Noise Is Gone - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test
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2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Noise Is Gone

November 11, 2013

 2013 Tesla Model S

Our long-term 2013 Tesla Model S had a disconcerting, warbly-grindy noise. Subsequently, its electric drive unit was identified by the dealer as the source of the noise (bearings? Motor?), and so was replaced under warranty.

I can report that the noise is now gone. The car is back to its usual, uncommonly silent self, nearly as quiet when in motion as it is when parked at the curb.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor


Comments

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    "I can report that the noise is now gone." Somebody else already reported that the noise is now gone. What he could not report to us is WHY the noise is now gone, and now a week later you apparently can't either. In the other guy's defense, he is the vehicle testing manager, but at least he posed the question to Tesla. You are the engineering editor. Something like this would apparently be within the purview of an engineering editor - ?

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    I'd be surprised if you replaced the entire powertrain and the noise was still there... (that's my polite way of saying "no s***, Sherlock")

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Well, there are at least two people on teslamotorsclub.com who had the powertrain replaced twice, for the same reason. Also, the first time they replaced the one person's, it was with a remanufactured unit. In a $96k car with around 9k miles on it. Another guy had his replaced at 7k, then again at 14k. Smart money among those mechanically inclined who post there (not too many, I have to say...) is that it's a motor bearing issue, with some sounding slightly different caused by the inverter. Both issues result in having the entire powertrain replaced. Most of the replacements are happening at anywhere from 8k to 15k miles. Bumper-to-bumper on this car is 4 years/50k miles, with an extended 4/50 available for purchase. I would say I saw probably 50-75 owners affected who posted on the one thread I saw.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    I've got to say that I've become pretty disappointed with what I believed was a car with a high potential for reliability. Its sad that I would strongly think about buying the extended warranty if I owned this car, considering most extended warranties are ripoffs anyway...

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    Well... there's only so many parts that make contact in an electric motor. In the motor itself it's the two (?) bearings. And then there's the diff/ single speed reduction. It could very well be it considering the noise actually does sound like a bum wheel bearing (whooshing that goes up and down at speed). I'd be interested in seeing if the noise is worse if the car is turned one way or another. I'm assuming that the motor uses either tapered roller bearings or regular ball bearing with thrust washers? If there's no circulating lubrication system, it is possible that the bearings are undersized for drive loads and wearing out prematurely.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    @fordson1: Thank you for doing the homework on this. I'd be furious if I received a reman motor in an essentially new car. On the other hand, 'remanufactured' may mean the bad bearings (or whatever) have been replaced with better ones. Regarding this d

  • jkavanagh jkavanagh Posts:

    Just as a general FYI, our posts here don't go live as soon as they're written. There is a delay between submission and go-live, and the delay can vary in duration (sometimes weeks depending on post volume, other factors). In this case I'd submitted the post before the previous post on the noise subject went live (& hence came to my attention).

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    The first post by Mike Schmidt was on 10/21, at 10,770 miles, saying he was taking the car in "today." The next one by him was at 10,773 miles, saying that they replaced the powertrain overnight (that would be 10/22)...but that post doesn't appear until 11/4, two weeks later - ? Then they allowed your post for publication today, with no new info - ? I can't begin to fathom the editorial process that leads to decisions like these. Schmidt said on 11/4, "So at this point we have messages out to contacts at Tesla directly to see if we can learn anything more. We'll keep you posted when (if?) we learn something." Yeah, except "at this point" was really two weeks earlier, and I have to think that by now, Tesla has either 'fessed up as to the root cause or told you to go take a crap in your hat. Please, just post stuff as it happens, OK? Really.

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    @fordson1: You seem quite displeased with the the editorial team at this site. You should demand a refund.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    "go take a crap in your hat" That's quite funny, I've never heard that one before. I noticed a while back that it seemed like there was a delay before a post would go up, but there could be a million reasons that I'm not aware of to account for that, so I didn't have anything to say about it. The only weird thing is that we'll still sometimes get posts with formatting errors, so do they not get proofread during those weeks in limbo? @Jason Kavanagh: I know that Edmunds has a large consumer data side, but as editors do you solely work on 'What's Hot' related things or do you also have a lot of other responsibilities? This is just for curiosity's sake by the way, I'm not trying to evaluate your worth. It probably doesn't come across that way, but I just want to make sure...

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    @mfennell: I am puzzled with the way they do things, that's for sure. BTW...are you not an S owner? What do you know of this issue? @quadricycle: You are a much, much nicer person than I am. Way nicer.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    I wouldn't put it the same way as fordson1, but I have to agree that it's a bit weird that on a WEBSITE it would take so long for a post to go live. Is this an instance where the website infrastructure is run by underfed hamsters? Or is it a case where a top heavy management structure consisting of 8 different levels and 20 different approvers needs to look through the post before it can go live, whereupon the approval notification will sit in their mailbox for two weeks before you inquire about where it's at (and it is subsequently approved without having been proofread), and where 2 of those people will be on vacation at any given time?

