Tesla is a DIY car

About a month ago an alarm wakes me up in the middle of the night. The sound is coming from our garage. Get up and find my way to the screaming car. Tesla’s dash shows frunk intermittenly open. As if somebody would be sneaking in. The frunk is however definitely closed and our garage locked as well. Decide to leave the key in the car to stop the alarm. Get back to sleep.

The next day I check the car before driving and the alarm shows in the memory. Now the frunk shows correctly closed. I’m wondering what might have happened. Could it have just been some random short circuit of the frunk sensor because of the day’s snow melting away or something? I leave it at that.

Maybe two weeks later and the same episode happens again. Alarm goes off in the middle of the night. Tesla shows now again frunk open and closed, open and closed while nobody touches it. A continuous hissing sound comes somewhere near the front. Something I haven’t heard before while the car is parked for an extended period of time. I’m figuring out I have to keep the key inside the car at all times just to make sure the car won’t scream alarm while I’m parked somewhere. Yes, this is not a solution. It doesn’t make sense to leave the car unlocked 24/7. So I open Tesla’s app and proceed to order service.

The app gives no times in Vantaa, next to Helsinki, which is the first and supposedly the biggest Tesla service center in Finland. The next available time on offer is over two months away in another city called Tampere, like 2 hours drive north. The app also proposes times across the sea in Sweden some 12+ hours car and ferry trip away. Non-starters.

Enter Google and the forums. After quick browsing get the idea it might be a loose 12v battery ground connection. Looks like some forum users have done DIY fixes for that with detailed pictures and instructions. Sounds doable if the push comes to shove. But also troublesome and even a bit risky. Somehow I shrug this idea off and decide to continue driving for now with the key inside and the car unlocked at all times. Maybe Tesla’s service line changes and I can get the car to Vantaa.

A week more and the problems suddenly go through the roof. I’m driving the car somewhere in Espoo and the system goes all jingle bells. Frunk open, click here to proceed driving. Coolant low. Contact Tesla service. Suspension problem light lits up. Then turn signal to the right stops working. It also looks like the right headlight is off. Okay, now it feels like getting into danger zone. Should I stop the car right here and call a tow truck?

Decide to drive carefully back home with the warning lights flashing. The car seems to drive still ok. When finally at home the garage door opener doesn’t work. I hope that was the final insult.

Open the garage manually, get the car in, and shoot the Tesla app open. Still the same thing. Next suggested service time is ten long weeks away in Tampere. Fuck you Tesla service! I’m digging into this DIY jungle now. Open the forums again and decide to start with checking if I have the loose 12v ground connector issue.

Disassemble the frunk covers. That’s a 10 minute job. Find the ground connector. Looks visually ok. Maybe it wasn’t the connector after all? Try to unscrew the cable with a monkey wrench — and it cracks immediately open. Bingo! The bolts look like salt. They have like “melted” together. Obviously this connector does not transmit electricity. The root cause for all these problems must be the brass mix in the ground screw reacts over time with the aluminum frame in a way it all “salts out”

Root cause here. Loose ground connector.

Study how the guys have fixed their connectors. Get to Bauhaus and buy 6mm brass screws and matching bolts. Also one A2 certified lock nut. A thread set. Back home sandpaper the aluminum bar clean where the screws were in. Same for the connector. Drill a 5mm hole through the aluminum bar. It is maybe 10mm thick. Drill carefully a 6mm thread. Screw my DIY connector set together. The hissing sound stops right there. Check the dash and all the warning lights are gone as well. This part took probably 30 mins. Total I’ve spend however several hours if you add studying the forums and shopping for the parts. Because I didn’t have a thread set before the total went to like 50 euros plus.

Repaired here with my DIY solution.

My conclusion is that Tesla is the first-ever DIY car, want it or not. At least in Finland in 2022. You cannot bank on having any service on your car no matter if it has warranty or not. Third party repair shops won’t service it beyond some very basics. Tesla is still a great car if you are just mentally ready to accept you must always service it yourself or the car may sit for months.

Getting Tesla Model S P85D from Germany

I’ve been following the development of battery electric vehicles ever since I got my first Tesla back in 2014. Some two years ago its AC broke down and the only option to fix it was Tesla’s own service. The waiting time was over six weeks and of course this happened in early June so the following two months were kinda annoying. I also noticed the local superchargers had more and more cars plugged in so I decided to sell the car and wait for some of the other upcoming electric vehicles from other brands to come into the market. As a placeholder I bought an old 2002 Audi A6 2.7 biturbo with manual tranny with an idea to teach my kids to drive but it soon became my daily driver too.

