2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Tire Woes, Part 2

September 20, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

They say the third time's a charm. Not so with our long-term Tesla Model S and its rear tires.

The third time the tire pressure warning light lit up, I decided there must be an issue beyond normal air loss. I drove slowly to a tire shop near home and asked them to check the left rear for a leak.

What transpired was a bit shocking, as you can see from the photo above.

It's no wonder air was escaping. The inside edge of the left rear tire, and the right rear as well, it turned out, was chamfered by irregular wear to the point there was no rubber left. The steel cords were showing through.

"You need new tires," the service tech announced.

2013 Tesla Model S

"No s---," I thought, while thanking him aloud for his help.

It seemed a bit much that the tires would wear through that way, and in just 9,500 miles, so in consult with Mike Schmidt we decided that rather than having the tire shop fit new rear tires, we'd have the car flat-bedded to the nearest Tesla service center, which turned out to be in Costa Mesa.

2013 Tesla Model S

I called and talked to a service advisor named Nik, who said they were closing soon but to have the tow driver drop the key in the overnight box when he got there. Nik took my information and asked if the tires had ever been rotated. If not, he said, Edmunds would end up paying for the replacements at $375 each.

2013 Tesla Model S

I called Mike and testing director Dan Edmunds and discovered that there was no tire rotation noted on the invoices from either of our two previous service center visits, both at the Santa Monica facility.

As of now it is unknown whether they did a rotation at 6,171 miles, our first visit for the broken sunroof, and just didn't write it down, or whether they forgot to tell us it was needed. We didn't ask for a rotation because it's not listed in the owners manual's care and maintenance guide, where just about every other automaker in the universe lists necessary stuff like tire rotations

Turns out there is a recommendation for a rotation every 6,000 miles, but it is in a separate section under "tires," six pages before you get to the maintenance schedule. The maintenance section merely recommends checking windshield washer fluid and wiper blades every 12,500 miles or 12 months and doesn?t mention tires at all.

There will, I'm sure, be more about that as we continue trying to trace down why the tires wear so unevenly and so quickly.

2013 Tesla Model S

Both Nik and a service tech at the Costa Mesa center told me that such wear is common on Model S's that are equipped with 21-inch wheels, as is ours, and that haven't had a tire rotation at 5,000 to 6,000 miles.

Interestingly, we can't find anywhere in the Tesla manuals or official online material a warning about that.

There is a section on the Tesla Web site under the Model S "design" tab that talks about 21-inch wheels with low-profile performance tires (ours) providing "less protection from, ?and [being] more likely to suffer damage from, uneven road surfaces, debris, curbs, and other common obstacles" and also reducing driving range versus the standard 19-inch wheels with all-season tires. But there's nothing specific about premature and uneven tread wear.

Now that we know of the issue, however, we did find a nice long string in the Tesla owner's forum about extreme rear tire wear on the Model S with 21-inch wheels.

Too bad we didn't see it a few thousand miles ago.

While the car is in the shop we're also having a few other issues looked at:

  • The alignment. We want to see if the car was set up properly and/or how much out of whack the rear alignment actually is, whatever the cause. Nik said that while Tesla disavows responsibility for the worn rear tires, it would comp an alignment service if one is needed.

  • The sunroof, supposedly repaired at 6,100 miles, wasn't and is still plagued by a loose gasket that gets stuck if the roof is opened (which the tow truck driver did as he was fiddling with the touch screen trying to close the side windows).

  • The top of the dashboard cover on the driver side, over the instrument panel, isn't fastened down very well. I discovered this while drumming my fingers on it while listening to some Warren Zevon on the fantastically good audio system. The whole thing vibrated like crazy as I drummed, much more than it would have if tightly fastened. When I grasped the thin edge of the cover and lifted, it came away from the IP by about three-quarters of an inch.

  • The front fascia. As the tow driver was getting ready to fasten the chains to the front end to pull the car onto his flatbed truck, I noticed that the top edge of the front fascia, where it meets the headlight housing, was sticking out as if someone had pulled it from its moorings. I pushed it back and it reseated with an audible "snap," but it is unclear how or why it came undone in the first place.

Including the tire wear issue, it seems like a lot of stuff for a six-figure car with less than 10,000 miles on the odo.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor @ 9550 miles

Most Recommended Comments

By zimtheinvader
on 09/20/13
12:39 PM PST

looks like they are almost ready to be replaced anyways. Maybe next time less of this: http://www.edmunds.com/tesla/model-s/2013/long-term-road-test/2013-tesla-model-s-burnouts-burnouts.html

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By dunning15
on 09/20/13
9:37 PM PST

It's a bleeding edge car. First year car from the first year of production ever. Do your research. Frequent the forums. I've known about this for 6 months. Why don't you? Be an informed buyer. This ain't buying a Camry where everything you ever wanted to know was spelled out in the 40 page user manual.

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By cotak
on 09/20/13
11:25 AM PST

So about the same high maintenance needs as other 100k+ cars...

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