Release 7.0 for Classic Teslas

Classic Teslas like mine do not have the hardware that enables the autopilot features.  The new software release that all cars received last Friday works for both the Classic Teslas and the ones with the autopilot hardware, which costs $2,500.  This release has a few significant highlights and unfortunately a couple of lowlights for Classic Cars such as mine.

1. The look and feel has changed in several small ways.  Some of the fonts and style has changed a little bit with the current fashionable flat 2-D icons.  When Apple first released their 2-D icons, I missed the older ones, but I largely think this is just a current style trend that will eventually change again.

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

2. For long road trips, the information on the dashboard for energy usage is much clearer.  Now instead of looking at a strange screen with Trip A and Trip B monitors, you are looking at the information since the last time you started the car on top, and since your last charge below.  On long road trips when I was running dangerously low on energy, I would always bring up the Trip screen to get this information since last charge.   The Trip A and B information is still available on the 17” screen if people plan their energy use that way.

I like this change because I can monitor how much energy I have used since my last charge very succinctly.  I like the kWh usage number and I can easily mentally compare that to my 85kWh battery and compare my Wh/mi usage to the 300 Wh/mile standard.  Here in the hills of California, I never average as low as 300 Wh/mile.  Only on some very flat freeways can the average be maintained at that low level.

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

2. Tesla has finally found a solution to my curb rash! Now the rear view mirrors adjust downwards while backing up.  I have only tried using this feature once but now I imagine I can parallel park much nicer even without auto-pilot. Of course, I could have done that manually in the past, but I couldn’t imagine messing with my mirrors every time before and after parallel parking.  I’m really excited about this feature because for some reason I’ve never been a great parallel parker.  In my entire life I just have never lived anywhere where I parked parallel with any frequency.

After visiting so many superchargers, I’m really good at backing up into tight spaces though.

Dash Display on Left and Center

Dash Display on Left and Center


3. The center of the dash has grown and changed to accommodate an area for the autopilot in the middle of the speedometer.   For those without autopilot the area is a bit excessive.  The car will have indication lights such as when it is braking as in the picture, but typically this information does not change much and can be a bit annoying.  Owners with red cars have reported they cannot really see the red indicator lights as it blends too much with their car color on the display.

To make space for the larger center display, the battery level was moved to the left and the date, time and temperature removed from the standard dash set up.  You can see the time at the far upper right of the 17” screen, and the date through the calendar app.

To appease those of us who may want to have an easier glance at the time, they added a new clock widget.  The response to the clocks widget is that it is almost universally esthetically displeasing.  And with all of that space, why can’t the date and day of the week also be listed?

Upper Left of 17" Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

Upper Left of 17″ Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

4.  Tesla added a tiny lock and unlock button on the top row of the 17” screen.

I like this improvement because it took a while to fiddle around the 17” screen to unlock the doors for someone who was trying to get into the car.   They moved the outside temperature reading up here too along with a new button for bringing up the charge screen.

I think the temperature needs to go back to the dash permanently.  I am a bit obsessive about the outside temperature.  I adjust the inside temperature control a lot depending upon the outside temperature and whether or not it is sunny.  This fall has been so warm here in California.  Today is the first day of the year that even feels like fall not summer so I’ve been watching the temperature this year a bit obsessively.

The new charge button brings up the charge screen, which to me is a bit strange.  I am always fiddling a bit to find the unlock charge port button more than anything else on that screen. I’d prefer that this lightning bolt just unlocked the charge port.

Other Details

The release also includes a few other minor changes on the dash board that I will not mention such as a full screen control of the media player.  There are also some efficiency improvements but I have not driven the car much yet to notice any differences.  Newer cars also get a full four wheel tire pressure monitoring sensors that will report on each four tires.  My car’s vintage is unfortunately too old.  I don’t know if there are any bug fixes to the bug challenged trip planner.

All in all, I think 7.0 is an improvement even with a few trivial mistakes on the UI.

Dealing With a Leaky Tire

As my regular blog readers know, I have had a torrent of problems with my tires.  I have had problems with excessive tire wear (which I hope to report an update on soon), but also just more mundane problems.  My wheels have a fair amount of curb rash particularly the right rear tire due to the tire’s profile and the large size of the Model S.  But I have not scraped a curb in a long time and I don’t fret over a few scratches.

My more mundane problem with this right rear tire is that I had a nail in the tire earlier this year.  I had the nail torn out and a plug put into the tire by my local mechanic.  The tire worked fine for several thousand miles.  Then in a bit of a rush, I scraped the sidewall of the tire.  Then a thousand miles later, the plug began to have a slow leak.

The Model S TPMS system does a good job warning you when a tire is less than 30-32psi.  I consistently will get a warning when the tire is around that threshold.  On the Model S, the software does not tell you which tire is leaking.  Ironically the TPMS on the Roadster did tell you which tire leaked!

I have four tires of the same vintage with significant wear, so replacing one tire would definitely require replacing two tires.  Tires are not free and they also use resources in manufacturing and shipping.  So I decided to delay the replacement by pumping air in the tire.  I did not look at a second repair of the plug.  The first repair cost me $47.60.  I live in an expensive neighborhood with an extremely reliable mechanic.  I could likely find another shop that may be able to do a second patch for less money, but I decided to not investigate that option.

