Sleepy Door Handles

For the last couple of weeks, I was noticing that my door handles did not move when I approached the car.  I thought it was a bit odd, and I would double click on the roof of the fob, and the door handles would move to the open position.

When you have a fob with you, the door handles by default “auto-present” knowing that you are in the vicinity.  You can change this behavior by changing the settings on the touchscreen.

I did not fret the first time this happened, but then it happened several times more.  So I looked through the settings and they were still set to “auto-present”.  After some web research, I found a hint of what could be the problem.  If you have a key fob close to or in your car, the car will remain unlocked at all times.

My first thought was that the “junk drawer” with the key fobs is not that close to the car.   I’ve also left the key fobs in there for 6 1/2 years now, so why would this behavior just change now?

The second possibility that the secondary key fob was actually IN the car.  I couldn’t find the 2nd key fob in the junk drawer.  But low and behold, the key fob was just sitting on the driver’s seat.

So technically someone could have easily stolen the car for the last couple of weeks.  But then again, they would have to have actually touched the door handle to open the door.  Even then, the car could easily be found through the Tesla app.


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.


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.

2016 Shareholder Highlights


Elon Musk and JB Straubel Talking About the AC Propulsion Prototype Car

I attended in person the almost four hour shareholders meeting in Mountain View, CA.  This meeting was more of a Tesla history lesson than a shareholders meeting.  At times I was very bored as I have been following Tesla since 2007, and a lot of the information was unnecessarily long.  The large recognition of a variety of Tesla employees was nice to see as Tesla is not just Elon. There were a few interesting tidbits during the history lesson and the 30 minutes of Q&A.

Model 3 Supercharging Fees

Elon stated the Model 3 will have a fee to use the superchargers.   The pricing model is unknown and could be a simple upfront fee or a pay per use model.  The 60kWh version of the Model S had a simple $2,000 fee to enable supercharging.

Model X Regrets

Elon admitted that the Model X was over engineered.  He regretted not launching a simpler Model X and following up future versions of the car with these new features.  He also admitted to a lot of problems with the falcon wing doors, and that the remaining issues are software related for a various corner cases when the doors should or should not open.

I really liked that Elon acknowledged this mistake;  I am much more comfortable with honest leaders who both recognize and publicly admit errors.  I also think that if the Model X had a simpler base version with standard doors and standard seats, a lot more vehicles would have been sold.

Model S and X as Technology Leaders

The Model S and Model X will always be the technology leaders and will be continually improved.

Building the Machines that Build the Machine

Elon also demonstrated a huge amount of interest in building the machines that build the machine. He used the analogy of integrated circuit (IC) design to car factory design.  When designing an IC, the designer and software make tradeoffs between speed, size, and power consumption of a chip.  The process is very complex today as the individual components and wires are extremely small.  During this analogy, Elon referred to both the slow rate that cars are leaving the factory and the number of layers in an IC.  With these references, I can speculate that Elon thinks that there are ways the factory robotic process can be combined.  Very simplistic ideas could be that multiple robots are working on a car at the same time; perhaps one robot is above the car, another below the car and a third on the side of the car.

The New Model S Nose

On display at front was an older Model S, a new Model S with the new nose, and a Model X.  I don’t really have a strong opinion about the new nose.  From all the Model Xs I have seen in California, I have found that the new nose looks better on some colors than others.



Model X in Palo Alto

Yesterday I went to the new Tesla store and service center in Palo Alto.  The old Menlo Park store <now closed> was on Stanford property, and apparently Stanford wants to use that land for something else.  Tesla has since opened up a store and service center along 101 in Burlingame and now this one in Palo Alto.  I noticed the Burlingame building while being driven home from the airport after my trip to Europe, so it is very easy to find.

Chargers at Palo Alto Service Center Overlooking Volvo Dealership

Chargers at Palo Alto Service Center Overlooking Volvo Dealership

I doubt they could have found a suitable facility in Palo Alto for a service center closer to their headquarters.  The two facilities are now only two miles apart.  I think this arrangement is a good idea to keep the communication between development and service strong.  I would hope the engineers would from time to time visit the service center to listen to the customers and the mechanics. The facility itself is nice and includes a large bank of charging stations overlooking the Volvo dealership.  These chargers are not superchargers.

I went to see the Model X.  I personally have no interest in buying this car.  I have a SUV that has 70K miles on it, that I imagine will last at least another 10 years as it is not frequently used.  I  also think this category of vehicle should not be ultra luxury.  When going skiing or venturing in the backcountry, I want a rugged vehicle that I have no qualms about getting dirty or getting scratched by tree branches.  When I bought my Toyota Highlander Hybrid seven and half years ago, Lexus had the same vehicle for sale with three minor unnecessary upgrades (backup camera and two others) for an additional $10K.  I think most of these sales were for the name Lexus not the additional features.

Model X Prototype with All The Doors Open

Model X Prototype with All The Doors Open

The Model X is basically a taller Model S with the gull wing doors.  After spending a month in Europe, I still struggle to see why there are so many large cars in the U.S.  I would want to carry my paddleboard on the top, and these gull wing doors probably prohibit that.  But the Model X could perhaps work as a mini van replacement or for someone with large dogs.

