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.

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.

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

Master Charger Replacement

One day I went to drive away from home and found a mysterious red light around my charge port. I wasn’t too alarmed and figured something happened during the charging session.

Red Light on Charge port

Red Light on Charge port

On the instrument cluster, the car had the following message that it was unable to charge and requested a multi stepped procedure:

  1. Exit the car and remove the cable (implicit)
  2. Close the Charge Port Door
  3. Re-enter the car and press the brake pedal
  4. Open the charge port door on the touch screen (implicit)
  5. Exit the car and put the cable back in the charge port (implicit)
  6. Try charging the car again
Message On Instrument Cluster

Message On Instrument Cluster

I went through this procedure myself two times.  The first time using my HPWC (High Powered Wall Connector).  I suspected that perhaps this problem could be due to the HPWC, so I tried the same procedure with a 110 Volt outlet to no avail.

I called the Tesla roadside number and repeated the procedure a 3rd time with the Tesla person on the other line to no success.  Tesla pulled the car logs and found a fault in the master charging system.  This car simply was unable to add any charge (or any miles to the battery), so I had to take it in for a service visit.

Service Center Excursion

I have a local service center but do not normally have my car worked on there for a few reasons unrelated to this blog post.  I do love the valet service.  But because my battery was quite drained, the only viable choice was to drive the car to the local service center that same day.  I was taken home not by a Tesla valet but by an Uber.  The Uber car was driven by a limo driver who works during the day for a hotel.  This level of Uber service is basically a more traditional business service car.

A variety of genuine concerns exist using services like Uber.  I personally all drivers should be fingerprinted.  I don’t care about how fancy the car is, but riding in a vehicle with an anonymous person safety is enough of a concern to warrant fingerprinting.  One of my volunteer positions requires us to be fingerprinted and the procedure is easy, quick and painless.

In places where taxi drivers have to pay an exorbitant fee to be licensed, those municipalities have unfairly burned taxi cabs, and are giving these smartphone enabled services a way to avoid these regulations.  In New York City, taxi licenses have been limited to less than twelve thousand, and no new licenses have been issued for over half a century.  The open market for these medallions peaked around $1 million.

In my area, taxis are almost non-existent and Uber is a reasonable alternative to a Tesla employee driving owners home from a service center.

New Master Charger

The master charging system is the mechanism between the outlet and the battery that directs the car to charge.  The system includes an electromagnetic relay using a low electric current to tell the battery to begin charging.  Unfortunately when the system breaks down, you cannot charge the car at all, and need to take your car immediately to a service center.

Several days later I got my car back with a new master charger installed.  I am so glad my car is under warranty as that part would have cost me about $2,000!  So far, I have accumulated close to $7,000 in extended warranty charges.

The service advisor did explain that since my VIN number is on the low side, my master charger was an out dated design.  I don’t think this problem is particularly common.

My Model S 50,000 Mile Service Record

Consumer Reports surveyed 1,400 Tesla owners and lowered their prediction of reliability from average down to worse-than-average.  Tesla stock has dropped on this news today.

Consumer Reports sites problems with display screen freezes, replacements of the cars’ electric motors and sunroof leaks.  Most early Tesla owners such as myself have experienced a number of problems, but newer Model S cars appear to have had less issues as Tesla has made the car more reliable.  Buying a brand new platform from a new car company with a below 5,000 VIN number, I knew I was an early adopter and expected some problems to crop up.

What Consumer Reports did not mention is that Tesla service is stellar.  They valet your car to your home or office with a loaner Model S (in most but not all cases).  Appointments are not always fast if the issue is not urgent, but they treat their customers universally well.  Part of the company culture is treating their customers with respect which is the opposite of most car companies.  I have only been inconvenienced once with this level of service in the 6 1/2 years driving Teslas.

During my 50,000 miles 2 1/2 year journey with the Model S, I have had a series of seven issues with my car all of which I have documented on this blog.

  1. Serious problems with tire alignment ruining tires
  2. Door handles that would not open
  3. Bluetooth issues connecting to the iphone
  4. Faulty tire pressure warning sensors
  5. Panoramic roof liner had exposed adhesive
  6. Roadster adapter cable failed completely
  7. 12 Volt battery replacement

My issues have been both serious and minor with some difficult to diagnose and fix.  I am hoping to report on the tires soon.  The door handle problems were with the first design of the handles, and new cars do not have these issues. I have not had my motor replaced due to any noise issues although I can hear it a tiny bit more than when I first bought the car. The drive unit is under warranty for a total of 8 years and infinite miles. I won’t think of replacing it unless the noise is a lot more than barely perceptible.

Can I say my car has been as reliable as average?  As much as I adore my car and Tesla, the true answer is no. I think even achieving an average or close to average rating is fabulous for a brand new car company.  I would not expect a great reliability from a new company doing something radically different in the first 10,000 cars they produce.

Ironically today my car is in for the service of the bluetooth.  I have had intermittent problems connecting to the phone along with the 17” screen telling me the bluetooth needs to be serviced.  I had to wait several weeks for an appointment, but I have a loaner in the driveway.  Unfortunately it is an older P85+ without autopilot.  I was hoping to test the autopilot and write my impressions here on this blog.  Even with these issues, Tesla employees are great to deal with and they make servicing the car painless.  I can’t imagine going back to dealing with an ICE as my daily driver.

My only question is should I buy the extended warranty?  I had gathered my list of service issues in an attempt to make that decision making writing this timely post easier.  I’d love to hear your thoughts if I should spend $4,000 to extend my warranty for another four years and 50,000 miles.  I do not expect to be driving as much as I have in the past.