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.

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.

Extended Warranty

I’m generally not a fan of extended warranties.  I have only bought them twice.  Once for an after market warranty for a BMW that was more hassle than it was worth.  The second time for a first generation iPad.  The iPad was expensive enough and just came out on the market.  I still have it but it quickly became solely an e-reader because Apple quickly stopped supporting the operating system on the first iPad.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.01.44 AM

I was struggling with the decision to buy the extended warranty when I was near 50,000 miles.  The battery and motor are already covered for 8 years and infinite miles.  My fellow blogger wrote up a detailed description of the warranty.

In my mind there are several reasons to buy an extended warranty on the Tesla if you want to keep the car for an extended period of time.

  1. The technology is new so all the kinks may not be out of the system
  2. The cost of replacement parts is high
  3. The warranty is through Tesla not a third party so the repairs should be seamless
  4. Peace of mind

The Tesla Motors Club forum is a poll whether or not folks were going to buy the extended warranty.  99 people have responded with the majority opting to buy the extended warranty at some point in time.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.38.08 AM

Poll – Buy the Extended Warranty? 

Decision

To my chagrin, I debated this for naught. I was discussing whether or not to extend the warranty with my service advisor, when I was informed that I already had the extended warranty!

During my tire debacle, I received a phone call to offset my serious issues with Tesla.  Since this discussion was over the phone and not through email, I had forgotten that Tesla had given me a free extended warranty for my troubles.  They did not replace my tires but did refund part of the expensive curb rash removal and gave me the extended warranty for free.

Did I get special treatment?  I know Tesla treats all its customers very well.  But having a blog that gets a reasonable amount of traffic does not hurt.  I tried to remain anonymous to Tesla for several years, but a few years in I did let them know I am a blogger as I needed to include responses from Tesla to write a fair post about the time it took to supercharge.

Summary

Would I pay for the extended warranty?  Yes, I would.  I think there are still a few kinks with the Model S.  But the price of parts for the Model S is still quite high.  For example a new touchscreen is $5,000.  So I think for a new car from a new car company the extended warranty is a good choice for most drivers.

Service and Warranty

I have blogged about the Tesla service several times over the years.  I have found the service personnel very courteous and have given them in general high reviews as do other owners, who do not have a visible presence in the internet world.

My car went in again for service recently and I drove a 85 loaner with 19” wheels, coil suspension, parking sensors and a parcel shelf.

Ding on Loaner Vehicle

Ding on Loaner Vehicle

What was interesting about my recent service experience is that for the first time they are checking both vehicles for door dings and paint issues.  The valet said that some customers have complained about the clear coat leaving marks from rain spots.  This year has been so dry, outside of some freak summer rain in the early hours, I haven’t thought about rain.  The loaner with about 500 miles on it actually had a significant ding on the front of the car.

Car Needs Service

Car Needs Service

Unfortunately during my service, my loaner vehicle had a failure on the last day.  With the new firmware 5.12 on the loaner, I got a generic warning “Car Needs Service”.  The car was still completely drivable but the main screen was not responsive to touch and could not be rebooted.

Used Only 314 kWh/mile While Driving the Loaner

Used Only 314 kWh/mile While Driving the Loaner

A number of smart buyers are buying these loaner vehicles in order to get faster delivery and a slightly less expensive car.  I think buying a loaner from Tesla is a good option.  Surprisingly when I had this loaner, I drove it at only 314 Wh/mi, which is the lowest value I have ever driven since hypermiling in Utah.  In these 125 miles, I did only 20 miles of freeway driving and most of the miles were on boring and busy city streets.  Since the loaners are almost the identical car that one already owns, there is no reason to go on a joy ride.

Parcel Shelf

Parcel Shelf

I did notice the slight difference of the coil suspension and the 19” wheels but still found the loaner configuration a very nice option for someone who wants to save money in both the purchase and the tire wear.  This loaner was the first car with a parcel shelf, which I liked more than expected.  It was unobtrusive and easily hides things in the trunk — even if all you are hiding is reusable grocery bags.

