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Out of Warranty Drive Unit Replacement and Cost

ucmndd

Well-Known Member
Mar 10, 2016
6,551
12,318
California
I imagine this process is also employed with the drive units, where a replaced drive unit is not new but a rebuilt one, but the problem is the whole "keeping costs down" is not provided to the owner but it kept as profit by the company.
Absolutely. Tesla basically keeps the core charge for themselves.
Remember when the church of Elon preached that service would never be a profit center? ;)
 

ajbessinger

EV Repair Technician at QC Charge
Sep 2, 2020
55
156
San Marcos California, USA
Near Vista: also check out EVWest in San Marcos.
OP: get this done by a third party. It will be 1/3 the cost with a repurposed drive unit. Also, the milling noise does not affect performance. You can drive it like this 'forever'
This is your reward for keeping it 'pristine' with low miles. The folks that have driven their 2012's a lot typically had received v3 of the DU and a replaced battery pack under warranty

I agree, 3rd party (like the shop where I work) will be much cheaper than Tesla in terms of doing a drive unit rebuild/replacement. I would argue however that the milling noise could have a damaging effect of the motor eventually.

The milling noise is a direct result of wear of the rotor and/or primary drive gear bearings. With excess wear, comes excess play, which can cause accelerated wear of other items, such as the rotor splines, and especially the rotor coolant seal. If the rotor coolant seal begins to leak, the coolant could permanently damage the motor and/or inverter beyond repair which is of course a much more expensive repair, and not to mention could leave you stranded with zero warning.

At our shop, the most common reason for drive unit rebuilds these days is actually due to the coolant seals failing, and not nearly so much milling noise (in later motors, they switched over to ceramic bearings which mostly fixes the milling issue, but they also changed the coolant seal to an inferior design that does not last). A full rebuild is $4,000, assuming the drive unit is in "functional" condition and can be rebuilt.

If we were to do a full overhaul at the shop where I work, we would:
-Replace rotor bearings with upgraded hybrid ceramic bearings
-Replace primary drive gear bearings
-Replace rotor coolant seal with an upgraded triple lip PTFE seal
-Inspect all parts of the drive unit for excess wear (splines, gears, etc.)

It is possible to swap in another used drive unit for probably about the same amount of money, but by doing so you are swapping in a unknown part. If the replacement drive unit ends up with a failed coolant seal, or develops the same milling noise issue 10k mi down the road, then it could be a lot of money spent for nothing. That's why we rebuild every motor that comes through our shop, regardless of whether it "seems" good or not.

I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend that ANYONE with a Large Drive Unit equipped Model S should check their drive unit for internal coolant leakage at least once per year, especially if you are out of warranty. For anyone who is near Vista California, we can perform the check free of charge at our shop (just make to call ahead first so we can make sure to have a lift open). For those not close by, here's a video on our shop's YouTube page on how to perform the check:

 

demundus

Active Member
Jul 5, 2015
1,318
852
Oceanside, CA
I agree, 3rd party (like the shop where I work) will be much cheaper than Tesla in terms of doing a drive unit rebuild/replacement. I would argue however that the milling noise could have a damaging effect of the motor eventually.

The milling noise is a direct result of wear of the rotor and/or primary drive gear bearings. With excess wear, comes excess play, which can cause accelerated wear of other items, such as the rotor splines, and especially the rotor coolant seal. If the rotor coolant seal begins to leak, the coolant could permanently damage the motor and/or inverter beyond repair which is of course a much more expensive repair, and not to mention could leave you stranded with zero warning.

At our shop, the most common reason for drive unit rebuilds these days is actually due to the coolant seals failing, and not nearly so much milling noise (in later motors, they switched over to ceramic bearings which mostly fixes the milling issue, but they also changed the coolant seal to an inferior design that does not last). A full rebuild is $4,000, assuming the drive unit is in "functional" condition and can be rebuilt.

If we were to do a full overhaul at the shop where I work, we would:
-Replace rotor bearings with upgraded hybrid ceramic bearings
-Replace primary drive gear bearings
-Replace rotor coolant seal with an upgraded triple lip PTFE seal
-Inspect all parts of the drive unit for excess wear (splines, gears, etc.)

It is possible to swap in another used drive unit for probably about the same amount of money, but by doing so you are swapping in a unknown part. If the replacement drive unit ends up with a failed coolant seal, or develops the same milling noise issue 10k mi down the road, then it could be a lot of money spent for nothing. That's why we rebuild every motor that comes through our shop, regardless of whether it "seems" good or not.

I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend that ANYONE with a Large Drive Unit equipped Model S should check their drive unit for internal coolant leakage at least once per year, especially if you are out of warranty. For anyone who is near Vista California, we can perform the check free of charge at our shop (just make to call ahead first so we can make sure to have a lift open). For those not close by, here's a video on our shop's YouTube page on how to perform the check:


Yo im totally swinging by one day, maybe we can trade some knowledge :D

I felt like i was on an island with this rooted 2013 non tech package dinosaur
 

ajbessinger

EV Repair Technician at QC Charge
Sep 2, 2020
55
156
San Marcos California, USA
Yo im totally swinging by one day, maybe we can trade some knowledge :D

I felt like i was on an island with this rooted 2013 non tech package dinosaur
My 2015 70D also does not have the tech package, or pretty much any other options apart from the Next Gen seats that are in it, not even a sunroof!
Just hit 418k miles on the car earlier this week.
 

