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Not confident this is a good road trip vehicle for me...

So I just went on my second roadtrip in my fairly new Model S and it went very well up until I hit a pothole and lost two tires. I really enjoy driving my MS, especially with AutoPilot on a long trip, but being stranded for 3 hours with my young children make me wonder if, at least in my situation, if it is a bad decision to take this vehicle on long trips.

Quick summary of what happened: I'm on the side of the freeway about 1-1/4 hours north of Atlanta, 70 miles away from the closest Tesla service center. Roadside assistance was nice and tried hard but it feels like when stuck in a rural setting, especially outside of CA, their standard operating procedures didn't cover the situation well. But I digress. The call started well, he was going to send a tow truck and then get me an Uber to get me home. Then I realized a big problem -- I had two kids in the car but only one car seat because one of them was in the rear third-row seats. So I called back with my concerns about whether or not Uber would work and he told me he would get an Uber, then call them and find out if they had a car seat, and if not cancel the Uber and get another one and keep trying until he found one with a car seat. It seemed a tedious process but plausible.

Meanwhile the only towing options he could find were in Atlanta so they started on their journey up to where I was stuck. Then he found out there weren't any Uber drivers that could pick me up way north of Atlanta. So in the end I called my wife (who was fortunately home with our minivan and loaded with the proper car seats) and she headed up to meet us, ultimately arriving about 3 hours after I was stranded (in hindsight I should have had her start driving about an hour sooner but I was hopeful that Tesla would find an option instead of bothering my wife since the trip was designed to give her a much needed break). In the end we got home and the kids to bed very late and any gas savings was wasted on the ~150 mile journey in the minivan. I also had to pay about $60 for the extra 20 miles of towing beyond the 50 miles that is included in roadside assistance.

Again I'm not complaining about the quality of the help from Tesla, they were actually pretty helpful (although I have never used any other roadside assistance program against which I could compare). But I wonder if I'm putting myself at unnecessary risk for this type of situation occurring again by going on long trips in my MS, specifically:

1) With no spare tire I'm guaranteed to be stranded if I lose a tire (yes in this case I lost two but that seems pretty unlikely to happen regularly).

2) With the third-row seats I'm guaranteed to be short a car seat (and eventually two) if I ever need to take an Uber or a rental car, possibly requiring me to buy or rent car sets.

3) If this would have happened further from my home (I was visiting TN) and/or on the way out of town rather than on the way home it could have dramatically affected all of the pre-arranged activities (hotel, entertainment, etc) for my short vacation, and possibly caused me to miss work or other activities back at home if I got home days late.

For #1 I have a tire repair kit, however this was the 4th and 5th flat tire I have had and I'm pretty sure the tire repair kit wouldn't have helped with any of them.

For #2 I don't see any good options rather than bringing along a spare carseat which kind of defeats the purpose of the third-row seats.

For #3 if this would have happened up in TN they would have likely had to tow me to a Tesla location in TN and being that I didn't get my car back until 2 days later it definitely would have added a lot of extra stress (two more nights of hotel for which I didn't have the necessary supplies for me nor my kids, missing a day of work, etc).

The tow truck driver mentioned that Tesla was working on a program where they would have spare tires for Teslas on their trucks. I think that could have helped quite a bit. Otherwise is there anything else I can do to try to avoid this situation in the future? How likely would a random tire shop be to stock the tires on my 21" rims (yes, I know, the 21" rims isn't making things better)? Or if I'm stranded can I buy a cheap wheel and tire combo that could get me home (what bolt pattern is compatible with Tesla)?

I know this is a long rant, but my wife was already hesitant to take the Tesla on long trips and this certainly isn't going to help that any (plus our first trip was very inconvenient with the locations of the superchargers). But since I do all of the driving I'd love to make my MS on more trips not fewer.


Well-Known Member
Jun 30, 2013
Phoenix, AZ
Any car can get a flat, not just a Tesla.

You can get AAA for $80 per year, maybe they can be more responsive?

Other vehicles in Model S' price class, such as Mercedes S Class, do not come with spare tires in favor of more storage space.

You can use run-flat tires to mitigate lack of spare, like Mercedes and BWM do with their cars.
Performance 21" tires are, in my opinion, designed for one thing. They have incredibly unforgiving sidewalls which make them incredibly agile and fast, at the expense of durable and comfortable.

I think k your issue has very little to do with the car. It might have everything to do with your choice of wheels and tires? How would the vacation been different on a nice set of 19's and some great all season tires?
I agree 21" wheels are not ideal, however I also don't think that's the only issue here. This was a serious pothole in dark conditions and I do think it would have taken out a tire or two in any vehicle. Now before this I've only had a flat tire in a vehicle with a spare tire so I've always been able to get myself back on the road. I would be curious how my experience would compare to other vehicles that don't have spare tires; would I be able to find a closer repair option for one of those vehicles, or not?

I suppose one of the largest issues, and most unique to Tesla, is the child seat issue, since no other car has what amounts to built-in car seats. There are lots of things that could have happened that could have stranded me other than a tire issue (motor failure, dead battery, accident) that could also happen in other vehicles, but in other vehicles you can just transfer your car seats into another vehicle to get home.

I'm very curious if anybody else has had Roadside Assistance while using the third-row seats for their child?

I'm also curious how something like AAA could have made the experience better (I've never used AAA)?

PS - I notice a little bit of defensiveness; I'm not trying to disparage the MS, I do love my car, I'm just concerned that it may not be a wise choice for road trips for my situation (not in CA, 21" wheels, young children, etc).
I think it's just the tires. Nothing keeping you from putting child seats in the main backseat?

