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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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:

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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.

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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.

12 Volt Battery Ranger Service

12V Battery Needs Service

After a period of calm and low mileage driving in recent months, I have unfortunately encountered a few problems with my Tesla.  This blog post will be a 3 part series of completely unrelated incidents that just happened in quick succession.

I was innocently driving along and encountered a warning on my dash:

I have had my battery replaced only once before back in early 2014 when my car was in for service.  The nice part about the 12 Volt Battery replacement is that it is not an urgent matter.  If the car needs to do so, it might shut down some auxiliary electronics, but you can safely drive around for a period of time.

Ranger Service

What was also very nice, is that for no additional charge, if you live within a 10 mile radius of my service center, a ranger will come to your location.

The battery change took about 20 minutes, and just out of curiosity I watched the process.  The process is only a bit slow because there is quite a lot of screws and parts to remove.  I asked the ranger, and he said the Model X is not any more serviceable than the Model S.  Hopefully the model 3 designers will consider serviceability a little more during the design process.

This ranger service also deals with tire issues and door handles, things that can be accomplished easily at remote locations.  This service is a win win for Tesla and the customer base.  Instead of the hassle for the owner to drive to the service center and get a ride to home or work, the ranger can easily just move around town and address any issues at the owners convenience.  I am not sure if this service is available in all locations, but it worked great for replacing the battery after about 45,000 miles and 3 years.

Ranger Replacing the 12V Battery

Climate Change and the Election

The end of the 2016 was a challenging one for most Californians.  People have been in various states of shock, anger, disbelief, and sadness. During the fall I took a Stanford Continuing Studies class about the election.  I have a friend who is a political nut, and I thought the class would be interesting and had many renowned speakers.  David Plouffe, the campaign manager for Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign, spoke to the class and said that he was 100% sure that Clinton would win.   So I believed an expert and was shocked when Clinton lost.

Since the election, I have chosen not to blog about some of the more mundane aspects surrounding owning a Tesla waiting to summarize my thoughts about this last month and a half first in this post.  Although politics is a challenging topic to discuss, I believe the current state of the U.S. is very relevant to both a healthy green environment and the long term success of electric cars including Tesla.  I won’t discuss many of the other horrific things that have been said about women and minorities during the election, but just focus in on our environment.

Elites and Technology Elites

During the aftermath of the election, many pundits spoke of the movement being a revolution against the elites.  Income inequality is higher than it has been since the 1920s, and the unorganized Occupy movement a few years ago tried to address the growing discrepancy.

The Industrial Revolution shifted society from an agricultural and handcraft society to a machine driven one.  The Technological Revolution has shifted society from a machine driven one to a highly automated one.  Many people who formerly worked in machine driven factories have lost their jobs to robots.  Additionally because of the ability to communicate globally, we have become a global not national economy, and jobs have moved to places with lower cost of labor.

My career had a direct affect on changing our society.  In Silicon Valley (outside of the defense industry) we always believed that what we were creating was going to be useful and not harmful for people.  Yes, some early chip companies had problems during the manufacturing process that resulted in some major toxic Superfund sites.  But by and large, the technologies we created have freed people up from mundane tasks and have allowed us to communicate in ways that we could not have imagined a century ago.  The large majority of people would be very upset if they no longer had the ability to use the internet or their smart phone.

I do not believe most technological elites realized the deep impact these changes had on some parts of the country.  Looking forward, the biggest change technology could be self driving vehicles.  3.5 Million people are truck drivers today.  If all these jobs were automated in a short period of time, how will these truckers be able to find jobs with comparable incomes?

The Environment and Global Warming

The reason I started this blog was because I care about the environment deeply.  By sharing my experience driving an electric car, I could encourage other people to make similar purchases.  My solar panels on my home are ten years old, and according to my calculations I have recovered all my upfront costs including considering the opportunity cost of the investment.  So my electricity at this point is completely free for both my house and Tesla.

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

I am baffled by how many people in the U.S. still do not believe that climate change is occurring and that it is man made.  I have a friend who is a scientist by trade, who watches Fox news and still refutes the fact that global warming is man made.  We had a long civilized discussion about it and now matter what facts he is presented, his only argument is “There are just so many factors that could cause these changes.”  In the end I concluded that talking to him about any facts was futile and he has a deep embedded story that he believed – akin to a religious or non-religious belief.  I also think if he admitted to the reality of climate change, his sense of personal story and ego would crumble.

