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Tesla Service Centers Are Ruining the Ownership Experience and Owners' Bank Accounts

There are loads of reasons why people love Teslas, especially as they are arguably the best electric vehicles on the market. Nevertheless, the EV maker needs to address certain aspects of Tesla ownership as soon as possible if it wants to scale to the extreme. Top of the list is the service center experience, which is causing many headaches.
Tesla Service Centers are ruining the ownership experience 6 photos
Photo: @blueskykites via Twitter | Edited
Tesla Service Centers are ruining the ownership experienceTesla Service Centers are ruining the ownership experienceTesla Service Centers are ruining the ownership experienceST lost almost all the money he spent on a 2013 Tesla Model S due to the BMS_u029 errorST lost almost all the money he spent on a 2013 Tesla Model S due to the BMS_u029 error
There are many advantages of owning a Tesla over other EV brands. Starting with the impressive price/performance ratio, especially in light of the recent price cuts, and going all the way to highly appreciated software features, driver assists included. Nevertheless, Tesla’s biggest asset is its unrivaled Supercharger network, which offers a seamless charging experience. Since most Tesla owners charge their cars at home, this might be a little underrated, but it’s light years away from anything third-party chargers offer to non-Tesla EVs.

For all the good aspects of Tesla ownership, others can make even a nun curse. The most widespread are related to lackluster build quality, like misaligned body panels or funny noises. Unlucky owners might lose a wheel or even the steering wheel while driving. Nevertheless, almost all such issues need to be fixed by a service technician. People usually have good experiences dealing with mobile service, but not the same can be said for going to a service center.

The problems start with availability. There are far fewer service centers than Tesla needs considering the increased production ramp-up. This aspect will only worsen as more people buy Teslas, so the EV startup needs to act quickly to expand the network. As of now, many Tesla owners complain that they have to wait long times to get a service appointment, a part ordered, or a repair when needed.

But that is not even the worst issue with Tesla service centers. It’s far worse when you complain about one problem and get misdiagnosed for another. This is not bad faith because, according to owners’ reports, it often happens during the warranty. In this case, Tesla takes the financial hit because sometimes expensive components are unnecessarily replaced before the service center employees finally find the culprit. It’s more like many Tesla SC technicians lack the proper training or competence to address more complicated issues.

The most widespread example is a battery replacement for almost any error code related to the battery management system. The issue has been explained by Jason Hughes, a well-known Tesla hacker who owns a battery repair shop. He knows because many people come to him after Tesla Service centers quoted them $20,000 for a battery replacement. In most cases, it’s not the battery to blame but another far less expensive component.

Hughes offers the example of a failed DC-DC converter, which can cause errors in many components relying on the low-voltage system. The car’s BMS would also throw error codes when starved for 12-volt power, which is why service technicians usually don’t look further and just say you need a new battery. If the owner agrees to pay for the five-figure repairs and this doesn’t solve their problem, the SC technician would just say that more parts are needed until they finally replace the actual part that caused the problem.

There are similar misdiagnoses of drive unit failures or actual battery failures triggering issues in other components. The problem is that the people who service Teslas don’t really understand the subsystems they’re working on. And it’s not just for the complicated components and systems but also more mundane things.

One Tesla owner complained that the service center could not figure out the wheels on his Tesla Model 3 were misaligned. The owner struggled for seven months to solve the problem that caused the tires to wear out quickly. The service technician just told them they have “bad driving habits” that cause the tires to wear. Finally, after they went to a third-party garage, they immediately found out about the bad wheel alignment. In this case, the misdiagnosed problem caused the owner to lose money on new tires and a bad diagnosis.

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About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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