Lots of MS's in not-CA.

And the pothole...if it was bad enough to take out tires on pretty much any car, you wouldn't have been all alone on the side of that highway. You would have had company.

Just my $.02.


Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2013
South Surrey, BC
I agree not to throw the baby out the bathwater. Your bathwater - tires - need changing to 19". Your baby (Telsa) is fine. I drive 3.5 hours over two mountain passed to my cabin, most weekends (except winter) and the last of the road, while paved, often has fallen rocks, potholes, and bumps, and there's no cell phone coverage. Fortunately, no flats yet. Knock wood. Before my Tesla I drove my Tahoe Hybrid since 2008 with no spare (and still do in winter) and no flats with that either.
I regret mentioning the 21" tires. So we all agree road trips are a bad idea with 21" tires apparently.

(for the record I lost three tires on my previous vehicle and those were 205/60R16s, so we should also agree that even 19" wheels are not immune to issues and could even be considered high-risk by some standards).

Let's assume I replace them with 19" tires and I end up in the same situation, either by losing a tire or my any of the various other things that can happen. So what about the third-row seats?

Yes I can put regular car seats in my MS but then what was the point of the third-row seats?

Perhaps the real question is: is it smart to go on a road trip without a car seat for all of your kids? If not then is it smart to order third-row seats in a MS and give up useful storage space, at least for road trips? Around town the third-row seats are great.

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What do you do when you get 2 flat tires in your mini van?
This isn't tesla specific.
As for the rear facing seats, if you don't like them, don't use them. No other car in this class even has such a thing.

In my minivan if I get one flat tire I just swap out the spare, and this is a much more likely scenario. In the unlikely event that I get two flat tires on my minivan I assume I can find any tire shop within 5 miles who can put on a new tire, likely no later than the next morning. Additionally I could rent a vehicle and transfer my car seats to the new vehicle.

- - - Updated - - -

And the pothole...if it was bad enough to take out tires on pretty much any car, you wouldn't have been all alone on the side of that highway. You would have had company.

Just my $.02.

It was a construction area with no lane markings and a lot of options for which path to follow. The car in front of me just missed it. But also it sounds like locals knew better to avoid it, possibly because they'd seen it during the day, and most of the drivers around were locals (my guess).
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Either put both kids in the second row when travelling far from home (we do this anyhow as we need the rear space for luggage and the jump seats aren't all that comfortable for long trips), or throw a booster seat in the frunk just in case. If a kid is big enough to ride in the jump seats, they'll be fine with a booster in a pinch.
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Also, Model S is not unique with rear facing jump seats. Mercedes offers them on the E Class wagon, and I believe Volvo offers them on one of their wagons as well.

I regret mentioning the 21" tires. So we all agree road trips are a bad idea with 21" tires apparently.

The entire issue is what it is because of 21" tires. You were there for many hours and no other cars joined you. Since it is at least 2-3 hrs to get a tow where you were, you can assume that no one before you for 2hrs, and no one after you, had their tires blown out by that pothole. Locals, maybe you are right. But that's too much time elapsed time to assume that the road was going to ruin every tire that passea over it.

Now that you are aware of the child seat variable, you can solve for it. And for road trips, if you want a spare...just buy one. A rim/wheel combo from TireRack is only about $365.

I am not trying to minimize the pain in the @$$ your trip was. But I firmly believe that if you were running 19's you would have had zero problems.


2010 Roadster Sport || 2013 S85 || 2017 X100D
Supporting Member
Jul 8, 2013
Silver Spring, MD
Long distance travel is doable in the Model S--I have logged over 70k miles. I've been to the Northernmost & Easternmost roads of Maine, the Southernmost & Easternmost roads of Florida, the Southernmost roads of Louisiana and Texas, the Southernmost & Westernmost road of California, the Westernmost roads of Oregon & Washington, and North of Vancouver, Canada.

That said, however, there is no question that any electric car will be problematic on long distance trips. It can be done, but additional planning is needed, and you need to be prepared for delays.

Once the charging and supercharging networks have expanded to fill in the many voids in the highway grid, the hassle of driving electric on long distance trips will diminish. In the meantime, homemade adapters and heavy duty extension cords are very useful to have when going off the Supercharger grid. On the positive side, I lost weight when traveling in Maine, because the lack of charging options forced me to walk far more than I'm normally inclined to do (park, then walk for days while my car charged on a 110 outlet). I should travel the remote areas of Maine more often!

Tire repair kits and safety triangles are a smart precaution for any car. 19" wheels are more resistant to potholes and curbs than 21" wheels (and quieter, too!); I highly recommend the 19" wheels for long distance travel.

The hassles of needing to tow your car are about the same no matter what type of car you drive. I drove a minivan for years when my children were young. The built in child seats were very useful, but I had the same problem when driving the van was not an option. However, that almost never happened, and options (like renting the seats) do exist.

Overall, I feel the advantages of driving my Tesla far outweigh the disadvantages. I'm in a much safer car than any other car I've driven. I'm in a much quieter car than any other car I've driven. The ride is very comfortable. The Tesla grin always brightens my day!
Also, Model S is not unique with rear facing jump seats. Mercedes offers them on the E Class wagon, and I believe Volvo offers them on one of their wagons as well.
Rear facing seats are not unique, rear facing child seats are.

As for tire shops, there's nothing magical about tesla tires, any tire shop can fix them, same as on the mini van.

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