Trump selected Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of the oil and gas-intensive state of Oklahoma, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Pruitt has fought regulations on our environment and even defended ExxonMobil when it tried to deny climate change and disavow the oil companies’ evidence.  He also stated “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

This quote is incorrect, a 2016 survey of the world’s major economies also found that strict environmental policies improved, rather than handicapped, competitiveness in the international market according to the growing consensus among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) economists.  For example, California has the strictest environmental regulations in the country and enjoys the most robust economy in the U.S.

How the environment became a political issue is bizarre.  Richard Nixon created the EPA, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, and George W. Bush signed the extension of the Clean Air Act.  The environment and the future of our planet should not be a political issue.

Conclusion

I am very saddened that my country elected a racist, sexist person without compassion who does not care about the environment.  I will do whatever I can to help make America a good place for everyone not just rich white men.

How does the election impact Tesla and the environment? I think Tesla does need to consider the impact of autonomous vehicles on those who depend upon driving as the source of our income.

My far my biggest fear is climate change as the U.S. needs to be the leader in solving global warming, and if we don’t act fast the problems may be irreversible.

Supercharger Fees

Several superchargers in busy areas in California have had long waits such as San Mateo, Burbank, and San Juan Capistrano.  A year and a half ago Elon gave a vague statement about supercharging that was never clarified by Tesla.  Many owners have worried about the huge numbers of Model 3s clogging the supercharger network.  Finally today Tesla has announced a new supercharging policy for cars ordered in 2017 and later.

For Teslas ordered after January 1, 2017, 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) will be included annually so that all owners can continue to enjoy free Supercharging during travel. Beyond that, there will be a small fee to Supercharge which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car.

our Supercharger Network will never be a profit center.

These changes will not impact current owners or any new Teslas ordered before January 1, 2017, as long as delivery is taken before April 1, 2017.

I am glad Tesla finally made a decision about the future of supercharging. Some speculation exists that the older cars have now increased in value, but newer cars can still use the superchargers for a fee.  On long trips, I suspect newer drivers may choose more often to frequent hotels with destination chargers or utilize more public chargers.  The greatest potential impact may be renters who wish to buy a Tesla, and now have to consider the cost of charging with their Model 3.

One thousand miles is not a lot of free Supercharging credit.  A good percentage of my miles on my Tesla are supercharged.  But I’m in a unique (and fortunate) circumstance with no commute and free time to travel when and where I please.  I will be very curious what the actual fee is to supercharge a car and add say 50KWh.

Battery Swap – Closed

Looks like the battery swap station at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, CA is closed.  I heard a rumor that it was closed, inquired about availability, and received the following response:

Presently the Battery Swap Program is not accepting any new requests for appointments.

Because you had to schedule an appointment in advance,  the battery swap was not convenient.  Since my first and only swap experience, I have used the superchargers at Harris Ranch at probably six more times but never could schedule or plan another swap.  I doubt the station will be missed.

 

 

Solar Roof Tiles

Tesla’s latest event was labeled as Powerwall 2 but the more interesting part of the event was when Elon announced a set of solar tiles for roofs.

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These new solar tiles are available in a few styles including a Tuscan style one in an orange color and more modern grey tile ones shown above.  All the styles are made of glass that are stronger than conventional roof tiles.  Elon claimed that installing or replacing a roof would be cheaper with these Solar City tiles than a conventional roof!

Elon also announced Powerwall 2 with twice as much energy storage than the first iteration, along with PowerPack 2 for the commercial market.

Powerpack.jpg

The goal is to have solar on your roof, a Powerwall in your garage, and a Tesla in your driveway.

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I have already had solar on my house for 10 years, and I actually have a flat roof where you cannot even see the panels.   My house is quite unusual, but if I had a conventional house without solar I would seriously consider these new panels.  I wonder if only Solar City can install them or can you buy them at retail stores like Home Depot?

Part of the timing of this event was clearly to influence the vote on the merger. My small number of Tesla shares will in no way influence the outcome, but I have not yet decided how to vote.

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