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So just how reliable is the Model S?

Discussion in 'Model S' started by scourge, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. scourge

    scourge Member

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    #1 scourge, Nov 24, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
    With two days to go to finalize my order I’m finding myself experiencing a case of “tesla anxiety”. After spending several hours each day last week reading the forums and Tesla blogs I started getting worried about the seemingly large number of owners experiencing all sorts of mechanical failures. At this point I’m in need of some reassurance (and hopefully this is just the place to get it :smile:). The main reason for my anxiety is simple -- my primary justification for purchasing a MS is the fact that this car should be significantly more reliable and cheaper to own then a traditional ICE car. I drive roughly 25,000 miles per year and for me to justify the purchase of this car the plan is to keep it for 8-10 years. With that said:
    1. Do we know specifically how common it is for a MS to need a replacement drive unit similar to the experience of the Edmunds.com long term test car (and a number of folks from the Mechanical Issues thread here)? I realize this is not a problem while most of us are under warranty but my guess is that a “replacement” drive unit out of warranty is going to set the owner back anywhere between 5K and 10K for parts and labor (if anyone here has specific pricing on this I would love to know what it is). Given the number of failures we’re seeing in relatively new cars I can’t help but wonder what this means for those of us who plan to keep this car long term past the warranty of the car. By contrast, motor failures are extremely rare for ICE cars nowadays and even when things go wrong it’s very rare to see the whole motor replaced.
    2. There seems to be a large number of cars experiencing a problem with the 12v battery not charging. While this does not seem like a huge deal on the surface, it does not look like this has been fully addressed by Tesla yet and experiencing this problem leaves the MS owner essentially stranded by the side of the road in need of a tow.
    3. It seems that there is some defect causing the rear wheel alignment to eventually creep way out of spec. I have a friend who bought a P85 in the spring of 2013 and by the time he hit 8K miles his rear tires were down to the threads. His experience was pretty much identical to that of the Edmunds.com long term test car. Tesla did re-align his car for free but they refused to pay for the replacement tires.
    4. There seems to be a large number of misc. failures around the door handles and power window mechanisms.

    In the end my main question is whether these are problems that a large number of owners encounter? I realize that we’re all much more likely to find people posting of things going wrong so I’d love to hear from folks who have a relatively trouble free ownership experience.
     
  2. Larry

    Larry Member

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    Im probably not an ideal one to answer this as my S only has 2500 miles but Ill relay my experiences. First day I had my S it had a chargeport failure and needed to go back in for part replacement. Service was great but I was a little irritated it had to go back in right away. Now I have the pano roof creak and it needs to go back in. As I now know the car is incredible to drive and own so its not a big deal it has to go back in and I know service will take care of me. The car is well worth any potential what ifs. Maybe a very few people have had bad experiences and those people are loudest about vocalizing their discontent but I guarantee you the far majority of us feel like me. Press the finalize button. You wont regret it.
     
  3. Ole

    Ole Member

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    Not a single problem so far. The car is perfect!
     
  4. Thumper

    Thumper Member

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    9000 miles since delivery in January. Never failed to go when I wanted it to. You will love it.
     
  5. Stoneymonster

    Stoneymonster Active Member

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    So far after 10000 miles it is better than any previous car (out of about 8) that I have owned. Nothing but minor fit and finish and nuisance issues.
     
  6. scourge

    scourge Member

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    @Ole How long have you had the car?
     
  7. MrJima

    MrJima Member

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    Tesla Glee

    Over 13,000 miles and 13 months later I still have Tesla buyer's glee. I believe the 12v battery issue has been addressed with a more robust battery. The tires do wear rapidly but that is, in my opinion, a minor issue. There is never a time that I don't enter my Model S with a smile and the belief that I'm lucky to be an owner of the finest automobile the planet has ever seen. I would suggest that your Tesla anxiety will be replaced with Tesla glee in short order!
     