Audi went again a week ago to a shop for repairs, which are obviously frequent for a car with over 300.000 km on the dash. I’ve had enough for that and as I had the Covid pass in hand decided to make a move. I had concluded that all the other electric cars were just not there and besides, third party repair shops had started to offer Tesla service as well. So I decided to get another used Tesla for now. Not just because it is the smart money but also because you can’t get a new Plaid or Long Range in Europe as the first shipments have been postponed all the time and are currently listed as Q1/2022… It must be Model S again as that looks coolest and is the original, historically significant, and actually already kinda retro thing in my mind. Criteria: performance model P85D or P90D with max 100k on the dash and the cheapest money can buy, ideally about the same price I got from selling my old one two years ago. Threw out emails and made calls to about dozen sellers or so on mobile.de and autoscout24.com.

The first car I agreed to buy was in Portugal but as I got the VIN back turned out it was a salvaged import from the US. Pass. The next one sounded much better on paper, a real EU specs car first registered in France, and I took a flight to Amsterdam this past Monday morning to check it out. Turned out it was in Polish plates and visually in a pretty rough shape. The seller was willing to negotiate the price further down but I had to give it another pass. Moved on to the third cheapest I could find, took a train to Germany, and that was mine. Black on black 2015 P85D with all the options at the time, in nice shape, and with just one previous owner with all history in Germany. Got the plates under my name Tuesday afternoon and started the drive back north.

Some findings:

– On autobahn speeds over 120km/h the wind seems to come in through all the seals. Over 150 km/h is not pleasant, like you would be in a cabriolet. As it was raining almost all the way back it became clear the car does not leak water in, just wind and the noise with it. Curiously there is almost no wind noise under 100 km/h speeds.

– While the car can handle high speeds no problem, autopilot (at least AP1) is limited to 150km/h which is a problem if you’d do autobahns on daily basis. Well, we only have them in Germany.

– The battery does drain on those autobahn speeds lightning fast. The best I had guts to do was about a 200km run between two superchargers in Germany. I didn’t do much faster than that 150km/h. And the battery is rated like almost 400km…

– Total drive from Duisburg up to Stockholm and then from Turku to Espoo was less than 2000km but I did a total of 12 supercharger stops on the way. The great news is there are enough superchargers in Western and Central Europe and they are still not crowded. Actually in Germany I was the only one charging in all three superchargers I stopped by while they had 18-24 stalls available! Time to open up that network… and expand it as well as my route through Denmark and Sweden was dictated by the fact you cannot drive north via Baltics which have zero superchargers for now.

– The charging speeds are far from advertised. With a drained battery I got over 100kw for a few seconds after which the charging settled to maybe 70-80kw and then gradually dropped to 20-30kw level when the battery was about 70% charged. I’d say the average with a typical 20% -> 70% charge was 50kw and it took more than 30 mins, maybe even 45. For example one Model 3 (which has a 250kw charger instead of the 120kw charger in mine) took just 10kw more juice as I did when we charged side by side. I talked with the owner and he confirmed that’s how it works in reality at least with Supercharger V2 stations which I used all the way up (there was just one or two V3 option on the way but I didn’t have the CCS update so couldn’t try those).

– With only using free superchargers my trip took about 48 hours including roughly 20 hours on the road or charging, 12 hours ferry, and two quick hotel nights in Hamburg and Stockholm… not bad but also not Vanishing Point level.

– Tesla’s service wait times are even worse than where they were two years ago. So no news here. The car has a 12v battery replacement nag on and I got Tesla service in Finland booked 7 weeks from now! Based on owner reports on forums the car can die within 3-4 weeks after that nag comes on and I have no clue when it has started. The non-service is location specific, of course. I would have got an appointment in Germany or Denmark within a week or two, just didn’t have time to wait there. So now I called around and got a third party shop to help in Finland in less than two weeks. Let’s see how it works. The other option is I just follow guys on Youtube and do the replacement myself.

– Tesla’s service has also become more automated, standardized and overall less helpful. For some reason my car came with V2 mobile charger (probably v1 had broken down) and lacked the three phase red adapter which I’d like to use in my garage. At the time of buying I thought it won’t be an issue to get but boy how wrong I was… The adapter does exist but is not listed on Tesla’s online store so I wanted to call them to check how to get it. Eventually somebody picked up the phone, obviously in some call center, and that person had no clue what I was talking about. The answer ended up being if what I am looking for is not listed on the online store it doesn’t exist. Ok, thank you for the non answer. I didn’t give up and stopped by at Malmö service center. I got somebody from the showroom to talk with and again she had no clue first what I was talking about. Went to service guys to ask more details and came back with an answer they don’t know if it’s available somewhere, at least they don’t stock anymore any cables or adapters in service centers or showrooms, so sorry about it. Ok. Total self service. Don’t get a Tesla unless you are ready to do your own research. I’m left with hunting that adapter or the original mobile charger V1 through ebay! Meanwhile I also ordered a third party 11kw charger with the red plug through aliexpress.com.

