and generally just donate things, but this was more than a few dollars worth of value.  I first tried the Tesla Motors Forum and got some interest, but I soon got tired of looking at the wheels, even if the garage has a lot of space.

IMG_5012.JPG

3 Wheels For Sale!

Using Craigslist, I got interest in the wheels immediately.  I am not much of a negotiator, and just pretty much took the first reasonable offer.

When selling on Craigslist you need to include photos of both the front of the wheels and the tire tread patterns.  Within a couple of hours, I got several questions and responses, and quickly sold the wheels.

treadwear.jpg

Tread Wear Photo of Wheels for Sale

The buyer was a Model X driver who was planning to take the wheels and powder coat them to a new color. He also said that there was a 22” tire that worked with these rims.  I sold all three of them for $450, so in the end I saved money buy buying new rims even in the short term.

Tesla App

The Tesla app for some reason still did not think I had any wheels on it.  The car recognizes the wheels as 19” as the picture had changed on the dashboard.  I knew the tire sensors were still talking to the car, so I knew I would get any low pressure warnings.  But the app picture was still a little ghostly.

 

ghostcar.jpg

The Ghost Car

I ended up pointing this issue out to the service manager, and he fixed it by reprogramming the computer on the car.  He had never seen this issue before.

Squeaky

Right when the process was done my car started to squeak.  The Model S is currently in service to fix this strange noise that occurred right after the wheels were installed and did not go away.  I’ll report on that when I get the car back.

Conclusion

I am very glad I made this decision.  With the new style or rims, I don’t miss the look of the 21s at all, and I will save so much money and hassle in the long run.  I have only noticed a very minor difference when driving, but I have not really gone anywhere recently that is particularly fun to drive.

 

New Battery Connections

This blog post is part 2 of a  3 part series of completely unrelated incidents that just happened in quick succession.

About four miles away from home, my car issued the second warning message of 2017:

AccelerationReduced

Acceleration Reduced  Contact Tesla Service When Convenient

Fortunately, the issue did not require me to stop immediately, and I felt comfortable driving home.  When I contacted Tesla Roadside Assistance, I was transferred to Tesla Service.

When Tesla Service contacted me, a bit to my surprise I was told not to continue driving the car.  Instead of driving the relatively short distance to the closest service center, they wanted to tow my car.  Fortunately in my area, you can have your Tesla towed by appointment.  I decided to delay it a day to a more convenient time.

The local towing operation is now very familiar with Teslas and did the operation quickly and efficiently.  There are only two things unusual about towing a Tesla:  setting the tow mode on the car, and secondly using a two pronged vs one prong cable.

dualattachments

Two Points Required to Tow a Tesla

This problem with my car had to do with the connectors to the main battery.  Within two days, the service department replaced the power switches with the latest generation parts,  replaced the HV Blanket, and removed some corrosion.   The descriptions listed in the invoice are:

“Replaced power switches with latest generation parts as necessary”

“Replaced HV Blanket with updated part”

“Retrofit 2nd Generation Battery Blanket and Remove Corrosion From Battery Cover”

Here is the list of parts that were replaced:

1 BUSBAR,OUTPUT,POS,HVBAT,MDLS (1048113-00-A)

1 BUSBAR,OUTPUT,NEG,HVBAT,MDLS (1048111-00-A)

2 SCREW,M8-1.25X19,HEX,BARSS,PATCH WITH WASHERS (1004392-00-B)

1 FIELD KIT PYRO FUSE PACK 1.0 1.5 (1089619-00-B)

1 FIELD CONTRACTOR KIT W/O FUSE – PACK 1.0 1.5 (1084515-00-B)

1 BLANKET, CERAMIC,HV BATTERY,MDLS (1006466-00-F)

8 TALL HEAD HOLLOW FASTENER FOR BIW MOUNTING SLEEVES WITH VHB SEAL (1018552-00B)

2 SHORT HEAD PACK SPACER FASTENER ASSEMBLY (1018551-00-B)

1 BATTERY RECYCLING WARNING LABEL (1015713-00-B)

In general this issue was not particularly painful, I was unable to drive my car for four days (including over a weekend).  The problem could have been very inconvenient if I was away from home or on a road trip.

The cost was covered by my warranty coverage.  However, I am not sure if the cost was covered by my extended warranty or the battery warranty as the language on the Tesla website is not very detailed.