  8. Zythryn

    Zythryn MS 70D, MX 90D

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    This being the first car Tesla designed and built 100% themselves I would tell you to not bee surprised to have more issues than the more well established quality minded auto companies.
    That said, these are mostly, from my experience, worked out.
    Our sig (#116) had a number of issues, almost all of which were little niggling things. Seat belts squeaked, back seatbelts were 'grabby', 12 volt battery needed replacement (which they contacted me about before it caused a problem) and I did have the motor/inverter replaced.

    All of this was done under warrantee and/or the service plan. It was also all done very conveniently for me, cheerfully and professionally by the Service guys (thanks Todd!).

    The only bummer for me was I had a detailer damage one of the logo lights on the front fenders which had 'Signature' on them. That took far longer than I wanted it to to get replaced, but the guys at the service center kept on it and did get it replaced for me.

    Our second car, VIN 37?? Has only had one issue which was corrected when we first picked up our car this last spring. Now they have built about 18-22k more and have had even more time to refine and optimize the build and QA process. I would have no qualms what so ever in ordering one today if one of ours was lost.

    As for replacement outside of warrantee, I saw how easy it was for them to remove the motor. I can't give a guess as to what the cost would be, but I can say it is a lot easier that pulling an engine block:)
     
  9. Zextraterrestrial

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    Can't wait to go somewhere today! 1 year is coming up next week should be able to hit 17k miles by then. No problems that left me anywhere, just door handle not retracting after the first month and lots of updated things at 1 year service. Car is f-amazing
     
  10. spleen

    spleen Active Member

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    #10 spleen, Nov 24, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
    I think most issues that have been seen are related to this being Tesla's first mass produced car and some growing pains associated with it. A lot of these kinks will get ironed out as time goes on.

    Having said that, the Tesla is covered by a 4 yr warranty and that is extensible by another 4 years by paying another $4000. You don't even need to get the extended warranty now, as long as you get it 30 days before your original warranty expires (so essentially, 3 years and 11 months after you get the car). You could see how repairs have been so far and see if you'd want to spend the extra $4000 up front for peace of mind.

    Edit to say: forgot that you drive 25,000 miles a year. That does make a decision harder since your warranty length essentially halves. :( Still, I think that your thinking is right on and even with the issues with the 12v, that seems to be doing a LOT better than our original reports (at least from what we've seen here on the forums) so I think that overall you'd be ok.
     
  11. Brit4864

    Brit4864 Member

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    While I love the car and Tesla's service is second to none (Model S loaners both times) I have to say I've had 2 previous "car needs service" warnings come up randomly on the dash display. Both times the car was drive-able and no noticeable problems seemed apparent. When they did the remote diagnostics, there appeared to be no problem, but on closer inspection, they found potential problems with the battery cooling pump (first time) and the DC converter (second time).

    And what happens this morning... I get a "car needs service" flash up again. I'm beginning to think I might have a "Friday afternoon car" here :rolleyes:
     
  12. jerry33

    jerry33 S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13

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    1. We don't know specifically how many drive trains have been replaced (and more importantly how many of those have a higher VIN number), but each report in a forum gets at least two threads and many comments so it always appears there are more problems than actually occur. Also few forum members make a six o'clock and all's well post--although there are actually many of those on the forum too.

    2. There was a rash of battery failures earlier but none lately. Tesla has replaced the defective battery batch they had and the new style 12V batteries seem to be fine. Something to note is that every car with a "big battery" has a lot of 12V battery complaints (just look at their forums and newsgroups). Primarily this is because there is no starter motor which gives them warning of when the battery is weakening and the battery is smaller because it doesn't have to crank a starter motor.

    3. The alignment issue is real, but Tesla has just brought out some bolts that allow the camber to be adjusted. Camber in and of itself doesn't cause wear, but any out of alignment condition is amplified by camber. I'm not convinced about the "creep way out of spec" part. The type B wear is very hard to detect until it is too late. I'm sure the Edmond's folks didn't look closely for it either. The tire wear (as inspected by me on my car) indicates that there are two kinds of wear:

    A. The first kind of wear is sloped across the tread. This is what's expected and it's not particularly bad 0.75 mm ever 10,000 miles or so.
    B. Steep angled wear on the inside shoulder. This is what causes the very short life time of the rear tires.