X-Care EV

Vendor
Feb 13, 2019
299
206
Frisco, TX
I agree, 3rd party (like the shop where I work) will be much cheaper than Tesla in terms of doing a drive unit rebuild/replacement. I would argue however that the milling noise could have a damaging effect of the motor eventually.

The milling noise is a direct result of wear of the rotor and/or primary drive gear bearings. With excess wear, comes excess play, which can cause accelerated wear of other items, such as the rotor splines, and especially the rotor coolant seal. If the rotor coolant seal begins to leak, the coolant could permanently damage the motor and/or inverter beyond repair which is of course a much more expensive repair, and not to mention could leave you stranded with zero warning.

At our shop, the most common reason for drive unit rebuilds these days is actually due to the coolant seals failing, and not nearly so much milling noise (in later motors, they switched over to ceramic bearings which mostly fixes the milling issue, but they also changed the coolant seal to an inferior design that does not last). A full rebuild is $4,000, assuming the drive unit is in "functional" condition and can be rebuilt.

If we were to do a full overhaul at the shop where I work, we would:
-Replace rotor bearings with upgraded hybrid ceramic bearings
-Replace primary drive gear bearings
-Replace rotor coolant seal with an upgraded triple lip PTFE seal
-Inspect all parts of the drive unit for excess wear (splines, gears, etc.)

It is possible to swap in another used drive unit for probably about the same amount of money, but by doing so you are swapping in a unknown part. If the replacement drive unit ends up with a failed coolant seal, or develops the same milling noise issue 10k mi down the road, then it could be a lot of money spent for nothing. That's why we rebuild every motor that comes through our shop, regardless of whether it "seems" good or not.

I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend that ANYONE with a Large Drive Unit equipped Model S should check their drive unit for internal coolant leakage at least once per year, especially if you are out of warranty. For anyone who is near Vista California, we can perform the check free of charge at our shop (just make to call ahead first so we can make sure to have a lift open). For those not close by, here's a video on our shop's YouTube page on how to perform the check:

 

X-Care EV

Vendor
Feb 13, 2019
299
206
Frisco, TX
Good to see indy garages like QC Charge picking up the ball for this very underserved sector. One of the biggest worries buyers of older Teslas have is drive units out of warranty. If anyone on this thread has a list of other garages I can refer as well, this would be greatly appreciated. Cheers, Brent @ XCare.
 
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cduzz

Member
Jun 6, 2019
415
514
boston ma
I agree, 3rd party (like the shop where I work) will be much cheaper than Tesla in terms of doing a drive unit rebuild/replacement. I would argue however that the milling noise could have a damaging effect of the motor eventually.

The milling noise is a direct result of wear of the rotor and/or primary drive gear bearings. With excess wear, comes excess play, which can cause accelerated wear of other items, such as the rotor splines, and especially the rotor coolant seal. If the rotor coolant seal begins to leak, the coolant could permanently damage the motor and/or inverter beyond repair which is of course a much more expensive repair, and not to mention could leave you stranded with zero warning.

At our shop, the most common reason for drive unit rebuilds these days is actually due to the coolant seals failing, and not nearly so much milling noise (in later motors, they switched over to ceramic bearings which mostly fixes the milling issue, but they also changed the coolant seal to an inferior design that does not last). A full rebuild is $4,000, assuming the drive unit is in "functional" condition and can be rebuilt.

If we were to do a full overhaul at the shop where I work, we would:
-Replace rotor bearings with upgraded hybrid ceramic bearings
-Replace primary drive gear bearings
-Replace rotor coolant seal with an upgraded triple lip PTFE seal
-Inspect all parts of the drive unit for excess wear (splines, gears, etc.)

It is possible to swap in another used drive unit for probably about the same amount of money, but by doing so you are swapping in a unknown part. If the replacement drive unit ends up with a failed coolant seal, or develops the same milling noise issue 10k mi down the road, then it could be a lot of money spent for nothing. That's why we rebuild every motor that comes through our shop, regardless of whether it "seems" good or not.

I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend that ANYONE with a Large Drive Unit equipped Model S should check their drive unit for internal coolant leakage at least once per year, especially if you are out of warranty. For anyone who is near Vista California, we can perform the check free of charge at our shop (just make to call ahead first so we can make sure to have a lift open). For those not close by, here's a video on our shop's YouTube page on how to perform the check:

Are the smaller drive units more reliable?
 

