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For "Classic"/"Legacy" Model X: Sonic Carbon Wheels on a Budget

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Options to acquire Sonic Carbon Slipstream Wheels for Model X:
A. Purchase 20-inch "Sonic Carbon" Slipstream Wheel and Continental Tire Package from Tesla ($5,000US)--no longer available on Tesla "Shop" website.
B. Purchase full new/used/refurbished wheel-set from aftermarket business or private seller.
C. Buy parts (wheel rims, tires, center caps, TPMS sensors, lug nut covers) individually to build Sonic Carbon wheel-set. ◄────── [What I did]
D. Refurbish four silver (or other color) Slipstream wheel rims into Sonic Carbon wheels. ◄────────────────────────── [What I did. Total <$1,500.)]
E. Order four new "Grey" Slipstream wheels directly from Tesla--costs $990US per wheel; must still acquire tires and other parts.

*** Details follow ***

Tesla offered the 20-inch "Sonic Carbon" dark grey Slipstream wheel and Continental Tire wheel-set package for somewhat less than five years, starting in 2017 (see 'Price History of Model X Tire/Wheel Accessories' here). While very attractive, especially when paired with certain vehicle paint colors, the total price (for four wheels and tires plus installation) was a not insubstantial $5,000 online.

My Background Story
In January 2021 I ordered a new, white Model X Long Range-plus inventory car. It happened to come with 22-inch wheels, which I quickly replaced with low-mileage 20-inch Model X silver Slipstream wheels and stock Continental tires (basically "take-offs"). I like the silver wheels. But a white car with silver wheels? Something was missing. Perhaps a little more contrast? Unfortunately, the Sonic Carbon package on the Tesla "Shop" website was a little pricey.​

Here is what I* eventually did to save some money:​

  1. Searched for used/new genuine factory Sonic Carbon (SC) Model X wheel sets. Used standard, online sources: Craig's List, the TMC Classified, eBay, Google, et cetera.

    Though sensible, this option presents some problems:
    • Good Sonic Carbon wheels can be maddeningly difficult to find. They apparently were not (standard) referral award items--so that reduced the potential seller base (of unused wheels stored in garages) somewhat. And because of (a) high initial price and (b) lack of functional advantage (over any other 20" wheels), perhaps a relatively small number were actually sold as accessories online (for $5,000). Instead, drivers that did want these darker 20-inch wheels more likely added them (for "only" an additional $2,000) during the initial new-car configuration process at Tesla-dot-com.

      April 22, 2019 Tesla Model X Design Webpage

      -------------------------------------------April 22, 2019 Tesla Model X "Design Your Own" Webpage
      -----------------------------------------------------(And I did not know that it used to cost extra for "white.")
      As a result, Sonic Carbon wheels--whether purchased with a new car or bought later as added accessories--are valued and probably remain installed (rather than replaced and sold).

