The Model S is an extremely capable, reliable, and well-built car, but inevitably there are always minor issues that arise shortly after manufacture, as well as shortcomings or bugs that Tesla is known to be working to remedy.

This article lists commonly experienced minor gripes with the car, categorised into three types:

  1. more common snagging issues after delivery, which a trip to the Service Centre will quickly remedy
  2. minor issues that affect some users and for which Tesla has some workarounds to help reduce their impact
  3. bugs or shortcomings that Tesla is aware of and is actively working to remedy

Common issues that can be readily fixed at a Service Centre

  • Clicking steering rack: Some users report an audible “click” when turning the steering wheel to the extremes of lock at low speeds. This is caused by the steering rack bolts shifting slightly and is easily remedied. It has no impact on steering function and is not a cause for concern; the car can be driven safely until you have the opportunity to have it remedied.
  • Creaky upper dash: Since the Model S is so quiet any creaks, rattles or squeaks can be very noticeable inside the cabin. The upper dashboard section (running across the whole front of the car) can sometimes make a squeaking/rattling noise over bumpy roads.
  • Rear high level LED brake light failures: A number of owners have reported failure of some of the LEDs that comprise the high level rear brake light.
  • Frunk auto-release unreliable: If the frunk lid is imperfectly aligned it can sometimes fail to correctly release when opened (requiring you to manually open the second latch using the release button).
  • Rattling sunroof at high speeds: Some users notice a minor rattling noise from the sunroof when it is opened to greater than 80% at speeds in excess of 40mph.
  • Rusting wheel hubs: The wheel hubs are painted silver and the paint compound was obviously chosen to suit a warm, Californian climate. In colder, wetter locations the hubs can rust which is harmless but unsightly. Tesla will repaint these for you (and are working on new coating to eliminate the problem permanently).
  • Charge port door sticking (i.e. not opening): Some owners report occasional issues with the charge door not opening. Tesla can realign the door and also apply grease to address this.

Issues where Tesla has workarounds to reduce the impact/annoyance

  • Condensation in lights: Many users report seeing condensation inside the rear light clusters, or the trim pieces that run between the rear lights across the back of the car. This is a purely cosmetic issue believed to be caused by faulty seals allowing water in. Tesla can replace some of these seals, which appears to improve the issue. Condensation is also seen inside the front headlights, though this usually dissipates with use since the headlights generate a significant amount of heat when turned on.
  • Noises from seatbelt rubbing against B pillar and/or hitting passenger seat: Some owners report that their seatbelt audibly rubs against the aperture where it exits the B pillar, or that the passenger seatbelt (when the passenger seat is empty) rattles against the side of the seat. Tesla has workarounds they can apply to both of these to reduce the impact/annoyance.

Specific issues that Tesla is known to be working to improve, but for which there is no fix yet

  • 3G signal: In the UK at least, the car’s built-in 3G broadband function uses the O2 network, which has poor coverage in many areas. This has a significant impact on the car’s built-in telematics and media functions. Tesla is aware of this issue and has a number of improvements under development, including enabling roaming on to other networks and fitting better antennas to the car.
  • 3G IP geolocation: In Europe the fleet’s 3G connectivity is provided by Telefonica through a single commercial deal. One of the impacts of this is that all Model S cars are allocated IP addresses which appear to third party services to be located in Spain. This means that, for example, it is not possible to listen to BBC Radio stations using the TuneIn internet radio service (since the BBC doesn’t allow listening from outside the UK) and that the built-in browser will sometimes default to Spanish (e.g. on Google). Tesla is looking at ways to address this but currently there is no fix, other than by using wifi tethering to connect the car to a mobile phone or mobile broadband dongle.
  • Smart Preconditioning: The smart preconditioning feature was added in v6.1 and, at least in the UK, has proven to be extremely unreliable (to the point of being useless). Many owners have reported finding their cars pre-heating themselves in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Tesla is working on software improvements to this feature for future releases.
  • Satnav system: The Satnav system is a Tesla-proprietary product (though it uses components and software from third parties including Google, Navigon and INRIX). It currently has only a basic feature set (no support for waypoints, for choosing different routes, or for setting route preferences etc) and in areas where connectivity is patchy (for example if there is only a 2G mobile signal) it can be extremely unreliable. Tesla is working on a programme of feature enhancements for the satnav system over the next few releases.

The combination of patchy connectivity and limitations in the satnav system can, on some occasions, make it very hard to enter a nav destination. This is because if the nav system thinks that the car is connected to the internet, but in fact the connection is too weak,  the car will try to resolve a destination online, fail to get a response, and declare “no results found” without falling back on using the built-in database within the car.  This is common in locations where there is a weak 2G (“EDGE”) signal, represented by an E next to the signal meter.

If this happens to you, you can work around it in various ways:

  1. If you tether the car to your phone via wifi it will use that in preference to its 3G service and (hopefully) be able to resolve a nav destination properly
  2. You can always navigate to destinations that are already stored in your car (for example recent destinations, favourites, chargers you have visited, and superchargers). If the destination you’re trying to navigate to is somewhere you’ve been before you can find it in your history, and if not your best bet is to select a charger that’s in the right general direction towards your destination, and then reprogram the nav later in your journey when you’re in an area of stronger 3G signal.