    There is a large difference in the wear angle between type A wear and type B wear. The pictures that have been posted appear to show the same condition that I observed although pictures of tire wear are very tricky.

    My hypothesis is that type A wear is caused from straight line acceleration and regeneration. Type B wear happens during cornering where the inside of the inside tire (e.g. the inside of the right rear tire when turning right) tends to fold under and rides on the shoulder if there is even a tiny bit of toe-out in the rear.

    Most of the effects of this should be mitigated by the new bolts that allow camber adjustment. Rotating the tires will also extend their life, but the important thing is to have the alignment done when the car is first picked up. Cars being knocked out of alignment during transit from the factory is very common with all makes of cars. And of course, the 19" tires are far better than the 21" tires in terms of tire life.

    4. There are a few instances, but I wouldn't say many. I've had no door handle problems in almost 14,000 miles. I did have one of the twin chargers fail on vacation but Tesla flew out a Ranger to fix it and I lost only about two hours of driving the car while he was working. I still have the original 12V battery, and the tire replacement was due to a road hazard that destroyed the tire (and I wanted to get away from the Goodyear tires anyway). Otherwise rotation would have doubled the life of the set of tires, and turning them inside out would have doubled it again.

    All in all for a new car from a new factory with new employees and new management, I'd call the Model S about as trouble-free as can be expected. There have been no more problems than I had with the 2004 Prius (also a first year car).
     
  13. CanuckS#69

    CanuckS#69 Member

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    I think that most new cars have various and sundry problems. The difference with Tesla, in my experience, is that they work to not only correct the problem, but retroactively fix the entire fleet. I've found my car (early Sig Perf) to have a few niggly problems, but service has been excellent. I've tried to be as nitpicky as possible as I drive about as much as you (50k km+ this year) and I plan to drive the car until it is no longer cost effective to keep running.

    1. The drive unit replacements have mostly been sound complaints and it is my understanding that it is faster and more useful to swap the drivetrain (1 hour labor) and ship the old one back to the factory to be examined that it would be to replace only the faulty component.
    2. The 12v battery issue seems to be under control. Many owners have had the 12v battery replaced by a ranger before it has become an issue due to remote diagnostics. New vehicles don't seem to have the problem at all, but older ones were retrofitted.
    3. It isn't the alignment that is an issue, it is the purposeful rear camber. The recent change to ride height will actually help with this, but inner rear tire wear is a fact on life on cars with extreme rear camber for handling purposes, not just the Model S. That said, I'd love to see a change there as tires are nearly as expensive as fuel. I've been running mileage rated 19's in order to stem the tide, but I'd rather run higher performance tires. The rear camber can be adjusted with replacement upper links, but that defeats the handling dynamics designed into the car and should be approached with caution.
    4. There was a redesign in the door handle mechanism and any complaint seems to result in all four handles being replaced. I've not heard of any window issues besides the clips in the rear windows.

    I've had a few various issues, but have no complaints about reliability and drive a LOT and expect to continue to do so. My car is actually *better* than when it was delivered due to firmware updates, TSBs, and aftermarket paint correction.
     
  14. skdave

    skdave Member

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    I have driven Lexus for the last 13 years and I say I would never buy anything else. I saw my first Tesla in a mall in Denverand bought it. NO REGRETS Frankly I didn't know it has a 12 volt battery. Please tell me where it is. I need something to worry about.
    I love my Tesla.
     
  15. jerry33

    jerry33 S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13

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    The 12V battery is on the passenger's side underneath the plastic in the frunk near the passenger compartment. It's very hard to get at. However, should you ever need to jumpstart the Model S, there are jumper terminals below the nose cone.
     
