Servicing your Tesla: everything you need to know
Maintaining a Tesla sounds simple enough, according to a promise from the Electric Vehicle Revolution. After all, having fewer mechanical parts in the car means you don’t have the expense and inconvenience of oil changes, transmission fluid replacements, or coolant flushes.
Tesla, America’s best-known electric vehicle maker, is doing the most to spread the message of easy maintenance and lower routine maintenance costs. Still, keeping a Tesla on the road isn’t free, and service centers aren’t as common as regular auto shops. Keep reading for an overview of Tesla maintenance.
The maintenance expenses of a Tesla
Tesla’s Model 3 is America’s second best-selling electric vehicle and one of the cheapest such cars you can own. The sedan won our lowest 5-year cost of ownership award in the luxury electric vehicle segment by costing $16,411 less over five years than the average car in its class.
However, most of the savings come from fuel costs. In our studies, the Model 3 costs slightly more to maintain than many gas-powered competitors. But the money saved on fuel more than makes up the difference.
Where to Go for Tesla Service
Tesla employs a fleet of mobile service providers. They will come to you wherever your Tesla is parked to perform routine maintenance. These include tire rotations, air filter changes and other basic tasks.
For less routine and more extensive work, Tesla maintains a network of service centers. The company has service centers in 35 states as of this writing.
However, this does not mean that they are all conveniently located. Ease of access varies greatly depending on where you live. California residents can use 39 service centers across the state. If your Tesla has a problem in Idaho, you need to take it to Boise.
Can you take your Tesla to a regular auto shop?
Few independent service shops currently have technicians certified to work on electric cars. This will likely change in the coming years as electric vehicles make up a larger share of cars on US roads. But, at the moment, most independent stores don’t work on Tesla vehicles.
Tesla also notes that “if you choose to take your car to a non-Tesla store for service or repairs, your warranty coverage may be affected.”
Tesla Routine Maintenance
Tesla vehicles use maintenance-free batteries and electric motors. These replace the engine, fuel system and transmission in a gasoline-powered car – parts that are the source of most maintenance needs.
Like other electric cars, Teslas use a suspension system, tires, brakes and other parts similar to vehicles with internal combustion engines. These parts still require routine maintenance.
Do Teslas require one-time maintenance?
Tesla vehicles also require unusual maintenance services due to their unique nature. For example, regenerative braking uses the resistance of the electric motor to help slow a Tesla down. This feature means drivers rely less on the brakes. Therefore, brake pads tend to last longer in a Tesla than in a gas-powered car.
However, Tesla requires owners to lubricate brake calipers annually in states that use road salt in the winter. Car and Driver magazine kept a Tesla for a year for testing purposes. They found that lubricating brake calipers costs as much money as regular oil changes on a conventional car.
Many Tesla owners have shared anecdotes suggesting that a Tesla’s tires need to be replaced before the end of their expected life. Tires advertised to last 40,000 miles may only last 30,0000 miles on a Tesla. The increased wear could be due to the fact that electric vehicles weigh more than gasoline-powered cars. Another cause may be that the instantaneous torque of their motors provides high friction starts.
What Maintenance Can Tesla Owners Skip?
Because Teslas lack traditional motors and transmissions, regular chores like oil changes and coolant flushes are unnecessary.
How much does it cost to maintain a Tesla?
Our experts have found that, over five years, the owner of a Tesla Model 3 can expect to spend $3,115 on maintenance. That’s slightly higher than many gas-powered competitors. The similarly sized Acura ILX, for example, cost $2,792 to maintain over the same period. The Genesis G70 cost $2,621.
But the fuel savings more than made up for the extra cost.
Can you service a Tesla yourself?
Some items of Tesla’s routine maintenance schedule are simple enough to be performed by a competent home mechanic. Replacing the cabin air filter every two years, for example, is simple with minimal experience.
Other tasks, including testing brake fluid for contamination, require shop tools that most of us don’t have.
Owner satisfaction with Tesla maintenance
Tesla’s sales have snowballed – the company became the top-selling luxury automaker in the United States at the end of 2021. Its network of service centers has not grown as quickly. As a result, many Tesla owners have complained about extremely long wait times for service appointments.
On a recent conference call with investors, Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn acknowledged the problem and pledged to work on it. “We have worked extremely hard since then to resolve this issue, and we have seen our wait times decrease,” he said. But, he added, “the best service is not a service. And so we’ve been incredibly focused as a company on both the initial quality of our vehicles and the reliability of our vehicles.
Tesla Recommended Maintenance Schedule
Tesla publishes a recommended maintenance schedule for certain services. It does not cover wear parts such as brake pads, which should be inspected at each service appointment and replaced if necessary.
|Replace cabin air filter||Every 2 years (Model 3, Model Y)
Every 3 years (Model S, Model X)
|Rotate tires, align wheels||Every 6,250 miles|
|Test brake fluid, replace if necessary||Every 2 years|
|Replace air conditioning desiccant bag||6 years (model 3)
4 years (model Y)
3 years (Model S, Model X)
|Replace the HEPA air particulate filter||Every 3 years|
|Clean and lubricate brake calipers||Every 12 months or 12,500 miles in areas that use road salt|