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BMS_u029 Case Tells a Horror Story About Tesla Service Centers – Part 1

The BMS_u029 and the BMS_u018 error codes are something I have already warned my readers about. Those following the situation more closely have already met Bob Atkins in my texts. He tagged Elon Musk on Twitter to show the issues he was having with a Model S that has only 43,280 miles on its odometer. I contacted Atkins, and he told me a horror story – one that should haunt Tesla Service Centers and anyone concerned about Tesla's future.
Bob Atkins' mother-in-law bought this Model S 85 brand new in 2014 44 photos
Photo: Bob Atkins
Tesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy itTesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy itTesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy itTesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy itTesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy itTesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy itTesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy it2013 Tesla Model 3 that belonged to Mario Zelaya had an issue more units may also present: water invading the battery pack through the fuse box2013 Tesla Model 3 that belonged to Mario Zelaya had an issue more units may also present: water invading the battery pack through the fuse boxTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S facedTransport Canada report about the issue Mario Zelaya's 2013 Tesla Model S faced2013 Tesla Model 3 that belonged to Mario Zelaya had an issue more units may also present: water invading the battery pack through the fuse boxTesla's invoice with the battery pack replacement priceTesla Service Center emails telling Mario Zelaya to sign the papers to release his Model SGerman lawyers contradict Elon Musk and state Tesla cars last less than their battery pack warrantiesThis is where the steel box cover sits: see the signs of rustThe battery pack in Joaquim Rodrigues' Model S had rusted bolts and plenty of waterThe fuse inlet had to be replaced in Joaquim Rodrigues' Model S battery packThe battery pack in Joaquim Rodrigues' Model S had rusted bolts and plenty of waterThis is the steel fuse box cover in a Model S after some years: after it rusts, the battery pack failsTesla Model S with the most mileage has its ninth motor replacementHansjoerg Eberhard von Gemmingen when his car reached 1 million km (621,371 mi)Hansjoerg Eberhard von Gemmingen when his car reached 1 million km (621,371 mi)Tesla Model S with the most mileage when it reached 1.5 million kmTesla Model S with the most mileage has its ninth motor replacementHansjörg Eberhard von Gemmingen achieved another milestone with his Model 2: 1 million miles. Now he wants a Lucid AirThis is the menu showing the BMS_u029 error that demands the battery pack to be replacedBob Atkins' mother-in-law bought this Model S 85 brand new in 2014The 2014 Model S 85 Bob Atkins' mother-in-law has came with this battery pack
Atkins is a retired engineer who tried to assist his mother-in-law. The 84-year-old lady bought the 2014 Model S 85 directly from Tesla. The car was made in Q1 2014 and had "most of the options available at the time she bought it except for the fancy sound system." That made her have supercharging for life, as well as a 4-year or 50,000-mile warranty. She extended it to eight years or 120,000 miles.

"At the time she purchased the car, the base warranty was only 4 years or 50,000 miles because the Federally mandated 8-year/120,000-mile warranty had not come into effect yet."

As Atkins shared, she only drove this car for a bit more than one-third of the covered mileage. Unfortunately for her, the time coverage ended in 2022. Exactly "one year to the day after the warranty expired," her car presented the fatal error message that warned it would need a battery pack replacement. The engineer finds that hard to be a coincidence, especially considering the circumstances that led to the battery pack error. His mother-in-law was staying with him and her daughter and charged her car there from 80% to 90% before everything happened on February 28.

"While the car was sitting in my driveway, an OTA update occurred the night before the 'Maximum battery charge level reduced' (BMS_u029) message appeared. The message appeared as she was driving to her home from my house – a 27-mile drive. The message with a yellow warning triangle also ended by saying, 'OK to drive, schedule service.' So, quite reasonably, as she was driving home and fully charged, she didn't take it to be an urgent message."

This is the menu showing the BMS_u029 error that demands the battery pack to be replaced
Photo: Bob Atkins
It took her a while to discover how serious the issue was.

"It was a good week and a half before I found out about it. She doesn't drive on a daily basis, nor does she charge at her home (an apartment complex). On March 9, she stopped by a Supercharger that she frequents and tried to charge the car. To her, it appeared to start charging (flashing green light around the charge port), but the message on the screen stated that 'Charging was complete.' These were odd messages considering that it was refusing to charge, and of course, they were confusing to a non-technical person like herself."

Atkins has her car on the Tesla app he installed on his phone to assist her.

"I happened to notice some odd notifications from the app that said something like 'Charging stopped - check charge cable connection.' After I saw a couple of these, I assumed that she was having some trouble connecting the charger to her car and called her. She reported that it looked like it started charging and then stopped – saying 'Charging complete' immediately after plugging the car in. Yet, she realized that it hadn't charged at all. She failed to mention the warning message on the instrument cluster."

Tesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy it
Photo: Bob Atkins
The retired engineer advised her to move to another Supercharger since she could have used a faulty stall. She did that and received help from other Tesla customers at the charging station.

"I saw the same 'Charging stopped - check charge cable connection' messages from the Tesla app. She called me to report the same problem and that the person who helped her didn't understand what the problem was. It was only then that it occurred to me to ask if there were any warning messages being displayed on the car. That is when she finally told me about the 'Maximum battery charge level reduced' message at the bottom of the instrument cluster."

