Door Handle Won't Retract - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Door Handle Won't Retract

November 6, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The driver door handle on our 2013 Tesla Model S wouldn't retract yesterday. Normally, as you walk away from the car the handles retract and the doors lock. I initially thought this was related to our recent service. This was the handle mechanism the dealer replaced.

I walked back to the car and pressed the key fob button to manually unlock the doors. Then I manually locked the doors. This time all handles retracted properly. It seemed to be a one-time thing, as the issue has not returned since.

2013 Tesla Model S

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 10,775 miles


  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    It's a really really big computer. $%#^@ happens.

  • kirkhilles_ kirkhilles_ Posts:

    The cool thing is that, presuming its software, those issues will get fixed over time and the cars should become more reliable... presuming the mechanical devices work reliably.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    "The cool thing is . . . those issues will get fixed over time..." Yup, just like all other computers. Back in the day, you'd have all kinds of problems, but these days you just never, ever, EVER hear of any computers crashing or freezing at all because they've managed to fix all of those issues over time.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    I've actually never had an issue with the door handles on mine. Surprises the heck out of me. I was really expecting them to cause a problem right out of the gate, but to Tesla's credit they keep chugging along. Then again, I also didn't expect the glove compartment door on a brand new luxury car to spring open every time I hit a pothole (since fixed). You take the good with the bad when you are an early adopter.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I think all $100k cars are a really, really big computer, not just this one. And the powertrains that have been getting replaced left and right in these are not computers - they're mechanical assemblies.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:


  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    I'm curious to know how these door handles work when coated with freezing rain. At least conventional handles can still be grasped and broken free; not so with these. They really should just admit defeat and use a conventional mechanism 'to save cost'. You know, I like my Leaf a little more now. No funny noises, and most everything in it (except the drivetrain, of course) is regular stuff.

  • vvk vvk Posts:

    Instead of gimmicks, Tesla should have put grab handles on the ceiling. gslippy, good point about freezing rain. What can you expect from a California company? They probably never get freezing rain in South Africa, either.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @fordson1: While most of the recent problems with the Tesla have been mechanically related, there was also an early problem with the touchscreen if I remember correctly. I'm pretty sure that it turned out to be software based.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    Arghhh! Could it just be sensitive to being roughly handled (no pun intended)?

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    This is a gimmick. I love the Model S but there is no point to this added complexity, weight, etc. Maybe there's some reduced wind resistance but I'd rather see a more traditional handle. I'd also hope that this problem served as a warning against the doors they're about to put on the Model X. Tesla doesn't need gimmicks to stand out from the crowd. They have beautiful design and ground-breaking tech.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    At this point I'd probably be looking for a Model S Gen 2. Yeah, there's the "early adopter" mentality but the truth is that this door mechanism simply isn't reliable- as other commenters have pointed out, this is in car-life friendly SoCal and the handle has failed to work a few times now. That being said, this and some other issues the car has had (the touch screen, some interior design choices, bits of trim, slightly odd build quality) are simply annoying; the excessive tire wear at 10k miles and the entire powertrain upheaval is way more concerning. I'm beginning to look at the Model S the same way I'm looking at the SLS and the Dart. Paying $100k to be a beta tester certainly has its downsides...

  • jvonbokel jvonbokel Posts:

    This is really a non-issue. The author states that it was a "one-time thing". I've had it happen once or twice, but it works fine with a repeat of the unlock/lock cycle. I'd be more worried if the handles didn't *extend* when needed. And as for freezing, I believe Musk has commented that they tested for that during design, and made them strong enough. Also, the comment about hot air coming out around the handles during pre-heating is correct. I haven't had any freezing rain to test with yet, and my car is garaged, but with over 20k Teslas on the road now, I'm sure somebody will post a video this winter of a handle extending through a sheet of frozen rain.

  • jvonbokel jvonbokel Posts:

    It turns out Tesla already made a video showing exactly that.

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