Today I was very excited that they extended the warranty on the 85kWh model S for the drive unit to 8 years and infinite miles.  A number of owners had experienced issues with the drive units including another blogger, Dan Edmunds.  Many of these issues were relatively minor such as noise during acceleration.  Since the drive unit is sealed, the entire drive unit is replaced.  Today, Elon Musk made this warranty announcement including that it is retroactive for all Model S 85kWh vehicles!

Failed Power Adapter

Adapter Splayed Out on Garage Floor

Adapter Splayed Out on Garage Floor

In this blog, I have documented every small issue I have had with my Teslas.  I recently experienced another unusual issue, that I think could only effect a very small amount of Model S owners.  I have an uncommon setup where my high powered connector is the first Roadster version, and then I have an adapter from that plug to the Model S.  I chose to use an adapter instead of purchasing a new high powered wall connector. This setup had many benefits for me. The adapter was lower cost than a new high powered wall connector and is in effect an extension cord. I could still occasionally charge a Roadster at my home, and I did not have to hire an electrician.  There may be a very unusual case where I find a Roadster charge station while on the road, and I can charge my Model S from there using this adapter.  Everything had worked fine for about ten months.

Then one day late last year, I tried to plug my car in one day at home and struggled for a while. After a while of pulling it back and forth, I heard the audible click and the light changed at the port.

The next day when I got home, I struggled again with the same sequence.  I got to a strange point where the plug was physically connected to the car, but the Dashboard indicated that there was a problem with the connection.  I tried to jiggle the connection around a few times, and on the second day I simply could not even remove the cord from the car no matter how hard I pulled.  I played with it a few more times, and reboot the two screens.

Right Steering Column

Right Steering Column

To reboot the 17” display, you hold down both of the scroll bars on the steering wheel.  To reboot the speedometer display, you hold down both of the top buttons on each side of the steering wheel.

I was wondering if this was a problem with the new 5.8.4 software that I had just installed a few days earlier.  This software had an enhancement to watch for unexpected fluctuations in the input charge level due to bad house wiring.  A Tesla owner had a fire in the garage where their car was parked (the Tesla and connector were fine).  As a response to this incident, Tesla is sending all the owners of the Model S High Powered Wall Connectors new units with a thermal fuse.  The thermal fuse will prevent current from flowing if the wall socket region heats up for any reason.  I have no idea if my High Powered Wall Connector has a thermal fuse or not.  But after almost five years of use and a house that is less than ten years old, I am not concerned.

Vehicle Power - Power Off Button on Touch Screen

Vehicle Power Off

Neither of these two reboots worked.  I called the Tesla service number and the friendly person told me to reboot the main power also.  Rebooting the main power allowed me to remove the adaptor, but not charge the car.  Tesla could see that my car had an internal error about power.  Since I placed this call at night on a Sunday in the middle of the holiday season, the person on the phone could not find out any more information from the engineering department.

In the morning, I received a call back after the engineers looked at the car’s error logs.  A problem was detected in the physical adaptor cable.  That same day, I went to the service center and received a new cable free of charge as it was still under the one year warranty period.  I was told that my problem was a bit unusual, and the only suggestion they had was to not keep the cable wound tightly.  But I just keep the cable splayed out permanently in my garage as there is plenty of space.

Supercharger Time Test

120kW Charging

120kW Charging

I recently went on a road trip throughout California using seven superchargers.  After visits to four supercharging stations, I was not really noticing dramatic improvement with the newly installed 120kW superchargers.  Sitting in the car at the Hawthorne station, I decided at the next three stations to accurately log the amount of mileage I could get in 30 minutes at the next three superchargers.

Before delving into the detailed data I gathered and also data subsequently provided by Tesla, I now feel comfortable writing that I think it is possible with a very empty battery, a 100% fully functional non-busy supercharging station and reasonable weather, I could occasionally charge 170 rated range (EPA 5-cycle) in 30 minutes.

The scenarios where I would envision charging at the maximum rate would be for home to destination trips on boring drives such as Interstate 5 through California with several supercharger stops.  With this kind of driving, one could easily plan their supercharging visits and keep their battery as low as possible.

