The 6 Most Common Tesla Model S Problems (And Fixes)


Tesla sedans and SUVs are some of the most innovative vehicles of the century. However, the benchmark of electric vehicles, the Model S, has been more problematic than pleasurable for its drivers.

The Tesla Model S has been around for almost a decade. Starting at $80,000, it may end up costing you a lot more than that with the common problems most of its drivers face. Keep reading to know what to look for if you purchase one of these vehicles, how to have these problems fixed and how much to expect to spend in repairs.

The Model S Sinks Tesla to Second-to-Last Place in Consumer Reports

The Model S by Tesla has been nothing short of a disappointment. At the top of the list of complaints and issues with the vehicle are six problems related to:

  • The Body Hardware and Integrity
  • The Automatic Climate System
  • The In-Car Electronics
  • The Electric Motor
  • The Air Suspension
  • The Automatic Steering Capabilities

The unfortunate fact is the list does not stop there. These complaints are only the beginning and most common amongst the Model S drivers. The worst part is, Tesla has not been able to resolve every problem drivers have faced with this Model either.

How Reliable is the Model S from Tesla?

The truth is, the Model S is not very reliable at all. In the most recent consumers report, the Model S earned an overall 3/5 stars for its reliability and customer satisfaction. Compared to its top competitors like Porsche, who earned 5/5 stars, it is obvious the Model S came with a few problems.

It was reported that every Model S made between 2000 and 2020 had issues in 17 potential trouble spots that were previously mentioned.

Many of the above-mentioned reported issues by Model S owners have been addressed and Tesla has sent out several software updates over the years to fix them. However, some of the software updates have been unsuccessful and have even slowed the vehicle’s response to the various updates long-term.

The Unreliable Body Integrity

The majority of the Tesla models out there are attractive because of their smooth and quick performance. However, the Model S seems to be lacking in this category with its squeaks and rattles, its body paint fading and unexpected wind noise. Many drivers that experienced these problems often found themselves at the shop having their vehicles serviced.

The main complaint of Model S drivers was the rattling noises they could hear coming from the front end when driving over 35 miles per hour. It was determined the rattling noises were coming from the suspension. However, when they took their car in to be serviced, the technicians were unable to fix the problem.

The Model S was also said to have a loose exterior trim and moldings. Although a minor cosmetic defect, drivers found themselves back in the shop to have this fixed.

The body paint on the vehicle is also known to fade and crack very easily, even in the absence of harsh weather conditions. The cost of these repairs can become expensive, as they are not covered under warranty.

The other complaint was when driving down the road, drivers experienced a very loud wind noise. After taking their car in to be serviced, they found the window trim did not line up correctly with the body of the car. The front windshield was not aligned with the roof, either.

These problems both caused turbulence and a loud cabin noise and seemed to be common with the Model S. Luckily, service technicians could reset the windshield and windows to combat most of the noise. However, the noise level was still significantly higher than one would expect in a luxury vehicle of that price.

The Advanced Climate System

You may notice in the height of summer, you will be driving down the road and your Model S starts blowing out hot air instead of cool air. As your drive continues, you can expect the air conditioning to come back on to cool you off.

Many owners of this vehicle thought there was a defect in the compressor causing the heat to come on in the summer and the air conditioning to come on in the winter.

However, Tesla has designed their cars’ climate system to protect against extreme temperatures that prevent the vehicle from operating optimally. Essentially the car can divert its heating and air conditioning to either heating or cooling as needed to maintain optimal function.

If within a few minutes your car’s heating or air conditioning does not return to your desired setting, you may have more issues to worry about. You will need to schedule an appointment with your local service location to get your climate system back to normal.

The Failing Electric System

Much of the external electronics and hardware of the Model S have had problems with the headlights and keyless entry.

The main concern of the exterior hardware is the headlights. The daytime running lights, which are known to give Tesla vehicles their sleek look, change from a normal white color to a dim yellow/brown. The headlights can be replaced by any service department, but many drivers have needed to replace both headlights multiple times.

When you think of the keyless entry, you think it should be as convenient as possible when getting into your car. However, many owners of the Model S say the keyless entry is “erratic.” Drivers have found themselves needing to wave the key fob around for the vehicle to detect the key. They have also needed to adjust themselves near the front of the car to open the charging port on the vehicle.

Since there were so many concerns and problems with the inconvenient key, Tesla does replace yours if they fail to work under warranty.

The In-Car Electronics That Never Work

The most popular in-car electronics, including the computer and Bluetooth and communication systems all seemed to be problematic for its drivers, too.

The most common complaint was that the display screen on the computer would often freeze up or go blank. To fix this issue temporarily, the drivers constantly had to reboot the system. Eventually, as the software updates were released from Tesla, the need for a reboot became less and less.

The other thing that became problematic for its drivers was how their phone never stayed connected to the Bluetooth. Drivers often had problems getting their phones to connect at all. However, once they did pair their device, it was nearly impossible to connect another device and their primary device would in turn disconnect.

Drivers also found their in-car computer system unable to connect to the wi-fi at their homes. The strange part was, they would be prompted anywhere they went to connect to a local wi-fi. Even when they tried to follow this prompt, however, the car still failed to connect.

Both the Bluetooth and wi-fi pairing issues could be solved through a complete shut-down and reboot. However, Tesla is still sending out software updates because many of these issues persist, and the updates have not been 100% successful. 

The Drive Unit that Sometimes Leaves Drivers Stranded

This issue may be the biggest deterrent for anyone looking to invest in the Model S. Imagine driving on the highway in a vehicle you have had for less than one year, and it suddenly stops, leaving you stranded on the side of the road.