Atkins discovered at that moment that she had seen the message on February 28, right after leaving his house.

"If the Tesla app wasn't a piece of crap, that same message should have also been displayed on the app. The notifications about a bad charge connection on the app were bogus nonsense as well. The app notifications should have been consistent with the 'Maximum battery charge level reduced' message in the car and more informative."

Tesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy it
Photo: Bob Atkins
The engineer told his mother-in-law to stop at a Tesla Service Center on her way home and started investigating the error message.

"There, they did nothing and provided no useful information. They made no attempt to charge her car. The only thing that they did was book her for a service appointment at a different SC on April 4 and send her on her way, leaving her with no idea what was wrong with her car and no idea if she would be able to charge it at all. This was a pathetic response from a service center for an elderly woman who, like most normal people, was now wondering if she would have a car to use or if she would be stranded somewhere."

His inquiries led him to be more familiar with the issue and with what to expect from it.

"I ended up having to do a lot of research regarding the 'Maximum battery charge level reduced' (BMS_u029) message. That was when I realized that she was facing an enormous repair cost for a replacement high-voltage (HV) main battery. In the course of doing that research, I also found failed EV battery stories for every EV car on the market."

2013 Tesla Model 3 that belonged to Mario Zelaya had an issue more units may also present\: water invading the battery pack through the fuse box
Photo: Mario Zelaya
Although failed battery packs were not exclusive to the Model S, stories involving Tesla's electric sedan "were the overwhelming majority and have accelerated at an alarming pace for 2012-2015 Teslas since mid-2022." Mario Zelaya's case is an example, and his car (right above) seems pretty much like the one Atkins' mother-in-law owns.

"Most were without warning, and a high percentage of failures were on low mileage cars that were older, so calendar time rather than mileage was playing a big role in battery life/failures. It was during this same period that I posted what happened to both the Tesla Owners Forum and the Tesla Motors Club. The Tesla Owners Forum responses mostly said, 'tough luck, just part of owning the best BEV in the world,' indicating that it is primarily a forum for Tesla acolytes who believe that Tesla can do no wrong. I found the responses on the Tesla Motors Club to be much more informative. From the responses I received there, I was able to determine the full range of repair experiences, options, and related costs."

Atkins shared his findings with her. The Tesla Service Center eventually confirmed the prognosis: she would have to replace the Model S battery pack if she wanted to keep the car. Ironically, that ended up being the sensible financial decision after they extensively discussed the situation.

"Based on my research, her car's value needing a battery would be around $10,000 to $12,000 at best in a private sale. Through a dealer, as a trade-in, it would be considerably less. Replacing her car with a new Tesla S would be prohibitively expensive, and given that her car had 'crapped out' at just 9 years old with barely 43,000 miles, she didn't want to gamble on another Tesla – new or used. I can definitely say that Tesla has lost her as well as myself as a customer and that anyone who asks me is going to be thoroughly warned about the way Tesla treats its customers and the pitfalls of buying a BEV – especially any Tesla if it is used and out of warranty."

Tesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy it
Photo: Tesla/Bob Atkins/edited by autoevolution
As I warned in a previous text, Tesla did not only lose Atkins' mother-in-law: it made her run away from any battery electric vehicle (BEV) from now on.

"Other electric vehicles were also out of the question given that most all of them are first or, at best, second generation. They are also very expensive new, and of questionable value used – they too could suffer battery failures without warning even if they are low mileage vehicles. It doesn't help that here in SoCal, the non-Tesla public BEV charging options are still pretty pitiful and expensive. Many of the public chargers on the West side of Los Angeles where my mother-in-law lives are located in places that require parking charges on top of the cost of charging."

With that in mind, the engineer and his mother-in-law discussed getting back to combustion-engined vehicles.

"She had a Mercedes-Benz E320 before purchasing her Tesla. Used 2020 E350s are running between $38,000 and $42,000, depending on how they are equipped, but (they) will all be nearing the end of their warranty. Doing the math – pretty much no matter how we sliced it – replacing her Model S 85 would cost her about $20,000 out of pocket, which is almost exactly what a new replacement battery will cost."

The 2014 Model S 85 Bob Atkins' mother\-in\-law has came with this battery pack
Photo: Bob Atkins
In the end, replacing the battery pack was what made more sense.

"My mother-in-law has (for now) decided to keep it even knowing that, after a new battery pack is installed, the drive unit could be the next big expense. As I explained before, replacing it with any other car will incur additional costs. She doesn't drive a lot these days. She does like the car and prefers the 'devil she knows' versus some other used car."

Some other factors also helped in her decision.

"Installing a new battery gives her an almost effectively new car (the eMMC chip has already been replaced, and the cell modem was upgraded to LTE). Her car has almost new tires (they were recently replaced) and little to no maintenance or smog testing requirements. The plus side is that she has unlimited supercharging along with all of the other perks that Tesla has since started charging for. Her car is not Autopilot capable (lacks the hardware), and she is quite happy with that as she doesn't even like to use the cruise control!"

If you think this already sounds bad enough, you should wait to read the second part of this story. Stay tuned.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
Gustavo Henrique Ruffo profile photo

Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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