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BMS_u029 Case Tells a Horror Story About Tesla Service Centers – Part 2

Imagine buying a flagship vehicle and driving it for nine years without major issues. All of a sudden, you discover you will have to pay for a component that costs almost as much as the entire car. That's what happened to Bob Atkins' mother-in-law after she received a BMS_u029 error message in her 2014 Tesla Model S, as I have told my readers in a previous story. Sadly for them, things could get more complicated than that.
This is the battery pack Tesla used to replace the one on Bob Atkins' mother-in-law's Model S: it is older that the original 65 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 packThis is the battery pack Tesla used to replace the one on Bob Atkins' mother-in-law's Model S: it is older that the originalTesla Model S 85 drive unitTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service CentersTesla Service Centers
If you have not read the first part of this story, give it a look when you can. It explains how the retired engineer and his mother-in-law discovered the issue. She had an appointment on April 4 and "a relatively benign quote that showed a diagnostic fee, removal, and replacement of the main HV battery at a cost of about $600" on her Tesla app. It all went south pretty fast.

"On April 4, when she arrived at the appointed time, after they checked the car in, they did nothing to it and made her wait about 30 minutes in the lobby. It was only then that they told her that her car needed the main HV battery replaced and told her that they would need to order the replacement battery and reschedule another appointment to have the battery installed. I want to emphasize that they didn't touch the car at all before telling her this."

Tesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy it
Photo: Bob Atkins
In other words, they already knew what the issue was and how to correct it, so there was no need for her to be there in the first place. But there were other complications. As you'll remember, her car would not charge.

"When she arrived, the car had maybe 60 miles of range left, and she was 20 miles away from her home. They made no offer to provide any information or assistance to her at all. She was frustrated and called me to tell me what was happening and to ask me what she should do."

Atkins asked to talk to the Tesla Service Center technician. He just apologized he could not help, so he asked for a supervisor. A guy named John heard the retired engineer ask, "why they made her drive there when they already knew that the HV battery needed to be replaced." The answer was that they were sorry. Atkins then asked how they expected her to drive there again with 60 miles left and no way to charge her Model S. John said that "she can always call for a tow." When the engineer explained she would have to pay for that, the Tesla supervisor said: "That's unfortunate."

Tesla Service Centers
Photo: Tesla
Atkins argued that "the least they could do" was to try and charge her car. If it didn't take a charge, she would leave it there rather than attempt to drive it back in two weeks. All he heard back was, "OK." Luckily, the car started charging there, but at a very slow rate (around 15 miles per hour). His 84-year-old mother-in-law had to wait three hours to leave with about 102 miles of range.

The retired engineer asked them about the quote on the Tesla app, and John said it was incomplete, hence the relatively low value. Atkins asked for a revised quote. When it arrived, he downloaded it, realizing later that the incomplete estimate had been deleted. To avoid that with the new quote, Atkins downloaded it. He also asked for "some consideration" on the total cost. After all, it was weird to have a battery pack with such a low mileage to simply fail. The Tesla Service Center supervisor told him they would revise the case and answer in six weeks.

"I wasn't born yesterday. I know what they mean when they tell you to wait 4 to 6 weeks for something to be reviewed: "We hope that you will give up and go away!" The April 4 service appointment was unceremoniously closed on April 5, and the quote for the replacement battery was deleted from the service history. I'm glad that I downloaded it."

Tesla Service Centers
Photo: Tesla
That sounded another alarm for Atkins.

"Everyone should know that Tesla can and does delete anything it doesn't want to remain in the service history. This includes quotes, invoices, and any messages. The app is clearly designed to make it as difficult as possible for customers to retain their own service records or accumulate evidence that could be used in a dispute. It doesn't allow any messages to be saved to the customer's device – not even the ability to copy and paste any part of the message history. The only way to save the message history is by painstakingly taking screenshots as the user scrolls through the messages. While quotes and invoices can be downloaded, it isn't obvious to a non-technical person how to save them to your phone."

The Tesla Service Center estimate offered her a single option: a new battery pack for $18,000. When labor, taxes, and other expenses were included, the repair reached $21,000. However, the engineer knew that she could also have a remanufactured battery pack. It would cost her $13,500 ($15,000 for everything).

"Interestingly, they never mentioned or offered a reman battery. I just knew from my research that it was an option she could have requested, but she wasn't interested in taking the risk of getting one."

Tesla Service Centers
Photo: Tesla
A new appointment was scheduled for April 26. Atkins asked them several times to confirm if they had the battery pack ready for replacement, but they did not answer. His mother-in-law only learned about that when she dropped her Model S there. She had already discussed the options with the retired engineer and concluded that fixing the Model S would be the most sensible financial decision for her at that point. Other used vehicles to the same level would be more expensive, and the 84-year-old lady did not want to take any chances.

With everything apparently settled, the end of the nightmare was supposed to end soon. What could go wrong, right? Believe it or not, Tesla managed to add another layer of agony to the case: it installed a remanufactured battery pack in her car without her authorization.

"Tesla didn't tell her that. They just called her (rather than using the app to text her) and told her that the battery had been replaced faster than they expected and that her car was ready to be picked up. This was quite a surprise since they had told her when she dropped the car off the previous day, April 26, that it wouldn't be ready until May 8! They also said that the bill had been reduced by $4,500 less than originally quoted, but they didn't say why."


