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.

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.

 

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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.

 

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