Instead for the last 5,000 miles, I have been simply pumping this tire with air every three days or so.  The tire leaks about 2-3 psi per day whether or not the car is driven.  So it is not that hard to top it off.  I have used three different methods:

Conventional Air Pump

Conventional Air Pump

The first method is to drive to a conventional gas station.  I only tried this method once as I was out and about when the tire pressure warning light indicated.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, many gas stations charge for air.  I found the process to be a hassle dealing with a charge based machine.  If the air was free, the process would be faster.

I find this picture quite amusing.  Not only are you buying air, which to me always feels ironic, you can use a pay phone to make a call at the same time.  And if you are feeling generous, you can donate some clothes or shoes.


Electric Air Pump

Electric Air Pump

The second method is to use an electric pump that works on the 12V plug in the Tesla.  I bought this kit online.  It is not the Tesla branded version but it is the same basic kit.  Using electricity it pumps air into your tire.  The process is not particularly fast and your car needs to be unlocked to connect to the plug.  I carry the pump with me in the car.

Standing Bicycle Pump

Standing Bicycle Pump

The third method is to use a standing bicycle pump.  This third method is my favorite method.  When I’m in the garage without my key, I can pump up the tire at the same rate as the electrical plug using this pump.  I also leave the pump near the car, and it helps to remind me to add some air. Most cyclists own one of these standing pumps and they cost under $50.  The standing pumps are much easier to use than the bicycle pump that you can carry on your bike.

With any of these three methods, it takes about five minutes to add about 8-10psi to a tire.  My car is going to Tesla soon and I’m likely going to buy at least two new tires.  Topping off the tire every few days is pretty painless but I think I’m ready to be pump free.

An Official Rashy Curb

Parking Garage Exit that Wants to Give You Curb Rash

Parking Garage Exit that Wants to Give You Curb Rash

I have previously written about my curb rash on my 21” wheels.  I recently found a parking garage exit where it is quite difficult to leave without any curb rash.

If you look at the photo, one of the garage entry / exit points has automatic card readers.  Because of this system, a large island is in the middle of the two somewhat narrow lanes.  The approach into the exit lane is basically a 90 degree angle.  Cars turn in an arc and cannot simply turn at a near 90 degree angle.

I won’t shame the organization that owns this parking garage but the design is clearly weak.  While taking the picture for this blog, I watched other drivers struggle with this exit and the truck in the photo jumped the curb.

The architects could have done several things to eliminate the problem.  First the center island does not need to be so wide and long.  They could have placed the card readers and gate controllers in a more compact design.  They also could have placed the protective black poles much closer to the electronic devices they are trying to protect in order to give exiting cars more width in the lane.

I successfully negotiated my way once through this exit without any curb rash, but the second time at a very slow speed I curb rashed my right front wheel.

Fortunately, there is a manned booth to the right that is much easier to access and I will be using in the future.

New Curb Rash

New Curb Rash

More Curb Rash - Same Left Front Wheel - Same Incident

More Curb Rash – Same Left Front Wheel – Same Incident

Nail in the Tire

After about 5,000 miles, I had Tesla rotate my new tires (for free as is standard), and they discovered a nail in my front right tire.  I have no idea how many miles I have had this nail in the tire as I did not have a significant air leak.  Tesla will not repair tires although they did offer to sell me a new one (no thanks).  The Model S front tires have so little wear on them because the car is so back heavy, I had no interest in replacing this tire.

I am not sure or not if this practice is commonplace or not with auto dealers.  I never bought tires or rotated tires through dealers before.  It would have been convenient if Tesla could perform this repair.

With the upcoming D versions of the car – 60D, 85D and P85D – having a motor on the front axle, I will be very curious to see how the tire wear will change.  The weight will be more evenly distributed but there will be torque on all four wheels.  So perhaps the rear tires will wear less than a standard Model S, but the front tires will wear more.

I took my car and tire to my local garage, Ron Raimes Automotive, and was surprised to learn that the repair of the tire was not as simple as I had expected.  The few times in the past I have had nails in the tread, the repairs had been simple plug of rubber and glue that took only a few minutes.

But I learned with low profile high performance tires, these repairs are not particularly safe and the tire must be dismounted, the rim taken off, and a patch applied to the interior of the tire.  The whole procedure took around thirty minutes.  Ron would do the same patch not plug repair on all Model S tires – size 19″ or 21″.

Nail in the Front Right Tire

Nail in the Front Right Tire

New Camber Arms

I bought a full new set of tires per the recommendation of my local mechanic, Ron Raimes automotive.  The tires were again wearing heavily on the inside sidewalls in an unusual pattern as you can see in the picture below.  The standard inside wear markers were not yet worn down.  These set of tires are not nearly as bad as the last set, but they still did not wear very evenly.fourtires

When he looked at the alignment before installing the new tires, the alignment for both the toe and the camber were again out of spec.  My mechanic suggested that he would install the tires, align them and then suggested I come back again in 1,000 miles to see if the tires would stay aligned.

