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Help! Air Conditioning problems - Road Trip in Progress!

Hi there fellow Tesla drivers!

We are on an epic road trip from our home in San Diego, CA to Vancouver, BC using our 2012 Tesla Model S P85. We are currently on the northbound leg at the Corning Supercharger. Between Vacaville and Corning, we noticed the vehicle seemed to be getting hot and the A/C was not helping. San Diego can get toasty and in 2 years of ownership, the A/C has always done a good job set to 65-67 its stayed nice and cool. Setting it to LO was rare and had to be turned back up after a few minutes because it got so chilly.

Here are our observations:
- Started having problems after annual service done at Tesla Service San Diego about 1 month ago. Was hard to tell there was a problem though as it has been fairly cool, but I noticed it wasn't quite as cold as normal.
- Took it back within a week and they said everything looked good, but adjusted the refrigerant level as it was just slightly off spec.
- Things have seemed okay since, but its noticeably hot in the car now. Not sure if this is because its hotter now (90F) than it has been or if the problem has gotten worse.
- Vents are very cold so I think A/C is working.
- Fan sounds like it's blowing hard
- But not a lot of air coming out... I suspect some kind of blockage or an internal vent/baffle/air filter is jammed or clogged.
- Have also seen other threads mentioning a problem with recent software... we are up-to-date (6.2.something) with a update last week. This seems like more than just auto-fan speed though as even with manual controls its really hot in the car.

Here's what we've tried:
- Recirculate setting seems to work slightly better than fresh air setting, but not by much.
- Fan at 11. Still not much air movement. Definitely not like it usually is.
- Set all combinations of air coming forward, downward, and windshield. Doesn't seem to change much.
- Tried cycling the Comfort system, no difference.
- Tried to setup appointment with Portland service for 8/13... They are very busy and will try to fit us in, but it didn't sound encouraging.

Will try when done Supercharging:
- Reboot console

Any other ideas or tips from the community to save our Roadtrip? We are at capacity with myself navigating, the wife driving (I know! but this really plays to our strengths), our foreign exchange student and our two kids.

Also, any experience with differences between Portland and Seattle Service? We've only used San Diego and they have been okay so for.
 

Cyclone

Cyclonic Member ((.oO))
Jan 12, 2015
5,058
1,153
Charlotte, NC
Sadly beyond the reboot I have no advice, but it almost sounds like the louvers are stuck closed. So while the fans are blowing like crazy, the air is essentially just leaking around a door into the car, preventing much from getting into the cabin. Good luck! Wish I had some actual advice.
 
Just to confirm (since you didn't mention it), you have range mode off, right? Otherwise HVAC will be severely power limited & poor performing with range mode on.

Hi there fellow Tesla drivers!

We are on an epic road trip from our home in San Diego, CA to Vancouver, BC using our 2012 Tesla Model S P85. We are currently on the northbound leg at the Corning Supercharger. Between Vacaville and Corning, we noticed the vehicle seemed to be getting hot and the A/C was not helping. San Diego can get toasty and in 2 years of ownership, the A/C has always done a good job set to 65-67 its stayed nice and cool. Setting it to LO was rare and had to be turned back up after a few minutes because it got so chilly.

Here are our observations:
- Started having problems after annual service done at Tesla Service San Diego about 1 month ago. Was hard to tell there was a problem though as it has been fairly cool, but I noticed it wasn't quite as cold as normal.
- Took it back within a week and they said everything looked good, but adjusted the refrigerant level as it was just slightly off spec.
- Things have seemed okay since, but its noticeably hot in the car now. Not sure if this is because its hotter now (90F) than it has been or if the problem has gotten worse.
- Vents are very cold so I think A/C is working.
- Fan sounds like it's blowing hard
- But not a lot of air coming out... I suspect some kind of blockage or an internal vent/baffle/air filter is jammed or clogged.
- Have also seen other threads mentioning a problem with recent software... we are up-to-date (6.2.something) with a update last week. This seems like more than just auto-fan speed though as even with manual controls its really hot in the car.

Here's what we've tried:
- Recirculate setting seems to work slightly better than fresh air setting, but not by much.
- Fan at 11. Still not much air movement. Definitely not like it usually is.
- Set all combinations of air coming forward, downward, and windshield. Doesn't seem to change much.
- Tried cycling the Comfort system, no difference.
- Tried to setup appointment with Portland service for 8/13... They are very busy and will try to fit us in, but it didn't sound encouraging.

