With the lower price of the Model 3, Tesla has arguably underperformed on quality and reliability. Tesla has already issued seven recalls this year.
While Tesla has been able to solve a good number of these issues through remote firmware updates, saving drivers a trip to their nearest service station, the ease of these remote fixes may also be encouraging the company to release technology before it’s been completely de-bugged.
However, it’s worth considering whether the issues are merely inconvenient or are actually a cause for alarm.
Read our list below to help you decide if the Model 3 is worth its potential malfunctions.
NOTE: the Model 3 is pretty similar to the Model Y. So check also our list of known problems with the Tesla Model Y – as Tesla is using many of the same components and parts across the two models.
1. Poor paint jobs
Tesla’s use of poor paint quality and finishes has led many owners to notice that their paint chips and wears down much more easily than it should.
In some cases, cars have even been delivered with blemishes and scratches already apparent, a clear failure on the part of Tesla’s quality control.
Tesla’s problems with paint can also lead to rusting as the metal bodies of the cars are left exposed, sometimes even before their new owners have had a chance to drive their cars.
2. Body components that don’t line up
Tesla owners have also noticed that something seems, well – just a little off with their cars.
Whether it’s a door panel that’s just slightly misaligned or a trunk that doesn’t always close, there have been consistent reports of poor quality construction on the Model 3.
Most of these errors don’t affect performance, and Tesla has offered replacements to disappointed owners.
However, the issues indicate a construction method that may be generally shoddy, possibly leading to issues that are more than aesthetic – in some cases, for example, window pillars have buckled.
This is one issue that has tended to taper off over the years, however.
Tesla has stated that its building processes have improved by 40% since the earliest releases, and necessary improvements were supposed to have been made to fix gaps in:
- trunk areas,
- rear lamps,
- and fenders.
This has been an issue with several Tesla versions and models. Here’s more on how often Tesla has problems.
3. Centralized touchscreen control
In their effort to attain a sleek and modern design, Tesla may have skimped a bit on the safety of their drivers.
The touchscreen feature, while centralizing many of the controls of the car, can also be dangerous, diverting drivers’ eyes from the road as they look away to adjust cruise control or check the time.
With no Head Up Display (HUD) on the dash in front of the wheel, the Model 3 significantly increases drivers’ chances of becoming distracted.
Additionally, the instance of a touchscreen failure – a problem that’s also commonly been reported by drivers – can lead to a whole range of issues, from charging inconsistencies to navigational problems.
Drivers have reported issues with touchscreen control such as overheating, random activation of the stereo system, and instances of being locked out.
Check our article about whether Teslas overheat.
4. Phantom breaking
Newer model Teslas are particularly prone to issues with the Autopilot mode that cause sudden braking in reaction to a false obstacle.
We’ve also seen this problem with the Model S.
Because the models from 2019 onward use only cameras in their detection systems, instead of additional radar as in the older models, the car’s Forward Collision Warning will sometimes be triggered incorrectly and apply the automatic brake.
This is obviously a frightening and potentially dangerous experience, especially when driving at high speeds, and Tesla has issued a recall in an attempt to fix the problem.
5. Cracked sunroofs and windshields
Problems in glass manufacturing processes have caused some Model 3 sunroofs and windows to simply crack for no apparent reason.
While these issues are covered under warranty, the idea of easily-shattered glass doesn’t bode well for impact resistance and Tesla’s safety rating.
6. Charging issues
You want to make sure you do a 100.000 miles update and service on the car to make sure all the components and ports are working as they should.
However, it’s not too uncommon to experience charging issues on these cheaper Tesla models (such as the Y and 3) and the most common issue is a loose port.
It may also stem from rough handling when charging the car but regardless of the port and pins shouldn’t last for at least 150,000 miles.
You may also encounter problems with level 2 charging. Sometimes the charging will cut off before the car is fully charged. We also saw charging problems with the Tesla Model y.
You will need to check that the Tesla Model 3 will change both using level 2 AND superchargers before you have it serviced, just to make sure it all works as it should.
Make sure to check for charging issues before deciding if a used Tesla is worth buying.
7. Climate issues
Drivers in cold and wet climates are finding that their Model 3s can’t always handle tough weather conditions.
- Problems with heat pumps:
Tesla’s heating systems are sometimes fail in cold climates, often due to failures in release valves.
This has sometimes led to incomplete defrosting, leaving drivers unable to see out the front windshield, as well as climate control failure in the interior.
- Poor quality undercarriages:
Undercarriages have been reported to disintegrate in wet conditions, with owners driving through puddles only to find that the composite on the underside of their car is damaged or torn.
- Lithium-iron and LFP batteries:
In Europe, the lithium batteries used in imports have also been shown to have reduced performance in cold areas, leading to up to a 25% decrease in the vehicles’ range, a factor that has caught some drivers by surprise.
While updates and replacement parts have been issued in many cases, Tesla has not always been able to resolve these problems.