Bob Atkins' mother\-in\-law bought this Model S 85 brand new in 2014
Photo: Bob Atkins
The engineer had to give her the bad news.

"I reviewed the new invoice and showed her that they were billing her for a reman battery and that this was the reason for the cost reduction. She was upset, to say the least. Again, Tesla (was) taking advantage of someone who placed trust in what my mother-in-law considered to be a trusted brand that would do as they said, not as they wanted. So, I then interceded on her behalf – hoping that perhaps this was the SC's way of giving her a discount on a new battery without a lot of management approval."

It was not, but Atkins had to find that out for himself.

"I asked Tesla Service (via the app) to post a picture of the installed battery label. The service advisor made a few excuses and punted to the next day. The next morning, the service advisor sent a text that said: 'Howdy Bob, just getting into the office. I will be connecting with leadership, and they will be calling you to discuss the vehicle battery directly. I have been told to stay out of it. Ernesto will be calling you after noon.' This told me that they were trying to hide something. Ernesto is the general manager. So, without saying anything, I drove to the SC, found the car in the parking lot, laid down on the ground, and took the following picture."

This is the battery pack Tesla used to replace the one on Bob Atkins' mother\-in\-law's Model S\: it is older that the original
Photo: Bob Atkins
That label told the engineer all he needed to know.

"Not only did they install a reman battery but one that is two years older and two revisions earlier than the latest version of that part number – and then the original one that was in the car! The 1088815-01-B part number is the reman part number assigned to an original 1014114-00-B battery. The original, factory-installed battery in her car brought the -D revision (the latest that they ever made for that battery part number) and was manufactured in February 2014! I just see this as fraud, plain and simple. There is simply no excuse for installing a remanufactured part that is a two years older battery and two revisions earlier than the original battery in her car. This is why they didn't want to show a picture!"

Atkins laid out what he learned from other Tesla owners who went through similar situations with their cars.

"Let's get something straight: Tesla does not change any battery cells in a battery pack nor upgrade it to later revisions when they 'remanufacture' a battery. They just swap out 'bad' BMS boards, fix any electrical issues, water damage, and repair any leaks. The cooling system and battery cells are not replaced or upgraded (which is impossible since the cooling system is embedded into the battery modules), and, as long as the battery pack passes some QA test, they go right back out the door into some poor schmuck's car for $13,500 plus installation costs!"

Tesla said its battery packs only lose 12% capacity after 200,000 miles, and you should not buy it
Photo: Bob Atkins
In his opinion, it is even worse than it looks because Tesla does not give these owners the option to keep the defective battery pack.

"The most egregious part of the reman battery swindle is that Tesla steals the battery from one owner's car without compensating them for it and then sells that very same battery after having done minimal work on it to another owner for $13,500! This is a massively profitable theft! Nowhere on any work order or quote is there any mention of a core value for the original battery. Yet, if an owner asks to keep their battery, Tesla turns around and insists on charging the owner $10,000 – to keep their own battery!"

Even if the battery pack could not be remanufactured, Tesla could use it as a source of raw materials. Companies like Redwood Materials are dying to get these used battery packs and recycle them. JB Straubel, the founder of Redwood Materials, has recently joined Tesla's board of directors, which makes that even more evident.

"Granted, hardly anyone is going to be able to deal with keeping a 1,200-pound battery. However, consider that there is a residual value that Tesla should be applying to a replacement battery – not the other way around! Tesla is able to keep the battery they remove and to resell it to someone else – so there is massive residual value there that is being stolen from the original battery's owner."

Tesla Model S 85 drive unit
Photo: Tesla
To add insult to injury, Atkins is still concerned about another common issue with early Model S units: the electric motor. The retired engineer learned from other owners that they tend to die due to design flaws, something I already discussed here when I wrote about the Tesla with the most mileage to date.

Hansjörg von Gemmingen had to replace the drive unit in his one-million-mile Model S "11 or 12 times." Atkins fears the motor in his mother-in-law's Model S can die all of a sudden, as others have: it has never been replaced.

"Should it fail, she would be facing another $6,500 to $7,500 bill. Granted, she isn't heavy-footed when driving, so, for now, the DU is a fingers-crossed concern that hopefully won't fail anytime soon."

Hansjörg Eberhard von Gemmingen achieved another milestone with his Model 2\: 1 million miles\. Now he wants a Lucid Air
Photo: Hansjoerg Eberhard von Gemmingen/Twitter
Supposing nothing else goes wrong, the experience so far made Atkins sum everything up this way:

"The utter indifference, disrespect, dishonesty, and incompetence that has been so blatantly displayed by not one but two different Tesla Service Centers is beyond pitiful for a so-called high-end brand of a car company. Everyone should know that there is absolutely zero accountability for a Tesla Service Center at the corporate level. The highest position that a customer can communicate with is the general manager of any given Service Center, and his allegiance is obvious. Tesla has done everything it can to build an impenetrable fortress around its corporate personnel. This is not by accident: this is by design, and it has resulted in the complete lack of any accountability for individual Service Centers, which has emboldened them to do as they wish with impunity."

While there are some more chapters to this legitimate automotive soap opera, I'll leave them to a third and final article that you should read soon. It is essential not only to add some more of Atkins's discoveries and theories but also to connect the dots with previous stories I wrote about failing Tesla battery packs. I'm sure you also want to learn how the engineer and his mother-in-law expect this to end.
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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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