After two years and 24,000 miles, I have decided to share my list of Tesla Model S quality and reliability problems. Overall, the ownership experience and reliability was good and for the most part uneventful despite many customer complaints that I read from forums, online, and consumer reports.
With Model 3’s popularity growing every day, I started diverging and contemplating to trade in my Model S for the Model 3. I like Model 3’s specifications including:
- Bigger battery and longer range
- Faster performance
- Autopilot 2 hardware
- I also like Model 3’s head lights which awfully remind me of the Porsche Panamera
However, I always catch myself thinking how much I enjoy driving Model S, its features, and not having to deal with many reliability problems over Model 3:
- Sharp and modern look
- Stylish and roomy interior
- Large size and more room
- Overall good quality
- Rear wheel drive
From reading different sources, it seems that first batches of Model 3 cars are having different quality and reliability problems. This is however expected whenever the new model from any car manufacturer is introduced. The rule of thumb that I was following over years is to purchase a model which has been on the market for at least 5 years. I felt safer to purchase Model S in 2017 since by that time most serious reliability problems should have been solved and weed out.
There were also many quality problems with Tesla Model X few years ago. However, many issues have been resolved but Model X problems deserve a dedicated blog.
My Tesla Model S has a birthday on some day in March 2017 and even though most common reported problems have been solved, there are still quality and reliability problems that I have experienced.
Tesla Aluminum Body
The aluminum body has no damages so far and there are no signs of corroison. The Tesla body parts are rare and expensive so I am hoping to stay far away from the body shops. The chrome seals on the front doors would not align with the chrome seals on the rear doors. This was fixed by service under warranty. I would say that overall quality of the Tesla body is really good.
My Model S suspension is not a Smart Air Suspension. I have deliberatly purchased the Model S without air suspension in order to save money on maintenance. At the time when I was shopping for Tesla, I read many articles about how customers experienced different issues with the smart air suspension. In general, the maintenance costs are higher with the cars which have smart air suspension. The quality of the standard Tesla Model S suspension is good however it is not soft. I feel every little bump on the road.
Model S Paint
Model S paint on the hood already has few small rock chips from road stones versus the bumper. One solution is to wrap the hood and front bumper in protective film. The cheaper solution is to purchase a touch up paint from Tesla. I have a black flat paint on my Model S and so the chips show the silver aluminium body. The quality of the Tesla Model S paint is good but I suspect that Tesla does use fewer layers of paint coat on their cars possibly to save overall weight.
Check out my tips on washing and detailing your Tesla for the best look in the Washing Tesla blog:
Lift struts on the Model S rear trunk or hatch always make squeaking or rattling noises when opening and closing the trunk especially during the cold winter weather. The service fixed the problem once but it came back again this freezing winter.
This time, I have cleaned the struts myself from the old lubricant and some debris and infused the struts with WD-40 all purpose lubricant. So far, I did not hear anymore loud noises from struts but I suspect they will be coming back as soon as the lubricant dissolves and dirt and debris will start collecting again.
The quality of the Model S non automatic trunk lift struts is not so good. Tesla should have wrapped the trunk lift struts so that they do not collect debris and also help to preserve the lubricants for longer.
Model S Headlights
There was condensation in one of the front lights. I noticed the frost inside of the light during this year’s worst freezing weather. Tesla service had replaced the whole light unit under warranty. I do not see the problem so far. I will wait and see if the problem comes back when we start getting our famous Spring rains and again in winter which I am not looking forward to experience.
Model S Tail Lights
I have noticed condensation in the tail lights especially after heavy rains or car wash. The Tesla service had replaced both tail lights under warranty and so far I have not noticed this problem.
The Model S headlight and tail light quality is good. However, I did not expect to experience condensation issues from the car in this class and at this price level. I have owned at least three types of luxury German cars including BMW, Audi and Mercedes and never had issues with condensation in lights.
Tesla Touch Screen
I love using Model S touch screen and consider this feature to be a distinct advantage of Tesla cars over other modern car manufacturers.
However, the quality of the touch screen is not all that great. I have experienced the following reliability problems with the center touch screen display:
- My touch screen has developed the yellow border lines twice in a row. Tesla Service had to replace the screen twice under warranty. I am not sure why this happened twice and mainly during the warmer months. I am going to watch and see if this problem occurs again during this summer. If this occurs again during the summer, then this is most likely caused by overheating or not enough cooling supplied to the screen.
- The touch screen was disabled after the software update which lasted unfixed for a whole week until someone from service suggested to unplug the USB mouse dongle. The software update was not compatible with the particular USB mouse dongle that was plugged in.
- Periodic glitches due to loss of connectivity or voice commands would stop working. I have to restart the touch screen at least twice a month.
- On few occasions, the car would not wake up after being parked for few hours or overnight. The normal restart by holding down two wheel buttons would not fix the problem. I called service and they have suggested to manually Power Off Model S to fix this problem. After the manual restart, I did not experience this problem anymore.
One of the main reliability or quality problems with Model S is unresponsive Tesla Browser. Tesla service does not have a fix and normal restarts do not alleviate the problems also. The Web Browser is extremely slow and annoyingly unresponsive when using LTE or Wifi or Phone Hot Spot connections. I basically cannot use the browser at all. It would come back to senses for few minutes but then go back to being slow and unusable. Tesla service claims that there is a bug which they are working on which should fix this problem. Nothing has been fixed so far. I believe my car has older hardware and so it has a slower browser.
The possible ways to fix the slow and sluggish web browser are documented in my Tesla Browser blog:
My Model S 75 2017 came standard with the Good Year Touring tires. I have a separate blog about these tires. They are all season tires but are not great. The tread does not last long and they skid in the rain and terrible in snow and ice. I would suggest to swap them with tires with more grip and longer tread life. On a positive note, these tires are not noisy. I switched these tires to the all weather Continental Pro Contacts.
Check out my Tires Blog here:
Model S Interior
I have partial black leather seats in the car. All seats are mainly black fabric with leather on the sides and head rests. The overall quality of the seats is Ok. I think Tesla is using mainly synthetic leather and it does not have a very good quality feel. I have noticed that especially the driver seat has developed cracks. I hope Tesla service can fix this problem under warranty. I like the leather and fabric combination more than all leather seats. First, they feel much warmer in the winter even though I do have a cold weather package. Second, they are more comfortable in the summer versus sweating on the leather seats.
My Tesla Model S battery quality is good so far. I have not noticed or experienced any serious degradation in range or charging abnormalities. I am currently collecting data from my car and working on the battery level estimation software using the Linear Regression machine learning algorithm.
Tesla Quality and Reliability
All around quality and reliability of my 2017 Model S 75 is fairly good. After 2 years of ownership, I did not encounter or experience major defects and Devon Tesla service was good at fixing many of my defects under warranty and was able to order and receive all required Tesla parts. I did not experience any defects with battery, charging, or electric motor. Also, there were no mechanical problems. I hear a lot of customer complains from different forums and online and I hope my good experience continues and I continue trusting and liking the Tesla brand. I am sure that quality and reliability will only improve over time with Tesla.
To compare, I owned 2008 Audi A6 before Tesla Model S and have experienced various mechanical problems including: fouled spark plugs, defective gas tank sensors, and finally the six cylinder engine which started to burn oil at around 80 K miles. I do not experience any of these quality and reliability problems with Tesla and I am happy. I might have missed Audi quatro all wheel drive system a little especially in the winter. Audi was solid and stable while driving through the snow or ice. My real wheel drive Tesla is not as stable on ice.
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