Since Tesla had been quite responsive when I had alignment issues in the past after emailing them at the VP level, I decided to send them a note discussing this current state of alignment.  Only 7,000 miles had passed since the Minneapolis center had adjusted my alignment again, so I was a bit concerned.

I took my car to the Sunnyvale service center and explained the entire saga.  I had only driven my car 200 miles with these new tires.  When they checked my alignment, the tires were again out of alignment. The alignment had shifted in those 200 miles but the vehicle measurements clearly show that the camber is out of alignment.  A tire shop has no ability to adjust the camber.  The camber in the rear was at -2.3 and -2.32 with the spec being between -1.4 to -2.1.

Because I had expected to wait at the service center, I did not bring my house key or garage door opener, and the car was driven 30 miles between the first 6/26 check by Tesla and the second set of numbers the next day when they did the alignment.  I am a bit concerned about the amount of variability in the shift of the front toe.  The front left shifted from -0.16 to -0.27 in 30 miles and the front right shifted from 0.07 to 0.31.  I have included five sets of alignment data in the table below over the course of 250 miles.  I am a little concerned that the alignment does not appear particularly stable although these numbers are quite small.

June Alignment Data

June Alignment Data

Alignment Using Laser Interferometers

Alignment Using Laser Interferometers

In both shops, I watched the alignment process.  They use the same brand alignment machine, Hunter, which uses lasers to accurately check the alignment.  As an odd side note, my summer job between junior and senior years of college was working with laser interferometers at Hewlett Packard, so I know these machines are very accurate.

My local garage did complain that the rear tires are physically difficult to align.  The configuration of the car makes it quite difficult to get the mechanic’s arms in the correct place to adjust the alignment.

Sunnyvale Tesla in the end concluded the problem with my alignment was the camber bushings, which is the rubber part in the camber arm. They replaced both camber link arms with a newer upgraded version.

The new camber arms also have an improved design and a more complex shape that should support more torque than the original camber arms.  I am hoping the challenges with alignment are completely solved, but I will have it check again by both my local mechanic and Tesla to ensure I can drive many miles with these new tires.

Original Camber Arms

Original Camber Arms

Location of Camber Arms in Wheel Well

Location of Camber Arms in Wheel Well

New Tires – Again

So unfortunately I had to buy a full new set of tires.  The Minneapolis service center prediction was wrong.  I am now at 26,000 miles and decided to replace all four.  Two of the tires may have lasted a little bit longer but did not seem worth the trouble to deal with the issue again in a couple of months.

With the original equipment Continental tires, they lasted 20K miles on the front and 6K on the back.  The pair of Michelin tires I purchased this year lasted 7.5K on the back and 6K on the front.  I may have been able to get a little more mileage out of the Michelins.  I decided to purchase the Continentals as they appear to have slightly better longevity but I really am just guessing.  The Denver service center implied that the low wear was due to the usage of the low suspension setting.  I am not going to use this setting unless I need extended range.

Another fact that I found surprising is how much my car was out of alignment again.  If you look at the detailed report below, the tires are out of alignment particularly with the rear toe.  The shop owner indicated that some of the bolts were not particularly tight.  The overall alignment numbers are actually worse than the earlier problem I reported.  The local garage suggested that I stop by again in 1,000 miles to see how my alignment is holding up.


June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

Denver Tire Rotation

After another 6,000 miles of driving since the last tire rotation in Minneapolis, I decided to call the Tesla Denver Service Center to have my tires rotated.  They could either fit me in at 7am or 11:30am the next day.  Neither time was convenient, but I chose to get up at 5:30 to avoid traffic and get my tires rotated.

The Minneapolis Service Center had indicated that I may get another 12K miles out of all four of my tires.  Unfortunately, the new report was only a tight 1K on the original Continental tires and maybe 3K on the newer Michelin tires.  In the best case my new Michelin tires would run 9K on the rear and 6K on the front.  The Continental pair that had alignment issues lasted 12.5K on the back alone.  Almost all of the wear on the Tesla Model S tires occurs when the tires are in the back.

I was informed that because the 5.9 firmware now allows for the low suspension, my additional accelerated wear was probably due to using this low setting.  As the vehicle lowers itself, the suspension angle changes and the camber becomes more negative which means more insdie edge wear.  Since I spent a lot of time freeway and highway driving, I was not accelerating frequently.  I was however regularly manual lowering the car. I was quite saddened by this news of low tire wear.

A trade-off for an environmentalist:  use slightly more energy or wear out tires faster?  Okay, a perfect environmentalist would be driving with the 19″ tires or not driving at all.  I do not plan to use the low suspension setting again outside of cases where I really need to maximize my range as it is simply not worth wearing out my tires.

At this point, I am not sure I would buy the air suspension again.  My primary purpose of buying the option was for increased range.  None of the loaner cars I have had to date have had the standard suspension, so I cannot comment on the handling differences.

21" Continentals - 18K on front, 6K on back

21″ Continentals – 18K on front, 6K on back