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.