* * *

With all the above said I am still very very happy with this car. It is the best car I have ever owned. Compared to my previous Tesla this one has all wheel drive, super quick performance, better seats, better audio and that autopilot. It’s not perfect but it is from 2015 and beats what the competition has in 2021. Yeah, Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT might look cooler but their usability and technology are handicapped. They have less interior and boot space. Where do you charge them on the road? And in fact these cars, costing 3x the money, are not any faster than my six year old Tesla. Mercedes EQS might have the range and a supersize screen but just take a quick look at Tetris running on that screen you can see it sucks. Porsche, Audi and Mercedes are fundamentally bringing cars they have always done to the market, just with batteries and electric motors in place of gas tanks and combustion engines. After you have driven enough cars in your life you can conclude that these cars are simply boring compared to Tesla. I know Tesla’s service sucks, okay, and the build quality is not there, okay. However, Tesla offers more value for the money. The car from 2015 still feels like it is the next generation, the beginning of a new adventure. And your kids love it too. Tesla is the only car today where they don’t ask if it supports Android Auto or Carplay to begin with.

Electric Cars in Shenzhen

My Tesla Model S

I am and have always been a car guy so how to put this thing into words? Let’s try a few combinations:
— The biggest revolution in cars during my lifetime
— The best car I have ever driven
— An insanely great car

I’ve had my Tesla Model S now for a few days and 300+ kms. It is the first car I have ever acquired new. It has pretty much all the options except performance and top end audio packages to keep the delivery time minimal and costs comparably reasonable. Thanks go to Miika at Auto Outlet to get this metallic red colored magical space car in a month from his reserve lot.

It all started when I realized a month or so back I can sell my trusted but ageing and pretty thirsty workhorse Porsche Cayenne in August. I know ordering a new popular car model will always take several months. So I went out and test drove all the latest BMW, Audi and Mercedes family wagons and SUVs. The cars I can see every morning and afternoon parked in the front of the upper middle class homes on our home street. The cars I’ve often rented during my trips to Germany. Boring. Just boring. BMW 5 series. BMW X5. Audi A6. Mercedes Shooting Brake. Well, Benz has a good name badge in there. I even test drove the new S. But said to Szaka during the test spin something like: “Well, this is nice. But it’s just another car.” I was not hyped. Because it really felt like that. Even Mercedes S class is just another car. No surprises anywhere. It is what you can expect.

While comparing these tested and tried options it just hit me I have totally forgotten one big thing. The brand name I always saw when driving on 880 in the Bay Area. For sure I had seen some of those early two seating Roadsters go fast and wondered who are the guys driving them. And I was aware Model S was in the pipeline, but it had a lot of issues before getting to the market. We had already moved back to Finland before they delivered. A quick update one night and the next morning I first went to Sports Car Center close by who advertised Tesla along with Auto Outlet. Turns out Sports had imported so far none and just copied the competition’s ads. One call, 15 minutes tense driving, and I meet with Miika. Right after kicking it down I just utter out something like “Wow. Okay, this is it, why don’t we just go back and do the paperwork.” This is how I bought my first new car. Less than 24 hours from the discovery it does exist to signing it home.

What is so amazing and revolutionary about this car it completed trashed my little kid “lists” of cars I’d like to own before I die. I have these lists written in my childhood, teens, 20s, early 30s consisting of the usual Ferrari Testarossas, Lamborghini Countachs, Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Corvettes and Porsche 911 Turbos I need to have in my garage one day. What has just happened is those lists kinda lost their relevance. Or at least I see them completely differently. I see those cars with engines that explode, with trannies full of greasy, moving parts, with spark plugs, gas tanks, regular maintenance and so forth as something like… A CRT at the time of LCD. A modem at the time of always on broadband. A landline at the time of mobile. You just don’t want to own a CRT, modem or landline anymore. The change Tesla brought with it is just huge, big, disruptive. Having Tesla today is kinda like having iPhone in 2007. It just kicks in and tells you this is what all cars must be like. Never in the car market have I seen or felt anything similar before. Ever.

Btw, hybrids are a really stinking, bad joke. I’ve always kinda known it and now I can finally argue it. Just give any ugly, slow, boring Prius owner a Tesla for a quick drive.

There’s an interesting political angle to Tesla as well. Right now the Finnish government gives you a 500 EUR per month credit for any new company lease under this program. I want to show this car to everyone interested. My message: when was the last time you had really fun in test driving a new car? Let’s face it. Getting a new Tesla is a no brainer. Period.