      Bottom line: Decent used Sonic Carbon wheels for sale may be relatively scarce.
    • In my experience, if and when you do find them they can often be in less than perfect condition (e.g., with unacceptable curb rash, noticeable damage, etc.).
    • Due to the perceived scarcity and the high original Tesla online-price, used asking prices (especially on eBay) may be steep.
    • Some supposedly "genuine" Sonic Carbon Model X wheels may have started life as regular silver Slipstream wheels. (I am fine with a good powder-coated wheel [see below] as long as it is {a} quality work and {b} disclosed as such.) Part numbers (on an inside spoke) may reveal whether a wheel began life as silver or grey. (More on part numbers, below, in Option #4.)
    • Used wheels often come with mounted tires, making shipping from distant sellers cost-prohibitive and therefore further reducing availability.
    • In general, finding and purchasing any good used tires and wheels can be challenging. There are lots of false leads and dead-ends. As I have previously commented, "it's a tire/wheel jungle out there."
    • In two years I saw a few potentially good Sonic Carbon wheels. But invariably something--distance, price, rapid unavailability ("just sold them last week"), or an initially undisclosed problem--always prevented a sale.
    • Unless you 'luck out' and learn quickly of a decent set at a good price relatively close to you, the search for an acceptable Sonic Carbon Model X wheel-set may be long and frustrating. (Or not. This shouldn't stop you from at least trying. Set a reasonable deadline.)
  2. Purchased used/discounted items. Since Option 1 (above) wasn't working, my 'Plan B' was to make Sonic Carbon wheels from individual parts bought separately:
    • Wheel Rims -- It's much easier to find good used silver Slipstream wheel-sets. (There were also Two-Tone Slipstream wheels [see list of Classic Model X wheels here], but those are probably less common.) Many people have switched out their original stock silver wheels for 22-inch or aftermarket wheels. It's not unusual to find 'take-offs' with very low actual mileage. As far as I can tell, all Tesla Slipstream wheels (whether silver, grey, or, two-tone) were structurally identical. Different part numbers, though. (More on that later--see Option #4, below.)
      • A word of caution about wheel color. Lots of people have painted/coated Slipstream wheels to different colors. As long as you can be sure of the fundamental, underlying condition of the metal (e.g., no structural damage/repairs), used wheels in non-stock colors may be fine. However, painted wheels may also be hiding issues (that could come to light later during the powder-coating process [similar to finding undesirable Bondo when prepping to paint a car]). To be absolutely sure of avoiding a nasty surprise later (like a crack or poor weld), look for stock, original silver (or, I assume two-tone) used Slipstream wheels. Inspect all used wheels carefully before purchasing. If in doubt, talk to a Tesla wheel expert (or find a different, unpainted set).
      • Another caution. As you probably know, for many years Model X 20-inch wheels usually came in these widths/offsets:
        - Front - 9.0/+35mm
        - Rear - 9.5/+40mm.
        But in certain early years, the rear wheel size may have been 20 x 10 +35mm. (See a small Thread about this here.)
        First, be sure that any wheel-sets you buy come with two front and two rear wheels (and proper tire sizes). (One Sonic Carbon set I looked at was four rear wheels! The 'fronts' were significantly damaged from rubbing.) Second, be sure the two rear wheels have the same width/offset (either both 9.5/+40mm or both the less common 10/+35mm). I remain unclear whether the change to the 9.5/+40mm width/offset was a functional improvement. (But I assume there was some reason Tesla adjusted the sizes.)
        Anyway, early Sonic Carbon rears wheels may have come with the 10/+35mm width/offset? Or, 10/+35mm Sonic Carbon rear wheels you may happen to find may have been older silver wheels darkened to Sonic Carbon. Just be aware.
      • Now to save more money, you could purposely seek out and buy discounted, mildly damaged (e.g., minor curb rash) wheels and have them eventually repaired. Not being a wheel-repair expert, I chose not to do that. If you do, be sure that the damage is, indeed minor and in no way structural (affecting wheel integrity), and that repairs will not be too expensive.
    • Tires -- Leaning towards safety/security/familiarity, I eventually bought new OEM Tesla-Continental tires. I've since learned (on TMC) more about arguably better tire brands, but the Continentals will be fine for my needs and are stock. (But this is definitely an area for potential savings, for example if you already have or can acquire good used tires or if you prefer a less expensive brand.)
    • TPMS -- Fortunately, Tesla service centers can still sell you a new OEM pressure sensor ($95 or less?; or you can re-use your old TPMS, or find less expensive one elsewhere) and can provide the special dark valve stem covers (which can also sometimes be available on eBay). And you can get black plastic valve stem caps anywhere. (It's the little details, right?)
    • Center Caps -- Tesla offers an initially attractive boxed set of dark center caps and black plastic lug nut covers for Model 3. At some point I bought an unused set in the Tesla box (with little tools) cheap on Craig's List. The good: The Model 3 center caps work perfectly for Model X and are a color match for the SC color.
    • Lug Nut Covers -- The bad: Unfortunately, the Model 3 lug nut covers do not work for Model X. Live and learn. No problem, as I'll sell or give sway the Model 3 covers and the local Tesla Service Center still has black Model X lug nut covers (~$23). (And you can probably find acceptable ones on Amazon. Just make sure they fit Model X. Most there seem to be for Model 3/Y.)

      Here are comparisons of (a) (black) Models 3/Y (on left) versus (chrome) Model X lug nut covers, and (b) Models 3/Y (on left) and Model X (on right) lug nuts. Note the height difference. (I believe that Model S [2012-2021] lug nuts are the same size as for Classic Model X.)
      Model 3 (left) vs. Model X lug nut covers
      Lug Nuts with Description.jpg

  3. Transformed good used silver Slipstream wheels into beautiful Sonic Carbon Slipstream wheels.
    • For a few reasons (quality, authenticity, and potential resale value) I wanted the genuine Tesla color and as-close-to-OEM quality as possible. The idea of this project was to acquire Tesla Sonic Carbon wheels without the TSC online price tag. (File this under the "wanting to have his cake and eat it too" category.)
    • And in general, I wanted a durable, long-lasting finish (again as close to OEM in appearance and quality as possible).
    • For me, then, there was only one choice: powder-coating by a Tesla-experienced wheel repair company.
    • And fortunately for me there is a small firm in the Sacramento area that repairs wheels (damaged in-house and during test drives, etc.) for our two local Tesla Service Centers. Their job includes making wheels look and perform exactly like (in this case) Tesla OEM. (Of course they also handle all other auto brands.) Quality stuff. And prices were reasonable (e.g., about $200 per wheel, or less with seasonal and other discounts). As you might expect, they remove and disassemble the original wheel-set, fully clean the wheels, remove old balance weights, make minor repairs (if needed), and re-coat rims to the exact (in this case) Tesla color. If desired, they will carefully remount tires, re-balance the wheels, and safely install the now beautified wheels onto your vehicle. (I'm told that regular wheel/tire shops have been known to scratch newly coated rims.)
    • If curious about the company, contact me by private message and I will answer questions. (I believe that TMC is generally down on promoting specific businesses, unless via an identified commercial TMC account?) Meanwhile, I am sure that excellent automotive powder-coating establishments (big and small) exist near most metropolitan areas. I suggest that you find a firm whose bread and butter is auto wheels. Look for not only skill in powder-coating, but also in the way they handle and treat wheels before and after the process. (Do they know how to lift Tesla cars safely?) If possible, find a company with plenty of experience specifically with Tesla wheels (with access to genuine Tesla colors). I therefore recommend first asking at your local Tesla SC.