Will try when done Supercharging:
- Reboot console

Any other ideas or tips from the community to save our Roadtrip? We are at capacity with myself navigating, the wife driving (I know! but this really plays to our strengths), our foreign exchange student and our two kids.

Also, any experience with differences between Portland and Seattle Service? We've only used San Diego and they have been okay so for.
 
Okay, so after a full charge at Corning (about 1 hr stop), we rebooted dash and console, set to LO and now its blowing hard like normal. Had to turn it up to 66F after about 10 minutes as we had Penguins pecking on the windows to get in! :)

My concern is that this without determining Root Cause, this is gonna happen again. (IT background showing)

Cyclone: That is exactly what it felt like. Fan sounded like full speed but just a little air, like it was seeping around the louvers. The fact its blowing now makes me wonder if it was a control issue (not sending proper louvre control commands) or a mechanical one (command received, louvers inoperative). Seems more like the first if it is working now, unless its an intermittent mechanical issue.

Benjamin: Yes, we checked it was not in Eco/Range mode. I didn't think to try toggling it again as it was in that mode earlier today when it was cool out. I will try that if it happens again.

Thanks everyone for your help. We'll check in over the next couple days if we have any more observations.

#VancouverOrBust
 
Okay, so after a full charge at Corning (about 1 hr stop), we rebooted dash and console, set to LO and now its blowing hard like normal. Had to turn it up to 66F after about 10 minutes as we had Penguins pecking on the windows to get in! :)

My concern is that this without determining Root Cause, this is gonna happen again. (IT background showing)

Cyclone: That is exactly what it felt like. Fan sounded like full speed but just a little air, like it was seeping around the louvers. The fact its blowing now makes me wonder if it was a control issue (not sending proper louvre control commands) or a mechanical one (command received, louvers inoperative). Seems more like the first if it is working now, unless its an intermittent mechanical issue.

Benjamin: Yes, we checked it was not in Eco/Range mode. I didn't think to try toggling it again as it was in that mode earlier today when it was cool out. I will try that if it happens again.

Thanks everyone for your help. We'll check in over the next couple days if we have any more observations.

#VancouverOrBust


If his blowers is going to 11 he's not in range mode, I learned that the hard way. Range mode will limit blower speed to 7 or 8 as i recall.
 

Ingineer

Electrical Engineer
Aug 8, 2012
1,507
3,714
It could be that the dampers simply got out of sync and the reboot homes them. I was going to suggest pulling and replacing the HVAC control fuse until I saw the reboot fixed it. I've had this happen in my LEAF on several occasions.

I wouldn't worry about it. Hopefully Tesla will keep improving the software/firmware in all the systems and fix some of these little bugs.

Just like I reboot my computer and my phone at least once a week, the Model S is no different, after all it's closer to a PC than a normal embedded system. When in doubt, reboot!
 
If you hear the blower spinning away, but no air coming out, try to manually change the output (top/middle/bottom) to see if one of the doors directing air is stuck. The car might think the flap is open, when it is not.

It could also be a blockage on the air intake (if not in recirc mode) or it could be something that was sucked in and is blocking the air filter.

Just a word of warning, if this keeps happening (low airflow but with fans turned up) you should not continue using your AC. The evaporator coils will stay too cold and could cause the humidity in the air to freeze on the coils. This could cause damage to the coils and would need major repairs as the refrigerant leaked out. I would also be a bit worried about them adding refrigerant as stated in the initial message. The systems are sealed, so any time the system is low, there IS a leak, unless it was low from the factory.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
This has raised a bit of a flag for me. I had my 50,000 mile service done recently, and one of the things they did was to completely evacuate and re-charge the a/c system. I'm not sure why, because it had been performing very well. In fact, it used to blow the coldest air that I've seen in any of my previous cars. After the service, I could swear it doesn't blow as cold. It still works and cools the car down.
 
Ask them why. This isn't a regular service item, though the specs on the total amount of refrigerant in the system may have changed at some point during the products lifespan. If so, the proper way to change the amount would be to evacuate, verify that there is no leakage, then replace it. Either adding or removing the required amount to meet the new specifications for the system.

Check with the service manager, I'm sure they could give you an answer.

BTW, as the system gets "low" it can actually seem to get colder. Any number of reasons for it, but it won't be able to cool as much total heat. They could have just found that a slightly higher amount of refrigerant had overall better values, getting lots of air cold while maintaining optimal efficiency.
 