  16. scourge

    scourge Member

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    Jerry,

    I would tend to agree that the type A wear you're describing is normal and to be expected. My concern is about this type B. When my friends P85 was "diagnosed" by Telsa they only mentioned to him that the "Alignment" was off spec. He's not a car person and didn't ask what they found to be wrong specifically. The Edmunds.com long term car had toe-in way off (they have a detailed post here http://www.edmunds.com/tesla/model-s/2013/long-term-road-test/2013-tesla-model-s-tire-wear-post-mortem.html). The wear pattern is exactly what my friends rears looked like. It does seem that the cars having problems are all running on 21's. I'm guessing 19s should be alot more forgiving with fatter sidewalls.
     
  17. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    I've had my car well over a year. Minor sunroof squeaks, a small draft (both small enough issues I would have ignored them in other cars I owned) and wonky keyfobs were all we've seen. But as you noted, forum anecdotes aren't a good way to get reliability data. Only a small percentage of owners are here, and a much smaller percentage post. Just a couple of posts can move perceived status a significant way one way or the other.

    Consumer Reports estimates future reliability to be 17% better than average. Of course there's problems with relying that number too (for one thing, there is NO way to predict future reliability, which is what you really want to know), but I think it's better than forum anecdotes.

    Most people that have seen issues are happy anyway because service is so good. Model S has a 99% owner satisfaction rating, the highest ever seen. Of course something bad could always happen to you, but that's true with any car. It looks like chances are pretty good you will be happy if you buy a Model S.

    By the way, I recently started a thread to provide information like this for potential buyers; that thread is HERE.
     
  18. jerry33

    jerry33 S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13

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    Yes. I read the Edmond's report when it first came out. The examination I did was on 19" tires where the difference between type A wear and type B wear is actually easier to see. Edmonds conclusion was similar to mine in that a small amount of toe will cause type B wear. What they didn't do was:

    1. Check the alignment when they received the car, so there is no way of knowing that the alignment went out over time. I'm thinking it didn't and they just didn't observe the type B wear.

    2. Observe that there were two types of wear.

    3. Carefully check the tires at regular intervals--they waited until the TPMS alerted.

    My car is parked on a slope where I can easily see the rear tires, I checked the wear regularly due to the comments on TMC, and I still didn't notice the type B wear until the tire was off due to a nail in the sidewall (grrrr), so it's easy for me to imagine that most people won't see the type B wear until it's too late. Now that I know exactly what to look for I can check more easily.

    However, Tesla is aware of the problem and is already implementing the first fix. I suspect they may come up with additional fixes later so I'm really not too concerned. The one thing that has been consistent during my period of Tesla ownership is that Tesla eventually does the right thing. Sometimes this doesn't happen instantly, but over the expected lifetime of the vehicle the time waiting for them to do the right thing is trivial.
     
  19. Tommy

    Tommy Member

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    Find another justification as there isn't enough data to support your primary justification for purchasing a MS: "the MS should be significantly more reliable and cheaper to own then a traditional ICE car."

    I am coming up on my one year anniversary and have logged 28.5k miles to date. I have both the extended warranty and prepaid service plan. Other than the door handle issue, I have pretty much experienced all the other issues mentioned on this forum: main battery pack, 12v battery, drive train, pano roof creak, excessive tire wear to name a few, all repaired or replaced under warranty. And here is the important point I want to make: Had I known in advance these issues would arise I still would have bought the car. The driving experience is simply the best, period. No ICE car can compare and for that reason alone, the MS is the best car purchase I ever made.

    Have faith Tesla will use the warranty period to make right the issues as they present themselves; you will have a great driver's car still in your 8-10 year time frame of car ownership. Perhaps set aside a small reserve in the first few years to cover unexpected repairs in the car's later years. From the experience I have had to date, I wouldn't go into the purchase thinking the MS is going to be significantly cheaper to operate.
     
  20. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    My car was built very early on (a Sig) so some glitches were to be expected. None of them prevented me from driving it, and were all taken care of quickly and professionally by Tesla service. Since then the car has been very reliable.

    Love the car. Wouldn't go back to ICE for anything.
     

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