Car Key Shows Signs of Wear - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Car Key Shows Signs of Wear

December 27, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Car keys have a tough life. They spend the bulk of their time rustling around in pockets and purses. They rattle up against adjacent house keys on the same ring. And they sometimes get dropped.

Modern push-start smart-entry key systems have evolved away from serrated teeth. As a result they stay firmly planted in one's pocket or purse more of the time. But they still endure a lot of handling and jostling.

The "key" to our 2013 Model S is of this basic type, but like everything else on the Tesla it's a bit different. It's smooth and seamless. You can't see the three embedded buttons for the frunk, doors and hatch.

That's how it started, anyway. With use, circumferential seams began to emerge. The one for the doors split all the way around and fell off, revealing the actual button below.

At first, some in the office thought it was a new, improved key with a visible unlock button. They said they disliked not knowing exactly where to squeeze the "old" one to achieve the desired result. They even went so far as to say the red ring was a cool touch.

It didn't take long for the little black disk to fracture and fall off, especially considering that the doors automatically unlock and extend their handles with no need for a button press. Most staffers limit their button use to making sure the car is locked as they walk away. Or maybe they'll press the button to find the car in a crowded parking lot now and again.

I still have the black plastic dot. It fell off in my pocket and I saved it. I thought about super-gluing it back on, but quickly dismissed the idea because I figured I'd dribble some into the works or get it on crooked. It'd never look as good as the pristine spare pictured above on the right, the one that's been kept unused in a lock box for safekeeping.

Even knowing what really happened, few are bothered by this development. They kind of prefer it this way. Do you care? Or would you put the spare into circulation?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 14,901 miles (but it happened at 10,000 miles or thereabouts)


  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Tesla will replace it for free with a brand new one when you bring your car in for any service. Make sure to bring both as they will all be re-coded.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I prefer the 'worn' looking one.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Nice that they will replace it free (I think that any make of car with 10k miles on it would be the same, no...?), but it would be even nicer to know that the one they replace it with will be a lot more durable than the original. Kinda like the powertrain. But I guess we'll never know.

  • nicad nicad Posts:

    I'd be surprised if the next redraw of a model S does not have Mercedes door hardware. I knew the moment I saw that handle that it wouldn't work in Canada in February.

  • sharpend sharpend Posts:

    I say stash one key and keep it out of circulation. That way you have a good one to use in an emergency (keep good batteries in it) as well as essentially a new key when you eventually sell the car.

  • whobodym whobodym Posts:

    I don't have a Tesla but I do have two Mazdas, a 2006 with a switchblade key, and a 2010 with an "intelligent" one. Both are garbage or near-garbage, and easily the worst features of both cars. The switchblades have failed electronically, the buttons fallen out, and the whole key fallen in half. The "intelligent" one cracked in half from being dropped on the floor once. Plus the dealer when brand new had managed to lose one before the car was even delivered to me, necessitating a one week wait plus more waiting because they forgot the hatchback key is incompatible with the sedan key, forcing me to wait more while they proved the incompatibility by failing to be able to program it. The material cost to make both these more robust would probably cost about 25 cents....

  • Seems like a stupid design for a key to begin with. They over thought this one.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @whobodym: I've had the exact same issues with the switchblade key for my 06 Miata. I did however buy it used, so I have no idea how it was handled before it got to me, and I only got one. The buttons don't work and I have to use the key to unlock the doo

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    I would prefer being able to see the actual buttons.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    Update: The trunk one gave up the ghost and fell off in my pocket yesterday. One more left, but the frunk doesn't get used much, so it might hang in there awhile.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    What's wrong with the typical smooth brick with buttons on it?

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