Tesla Model S Problems: 13 Known Issues (Explained)

When it comes to the Tesla Model S, there is no shortage of demand. Since this vehicle was Tesla’s first attempt at a high volume/mass-market product, it is easy to see why there have been some issues, though.

That’s why this guide is here to help.

By taking the time to read on and learn more, you can find out about all of the Tesla aspects that we are now accustomed to.

While these vehicles were successful upon mass release, there was a wide range of issues.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common problems.

#1 Trunk Does Not Shut

In addition to faulty locks, the Tesla Model S will often have trunk related issues.

Namely, the trunk will not be able to be closed.

The rear hatch does not always fully close and the latch may also have difficulties when it comes to closing.

Sure, you can still drive the Model S even if the rear hatch does not close completely but who wants to do that? 

The hatch will remain closed but every time the driver hits a bump, it is going to move a bit. This is problematic for those who are looking to drive peacefully.

For example, the Tesla Model S will eventually sense that the trunk is open. This will leave the driver with the never ending annoyance of having to listen to the incessant beeping. Once the vehicle senses an open rear hatch, this is not a problem that goes away.

The latch and/or actuator could be experiencing difficulties.

If the actuator is not functioning properly, it will not even matter if the hatch is able to close, which is a bitter pill for any vehicle owner to swallow.

Actuators can be replaced by the owner who is a bit handier but otherwise? A trip to the shop will be necessary.

#2 Premature Wear and Tear On Seats

There have been multiple examples of stitches and sewing details that causes the seats to wear and fold in ways that are unfortunate.

Here’s a video that shows exactly what the problem is:

You’ll see that the fabric folds and create little bumps that in return causes the fabric to wear way too fast.

Unfortunately, this has been an issue that wasn’t addressed by the Tesla company. I guess you can argue that it’s not a big deal but when buying a supercar you do expect only the best.

#3 Distorted Glass in the Rear

The lower few inches at the rear window will sometimes look blurry.

Several Tesla owners have received new glass to have this fixed but it’s not a big deal and it might not be something you notice at first. However, it’s kinda weird to find low-quality glass in a car at this price point.

Here you can see where the problem appears:

Again, this is one of the minor problems on the Model S that we wanted to cover before we move on to some of the more serious issues you may encounter.

This is not too common among the other models. Here’s more on how often a Tesla will have problems.

#4 Vehicle Does Not Wake Up Promptly

Placing a Tesla Model S in Deep Sleep mode may seem harmless but in reality?

These vehicles often struggle to wake up once they have been placed in this mode. Many motorists have experienced the frustration that results from these vehicles refusing to wake up, even after they have opened the Tesla app on their smartphones.

If the car will not wake up from sleep mode, it is impossible for the owner to communicate with it.

The cell reception can be checked but it is not always this simple. 

There are also owners who regularly park in underground garages and do not have the ability to communicate with their vehicles because the reception is blocked.

The car can be rebooted so that the app is restarted.

In some instances, that will restore the driver’s ability to communicate with the vehicle. In other instances, the driver may need to delete the app and reinstall it again. This is obviously not ideal in time-sensitive situations.

If there are no manual fixes, the car must be towed to the service center.

#5 Refusal To Lock

Few things are more terrifying than a car that steadfastly refuses to lock. There is no way to alleviate this type of concern, either.

It could be something as simple as a key fob or phone key that was left behind when you got out of the car.

One of the doors or the hatch could have also been left open.

However, the issue is often much deeper than that.

The motorist could have a key fob or a phone key that was accidentally registered with the vehicle that has since been lost or misplaced.

The key fob battery could be weak, which is harder to overcome.

The door lock buttons on the key fob could have malfunctioned as well. Signal interference and poor cellular can also cause the Tesla Model S to remain unlocked.

Drivers will have to go through the annoyance of testing out every door locking method to make sure that they have exhausted every possible issue.

Fortunately, there is a manual door locking mechanism but you will have to activate this in your settings.

The Model S can also be set to automatically lock while you’re at home. On the other hand, users have reported that these methods are not as reliable as they should be, so peace of mind may still be hard to come by for Model S owners.

#6 Frozen Screen

For those who own electric vehicles, a frozen screen is one of the most cumbersome issues that can arise, and for Model S owners?

It is all too common.

We also saw this as a problem with the Model X from Tesla.

The touchscreen is going to be unresponsive or frozen from time to time, regardless of any precautions that the motorist might take.

There’s very little that the average motorist can do about software glitches, which can be especially frustrating. Of course, the MCU can be rebooted but this is not always an easy fix. If there are open apps that are causing the issue, it may be fixed when they are closed out.

Even something as common as leaving a USB device plugged in can lead to serious issues for the Model S owner.

You may even have to connect the 12-volt battery entirely.

In a worst-case scenario, the car will have to be taken to the service center before the touchscreen will be fully operational again.

If there is an issue with the vehicle’s firmware, this is also hard to overcome. When the problem is especially persistent, the entire MCU may have to be replaced. These costly repairs only add to the driver’s burden and are not always feasible from a financial standpoint.

#7 Too Long Waiting Time when Having Problems

In some countries, you will experience a very long waiting time when you need to have your Tesla fixed. This is not a problem unique to the Model S, but certainly something you can experience as a Model S owner.

You may be asked to wait for several months when faced with problems.

The issue is that the Tesla company often doesn’t produce too many parts to ship out to dealers and service centers which again leaves customers on a waiting list when something needs to be fixed.