The new Palo Alto store is very close to the Tesla headquarters in the southern reaches of Palo Alto on El Camino Real near Arastradero Road.

A little bit of “trivia” in regards to the name El Camino Real.  El Camino Real and highway 101 in some parts of the state begins in the south in San Diego and ends 600 miles north.  The road was built by the Spanish missionaries connecting the 21 California missions.  Real in Spanish is royal in English but all the roads during the period of Spanish crown were called “camino real”.  The term was not used when Spain was ousted from Mexico and California but revived in the 20th century to boost tourism.

For many Californians like myself, I always translated “El Camino” from Spanish to the word “Road”.  I learned during my time in Spain, that the word camino really means dirt path or trail, or the type of road we can imagine the Spanish missionaries traveling on.   The word calle is a better translation for road, and carretera for highway.

Tesla Service Visit

I had the opportunity to review the P85+ because my car went in for service. One of the reasons for the service was that the dash had issued the warning: “Service Tire Pressure System…Contact Tesla Service.”   This warning came up repeatedly on my long road trip down the coast during long stretches of freeway driving.

Tire Pressure Warning

Tire Pressure Warning

Since I was far away from home I called the 800 number to speak with a Tesla person.  He said it could be the tires or the warning system itself.  I looked at all the tires and they looked fine.  I have to confess, I do not carry a tire pressure gauge and did not venture to a gas station, my check was solely visual.  The light came on and off about six times.  When the warning showed up it was on for 30 miles or so.  From the forums, it looks like several people have had problems with the tire pressure systems.  During the service, they replaced the TPMS module and repositioned it.

The Roadster also had physical sensors.  The car also told you the actual tire pressure in a screen readout.  The Model S does not have a numerical readout, simply a warning if the pressure is incorrect.  I hope that the software will eventually have a numerical readout, as I am not particularly prone to noticing low tire pressure.

I also hopefully had my last door handle replaced as my doors like to open by themselves.  This time, my driver side rear door handle has been replaced.  I hope this problem is fixed for good.

The service also included installing some new rear window regulator clips.  It appears that some people have had issues with the rear windows remaining open and these small parts will solve that issue.  More detailed reports of this problem can be found here.   In the past I had problems with my Toyota windows after putting a small strap through the rear window while driving but I have not had any problems myself with my rear windows.

The service department also tried to reproduce my intermittent noise and bluetooth issues.  Occasionally, often but not always near power lines, my car makes noise similar to tv or radio static.  The noise can be quite loud, and seems to be more frequent with passengers in the rear seats.  I have tried many times to drive over the same route to reproduce it consistently but have been unable to.  During my test drive of the P85+ I also experienced this same noise but it was quieter than my own car but not less frequent.

I have also had intermittent problems with the bluetooth connection to my Iphone while listening to music or audiobooks.  The connection fails and is difficult to reconnect.  Rebooting the Iphone does not solve the problem.  I had to reboot both the car and the Iphone to get the connection back again.

Unfortunately, since both these problems are intermittent, Tesla could not reproduce them and neither can I in a consistent manner.

Haunted Doors, Again

My doors still like to self open!  I thought this problem was completely fixed a couple of months ago.   I have already written two posts on this topic:

I have been in for service twice already with my self-opening doors.  I am beginning to loose count how many door handles I have been through with this car.

The latest self opening door incident occurred a couple of weeks ago.  The passenger driver side door was open after I returned from a stroll near a beach.  I was quite surprised looking at the car as the handles were all in the open position, and this back door was open.  That back door had not been opened in a few weeks.  Other owners have had problems with the door handles, but my self opening doors seem to be unique.

I still very much like my car and so far the problems I have been experiencing have been acceptable but not ideal.

Another Self Opening door Incident

Another Self Opening door Incident

Opening A Different Car

I came out of a store in a small shopping area, and saw a grey Model S nearby.  I walked over to the car and the passenger door handle did not retract.  I was planning to throw on the seat the small items I had in my hand.  Since I am an environmentalist, I always say “no bag please” when I buy a few items that I can carry.

I took the key fob out of my pocket and shook it a bit.  I opened the door and looked inside to find on the black seat an odd outer garment of some kind.  The coat was black with some trim.  I did not have a coat on the seat.  The water bottle also looked unusual.

I looked around and then realized.  THIS IS NOT MY CAR!  The car had identical colors inside and out along with the 21″ wheels.   My car was parked not very far away in this small parking lot.  I looked around to see who owned this car, and the one person I talked to gave me some strange looks.

I was quite surprised that my key could open another Model S.  I have been experiencing a series of strange intermittent problems:  self opening doors, rare electrical noises, occasional bluetooth connection issues and a flakey tire pressure gauge.  Perhaps these are somehow related?  I am planning to blog about these other problems soon but they are minor and I have not had the time.  My car is going in for service in August and I do have the VIN # of the other Model S.

In this area there are a lot of Teslas on the streets, but I have not seen any reports of this issue.  I did not try to drive the car.  I vaguely remember another car manufacturer having similar issues in the past.

This Photo is Not My Car!

This Photo is Not My Car!