But I expect to more often be charging closer to 135 miles in 30 minutes as I experienced on my recent trip.  I typically do not just drive on freeways and prefer off the beaten path roads.  When traveling I like to have space and time for the unexpected detour and enjoy the journey.  Keeping the battery at a fuller state of charge for these wanderlust trips will make the trip about the journey not about optimizing the supercharge rates.  So more often, I will likely not be able to carefully plan to have a very empty battery at every supercharger.

The 30 minutes in 170 miles statement currently on the Tesla web page really requires a very empty battery.  Jerome Guillen Tesla VP, WW sales and service responded to my data with the following statement:

“Additionally, that maximum charging speed is valid when you start from a near-empty battery.  Lower still than 18 miles remaining and significantly lower than 40-60 miles remaining.”

In my three station supercharger test, I visited three superchargers and was the only one charging at all three stations in very pleasant California weather ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  I arrived at the Buellton station with only 18 rated range miles (15% charge), Atascadero with 63 rated range miles (33% charge), and Gilroy with 58 miles (29% charge).  Tesla did report to me that Buellton and Gilroy were running at less than complete capacity:

“Two of the Superchargers (Buellton and Gilroy) were running at less than rated capacity due to internal components taken offline. There are a series of components in parallel, for redundancy: no offline component will prevent the Supercharger from working, but it will reduce the power out of the Supercharger. In these 2 instances, the max power out of the Buellton and Gilroy Superchargers was 112 kW (not the nominal 120 kW). The Buellton Supercharger was restored to full power on the 20th of December. Work on the Gilroy Supercharger at post 2 has been scheduled for January to avoid causing disruption at the site during the busy holiday travel period.”

The key difference between my results and the 170 miles is that I did not arrive at the stations with a very low battery.  The superchargers can really fill up your battery very fast between zero and 40% full.  After that period, the charge tapers significantly.

Here are my detailed results:

Detailed Data for Time Test at Three Empty Superchargers

Detailed Data for Time Test at Three Empty Superchargers

Tesla supplied the data in the second column “Time of Charge at Max Rate”.  I did not plot my charge on a minute by minute basis.  But the supercharger records indicate that for these three charges, the full power of the supercharger lasted for the listed number of minutes.  For example at Buellton, the car was charging at the 113 kW rate for 10 minutes.

Factors that affect supercharging times:

  1. Initial state of charge
  2. Number of cars charging
  3. Weather
  4. Exact car model (60kW, 85kW, early 85kW with different battery chemistry)
  5. Fully operational supercharging station

Cars with 60kW batteries and some 85kW batteries (built in 2012) will not be able to take complete advantage of the 120kW charge times.  Because of tax implications, I delayed my purchase till 2013 and have a slightly different battery than some of the earliest 85kW cars.  Some of these early owners are not happy that they cannot charge at 120kW.  I think the vast majority of drivers will only be using the superchargers a few times a year.  And for those early buyers the impact of the older battery chemistry will not be that significant:

“For a customer charging from 20% to 90% (more than enough to go to the next supercharger station), the difference in charging time between an early car and a current car is less than 4 minutes!”

The battery itself is a very expensive component in the car.  With Tesla, car owners get regular software updates to the car, and in a year we have seen a lot of nice software improvements.  Asking for dramatic hardware improvements is an unrealistic business model.  I owned a very early Tesla Roadster with plastic knobs and no glove box and was very satisfied with my car and Tesla. I think a little more communication up front on these details will be appreciated by the existing and future customer base.  But having worked in Silicon Valley for many years, I still give Tesla my highest review even with a few missteps here and there.

Tesla has been very helpful and responsive with my inquiries of my charge times.  They pulled my records from the supercharger station and responded with sufficiently detailed data.  In response, they also changed their supercharger web page from stating simply a 30-minute charge with 120kW would give you 200 miles of range (without any footnotes) to now stating 170 miles of EPA rated range (85kWh battery).

I plan sometime in January to drive to the Sacramento area and visit the Vacaville and Folsom superchargers with a very empty battery.