This has been an issue in Norway, for example. Norway is probably the country in the world with the most Model S cars per person.

We have seen pictures of +30 Model S cars lined up to be fixed.

#8 Premature Battery Issues

Some of the earlier Tesla model S 85s have had issues with batteries cutting off charging before there’s enough juice on the battery.

As long as you experience this within the warranty period, you’re good. But if this happens after your warranty period, you’re in trouble.

It’s really important that you check the battery performance and how worn it is before you buy a used Model S.

When this problem arise you may see this message on your dashboard:

“Maximum Battery Charge Level Reduced”

Not something you want to see on your new car (whether bought new or used) as the driving range will be reduced significantly if this happens!

This can happen when you are only at 50-100 miles range!

We recently saw this on a Model S P85 model and the problem has to do with the battery. It can happen after an update and it happened mostly within the 8-year warranty period.

Replacing the battery on a Model S will easily cost you $17,000 – $20,000 so it’s a big deal!

Check out more here about how long a Tesla should last.

#9 Corrosion On Screws that Fastens the Motor (only on early models)

This is an issue that happened mostly for the early models from around 2012, so beware of this if you’re looking to buy an older used Model S.

This problem caused a lot of recalls in the early models (2012-2018, if I remember correctly) and the problem was actually the screws that fasten the motor to the starting rack.

The actual screws (5 on them) would corrode and you needed to replace the bolts completely.

If the bolts break you risk the motor detaching from the whole thing which can cause big problems! Check our article about numbers for how often Teslas crashes: Do Teslas crash more often than other cars.

#10 Lack of WiFi Connection

Faulty WiFi connections are an issue that is better off avoided but with the Model S, it is not always possible.

When other devices that are WiFi enabled are able to connect to the vehicle but the driver cannot? This is obviously immensely frustrating for all parties involved.

It’s a very common issue and while there are some fixes, they are not always guaranteed to pan out. As always, you can reboot the system but this is not always a fail safe.

Motorists may become further annoyed when they are forced to connect to a lesser WiFi signal in order to sidestep the issue.

In many cases, they will be forced to switch over to a 2.4GHz WiFi Signal.

This is all well and good but it will not provide the same range as the 5GHz signal. 

There are also motorists who may be able to connect to their 5GHz signal but they are not going have the same quality of connection that they desire.

You may even need to add a wireless repeater or even park adjacent to the WiFi signal. These are not always feasible solutions, though. Some may be able to avoid these concerns by using their phone as a hot spot but for those on more limited data plans? This is not the easy fix that it appears to be.

However, it does allow the driver to avoid any cumbersome troubleshooting.

#11 Door Malfunction

The Model S can cause an immense amount of frustration in this regard.

It should go without saying that the motorist would like for their doors to close. Unfortunately, the Model S is known to have issues when it comes to the doors and the door handles.

The handle may need to be adjusted if the doors are staying ajar during inopportune moments. The screw could have to be adjusted because it is allowing the door to open too far. In turn, this will trigger the latch release and cause unwanted issues.

The handle, latch, controller or microsystem could be to blame. 

This is typically beyond the expertise of the everyday driver, which means that a trip to the mechanics will be necessary. In some cases, the driver’s side door may be working just fine.

There are fixes available in these instances.

For example, the driver can adjust their settings if the passenger doors are the sole problem. The Model S can be set so that the owner is able to unlock the driver’s side door only until they are able to find a more permanent fix.

#12 Rebooting Issues

While there are plenty of Tesla Model S owners who are going to be rebooting their vehicles as a means of overcoming various issues, what happens when the vehicle will not stop rebooting?

These are software glitches that cannot be handled because they are happening outside of the driver’s control.

As expected, these reboots are known to crop up during less-than-desirable times.

A driver needs consistent access to their touchscreen and every other aspect that is controlled by the MCU.

Once these software glitches start to take place, the MCU will crash and restart on a consistent basis.

In extreme cases, the motorist will have to wait until a software update is provided before they can avoid these unwanted reboots.

If the USB devices have all been removed and the apps are all closed, this is usually a sign of a more serious issue. The last resort when it comes to constant reboots is to force a manual reboot of the entire car.

The hardware itself could also be having issues.

The 12-volt battery may have failed as well. If so, the MCU will not be receiving enough power and this could be the cause of the continuous reboots. Tesla owners who purchased their vehicles prior to 2018 are particularly prone to this problem, as they were constructed with a first-generation Media Control Unit.

#13 Unwanted Beeping and Chiming

Chiming and beeping are fairly common for any modern made electric vehicle but with the Model S?

It can extend well beyond what the average motorist finds acceptable.

The Model S does aim to quell some of these concerns by providing touchscreen notifications about the source of the noises.

For some drivers, these notifications are useful.

For others, they can be maddening. They can be attributed to a variety of factors, though. Speed limit warnings, blind spot monitoring and parking assistance are all helpful but what happens when the beeps and chimes continue?

The aforementioned issues with the hatch and the doors could be to blame.

If you cannot solve this issue on your own, this second problem is eventually created. 

If the beeping persists after the doors and/or hatch have been addressed, it could mean that the sensor itself is faulty.

We also saw some other noisy problems with the Model 3 which seems to stem from a faulty cooling fan.

Even something as simple as forgetting to put the car in park can cause endless amounts of beeping. The vehicle will shift into Park on its own, though. The beeping could also begin because the driver temporarily lifted themselves up out of their seat.

If the Model S does not think a driver is present, the chiming begins shortly thereafter.

GO BACK: Problems per Tesla model.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.