Although this occurred more frequently in earlier models, it is still happening in 2020. Tesla does provide a four-year or 50,000-mile warranty that includes the powertrain. However, if the motor is failing between 8,000 and 15,000 miles, what is going to happen as more wear and tear occurs to your vehicle?

Thirty-two percent of the Model S drivers that were surveyed have had this happen to them, with 6% of them having to have multiple drive unite replacements. At $15,000 per motor out of warranty, no one would want to be left paying that bill.

Even though one of Tesla’s service technicians can replace your motor, a luxury vehicle that costs more than your average car should not be failing at only 8,000 miles. Tesla has, however, been reliable in resolving this issue quickly and efficiently for its drivers.

The Faulty Suspension

The Model S seemed to have issue in all parts of the suspension including:

  • The shocks and struts
  • The Bushings
  • The Air Suspension
  • The Alignment
  • The Wheel balance  

The majority of complaints are of rattling noises coming from the front vehicle suspension, as mentioned before. They occur most often when driving over bumpy roads or at speeds higher than 35 mph. Unfortunately, there is still no solution for this issue.

Also, many drivers complained of grease leaking from the left steering bushing. Although inconvenient, service technicians can replace the entire bracket, bushing, and boot that is the cause of the leaking grease at no charge when under warranty.

The other rattling noise Model S drivers mentioned was coming from the front air suspension. Unlike with the shocks and struts, Tesla has solved this problem. All you will need to do is take it in to be serviced and it will be replaced by Tesla under warranty.

The Steering Wheel Steering Assist Motor Bolt Recall

In 2018, Tesla recalled the Model S because of a defective steering assist motor bolt, but luckily there were no injuries or accidents because of this issue.

Tesla observed excessive corrosion in the power steering bolts in those vehicles in very cold environments and where their vehicles rode on salt-covered roads.

Even if you do purchase a Model S in a colder location, you do not need to worry too much. If the bolts “fail,” you will still have complete control of the vehicle. The only difference is that the power assist function becomes limited so you will not be able to rely solely on your vehicle to do the job for you.

If you have a Model S, there is no need to rush to have the problem taken care of, either. Tesla is reaching out to the owners to schedule an appointment to have the bolt repaired. Once you are scheduled, you can expect about an hour wait until service is finished with your vehicle.

How Can I Fix Any These Problems if I Experience Any with My Model S?

As previously mentioned, many of these issues you could experience with your Model S are fixable and will be of no cost if your car is still under Tesla’s warranty.

If your vehicle is under warranty, most of the hardware and electronic issues should be taken care of free of charge. If your vehicle experiences any cosmetic defects, however, you should expect to pay out-of-pocket to repair the damage.

The six main concerns with the Model S that were discussed are more common in those built in 2018 and earlier but still show up in 2020 and 2021 models. Tesla is continuing to work to improve the software and hardware in the newest vehicles but have failed to perfect the Model S. 

Are the Model 3 and Model Y from Tesla Any Better?

The Model 3 is now the only Tesla vehicle that is recommended to consumers but is leaving them with some speculation since the Model S has proven to be so unreliable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration implemented a safety probe to combat the main issues drivers had with the computer systems in the Model S.

The Model Y may leave you with more issues than you would like, too. There were reports by some drivers that the entire glass roof flew off their brand-new vehicle. It also experienced similar problems with its suspension like the Model S and ranked even lower on its consumer report.

In any instance, it is recommended to consider the Model 3 from Tesla over the others for the price you will be paying to avoid dealing with the unreliability and unexpected service costs of the Model S and Model Y. 

Although the Model S is Unreliable, It’s Performance is Still at the Top in 2021

In 2021 Tesla has added even better performance to the Model S. The new top Plaid Model being released later this year will have a 1020 horsepower with three electric motors. It will also go from 0-to-60 mph in only two seconds on a 390-mile range.

The Long Range Model, which is the cheaper baseline model, will have a 412-mile range per charge and will be much more affordable than the anticipated 6-figure Plaid Model.

Even with the previous steering recall, the newest models in 2021 are more agile and better controlled by bodily movements. It also allows drivers to choose a light or heavy steering effort that makes this vehicle even more driver friendly with a road test score of 97%, indicating a very smooth drive.

The Tesla Model S Still Ranks Number 3 in the Ultra Luxury Category

Even with all the hardware and software issues drivers face, you can still expect to be riding in style if you decide on a Model S. According to the consumer report, the Model S still ranks number three out of eleven cars on the list amongst its top competitors, including Porsche and its new Taycan Model.

The interior can seat up to five passengers and is very spacious and comfortable for everyone on board. Although some critics have said the interior is sub-par to other luxury vehicles, its design has been and still is the benchmark for all electric vehicles. Its 400-mile range per charge is unmatched and reduces the driving range anxiety many electric vehicle drivers have on long trips.

At a starting price of $80,000, consumers can at least expect to ride in a top-of-the-line vehicle. It has a sloped roofline that hides the rear liftgate that houses a 26 cubic foot trunk. On top of that, it has plenty of cubby storage throughout the interior and even a hidden underfloor bin for even more storage.

Overall, the Model S May Bring You More Problems than Pleasure

Overall, Tesla has no doubt put the vehicle of the future on the road with all its electric vehicles. However, you should maybe think twice before investing in a Model S because of its unreliable hardware and software.

The sleek design and top-notch performance of the Model S may be enough to entice you to invest, but it is important to consider the unreliability that was previously discussed. No one wants to be driving down the road and suddenly, their brand new car just stops running on the highway.

Luckily, if Tesla is your dream vehicle and you are set on your purchase, you have plenty of other options. The Model 3 can leave you with everything you are looking for without the problematic and costly issues the Model S has left drivers within recent years.

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