Tesla Model S in Albuquerque's 'snowstorm' during NY-to-California road trip [photo: David Noland]Enlarge Photo
I’m happy to be a pioneer in the electric-car wilderness. But a pioneer in the Tesla out-of-warranty-repair wilderness? Not so much.
My repair history
Lacking anybody else’s repair history, I have no choice but to fall back on my own—which has been pretty good.
There have been a few balky door handles, all of which were eventually replaced with improved versions. After two years, the rear lift back latch stopped latching.
And just recently, my 3-G connection (necessary to display the map and play music, among other functions) failed due to a bad cable.
All these problems were quickly fixed under warranty.
In addition to fixing these problems, Tesla also replaced several parts preemptively, without any problem occurring or complaint from me.
My 12-volt battery, part of a bad batch that caused problems in many other cars, was replaced early on.
Onsite service by Tesla Motor technicians on 2013 Tesla Model S, upstate NY [photo: David Noland]Enlarge Photo
And just recently, my 85-kWh high-voltage battery was sent back to the factory to upgrade the main contactor. (A loaner battery was installed for the two-months the repair was in process.)
Again, no cost to me.
My total expenditure on the Model S over 32 months and 49,000 miles has been $1,000 for a new set of tires and $1,200 for two regular service visits.
The truly big-ticket items (battery and drive unit) are still covered under the powertrain warranty.
And I doubt that the little niggling problems of the sort I’ve had in the past would amount to $4,000.
But there are a few potential show-stopper problems that worry me.
*The touch screen. Sure, it’s a cool screen, but what happens when it comes up black one morning? The car is essentially unuseable without it. I’m haunted by my personal 30-year history with computer screens, which has been, shall we say, mixed.
Cost to replace? About $6,000, according to a Tesla service manager I talked to. Ouch.
*Air suspension. Back when I was awaiting delivery of my car, air suspension was in effect a mandatory option. To get my preferred standard coil suspension, I would have had to wait three or four months longer. But after waiting four years, I couldn’t bear the thought of more delay.
So now I’ve got the air suspension, and it worries me. I’m told air suspension was notoriously unreliable in older Mercedes, and for a couple of years I passed almost daily a deflated example resting forlornly on its haunches out back at a local repair shop. The image still haunts me.
But a Tesla service manger reassured me that Tesla’s air suspensions have been very reliable so far. But if they do fail, replacement cost would be about $2,000 per axle.
*Door handles A notorious problem from the beginning, my door handles were replaced with allegedly improved versions. But how long will the improved ones last? Nobody knows.
If they fail again, it’s a $1200 repair. Each.
I’m terribly torn. Should I be the savvy consumer, the gutsy adventurer willing to roll the dice and strike out into little-known territory?
Or should I succumb to the comfort and security of the Tesla womb, coddled and protected from any uncertainty or—God forbid—risk?
I’m still mulling. Stay tuned.