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    @duck87 Or Edmunds is being run by Vogons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbN1NaQ7yQI

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @fordson1: Well regardless of how "nice" you are, I've got to say that you seem to be pretty knowledgeable and are usually spot on in most comments. I sometimes have a laugh about how bluntly you put things too.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Thank you, sir. You know, what probably happened with this situation is that on 10/22, when they got the car back with the new drivetrain, they told Tesla that they were willing to hold the blog post about it until Tesla got back to them about the root cause (considering how many cars this has happened to, they already know the root cause and have categorized it - the only thing they had to do here was perform enough diagnostics to officially add this particular car to that population). The correct way to hold a story is you extract a promise from the source that they will tell you when they make that determination, with the proviso that if they burn you, you'll blow them in. Now if Tesla just told Edmunds on 10/22 or soon after that it's a black box and that's all, there would be no point in Edmunds' holding the post about the powertrain R&R until 11/4, so I think Tesla did not give them a straight "no." Then, when Tesla provided no further info after two weeks, Edmunds' hand was forced - by us commenting here - and they had to run the post...with no further info. The talk about reaching out to "sources" at Tesla is bogus - this LT car is pretty high-profile there, and nobody is going to backdoor info to Edmunds if the corporate decision is to clam up.

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    As a long time Tesla Roadster owner and someone who has had the strange sound and the drivetrain replacement on my Model S, I think I can comment with some authority on the issue. The LA service center is great and they do have very knowledgeable techs, but they are just that, techs and not engineers. When the factory says "replace the drivetrain to fix the noise problem" the techs perform the fix. They do not disassemble the unit and figure out what the problem is. That's the job for the engineers at the factory. Like many high-tech companies, Tesla has a lot of "secret sauce" in their drive train technology and does not necessarily want to publish specifics on what was fixed or how it works. Nor should they. When I had my Mercedes SLK 55 prior to my Tesla Roadster I had to have the transmission replaced two times before the car had 5K miles on it because it was making a strange noise and wouldn't shift properly. Mercedes just replaced the entire transmission per the factory mandate. I did not question them as to what the exact problem was nor did I care. I don't see consumers or the NTSC going after Mercedes for doing this. And yes, if you search the SLK forums you can see that there were MANY people who had similar transmission replacements. So the moral to the story is that the Model S is a new car and there are going to be issues that Tesla will find and address along the way. I don't know why people want to look at Tesla through a microscope and treat them differently than every other car company.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    As far as I know, the Model S is using a 3-phase AC induction motor, which isn't anything spectacularly secret nor spectacularly complicated (http://www.motortrend.com/oftheyear/car/1301_2013_motor_trend_car_of_the_year_tesla_model_s/photo_23.html). These motors are literally composed of 2 or 3 piece assemblies, so it doesn't really matter what specifications they are because any OEM can buy a Tesla Model S and tear it apart to get 99% of the picture. I don't think any of us are looking through a "microscope" with this car either- there was a pretty big ruckus when the SLS came in for the third time for soft-top repairs. There's just a general hatred of BS, and a gearhead curiosity for finding out what the problem is...

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    drcomputer, did it eventually come out what was the issue with the transmissions? Did M-B offer any kind of extended warranty on them as a result? On the SLK forums, were all owners as unconcerned as you were about what was causing the issue? I think this situation is getting attention because Tesla presents as a selling point the fact that there are maybe 1/50th the number of parts in their car's drivetrain compared to an, ICE car's drivetrain, so it's inherently much more reliable, but now we are seeing complete powertrain replacements at around 10k miles. That's going to get attention.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @duck87: "There's just a general hatred of BS, and a gear head curiosity for finding out what the problem is..." Well put. That's why we're here right, to get a more in-depth look at these cars. Edmunds has the resources, staff, and corporate pu

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    Tesla HQ is being closed-lipped about this. I have asked directly and have been stonewalled. I suppose they could be busy with fire questions.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    It's OK if Tesla elects to replace the whole drivetrain due to a bug. It's NOT OK for Tesla to say nothing about the root cause being fixed. Otherwise, one should assume this is a 10,000-mile drivetrain and then dump the car at 19k miles (before the next failure). Tesla would do well to tell its customers that they have resolved the root issue. I'm not in the Model S demographic, but as a Leaf driver the mythical Model E intrigues me. Tesla stands to lose a sale to me if they continue these shenanigans.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    From what I see, there is a motor-imbalance thing that people are being told, and a metal-particles-in-the-gear-lube thing that people are being told. There is also a high-current-through-inverter-causes-noise thing they are being told, along with a small number of they-all-do-that and cannot-reproduce, of course. The first two have the ring of truth to them, from the posts I read. Both, of course, are indicative of bearings eating themselves and the excess lash/clearance created causing other things to eat themselves. They thought early on that it was limited to early VIN cars, but that's turning out not to be so. As Dan says, nothing official - the only info leaking out is from service people dealing directly with customers, but not much of that, either.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    ^Good info. Judging from the recordings of the sound that I've heard, a motor imbalance seems highly probable. I would think that the noise would be a lot more like a whine if it was gear or differential related.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    @fordson1: You know, I gave you some heat in a prior post when you questioned Tesla's motor design prowess. Please accept my apologies, because this episode indicates a real problem. The Model S motor is spinning at 7000 rpm at 60 mph, and can develop u

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