2101Guy

Active Member
Jan 6, 2020
1,570
1,387
USA
Definitely, in fact I'd say they are near bulletproof. The small rear drive unit in my 2015 S 70D is still original at 418k+ mi, and the front one has only been replaced once (at about 375k mi).
Thanks (again) for all that you contribute. I have a very low mile (less than 11k mile) 2017 long range now thats perfectly fine, but really considering moving to a 2019 Performance S either late this year or sometime in 2022. Realize that annual or semiannual checks are recommended of the RDU in all performance. But is there a preferable month for build for a 2019, that may be better to get that reduces risk associated with RDU issues?
 

ajbessinger

EV Repair Technician at QC Charge
Sep 2, 2020
55
156
San Marcos California, USA
Thanks (again) for all that you contribute. I have a very low mile (less than 11k mile) 2017 long range now thats perfectly fine, but really considering moving to a 2019 Performance S either late this year or sometime in 2022. Realize that annual or semiannual checks are recommended of the RDU in all performance. But is there a preferable month for build for a 2019, that may be better to get that reduces risk associated with RDU issues?
Pretty much any 2019 should have the latest revision (and some 2018's as well), so that's about as good as it gets. So far I haven't heard of anyone having any issues on the latest revision large drive units, but I would still keep an eye on it for sure. Better to be safe than sorry.
 
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2101Guy

Active Member
Jan 6, 2020
1,570
1,387
USA
Pretty much any 2019 should have the latest revision (and some 2018's as well), so that's about as good as it gets. So far I haven't heard of anyone having any issues on the latest revision large drive units, but I would still keep an eye on it for sure. Better to be safe than sorry.
Thanks! And again, just to be sure Im understanding: if a leak is detected early, still requires the drive unit to be removed/torn down to get to the offending seal. The catching it early doesnt save on the major labor, but it saves catastrophic/unrepairable damage to the RDU itself saves the inverter.

Is that correct?
 

ajbessinger

EV Repair Technician at QC Charge
Sep 2, 2020
55
156
San Marcos California, USA
Thanks! And again, just to be sure Im understanding: if a leak is detected early, still requires the drive unit to be removed/torn down to get to the offending seal. The catching it early doesnt save on the major labor, but it saves catastrophic/unrepairable damage to the RDU itself saves the inverter.

Is that correct?
Yes, that's correct.
 

ajbessinger

EV Repair Technician at QC Charge
Sep 2, 2020
55
156
San Marcos California, USA
Wow, that is more than I expected it to cost.
Well, unfortunately it takes a significant amount of labor, and the parts are not cheap or readily available. Not to mention there is a lot of overhead involved, we have 10s of thousands of dollars wrapped up in custom built tooling for doing just one job, and that's rebuilding drive units.
It's still cheaper than a new drive unit from Tesla, or even an "unknown" used drive unit.
 

Rusty1

Member
Sep 13, 2017
108
114
Ooltewah, TN
Near Vista: also check out EVWest in San Marcos.
OP: get this done by a third party. It will be 1/3 the cost with a repurposed drive unit. Also, the milling noise does not affect performance. You can drive it like this 'forever'
This is your reward for keeping it 'pristine' with low miles. The folks that have driven their 2012's a lot typically had received v3 of the DU and a replaced battery pack under warranty
That is what happened to mine. On the third DU (milling sound) and battery replaced at 91,000 miles. I now have 125K and both are working well.
 
Mar 25, 2013
623
559
Key West, FL
Wow. I wasn't expecting such a high cost. Tesla needs to start getting creative with how they are servicing the drivetrain/battery components otherwise all of their cars are going to end up worthless after 8 years.
I know, right.
Only 66K miles. Maybe Tesla should add this cost analysis into the overall price of their cars, just like how they add "gas savings" into the net price. Imagine an ICE car needing this much of an expense just 66K miles into ownership, many people would be pissed off. Definitely a reliability concern.
 

demundus

Active Member
Jul 5, 2015
1,318
852
Oceanside, CA
My 2015 70D also does not have the tech package, or pretty much any other options apart from the Next Gen seats that are in it, not even a sunroof!
Just hit 418k miles on the car earlier this week.
At least you have next gens, I want them still 7 years later... I always check with Autobahn to see if they get black ones in for not a zillion dollars. I do have air suspension but otherwise nothing.
 

ucmndd

Well-Known Member
Mar 10, 2016
6,551
12,318
California
I know, right.
Only 66K miles. Maybe Tesla should add this cost analysis into the overall price of their cars, just like how they add "gas savings" into the net price. Imagine an ICE car needing this much of an expense just 66K miles into ownership, many people would be pissed off. Definitely a reliability concern.
"66k miles" is a misleading metric in this particular case. The more relevant statistic is ">8 years old". Ironically, if OP had driven the pants off their car instead of putting less than 10,000 miles a year on it and keeping it "pristine", they'd be in a much better position right now.

Yes, a $10k repair bill is a lot. But it's not necessarily unheard with respect to a first-party repair of a ~decade old "luxury" car. Add in the complicating factor of being the earliest of early production from what was essentially a manufacturing startup at the time, and the costs aren't particularly surprising.
 

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