For more on Tesla’s performance in cold conditions, please read our article about how much snow Teslas can handle.
8. Leaking from poorly installed seals
The Model 3 also seems to suffer from leaks, especially in the trunk. The leaks usually relate to badly installed trunk seals, an issue that also tends to crop up with their passenger window seals.
It’s best to address leaks sooner rather than later – left unchecked, they can ruin upholstery and cause permanent corrosion.
If you notice a leak, your car will likely need to be taken in to the mechanic’s for new trunk liner seal or a gasket fitting.
9. Grinding noises (probably from a cooling fan)
We also came across a rather frustrating problem with the cooling fan scratching and making a loud grinding noise when the Model 3 is turned to either side.
Check this video around 5:40:
This would happen when the AC comes on which indicates a problem with the cooling fan driving air around the vehicle.
These cooling components is typically not something a regular mechanic is familiar with as it’s quite unique to the Tesla lineup. So, you’ll have to take it to a Tesla service center to have it looked at, if you experience this issue.
If you hear a strange humming sound after your Tesla has been parked, it’s something else.
10. Suspension Issues
You may also encounter some problems with the suspension system on the Model 3.
After 100.000 miles you may experience the front wheel on either side start to feel a bit wobbly:
You can actually order new suspensions for a Tesla but it’s a lot of work (you’ll get close to a pallet of boxes) and if you haven’t worked on car suspension before, definitely take it to a repair shop (Tesla specifically!).
IF you’re going to mess with the suspensions (and I say IF, because it’s a lot of work!) you should consider using a lift kit to lift the car.
You’ll have a couple of inches to work with and it can look really cool!
You’ll have the feel from driving the Model X:
Check our rundown of issues with the Model X here.
11. Usable in snow and on icy roads?
Lifting the car a few inches will also make the Model 3 more usable in the wintertime when you have snow and ice!
It’s a lot of fun to drive Teslas in show but you shouldn’t expect the Model 3 to handle much snow – unless you lift it and change the tires.
Generally, the Tesla Model 3 doesn’t do well in snow but if you lift it and put on winter tires, you can actually get some decent performance in snow and freezing temperatures.
It seems that there’s still progress to be made in addressing the Model 3’s performance outside their home base in mild California.
General Pros and Cons for the Tesla Model 3
Let’s start with the pros.
Even with these issues, the Model 3 still has a lot to offer drivers.
It has one of the top plug-in driving ranges on the market, with the Long Range model reaching up to 358 miles on a single charge.
It’s also got a top-tier driving experience, with drivers putting it on par with non-electric brands like BMW.
The Performance model can go from 0 to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds, impressive by any standard.
It comes with plenty of novelty – while the touchscreen can be difficult at times, there’s no denying the interior has a sleek and futuristic feel. The model also provides the smooth, silent speed electric vehicles are known for.
Tesla also provides drivers with the latest in EV technology, and even with occasional glitches, features like Autopilot and landscape Blind Spot Warnings are leading the way.
The Model 3 is also a good option for practical reasons, with plenty of cargo space and a relatively accessible price, the basic trim starting at $48,440.
Worries about charging are also mitigated by access to Tesla’s nationwide Supercharger network, certainly a plus on long road-trips.
Tesla Model 3 is arguably a reliable car and makes for a good first car, budget-depending.
- Poor paint jobs
- Body components that don’t line up
- Centralized touchscreen control
- Phantom breaking
- Cracked sunroofs and windshields
- Charging port problems
- Climate issues
- Leaking from poorly installed seals
What Do the Reviews Say?
The Model 3 has received remarkably good reviews. Most drivers seem to cut the Model 3 a fair bit of slack, considering its benefits to more than outweigh its foibles.
Car and Driver is fairly glowing, calling the Model 3:
“a near ideal blend of performance, driving range, and accessible pricing”, with “punchy acceleration, lithe handling, and a Long Range model that boasts an impressive driving range”.
They recommend the mid-trim model as providing the best value for everyday drivers looking to own a Tesla.
The luxury feel of the model has also been lauded:
“It could have been easy for this budget Tesla to feel generic and ordinary, especially in trying to keep the price under $40,000. But instead it’s a genuine luxury experience”
[Source – Edmunds.com]
Consumer Reports is among the most balanced, pointing out the Model 3’s quick acceleration and new features while also being disappointed by the distracting controls and a “stiff and choppy” ride.
What’s your opinion on the Model 3 – fussy but worth it for the unique driving experience, or overrated and unreliable?
What’s the Resale Value on the Tesla Model 3?
2019 Tesla Model 3 – bought at $57,044
Performance model 4dr Sedan, AWD with no additional options
NB: The above prices are estimated and may vary based on individual preferences and your location.
Please also take a look at our article about how long Tesla Model 3 batteries cost.
CarandDriver, Edmunds.com, ConsumerReports