Reader Question: Servicing Teslas?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Tom asks: Who can service a Tesla? Can the corner service station? And, what gets serviced? What service does a Tesla Need?

My reply: There is a misconception about electric cars that they don’t require service because they haven’t got engines or transmissions (electric cars are direct drive). While they do not require the same service – things like oil and filter changes – they do have service requirements for their various systems, including their cooling systems (for the battery)and of course they have suspensions, brakes and mechanical accessories such as AC, like any other car – and more electronics, unlike most other cars.

Tesla touts its ability to perform “over the air updates” (see here)  but when a component wears out or physically fails it must be physically replaced. EVs are no different in this respect than any other car.

The difference is that with a Tesla, the car’s mechanical components are integrated with its electronic controls and – even assuming you or some independent shop could physically replace a worn/nonfunctioning component, you likely will have to get Tesla to “authorize” the repair – to get the part to work – by getting the electronics to “recognize” the replaced component. Tesla controls all of that.

If it is a software-related issue, you will definitely have to secure the “authorized” fix.

The biggest eventual need-to-fix, of course, is the car’s battery pack – and its related electronic controls. My understanding is that Tesla makes it very technically difficult for a battery pack to be replaced by any but “authorized” people, by making it such that it won’t work properly without all the “required updates.”

There is also the body, which from what I gather is difficult to fix due to the unusual assembly methods used and can be hard to get parts for, outside of the Tesla system.

On balance, these cars – EVs, generally – are very much like smartphones in that they work until they don’t and when they don’t, you probably can’t do much yourself to get them working again.

. . .

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  1. I don’t follow Tesla matters closely, because I’m not interested in being tied to an electrical outlet.

    But, back in 2014, Tesla announced that all their EV code would be open source, and their patents would be public domain. There are multiple open source models, and I don’t know which they chose, but since the patents are in public domain, anyone can take their best shot at creating their own.

    • Everything they have done since then has been the opposite. They block third party repairs and modifications at every turn. It shows how few teeth “right to repair” laws have.

      They are even worse than Apple when it comes to making an older product useless and valueless when they decide they won’t update, upgrade, sell replacement parts so someone else can fix or repair something themselves. A ten year old Tesla is basically garbage because if something breaks, it may not be possible to do anything but junk it. Tesla really doesn’t seem to want to have their cars on the road once they are about a decade old.

      The legacy automakers are unfortunately following Tesla lead on making their vehicles unfixable by third parties.

      The irony of it all. All their talk of being “green” is complete nonsense. Not fixing fixable cars is about as far from being green as you can be. Frankly a car should stay on the road twenty years and should make it to at least 200,000 miles on the clock.


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