      Wild Turkeys taking over in California Central Valley communities
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Sacramento company
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ has the added advantage
      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------of wild turkeys in its parking
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- lot. So I felt at home.

  4. There is another option which I initially overlooked. (Perhaps you have already thought of it.)
    • As I said above, the Model X Sonic Carbon Slipstream Wheel-set ($5,000) has been removed from the Tesla Shop website. However, the online Tesla Parts Catalog (for USA Model X September 2015 to February 2021) still includes the following intriguing entries (see Parts Catalog info for these and other Model X wheels here):
      • "WHEEL, 20X9.0 ET35 - GREY SLIPSTREAM- FRONT" - Part Number: 1065200-02-B​
      • "WHEEL, 20X9.5 ET40 - GREY SLIPSTREAM GREY - REAR" - Part Number: 1065204-02-B
        They are Classic Model X Slipstream wheels and they are grey. I am reasonably sure that these are Sonic Carbon wheels. (What else could they be?) If so, are they still available and at what price?
    • Checking with Tesla Service (via the Tesla phone App) eventually (you know the deal with the App communications) revealed:
      • These grey wheels are still available, but have to be special-ordered. (Maybe they literally have to make them?)​
      • The cost is $990 per wheel. (Wow!) So a set of four would run you $3,960 (before tax). (Already, my chosen method is a bargain in comparison.)​
      • In addition, you would need to purchase (at Tesla or elsewhere):
        Tesla Service Estimate to Purchase two Grey Slipstream Wheels

        - 4 tires (the Continentals are about $360 each)
        - 4 TPMS sensors with dark valve stems and caps (currently $95 each?)
        - set of 4 dark center caps (?)
        - set of lug nut covers ($23)
      • And then there would be installation.
    • So I think we can see where the original $5,000 price tag came from. (With all the parts and labor, it might have been something of a bargain.)
    • By the way, if you "google" these part numbers you will get some potential third-party sources. However, prices are high (e.g., $1,650 each) and some sites are in non-English-speaking eastern-European countries, so use caution. I assume shipping to North America is prohibitively expensive.​
Bottom Line
  • I estimate my total project cost at somewhere between $1,250 and, maybe, $1,500, tops.
  • Admittedly not cheap, but far less than the previous online retail price.
  • You could save even more money by:
    • Re-furbishing your existing silver Slipstream wheels.
    • Re-using your existing tires, or
    • Buying less expensive tires.
    • Re-using your TPMS sensors (just need the little black valve-stem covers and caps).
    • Finding cheaper center caps and lug nut covers (e.g., on Amazon).
  • So based on my experience, your options include: (a) find new/used SC wheels, (b) create your own SC wheels (as I did) from existing Slipstream wheels, or (c) order new grey (presumably Sonic Carbon) wheels, plus all the other parts necessary, from Tesla, while they are still available. (But that is not a bargain option.)

I am even more happy with the results then I anticipated. I think that the white Model X looks very good with the darker wheels. It makes this classic version look a little more up-to-date (since most newer Tesla [and other] cars now come with dark wheels). Yet it is still authentic (2017-21) Model X. And ride comfort and mileage did not have to suffer. Plus there is the satisfaction of saving some money while staying OEM. One nice touch that is oddly satisfying: You can change the Model X avatar image on the car's (center and driver's) display screens and in the Tesla App to portray Sonic Carbon (or other official Model X) wheels. (To do so, "Controls" > "Service" > "Wheel & Tire Configuration" > "Wheels" using the central display screen. The car's software will reboot.)

Barring mishaps, I am definitely going to live with these SC wheels for awhile. Meanwhile, since I retained the original silver set, I'll be ready if and when (as happens with the width of ties and length of skirts) silver wheels come back into fashion. (Another possibility: 'wrapping' the car in blue or perhaps red at some future point in its life-history. In that case, a return to silver wheels might be indicated?)

For now my job is to stay away from (killer) curbs, the bane of dark wheel rims.

Newly-coated Sonic Carbon wheels--2021 Model X

It was raining.​
* I am definitely not the first. Others have done the same thing.


I have not received and will not be receiving any compensation or payment whatsoever for this post from any business or individual.
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