Ingineer

Electrical Engineer
Aug 8, 2012
1,507
3,714
This has raised a bit of a flag for me. I had my 50,000 mile service done recently, and one of the things they did was to completely evacuate and re-charge the a/c system. I'm not sure why, because it had been performing very well. In fact, it used to blow the coldest air that I've seen in any of my previous cars. After the service, I could swear it doesn't blow as cold. It still works and cools the car down.
Mknox, I posted this little anecdote in the autopilot thread, but it may explain why your air doesn't seem as cold:
Many, Many years ago when I was young, I had a job in a TV shop. After delivering the repaired TV back to the customer, many would complain about the color (usually) or some other aspect. "It doesn't look as bright", or "The faces are a little red". Of course on many of these repairs, the color circuitry was never involved in the fault, and thus the set is performing exactly the same. The "disturbance" in their life caused them to enable "hair trigger mode" and look for things, anything, that may be amiss. Color on a TV is very subjective.

As a technician who has now been called out to their house, the only thing I found worked reliably is to lie. Go to the back of the TV and enable test mode which collapsed the picture to one thin horizontal line, then make some "adjustments" and let out a few "aha's" then take the TV out of test mode. Worked almost every time. (And I didn't have to outright lie)

I'm willing to bet if I disabled most owners' regen for a few minutes, then re-enabled it and told them that I boosted it, they would believe me.
Likewise, anytime someone directs our attention to something we tend to over-scrutinize it. Not saying this is the case with your A/C, but it might be.

- - - Updated - - -

That's exactly what they did. I wonder why, though? I've never had or needed that service on any prior car.

The A/C in the Model S also cools the batteries so it has more refrigerant and is more complex, and in addition the refrigerant is in contact with 400V high-voltage in the compressor where it cools the motor and it's drive inverter. I suppose they don't want to chance any moisture in there causing problems, as it's not just a bunch of hot grumpy passengers if it fails.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
Mknox, I posted this little anecdote in the autopilot thread, but it may explain why your air doesn't seem as cold:

Likewise, anytime someone directs our attention to something we tend to over-scrutinize it. Not saying this is the case with your A/C, but it might be.

Yeah, I get that and honestly wondered if I was just imagining it myself in the first place. Bottom line is that it's working and it could have just been a whole different day with different temperature and humidity levels affecting my perception.

The A/C in the Model S also cools the batteries so it has more refrigerant and is more complex, and in addition the refrigerant is in contact with 400V high-voltage in the compressor where it cools the motor and it's drive inverter. I suppose they don't want to chance any moisture in there causing problems, as it's not just a bunch of hot grumpy passengers if it fails.

Good point, and I was aware that it was needed for cooling the battery. I often subscribe to the "if it ain't broke..." philosophy, but maybe "better safe than sorry" applies here.
 

Ingineer

Electrical Engineer
Aug 8, 2012
1,507
3,714
Yeah, most A/C system engineers simply design enough desiccant in the system to last it's projected life. Maybe Tesla didn't do this, or found it inadequate after it was put in service. In theory a feature could be added to the HVAC controller firmware to detect ice in the expansion valves and set a DTC.

Personally I think they should re-engineer the system to add in controllable expansion valves and the reversing valve so the system can function as a heat pump which would drastically cut down on winter power consumption.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
Personally I think they should re-engineer the system to add in controllable expansion valves and the reversing valve so the system can function as a heat pump which would drastically cut down on winter power consumption.

That would be ideal, and in fact it was originally speculated that this is how they were going to implement it.

One thing they do is utilize the coolant loop through the battery, motor and inverter to extract heat in the winter. A resistance heater supplements this. I have found on long winter road trips, my consumption is barely off summer levels. It spikes at first, but tapers off as this closed loop gets warmed up by everything running. On short trips, when the car has had a chance to cold-soak, my consumption is off the charts (literally, it goes beyond the scale of the energy graph).
 
Hey, have a good trip! We just did this and wrote it up here with pictures:

Tesla West Coast Road Trip (2,000+ miles, 3 ferry rides, $0 in gas) Pictures

Are you sure your vent louvers are not closed? They are sometimes very hard to visually identify because all-the-way left or right = closed, but they will still look open if you're used to a regular vent from any other car manufacturer. Separately, you can always book an appointment for service in Vancouver and explain you're on a road trip to see if they can fit you into the schedule. Good luck.

- K
 

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