Electric Cars

90,000 Miles On My Tesla Model 3 — Maintenance Costs Higher Than Expected

I am a huge EV and Tesla fanboy. I know that in principal EVs are much less complex than cars with internal combustion engines. An internal combustion engine (ICE) replacement cost is ~$7000. It is much more complex than an electric motor. In addition, ICE cars have very complex transmissions (replacement cost ~$5000). You also have exhaust and emission control systems, which EVs do not have, radiator/cooling systems, etc., etc., etc. An EV has a very expensive battery, but I am treating mine with kid gloves and hope it will last over 10 years. My Model 3 Long Range was warrantied completely for 50,000 miles. The drive system and battery warranty will run out at 130,000 miles. The numerous comparisons I’ve seen estimate maintenance costs for EVs to be much lower than for ICE vehicles. However, the heavy EV battery causes tires to wear out more quickly than for an ICE vehicle, so that is an increased cost for EV maintenance.

Mary, Zuni, my e-bike, and our Tesla Model 3 with a bike rack in Zion National Park, Utah. January 10, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Itemized Repair & Maintenance Costs for Our Tesla Model 3 Long Range

In just over 90,000 miles, the total cost of the tires and out-of-warranty repairs for my Model 3 have been $5,441.42. See itemized costs below. This is much more than I expected. I have had the maintenance issues detailed in the following paragraphs. Conveniently, I was able to obtain the dates, mileage, and exact cost of my Tesla repairs from the Tesla app on my phone. Not conveniently, it appears to go back only 2 years.

1) I have needed to replace the tires three times (the third set should take me to 120,000 miles) for $578.93 + $565.44 + $1,252.23 = $2,395.60 Note: The first two sets of tires were purchased in a hole-in-the-wall tire store in the Wisconsin Northwoods near Rhinelander. The third set was purchased at a Les Schwab tire store in Orem, Utah, where I arrived with a totally flat right rear tire. I had no opportunity to shop for tires and didn’t realize how much more I had paid for that 3rd set.

2) There was consistent squeaking and Tesla performed the following: “Reseal Left Front Upper Control Arm Ball Joint.” This occurred when the mileage was under 50,000, so it was covered under the warranty. (Note: I don’t have the exact date and mileage because this is one of the older repairs which are no longer given under service history in the Tesla app on my cell phone.)

3) ~April 2020 and April 2021: 4-wheel alignment twice = ~$280

4) ~October 2021/~53,000 miles: remove and replace rear aero shield = ~$427.13

5) November 3, 2021/54,131 miles: “Reseal Right Front Upper Control Arm Ball Joint” (for squeaking again) = $49

6) November 3, 2021/54,131 miles: 4-wheel alignment = $90.75

7) July 22, 2022/73,149 miles: Remove and replace Superbottle (battery and drive system cooling valve) because car wouldn’t go over 50 mph = $672.75. Note: this has been replaced by the Octovalve on newer Model 3s.

8) February 2, 2023/88,705 miles: Remove and replace front aero shield (under car fiber apron) = $427.13.

9) February 20, 2023/90,029 miles: Remove and replace PTC/cabin heater (car wouldn’t go into drive) = $1,148.00 (Note: I understand that more recent Model 3s now have a heat pump instead of resistance heating. The PTC is now isolated from the drive system, so if the heat pump fails, it shouldn’t cause the drive system to freeze up.)

The good: Even though I live only 4 miles from the Pleasant Grove, Utah, Tesla showroom and service center, a remote service technician was sent to my house to make the repair.

The bad: Unfortunately, the “bushing bracket — stabilizer bar” with the threaded holes was damaged, so the new aero shied couldn’t be installed. I had to go to the Pleasant Grove Tesla service center to have the “bushing bracket — stabilizer bar” removed and replaced so the repair could be completed. Also, when I first had squeaking from the left front suspension, Tesla sent a mobile repairman to my residence in Saint George, Utah. He was able to diagnose the problem but not fix it. I had it fixed later at the Tesla service center in downtown Salt Lake City under the warranty.

When the Superbottle failed, the car gave me warnings and I was unable to drive at more than 50 mph. When the PTC (cabin heater) failed, the car gave me the warning that once I turned off my car, it might not be able to start again. I drove directly to my neighborhood Tesla service center and put the car in park. When I tried to put the car in drive to enter the service garage, it refused. The Tesla service technician had to use his handy car lifting device to drag the car into the service bay.

Essentially, I had two expensive repairs for items which were “not part of the drive system.” However, they caused the drive system to fail. Also, I managed to peel off two parts of the undercar fiberboard aero shield. The first event happened when I hit 12” of water that I didn’t see in a flash flood at 40 mph. The second event happened when I drove my car out of the Brighton ski resort parking lot in 6” of packed snow.

Tesla Mobile Repair Technician

Tesla mobile repair technician jacking up my car and holding the new front aero shield in my driveway. January 26, 2023. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

It seems to me that Tesla should have fixed for free the two items that caused my drive system to fail since the drive system was still under warranty. Also, the fiberboard aero shields under the car are not very durable. In fact, when the front undercar aero shield failed, it was replaced by a new plastic version which is supposedly more durable.

Tesla Model 3 Long Range Repair & Maintenance Cost Summation

  • 3 sets of tires: $578.93 + $565.44 + $1,252.23 = $2,395.60
  • Replace rear aero shield: ~$427.16
  • 4-wheel alignment × 3: $370.75
  • Replace Superbottle (battery and drive system cooling valve): $672.75
  • Replace PTC (the cabin heater failure caused the drive system to freeze up): $1,148
  • Replace front aero shield: $427.16
  • Total: $5,441.42

Out-of-Warranty Tesla Model 3 Service & Maintenance Costs vs. Extended Warranty

I almost universally avoid buying extended warranties on products that I buy. That includes the ~10 automobiles I have owned over the years. I assume that I will save money by self-warranty. In the cases where the product, like a car battery or car tires, comes with a warranty, I have never collected on one. I have recently been deluged with ads from Car Shield trying to sell me an extended service warranty on my vehicle. I got a quote from Car Shield just now. They want $220/month, or $2640/year, with a $100 deductible for each incident. If I had purchased a Car Shield policy when I went over 50,000 miles in November 2021, I would have paid 14 × $220 = $3000 by now. My repair costs over that period have been $2247, less $300 in hypothetical deductibles would be $1947. Therefore, it has been cheaper so far to go without a Car Shield policy.

I have told myself that my EV will be so reliable that a Car Shield policy would be a waste of money. However, I am not unaware of the fancy computer, display screen, and electronics in my Tesla, as well as the electric seats and windows, stereo system, etc. etc. etc. There are plenty of things in the car that could fail … and now I’m learning about failure modes of things I never considered. For now, I’m ahead and I’m holding my breath and hoping for the best for the future.

Please add your experiences with repairs on your Tesla vehicles in the comments section below.


 




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